18 Apr 2011 2 Comments
NEW YORK LOVE STORY
Translated by Hà Kin and Curtis Norris
His stop came. Damn, I thought, why did they create such a subway that runs so fast. The conversation was just about to begin, but already being stopped. The door opened. Chilly wind purred in from the opposite track, making me sneeze twice. “Bless you.” “Thank you.”
“Are you getting off with me?” he asked.
“Yes, why not? I’m just going around.”
We stepped out onto the platform. I smiled, shrugged and started to hesitate. I was waiting for a “keep in touch” sign from him.
“What’s your phone number? Do you have a cell phone?”
Secretly, I released my breath. I shook my head and told him I only had a home phone number, and, — maybe — an email address.
“Great, so give me your home phone and email.”
Again, I was confused because I did not bring any paper or pen with me. I was on my way to lunch, after all. Why would I need those things? I asked him if he had any paper and he took out a business card, telling me that was his phone number. What a pity he only had that card and no pen!
He seemed to be in a rush, so I didn’t dare to bother him further. I decided to let him go without anything to write down my own number and email for him. Anyhow, I wasn’t about to lose that card!
“Call or email me your phone number, okay? I gotta go. See you, painful eyes!”
He quickly disappeared. I was a little sad, but just a little. Mostly I was crazy happy. I still had that surprised feeling, like when you wake up and the thing you wish for most is there. I was gazing at the card, and suddenly thought, what if that chill wind blew the card away. I would fly after it!
His name was Ryan, and I was right about some of his origins. He had a Spanish family name. The card said he was an assistant in a private dental office. Maybe he was still in college, I thought.
I came out of my daze a little and remembered the doctor, the one I was supposed to have lunch with. It was kind of late, but I decided to go back to meet him. I was so hungry because I woke up late and hadn’t eaten anything. I thought that if I couldn’t meet the doctor, I would buy myself a big pizza and take it to Central Park to celebrate my luck.
It was a long wait for the train. My real stop would be a little bit far, but inside myself I was having a party of interesting emotions, happiness, worry, excitement. I only wanted to smile. I saw everyone as more lovely. When the train finally came I entered a car that was not completely full. There were still some free seats here and there. But when I saw a middle-aged woman, not old, standing I got up and offered her my seat. She accepted out of politeness, but she must have thought, what a crazy girl.
Standing with one hand on the pole, my other hand was inside my coat pocket turning the card over and over, just as I was turning thoughts over in my head, crazy thoughts. Does he have a girlfriend yet? I decided it was not a big deal if he did. If I couldn’t be his girlfriend I could be his friend. I thought further ahead. What if we started a relationship? I would end up very sad because I must go back to Vietnam someday. I could only stay in New York for some months more. I had to go back to finish college. Finally, I clicked my tongue again and decided, “It doesn’t matter what will come tomorrow. If anything happens, just let it be.” I was determined to enjoy my current happiness.
Leaving the station, I found the doctor’s office on Fifty-seventh Street. I was late, so when I called up to his office I was worried that no one would answer. The doctor had made our appointment through email. I met him by chance on Roosevelt Island, where I was living with my family. He was also a resident there. I was on my way to the tram, taking the red bus when he noticed me and started talking to me instantly. (My wallet was full of people’s business cards. People wanted to make friends so easily if you were beautiful, funny, different, or just weird. Maybe that is American culture.)
The doctor began with the usual question, “Where are you from?” When he found out I was from Vietnam his eyes brightened and he gave me the thumbs up. “Oh, Ho Chi Minh! Yeah, I love him, ha ha!” And because of his enthusiasm I decided to email him. My purpose was to ask for studying stuff. We mostly connected through email, and today I was invited to lunch (to discuss studying), but I was late.
I started to hope that there would be no answer on the phone, because now even if he still wanted to have lunch with me, I was not in the mood to discuss studying. My mind was still floating on other things from my recent encounter with Ryan.
Then there was a voice on the other end of the line. “Simon’s office, how may I help you?”
“I need to see Dr. Simon,” I said, not feeling it.
“He’s out for lunch,” she sad. “Do you have an appointment with him?”
I said I did, and she took my name to ring him up. As I waited, I felt guilty and embarrassed for being late. This was not Vietnam where time is more elastic. Here lateness was not acceptable, especially not with doctors.
The woman came back on the line and said the doctor would meet me another day.
“Oh, okay, thank you,” I said with genuine gratitude. I really was not in the mood for the meeting and was happy to have traded for the encounter with Ryan I had just had. So, it was back to plan B – pizza – but not in Central Park. It was too cold and I had the sudden desire to go home. I was shaking hard. I didn’t know if it was from the cold or because of my meeting Ryan again.
When I got home, all I wanted to do was get my brother off of the computer so that I could email the doctor an apology. Then something strange happened. As I reread the doctor’s email, I discovered that the appointment was actually for the following day. I suddenly felt the comic movements of the universe and burst out laughing so hard that my brother must have thought I had gone crazy. Imagine, because of my absent-mindedness, I had had the one in a million chance to meet him again. Isn’t that fate?
After I had laughed myself out, I put my hand into my jacket to take out his card for the email address. The universe turned over again, a complete one-eighty. My face turned pale as I checked both pockets. It wasn’t there. Oh, my god, what could have happened? I remembered that I paid for the pizza with a twenty and got back a ten, a five and a one. All the money was still there, but the card had vanished. I felt fate, or my own absent-mindedness had once again played a cruel trick on me. I wanted to go down to the river to cry, to scream. I was devastated and furious with myself.
I jumped up and put on the jacket again. I had decided to hurry back to the pizza shop to try to find that card. I ran out the door toward the subway station full of confusion, regret and anger!