A slap on my chest woke me. I heard my father quietly telling me to wake up. I didn’t protest because I knew today was the day. I hurried out of bed and got dress. When dad lit the candle, I could see the bamboo suitcase filled with clothes already packed for me. He rushed me downstairs and went into the kitchen to give me two banh mi before walking me to the bus station. I looked up, the sky was still dark, I was still able to see the stars. I looked around me. There were no carts, no doors opened, no one outside. It was still early. I didn’t want to leave. Vietnam, it was the only place I ever knew.
As the bus came closer into view, I could feel myself shake. If I left, I would leave my prized possessions, my childhood friends, my sense of comfort, and most importantly, my family. The ones who’ve kept me safe all these years. The ones that have helped me get past the Vietnam war. Then what would be left of me? I’m nothing without my friends, my neighborhood, my family.
The bus came and I boarded it. I rushed to the window seat and looked out the window. Through the headlights of the bus, I could make out my dad’s face in the dark. I still remember his blood-shot eyes, the sadness in his eyes. He didn’t dare look up. I wanted to scream, to run back into his arms, to cry, but I knew none of that was useful. It was my job to lead the path for my siblings, to prove my neighbors wrong, to make it to the Land of Opportunity.
I’m telling you this now, son, because I want you to understand the struggle I went through to have a better life. It is important that you take every opportunity given to you because many kids in other parts of the world don’t have such opportunities. You might think I talk too much and everything I’m telling you is useless and full of crap but it’s not. When we go back to Vietnam this summer, you’ll understand all of it. There are kids who are homeless and out begging for money. There are old women working 14 hours a day just to earn a little money. I left Vietnam because living under communist rule is never going to be a good thing. When we visit your aunt, she can tell you all about it and you can deem if my lectures and teachings were useful.
Days into our trip in Vietnam and I could already see the disturbance in my son’s eyes. Unlike America, there were no crossing lights, there were stray dogs, street food that weren’t the cleanest, and the most disturbing for him, I believe, was the amount of roaches and rats running around. He seemed to have changed. No blatant disrespect, he was less picky with food, more grateful for family, and most importantly, he began saving his hard-earned money. I’m glad now that I told him about my past. I wanted to leave it in the past but I guess everything worked out for the better.