Khóc bạn hôm nay khóc mãi thôi
Tương lai mơ ước, cuộc đời ơi
Sách vở trăm năm chưa ráo mực
Tài năng một chốc ngọc đà rơi

Tri kỷ còn đây vẫn sớm hôm
Hai mươi mốt tuổi, một tâm hồn
Hải ơi, chữ còn, người còn mãi
Sâu thẳm trong tim: "bạn trong tôi".

Lê Minh Đức (04 - 02 - 2007)

I last met him at the VietAbroader 2005 Conference in Hanoi. He walked in the Twin Towers in white shirt and blue slacks - the usual uniform, though he is already in college - and tapped on my shoulders. We could only chat for a little bit, then I had to go back to greet the guests. I asked him about school in Vietnam, and he smiled sadly that it was pretty bad. I thought it was just another normal complaint - like we always complained. After the conference, he went to shake my hands, and said it was great. He left - and never, never would I have thought - that is the last time.

We did not hang out a lot in secondary school - partly because I sat in the front and he in the back. He was rather quiet back then. This morning, as I frantically scrolled through old friends' blogs, I was suddenly horrified that I didn't quite remember his face. But now it all came back: we sat side by side on a bench outside the Hanoi Twin Towers, I was wearing ao dai and sitting up straight, he rested his elbows on his knees, head bended, wavy hair, a smile slightly sad.

I feel floating, bloating - the same feeling when the acolhol has just hit the brain, slowly numbing the neurons and making life a little more surreal than it should. I remember feeling like this at Christmas 2004, sitting in Sara Snider's living room and crying uncontrollably when Ms. Brandon said, "Ngoc hung herself in the backyard on Christmas Eve." I remember going to her funeral, looking at her purplish stony face, and thought - how could it be, she was always smiling, sitting near my locker in the hallways of Ben Franklin High School. She was always early and I always late. She was always smiling and I perpetually depressed all high school life. How could it be that I am still alive and living while she is dead?

I remember my art class in 5th grade. The teacher tried to teach us to analyze a painting that made a big impression on me. It painted a funeral parade marching through the field, amid the sky and the earth. The parade was tiny, we could only made out the long dark rectangular shape of the coffin. The sky was very blue, but took up only a fifth upper part of the canvas. The other four-fifth was stark black, representing the earth where the coffin was soon to enter. The title was "Gan dat xa troi."

Meanwhile, another New Year is coming...
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