The author recalls the day of the Saigon's Fall, April 1975 in Saigon, Vietnam when she was a little girl.
Ti, Ni, and I went to the Thanh Đa Riverside to pickup lục bình under many detonations. Lục bình is a kind of green plant and purple flowers, which lived and flowed on rivers. When the tide was down, Lục Bình was stranded in the bushes that grew at the edges of the river; the mixed stinky smell of mud, death fish, and garbage splashed into my lungs, but I loved strong smell that only existed in Vietnamese rivers.
We played joyfully in front of the balcony of my house while my family gathered in the family room to listen to the radio. Suddenly, a horrible explosion smashed into the air. The house was shaken. My face turned pale. I yelled awfully and crawled into my house under a bed like a little rat, “Ối trời ôi! Tôi chết rồi !” “Oh, I am dying! I am dying.”
My family and my friends followed me to the bed. They cried, “Baby. What happened?”
My Sixth brother announced, “Someone threw bomb at Saigon Bridge.”
My oldest sister nodded, “Yep, President Dương Văn Minh surrendered. Perhaps they did not want Việt Cộng to enter to Saigon, so they destroyed the bridge.”
My father called me, “My little girl. Come here with daddy, baby.”
I persisted, “I am dying. I am dying.”
Ni crawled under the bed, tapped my shoulder, and told me, “Bé, calm down, please. You’re fine. You’re still alive. Get out, please. Your parents and siblings are waiting for you.”
I shook my head, “No, I am scared. I died.”
Ni reassured me, “Don’t say that, Bé. If you die, you cannot talk.”
Ni and Ti’s parents came to my house and asked them to go home. Ni told me, “I have to go home. Don’t scare Bé. I’ll see you this afternoon. Bye, Bé.”
I heard their parents complained about Ti and Ni because they were worried about them. I crawled slowly out of the bed. My parents and my siblings looked serious. My mother said, “The end. No more war! Peaceful!”
I asked, “Mom, can we go anywhere and won’t fear Việt Cộng? Will daddy no longer work as an officer, and will he be a teacher?”
My father briefly said, “Yes, baby.”
I was surprised, “Daddy, why are you so sad when our country is peaceful? You should be happy because your dream came true .”
My father did not answer. I tried to figure out what was happening that day. My father often said that when our country was peaceful, he would work as a teacher, write, or research something. He said that he did not like his job because there was a lot of pressure, and he could not spend time for family. However, today he was sad and quiet. Today my family looked serious and strange. I did not understand why.
I followed my siblings to go to the balcony in order to see airplanes flying over the area. From the airplanes, voices repeated over and over that everyone should come to the Thanh Đa Park where airplanes landed in order to evacuate them; we saw waves of people to come to the riverside toward big boats. My father requested us, “From now, you are not allowed to go out. Việt Cộng will come in Saigon soon, but do not call them Cộng sản or Việt cộng.”
My little brother asked, “Father, why? What do we call them?”
Our father was confused. He posed a little bit, and then he said, “Brothers or uncles.”
My sisters curiously asked my father, “Father, what do they look like?”
“Father, do they have tails?”
“Do they kill and eat children?”
“Do they have fur?”
“Do they wear cloths?”
Our father did not answer. He continued, “Maybe there will be no electricity or water next few days. Thus, we should save water and food.”
He watched our sisters carefully and said, “Take out your necklaces and earrings. Cut your nails short. Try to wear simple clothes. Don’t wear short, dress, or skirt.”
My first sister asked, “Father, are Việt cộng so cruel? Do they take out female nails?”
My father yelled, “Don’t say Việt cộng please. You will be engaged to your boyfriend next month, and maybe get married next two months.
My first sister did not agree with him, “Father, you told me that I was still young. We should wait for a couple of years until I get my bachelor. Why do you change your mind? I am not ready to be a wife yet. I want to go abroad after I get my bachelor’s degree.”
My mother reprimanded her, “You should obey your father. He always wants to do good things for you.”
My parents and my siblings watched and searched my house carefully and burned many pictures and clothes that related to the army. More than that, our parents collected pieces of gold and hid them in secret and safe place at night. My mother explained, “Việt cộng is brutal. They do not like rich people. Your grandparents were killed because they were landlords and owned many pieces of land.
I heard the story about our grandparents over and over. My parents told us that communists killed our grandparents because they were landowners and rich. Only my maternal grandfather survived. He was kept in a small and deep hole with water to his neck. Thus, he was afraid of water. I did not like my maternal grandfather because he was dirty. He never bathed or cleaned his body. He wore the same cloth once a week. My parents complained and hit me because I avoided him, and I did not let him touch me. I often hid in a corner when he visited us.
My father looked serious, and strange. I secretly followed his action. I did not want him in that mood at all. I wanted to help him, or to say something nice, but I knew that silence was best.
My father stayed late in his office. He took a small Colt in a drawer; he watched it carefully; He held the colt and lightly touched it as if it were a treasure. He held in his hand and put it on the table again and again. He frowned. His pupils were light and only focused on the colt. He bitterly sighed many times. I saw some gray hairs on his forehead. I wanted to pluck them out. He bit his lips hard and that made his chin squarer. His cheeks turned dark, and no longer pink white like his natural skin. His cheeks were sunken. I have never seen he was haggard like that. I wished to read what he was thinking. I could not bear to see my father in that situation. I did not know what happened. He leaned his head on the desk. He shook his head. His shoulders agitated. I silently squirmed under the desk, slightly hugged his leg. He immediately startled, and he took the Colt with a cautious act. His eyes were two blazing red fires toward me, but the fires died out right away when he noticed me. He gently put me on his thighs and sweetly asked me, “My little girl. What are you doing here? Why don’t you go to sleep? It’s late.”
I put my head on his chest and sobbed. He comforted me, “I am sorry. Today I was too busy to forget you. I know this morning you were very scared. It was over. I promise to protect you from now. I do not let anything harm my children.” He embraced, kissed, and took me to sleep in his bed with him that night.