Nguyen reflects on when the waters rise @ Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.
Mornings in Việt Nam in the rainy season, I must remember to push the mattress up on its side when I get up, before doing anything else. If not, it becomes heavier and heavier with moisture, the pungent stink of mildew pinching my nose at night.
In the rainy season, everything I do is a strategy for coping with the damp chill and the water. I didn't grow up here. The water infiltrates my consciousness. I learn to accept it, like the others around me, to see it as a minor disruption.
In the rainy season, I must remember to keep my showers to a few minutes, no matter how good it feels to have the water pounding my back, soothing away the chill. The water slowly seeps through the cement between the shower stall and bedroom, impregnates the wall, a sheen of tiny droplets over my bed. Another thing to remember: never leave the pillows propped up against the wall.
In the rainy season, I mustn't boil water for tea or cook anything that produces too much steam, adding to the weight of moisture hanging in the air. The excess humidity settles; a visible mist upon the clothes hanging in my closet, turning them into a new life form, furry and spotted. Every surface a wick for moisture. More lessons: always leave shoes open and spread out. There's no point drying clothes over a pot of embers—they'll be damp again before I fold them away.
In the rainy season, I am thankful that my home is in this neighbourhood, this alley, so much higher than the main road. While the rich sleep in their attics, or on their roofs, the swirling, muddy water laps at my door sill, but doesn't enter.
Image: Regan Avery at F-Stop Magazine
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