Linh was six when she left Vietnam with the other orphans. Placed with the nuns when she was three, she remembered little of her life before and little more after, until she came to America where her kinky hair and green eyes would not identify her as the daughter of the enemy.
In high school, when she just wanted to look like everyone else, she was struck often with how different she was. She was an American, but she was also Vietnamese. Her history teacher once pointedly asked what she remembered of her homeland. The class suddenly looked at her and Linh knew she’d never really blended in.
Deep in the hazy vagueness of her childhood memories, she recalled the dragon boat.
In college her sophomore year, she saw the photograph of the dragon boat at a traveling exhibit on Vietnam. She sensed the limping man before she saw him, passing him with an odd feeling of knowing that she didn’t understand. She saw by the wrinkle in his brow as he looked at her that he felt it too. Linh smiled uncomfortably and left the exhibit quickly.
As he reflected on the photograph, Vincent thought of the world he’d come home to in 1969. He’d gone to Vietnam a rudderless boy and came home a man with a purpose. He’d gone to college on the GI Bill. He limped from his injury, but he had a wife, a family, a normal life. Vincent knew he was one of the lucky ones who’d survived physically and mentally.
In the picture was Hoa’s boat. He remembered how he’d wanted to marry her and bring her home. Then he was injured and in the stateside hospital, he knew that it had been unrealistic. Hoa would never have been happy married to a black man, living in a Southern town. His mother would never have welcomed a Vietnamese daughter-in-law. He never questioned his path, what he left behind until the moment he felt the physical pull that drew his attention to the young girl and he saw his own eyes in her face.