This column is the third entry in an ongoing experimental diary series exploring the life of a fictional teen Vietnamese girl, Mai.
1 April 2005
At school today, I opened my locker and there was a box of chocolates and a card in there. It just said “Dear Mai, from your secret admirer”, and it was typed, not handwritten, so I couldn’t tell who it was from.
I’m not a fucking idiot, I knew it was April Fool’s Day, so obviously I confronted my friends, and they all swore up and down they didn’t do it. Brit suggested that it could have been Daniel, but how would he have gotten into my locker?
When I got home, I logged onto MSN and told Daniel about it, hoping that he’d just tell me if it was him, but he didn’t, and we ran through all the possibilities of who it could be. I really have no idea who else though, and especially after the mix CD he made me, I think it probably is Daniel and he’s just playing it cool or something, but I guess I’ll just have to wait for him to admit it.
4 April 2005
We had a sleepover at Nina’s house on the weekend and spent a lot of it planning Soph’s party, which is in a few weeks. We started making a playlist, and Soph made a MySpace bulletin telling people to message her back if they want to come. There have already been a bunch of people – some of whom we’ve never even met – who have replied. I think it’ll be really fun!
Duncan didn’t stay the night, but he was there for part of it, and it makes me sick with jealousy the way he looks at her. Especially since they started having sex, they just seem so…grown up, in a way that I don’t feel at all. I asked her once if she thought they’d be together forever, and she smiled, just a little half-smile, but she didn’t say anything. My parents have been together since they were 17, but I guess things were different back then in Vietnam. Linh and Nick have been together since they were 17, too, but that seems strange for most people now.
Tonight I asked Daniel on MSN if he wanted to come to the party, and he said he’s keen but that he has to check because he might have a skate comp that weekend. I snuck some songs I know he likes onto the playlist, so I hope he can come. We’ve never spent more than 20 minutes in the same place at the same time, even though it doesn’t feel that way because we talk all the time. I feel like I’d give up so many things to be alone with him, even if it’s just for a minute.
14 April 2005
This month has been so crazy so far that I’ve hardly had time to write. The A.Mus is in a month and I’m so nervous! My lesson today was ok, but I just get stressed that when it comes to the exam I’ll forget everything. The Dvorak is especially tricky, with all those runs. I just want it to be over and done with.
Things at home have been a little weird. I think Bà is getting forgetful in her old age – she’s asked me some strange questions recently, and has a vacant look in her eyes so much of the time. I’m at school all day, and Bố Mẹ are working most of the time, so there’s so much time when Bà is home just with Pippin, who can’t talk to her anyway. Do you think dogs can understand Vietnamese? I wonder if they both feel lonely even when they’re together.
It feels like so many things are changing. I can’t keep up.
19 April 2005
Daniel is coming to the party! He said he might be a bit late because of the skate comp, but that he “wouldn’t miss it for the world”. How am I going to get through the next four days???
22 April 2005
Can’t wait for the party tomorrow night!!! The plan is in motion – my parents think I’m going to a study session, so they’re dropping me at Nina’s at 5 and then her brother is going to drive us to Soph’s. I have the cutest outfit – a black shiny halter neck and a really nice skirt, and platform heels – and Nina is going to do my makeup. I’m so nervous and excited.
24 April 2005
Holy shit, Daniel Mercer kissed me last night.
I can hardly believe it, but it really happened.
I guess I should tell you the story…
So we all got to Soph’s house at 6 to help her set up before the party – just putting away valuables, clearing out chairs and tables so there would be room to dance, stuff like that. Nina’s older brother Tom had bought us Cruisers for the night, so by the time the first people started arriving at 8 we were all ready to party.
I spent the first part of the night chatting to Sarah Dawson, who’s in my maths class – we never really hang out at school, but she’s an old family friend of Brit’s. She’s going to Vietnam later this year with her family and wanted to know what the best stuff to do is. I’ve never been, though. It’s weird how people always ask me, as if I’d know just because I’m Viet. My parents haven’t been back there since they left. I dream about it all the time, but it might as well be a different planet. It feels so weird.
I was pretty buzzed off my Cruiser, and I kept checking the time because I was so nervous Daniel wouldn’t show up, but at 9:30 Nina pushed me around the side of the house and screamed in my ear, “GUESS WHO’S HERE!!!!!! YOU NEED TO PLAY IT COOL THOUGH” so I screamed a bit back to her before walking out and talking to someone and trying to act cool and casual until I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned around, and there he was, with a Double Black in one hand and a cigarette between his teeth.
“Hey Mai,” he said, grinning, and I could barely breathe at all.
We sat together in the corner of the garden as he puffed away, and he offered me the cigarette but I didn’t want to. We sat there and drank and he smoked, and we talked about The Used show coming up next month, which he didn’t get a ticket to, but is going to try.
After a while – I don’t know how long – Mr Brightside by The Killers came on, and Daniel grabbed my hand and pulled me up. “I fucking love this song,” he said. “I do too!” I yelled over the noise. And we were dancing and laughing and singing, and suddenly he lifted his fingers up to my cheeks, then drew my face closer and kissed me. My body felt like it had been seized by a holy force. I tensed, and then melted into him.
We kissed like that for a few minutes before he whispered, “Let’s go somewhere more quiet,” and we raced through Soph’s house, holding hands, and he pushed open the door of her little sister Kim’s room. We sat on the bed, looking at each other for a moment, and then he kissed me again.
It was like I was discovering how my body worked for the first time. My hands suddenly became vessels with which I could explore his face, his shoulders, his back. My lips, usually moving non-stop, and his met as though they were long-lost friends reuniting, and I wondered how they had ever felt right before that moment.
I felt like my body was made out of stars and I was vanishing into the sky.
Daniel broke away from me and lay back on the pillow, smiling to himself.
“I’ve liked you for ages,” he said, taking my hand.
“Are you serious?” I stuttered. “I’ve liked you for ages!”
He laughed, stroking my palm as we both stared at the ceiling, where Kim had stuck glow-in-the-dark planets, that weird light green against the darkness.
I thought about the first time I saw Daniel on the bus in Year 8, and the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled, and his goofy laugh, and how I thought I’d never seen anyone more beautiful.
I looked over, and that face was right there, closer than I’d ever seen it before, and he kissed me again, and the stars in my stomach exploded. I don’t know how else to describe it.
I’m not sure what happened for the rest of the night. I don’t even care. When I woke up it was morning, and Nina was spooning me and I was spooning Brit, and Daniel wasn’t there anymore, but we went and found Soph, who was passed out in her bed, and I told all of them what had happened, and Soph was kind of weird about it, maybe because it happened in her sister’s bed, which I guess is pretty weird, but mostly they were excited for me because it’s been so long. I can’t believe I don’t have to wait anymore.
27 April 2005
I still can’t believe Daniel and I finally kissed the other day. We’ve spoken every day since, and things feel like they’re finally going the way I want them to. I’m not sure when we will be able to hang out again, but right now it feels so nice to know that he likes me as much as I like him.
30 April 2005
On the way to Canberra right now in the car for the protests. I’m writing in here because my parents are just chatting between themselves and I’m so bored, and Daniel is away with his family this weekend so he’s not texting much. Bà is staying with Cô Nhi for the weekend – she can’t really handle the long car trip anymore.
It’s the 30-year anniversary of the fall of Saigon, so this year is going to be a big turnout, I think. I always feel weird when I think about my heritage – like it’s a part of me, because it is, of course, but it’s also so separate. When will I be able to see where I came from? Will I ever?
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen is a Vietnamese-Australian writer based in Melbourne. She writes a regular column for Daily Life and has had her writing featured in publications including Rookie, frankie, The Lifted Brow and i-D.