I put my stuff and my floormates’ back to the kitchen shelves, these abandoned belongings that have been piling up in my room for a few days now, which starts to slightly annoy me. I have my coffee, and feel comforted by a sense of serenity as everything is finally back in its place. People have been going in and out my floor from early morning until late today to do the big cleaning and prepare the rooms for the new students who are coming tomorrow. These little distractions from the routine fill me with a vague sense of excitement as it reminds me of the spring-clean before Têt at home. Speaking of which, I don’t know exactly which days will be Têt this year, nor do I want to look it up. I can simply ask my parents, but something inside me resists it. It will open up memories and feelings that I’ve been trying to put away, and I’ve succeeded in doing so by concentrating on my life here. Because Têt will be about Hanoi, home, and ultimately, him. I’ve been safely guarded against unnecessary sentimentality since nothing here reminds me of them, not a single Vietnamese friend or acquaintance, nor any element of the landscape and the weather.
I’ve been talking to myself on an excessive basis lately, and I guess that must be a symptom of loneliness. Surely I’ve always felt alone, but this time it’s less my subjective perception than an objective, sensible reality: him walking out of my world, friends writing new stories in which I’m not included, and me living a life unknown to them. I have this feeling that I keep losing things – people, places, myself, my sense of attachment to them. I’ve tried in vain to convince the world and myself that I’m a proud loner, while all I’ve done is to passively reach out to people. Or rather, I secretly hope that someone, some soul, would accidentally drop in and ‘find’ me someday. I’m so absorbed in the thought of such possibility that it feels almost real; in fact, there’s a high chance that no one knows about my existence. However, I’m simply witnessing all of this happening with placidity. I guess there’s nothing exceptional about it, though. I’m merely sharing the same kind of life as many other globalized individuals to who ‘local’ is more a state of mind and a temporary matter than a permanent geographical place.
Tilburg has taught me how to care for strangers and to share again, how to embrace ‘easy’ love and intimacy, and how to do all this without getting attached, to be ‘normal’ without feeling betrayal to myself. Maybe it’s easier to love the things that hurt less, or to miss the things that we love less, meaning things external to and not an integral part of ourselves. Everything in the last 5 months has happened exactly the way I’ve always wanted it to: like a sitcom that leaves no trace and no consequence behind, and I’ve been an excellent and engaging spectator.
It’s unusually sunny today, a crispy, crystal early spring sun. The kitchen is at its tidiest, for the first time since I live here, and probably for the last time as well. I finish my coffee break, which gives me just enough time to ease my sore eyes and make up a monologue. Soon there will be new faces, new gossips, and new alcohol nights – all the ingredients needed for first world debauchery – but right now, I’m just content with going back to my never-ending reading list on a world that I’d rather read about than to live in.