The story is about two people one lost, one found, and what was learned along the way.
So, here is "Lost and Found in Vietnam"
In the end, when all the searching is done, after a lifetime of seeking a meaning to my existence, I can go no farther than the famous physicist:
“I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
I received this email:
Dear Sal, I am writing this letter to let you know that our dear friend Brad has taken his life. Recently I went to visit him, as I had been lately. Upon reaching his apartment building, his neighbor Murray informed me that he had killed himself, something that he had long planned. I just thought that you would want to know, being his best friend and all.
The neighbors said they knew he was running out of money and they pitched in and collected a total of $50 so he could buy some food. (Which he probably spent on alcohol.) They even cleaned his apartment and tried to cheer him up.
The local police have taken for themselves anything of value from his apartment. His sister is flying to Vietnam next week to claim his body, but I think they are going to cremate him and leave some of the ashes here. Murray gave me the large set of dentist teaching teeth that he used for demonstrating proper pronunciation. I’m thinking you might like to keep them as a remembrance.
Remembrance. Yeah, I remember the first time I saw Brad. It was those damn teeth. He had them hanging on the handlebars of his motorbike.
“What the hell?” I said.
“They’re used for teaching pronunciation,” said Bill. We were having lunch at our favorite greasy fish eatery. Both of us English teachers in Nha Trang, Vietnam. He knew what they were. A mouthful of teeth the size of a human head, they looked so spooky.
Brad parked his bike, walked into the restaurant, and Bill tells him he must be a teacher.
“And you use those for teaching phonemes,” said Bill.
“The only teacher in all of Asia doing it right,” said Brad in his perfect Minnesota articulation.
I’m thinking this guy is so full of himself. Asshole.
“Really, I am the finest English teacher in Vietnam and China. Everyone else is doing it completely wrong,” Brad went on. I disliked him even more.
He was tall, silver hair, fairly handsome in a cute sort of way. He always wore jeans and a long sleeve button down shirt, sleeves rolled up. Not like the rest of us foreigners in Vietnam who wore shorts and tee-shirts.
“Join us if you like,” Bill offered.
watched the two of them, figuring out who I disliked more. Bill, extremely overweight, bald, a few years older than me, was a follower of the infamous Indian guru Rajneesh, now reborn, reincarnated, and reinvented, as Osho. He had been here in the early years of the war and came back to volunteer first in Hanoi and then at the University of Nha Trang. There was something about him that I strongly disliked. However, he was an American and a Red Sox fan, not many of those in this part of the world, so we were “friends.”
It should be noted that Bill did help save me from a disastrous relationship with a woman here that threatened to become abusive. On her part not mine. Every time I suggested we separate she suggested that we don’t …or she would jump off the 4th floor balcony of the hotel we were living together in. (Eventually, coward that I am, I moved out on her one day when she went to the market. Bill encouraging me and easing my guilt over it.)
“Where are you teaching?” Bill asked.
“I’m mostly tutoring out of my house. Was working in Saigon, but friends of mine opened a school here in Nha Trang. I moved, the school never got off the ground, and I ended up with a few students to teach privately. Barely getting by.”
“Where are you living?” I asked.
“Out past the Tran Phu bridge. A fourth floor efficiency. Small, but with a big balcony overlooking the mouth of the river and the sea. Big enough to hold a class of 6 or 8 students.”
Somewhere in the conversation Brad told us how he hated his life, he was the most depressed person we would ever meet. And that if he had the courage he would kill himself. I didn’t take him seriously, he was too interesting and I’d never know anyone personally who seriously considered suicide.
I forget what else we talked about. We exchanged phone numbers and within a few weeks Brad and I were regularly getting together for dinner and serious conversation about teaching. Ok, the subject of women and his interest in only very young and very beautiful women, also came up.
I discovered that despite first appearances I actually liked him.