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Voices Out of Saigon

Langdon Abernathy came into our company in August of 1969. Where from, I heard it was Fayetteville, North Carolina, so he said, I couldn’t swear on it, wouldn’t swear to it, or bet on it. But he was young then a man of nineteen, or at least nineteen-years old when I met him, because I remember him saying when he left, three years after he came, three years after we met, and his tour of duty was up, he was twenty-one, and he had reenlisted to stay in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, two times, that’s right, 傷健的士 two times he reenlisted to stay in this hole, in this godforsaken land, he extended his duty for her, and he must had spent a year in the states in the Army before being stationed here at the 611. They were going to get married, those two, they even wrote each other, while thousands of miles apart. He had fallen in love with a woman twice his age, or at least half his age, she was thirty-one years old, looked thirteen, small, and pretty as a jaybird. She caught my eye many of times, she knew it, but she wouldn’t admit it, I’m sure, if I’d had said so, and mentioned it to Langdon, well it would have been a fight, so I left well enough alone. She lived-off and on-in his hutch with him, had it sectioned off, the mess-hall (Army kitchen) sergeant allowed it, no one said a word about it, bore him a son in it, and that was a year before he left, went back to North Carolina. No one-not even him-ever met Vang’s parents, or for that matter, any of her relatives. She’d always say, “Day in Saigon, no time to come, make money, got to eat…”something like that. The only ones she talked to at the mess hall were the clean up girls, Zuxin and her friend Ming, I suppose they were the only ones she trusted with her secrets, Vang was half Vietnamese and Hmong, and Zuxin and Ming Chinese I think. Ming still works in the mess hall, it’s the same one, the same girl that was here when Vang was here. I heard she owned some property in Saigon, a house, that is all I heard at the time, and couldn’t put two and two together, so I said nothing, but Smile Judson, a friend from Alabama, he’s now out in the bush, he came in now and then for R & R (Rest and Recuperation), here at Cam Ranh Bay, stayed at those little houses over yonder, as he’d say, said he saw her in Saigon, with a family, heard her say, “You come to my house,” I didn’t say a word on this, didn’t know what it all entailed back then, and that was my secret from Langdon I suppose. But before that event, I already knew something was up, fishy, and a few of us others here at the 611, had already listened to Zuxin talking to Smiley; he was talking a trifle more than loudly one night drunk, with her, and he liked her, and he got a little cold and ruthless-he could get that way when drunk, I had to backed him up a few times in a fight-anyhow, from a few tales told by Zuxin, who had told him during these bouts of drunkenness, Vang was no saint, and even and Ming agreed with that-both who had dealings with Vang, said some things I do not want to admit, and out of courtesy and consideration, and respect for the deceased, I will simply say, she had a few more affairs than she admitted to having, especially when Langdon went home the first year for a thirty-day leave, and came back, reenlisted to be with her. So when his son was born, he felt responsible, never checked if the child was his, but it looked like his, I believe it was his, and when the boy could walk he looked even more like him, so like I say, he came back, and we all kind of felt it was for good, not necessarily for the better, that he’d marry her and stay in Vietnam, we all of course got surprised. After the second year, when he was going home again, he was sending some letters, if not fits of rage back to his mother, she wanted him not to marry her, and come home, talk about it. He asked me what he should do, I said, and perhaps I should not have said it, because it did something to him, especially with Vang, call it unpardonable outrage, because she didn’t seem to care one way or the other, yet she seemed to be committed to him nonetheless, I said, “Let your mind be your conscious,” and I think he was going to stay in Vietnam, and marry her, but that unpardonable outrage came when she said, “No,” she wouldn’t marry him, not yet, or then anyhow.

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