“I feel like I could have a Tiramisu.” I asked
“Yes, I love Tiramisu, but first I want to try bánh mì!” Akari answered with her eyes brightened
“Great, it’s right around the corner. Let’s go” I turned to Akari with excitement wanting to hold her hands and run but suddenly recalled that weak effort from Akari’s hand the other night in the movie theater so I stopped. We climed up the sixth floor of an old apartment building where there is full of coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores inside.
“So many coffee shops in here. Are you sure this place has Tiramisu?” I asked, unsure
“Yeah! I remember”
We stepped in the coffe shop. The banner outside wrote: “Welcome to Sài Gòn ơi!” What a beautiful sentimental name. I looked at Akari, secretly wanted to call her “Akari ơi” and wished she’d understand and turned to me and smile with all the warmth she has.
Reality, however, has its own story. As we were waiting in line, I saw a longer line that’s probably going to take a lifetime to get through. It’s the line that draws the cultural difference and limitations between Akari and me. What do I have to do to get over that wall and be a step closer to Akari? Akari couldn’t care less about what name of the store meant or why was it named that way.
“Next!” the powerful voice of the cashier snapped me back to reality.
Akari wanted smoothies since the store ran out of Tiramisu. I just wanted orange juice. The cashier took orders and gave me a wooden heart that wrote my name in white chalk so that the waiter’d know where to bring the drinks. I gave my heart to Akari and we went to the table by the balcony that has a wonderful view down to the street.
“ Do you think my heart would break if I throw it down?” I looked down outside the balcony
“Of course, it’ll break what do you think. Do you know that if a coin is dropped from a building it could kill a person?”
“What? Really? That’s really hard to believe!”
“Yeah, I know. Because the speed and the height that makes it so dangerous” Akari answered with her hand doing the motion of the coin dropping before me. I looked at her lips and wondered what it tastes like.
Akari took out a small bottle from her handbag and apply the liquid onto her ankle.
“What’s that? Mosquitos?” I asked
“Yeah”, Akari crossed her left leg exposing her glorious plain ankle, and put more repellents on it. Her one-word reply was enough to show how irritating the bites made her. Goddamn mosquitos. I hate them for biting Akari’s leg. My hands were twitching as I resisted the temptation to give her a hand, to wind her ankle, to feel how soft it is and to tell her that her unadorned ankle is the most intriguing, sexiest thing I’ve ever seen.
“My ex-girl friend just got married a few days ago. I should’ve asked you to come to the wedding and make a scene there. I’m going to punch the husband and you’re going to slap the wife and then we’ll hold hands and run into the sunset.”
“Gosh, what kind of imagination is that?” Akari raised her voice and giggled.
“What? It’d be fun. I promise. But too bad, I wasn’t invited.”
Akari broke into laughter. “Yep, I can totally see that coming.” said Akari
“What age do you want to get married?” I asked.
“Maybe 25. I want to travel and enjoy before I had to deal with all that” smiled Akari. I noticed a dimple on the left side of her lips. “What about you?”
“Maybe 30, 35.” I said
“Wow, so late?”
“That’s late? Well I want to focus on my job first cuz I wanna be rich”
“You want a boy or a girl?” I continued.
“Either one. Well, actually, a girl, cuz I wanna do her hairs.” Akari look into the distance and smile subtly. I saw a picture of a house with kids somewhere in the peaceful suburb near a small park and a river in her black beautiful eyes. I wondered if my eyeglasses would make it hard to kiss her as though there aren’t enough things to prevent me and Akari to be together already.
“I don’t think my heart would break, though. It is not that easy to break.”, I said with my hands holding the wooden heart.
“Are you really going to throw it down?” Akari moved her gaze to me with an innocent voice as if she really believes that’s going to happen.
“Well, I gave it to you, and you don’t seem to want to keep it, so there’s no point of having it back. I ripped it out for you, can’t put it back in.” I answered and caught her shy glance at me. Akari quickly looked away. We kept silence and both looked to the distance where the sun was setting behind the buildings.
“Do people in Japan kiss and hold hands on the street?” I asked, breaking the silence
“No, that’d be weird” said Akari
“It’s ok to hold hands here in Vietnam, let’s hold hands” I said
“No! people are looking at us!” Akari face turned red and I was unsure whether that’s her makeup or blood rushed to Akari’s face but I was so sure Akari had never been adorable as she was at this moment. I wrapped my arm behind Akari to grab the purple umbrella next to her on the other side and opened it.
“How about now? No one can see us ” I teased.
I continued: “You know what Akari, I tried to not stare at you and control my heart whenever I’m with you so that I’m not out of breath and look like a desperate dude, but seeing you right now, I think I’m going to surrender. Maybe I really am a desperate one.” Akari looked at me, eyes goggled. Not waiting for Akari’s reply, I pulled her closer to me, took her arm and put it on my shoulder.
Akari lips didn’t taste like chocolate. It tasted like a mixture of smoothies and a six foot long bánh mì. Weird combination but I liked it. The eyeglasses did make it a little harder to kiss but she helped.
 Bánh mì is a type of Vietnamese sandwich very popular in Vietnam.
 In Vietnamese, in order to call someone by their name, the word “ơi” is added after the name of that person. This way of calling a person’s name is formal, friendly and sentimental.
 Public display of affection is considered impolite and not encouraged in most countries in Asia
Categories: Flash Fiction
Tam Le is a writer, traveler, freelancer, translator, and photographer.