What’s happened?

“What have happened to me?”
I’ve been thinking. Seriously.
Regarding how I have changed, and I am always terrified when the values I hold dear start to fall apart. If somewhere down the line we look back, most of us will face the same paradox: what is deemed normal now was not seen as normal to us years ago; and there are so many things that have changed but we did not notice, simply because we’ve evolved with the change. We think we’re the same, but we’re so not.
Well, this is about a woman named Sophia. Isn’t it weird, we call her a woman? Because Sophia is not a human. (Well, somewhere on Earth women are not seen as human, either, but I’ll keep the annoying preaching part). It’s a robot. A robot that has civil rights. Something that, ironically, not all humans do. Isn’t it ironic and, hmm, sad?
Sophia is not required to wear an abaya when she’s outside; she’s not required to be a Muslim, either, in a land where being non-Muslim could be a serious crime. Well, that actually makes sense. God, if he exists, obviously did not create Sophia. He did not promise heaven for Sophia, either. Actually, Sophia does not even need a heaven. If anything, she can be immortal. She makes humans’ ever dream and obsession over immortality simply a pathetic joke.
Some weeks ago, I talked to this man who works in financial technology. Now, Sophia must be smart enough to understand this term, but I am not, I have to admit. But that’s not the point. He was telling me about a machine they were working on; they were teaching the machine to do some task, and it learns, and gets better day after day. Some day, it will become better than anyone else. That’s terrifying, I said. Does that mean, over time, all robots will be better than us? Well, that could be. But right now, the machine can only get better in that field, because we’ve programmed it that way. But the future of artificial intelligence, the prospects of it surpassing human, it’s more real than any politician’s promises. We’re approaching that time, no doubt.
Now, that’s when I face with my own paradox of “What’s happened to me?”
My first reaction to Sophia and her “clan” was “terrified”. Oh, so they’re gonna make more robots like that, and they will be all (or maybe, they already are) more intelligent than us; will we be enslaved? Will that end humans? It feels like humans have made enough shits in this world, and it’s only reasonable some superior creatures now rise and end us all… And we made those creatures. We created our own demise.
Mmm, but then, I think about how my childhood was nurtured by a robot, too, and I remember the dream I’ve always had. Doraemon was a big part of childhood. If I have Doraemon now, would I want him to be equal to me? Would i love him? Wasn’t Doraemon the best friend to Nobita, and to many, many other kids?
I had no fear for Doraemon. Nor did I have no discrimination against him. I never thought I would. 5 year-old me wanted a world with robots as my friends. 5 year-old me had no hate or fear for this new “species”. 5-year-old me would love Sophia.
 
 
 
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Mùa mưa

Người bảo kệ, chân trần cứ bước

bụi cát nhập nhoà khắp nẻo xa

cơn mây tuôn đổ ào hàng mi ướt

tầm tã cơn yêu, lại ráo hoảnh cơn sầu

 

Người bảo thôi, tại thiên thu trùng điệp

nỗi nhớ nàng cồn lên nỗi thương ta

nảy nở làm chi, đoá lục tâm trong biếc

để tìm yên sau ngàn bước rã rời

 

Người bảo đấy, rồi chỉ như hư ảnh

nhoè nhoẹt một màu xám ngắt tự xa xưa

lửa nhóm lên chỉ thêm bùng nỗi sợ

thà rằng đừng quen, thà lỡ bước qua người.

Dạ Ly, mùa mưa 2017

Lẳng lặng mà đi

Thì thôi, ta cứ lẳng lặng mà đi
Đường dẫu vắng, chẳng còn người cùng bước
Nắng đã nhạt, lời yêu xưa cũng nhạt
Còn lại gì, người theo dấu đi tìm

Thì thôi, ta cứ lẳng lặng mà đi
Đếm từng bước, từng ngày, từng khắc
Dẫu khắc khoải, nhớ nhung cũng mặc
Qua bên kia đồi, còn mướt mát dặm xanh

Thì thôi, thì thôi, lẳng lặng mà đi
Tim quen hơi lần về chốn cũ
Cơn mưa thoáng qua, nắng dồn chẳng đủ
Nhặt nắng gom về, nhặt gió thả hồn bay.

Sunday, 2017.

The unbreakable circle of perception in Vietnamese advertising

About three years ago, I wrote one or two blog posts on sexism in Vietnamese ads. Among many things that we could have done better, this was one single nuisance that bothered me the most, to the point that I promised myself I would never do “that kind of sexist advertising” if I would work in the field.

And like wedding vows, of course my promise was broken.

Let’s not talk now about how I (obviously) failed to deliver my promise, but instead about how sexism is still shamelessly present in Vietnamese advertising. Standing right in the middle of my kitchen is a washing machine, on which the wrap shows a mom (surprised!) with a big smile. Okay, that is no big deal, moms happily do laundry in all households, we get it. What turns my stomach is the little girl, supposedly her daughter, carrying a laundry basket in the back. Think about it, would you ever see a little boy? No, unless the boy would be there to portray the image of a playful, curious kid who likes to be around mom and learn about stuff. The little girl is there to help mom. And yes, it has to be a girl, because this is laundry.

Oh, is it even a surprise? On the other hand, boys have a different role in advertising. Along the hallway from the departure lounge to the airplane was a string of ads from some investment bank, whose message mostly is about success. The hero in each ad is either a man at his office desk, or a man with his business partner (another man, of course), or a man with his happy family in a newly purchased house (little boy playing with dad, little girl with mommy in the background). It seems to me, a woman, I have nothing to relate with these ads.

At first I was uncomfortable, then frustrated. Come on, I’m flying with an airline whose owner is a woman billionaire, and I have to read these ads that imply only men care about career success? But then it flew me back to all the time I got pissed off during a creative briefing for some very similar reasons, and finally always had to surrender. Because the planners were, more often than not, not very wrong. What if it really makes more sense to sell career to men and laundry to women because it’s, well, the way it is?

Stay with me. I hate this as much as you may. And so does the brand manager who gave us this brief even. But we’re not here doing works to please our egos or moral compass; we’re doing it for an audience that does not give a flying fuck about a progressive, news-worthy, Cannes Lions-winning message, and of course for the most parts is inexcusably sexist.

***

It was the very first presentation, and we came in with one single idea. The product was detergent. The idea was to have women enjoy their free time and embrace their life (because the product makes it happen, obviously). In my mind it is supposed to be liberating: you don’t have to spend all your time doing chores, but can actually go on dates with your partner, play with kids, and more time for yourself. For yourself – I can’t stress that enough. What I picture is a free woman polishing her nails, reading her favorite book, or anything that she wishes she could do, given more free time.

Makes sense?

First meeting went incredibly well. The client was so excited to have some feminist elements to their campaign, and that led us to the second round…

“So… we’re gonna show women do nails and makeup instead of laundry?” – asked the confused brand manager.

“Yeah! We will show her with husband, with kids, and then with herself.”

“Mmm… can we just show her with husband only? It could be like… she can spend more time with husband to maintain their relationship, not like before, she was all about housework, etc. It could strain their relationship, right?”

My feminazi self starts screaming in my head: “What the fuck? If it’s the case why wouldn’t the husband just fucking do the laundry already, so his wife could have time to “maintain their relationship”?”

But I swallow it down.

“I think it would be confusing… this should not be just about husband-wife… [rationales inserted here]. Our team think it’s best to stick with three pillars as we proposed.”

[A lot of correspondences that should not be remembered happen during this interval].

The brand manager stays silent for a minute. And then he concludes:

“Okay, we will do as you proposed. But… for the “Yourself” part, we would like the women to do something for herself, but it has to be for the family, too.”

Mmm. What do you mean with that?

“We don’t want to show women to do things just for themselves. If she does something, it gotta be for her beloved family, right?”

Mmm. Right. Because you pay us, so…

tumblr_static_farm-animals-meeting-funny-creative-animal
This is what meetings should look like. But they do not.

So that’s it, we did as per their command. A woman will not do anything in her own interest, but rather, she has to do for her family, because it’s the way moms are: sacrificing her personal life for family. That’s the mindset, and the message we were to send out. I wasn’t so excited about doing it, nor was I proud of the work. It was quite stupid, to be honest. But worse, it was not the exception. It is so prevalent in our advertising, to the point that during brainstorm sessions no one bothers raising questions anymore. One reason for not raising question is, arguably, what we’re currently portraying in ads is actually true. How many times have you seen women in beer stalls after work, and men at home to prepare for dinner? Is it so common for a couple to have all daughters, and not hear someone “console” her “Oh it’s still okay to have just daughters”, or “You’re still young, you can still conceive a son next time”. Is it the norm now, that families spend Tet with the wife’s family instead of the husband’s?

We all know, the answer is “No”. Vietnam, despite being very catchy with progressive trends like LGBT marriage, is at heart a conservative place. The high percentage of women in the workforce speaks little about gender equality, for the fact that Vietnamese women have always been working without earning equal status as men (who, ironically in many cases, live under their wives’ financial support).

Nonetheless, it has dawned on me that men are not to be totally at fault. Vietnamese women seem to just accept whatever “traditions” throw at them, for convenience. When women seem to be okay with the current situation, why would men bother withdrawing their privileges? This came out when I was having dinner (at 3pm!) with two of my old classmates. One of them is newly wedded, and the other has just been in a relationship for about 1 month, but she intends to get married somewhere end of year. To clarify, I fancy the idea of being married, too, and I am pretty traditional in the sense that I want a big (monogamous) family with many kids. We were talking about my friend’s married life, and of course the topic of in-laws come up. My friend is not living with her in-laws; her husband is also a supporting man who shares the load with his wife. Thing is, only when they’re alone together. When they are back to his home, she’s gonna do all the work, and, this is important, she will not let him wash the dishes, or do anything, even if he wants to. “Why?” “The mother would not like to see his son do the work.” “I know, but isn’t it stupid?” “Naaa, people are still conservative about it. They don’t think sons should do housework.” – the other friend explained. “I KNOW, but isn’t it… okay, fine.” I stopped there, because I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. My friends just accepted that the norm is women do housework and men watch TV, and that their husband is first and formost, someone’s son, rather than a man who stands by his wife. If they all agree to that, what is the point in changing?

***

When I first saw “Like a Girl”, I was wondering why this kind of progressive, inspirational messaging rarely happens in Vietnam, but we instead have been stuck with whatever was showing on TV. I blamed the stupid creatives and claimed I would change them. (They are not stupid and now I’m happy-maybe one of them). As creatives I blamed planners for writing out-of-date insights. (They are not out-of-date and I am just bitchy for no reason). Then I blamed clients, for being [a lot of things that should not be said here because they are breastfeeding us]. But now I remember the conversation I had with my friends, and I realize my clients are not at fault either. Look, the brand managers are among the most success-driven, ambitious people; most of them are women, and they are, by nature of their job, very liberal. If something annoys me, I bet it annoys them too. But they are not doing the works to please their ego, or political view either; they are doing it for consumers, an audience that is very close to what’s in ads.

Now you can say, but isn’t it advertising’s job, and media’s generally, to address normalcy in society? Isn’t it our job to push people forward? If we’re showing something backward, even if it’s present in real life, we’re reinforcing the stereotypes. If we instead show something progressive, we will stir up the status quo. Shouldn’t it be that way?

I think it should. But, a big BUT, we’re not doing it. Because, for every “good” message we’re sending out in ads, be it about peace, gender equality, family values, charity, dream, kindness, etc., it’s all to support one thing: sales. So no one would bother going against the stream if it’s not helping them with their KPIs. If it does, then yes, do it. As long as their home appliances or detergent or phones or beer or bank credit cards are selling, they would not care if what their ads are saying could change the social construct or not. It’s not our job anyway, right? Ironically, the audience is looking at our works subconsciously for an influence on their view, while we’re watching them to mind our very own steps, for fear of treading outside of the borders.

And then, here we are, a bunch of grumpy creatives, so pissed off with the regime, because as moon-eyed novices we fed ourselves with things like “Like a girl”, we traded off for being here to “make some change”, and we end up in the very job that is to serve public prejudice, and not to challenge it. We’re in the last place to make any innovations for the goodwill of human race. Do it for sales, maybe.

18MADRECS5-master1050
If only we could be grumpy and still this damned sexy…

It’s the unbreakable circle that we’re not gonna be able to break. Not in ways we’ve been trying.

Da Ly

Nỗi sợ bí mật của người làm creative là nghĩ ra một ý tưởng hay

Tôi nói thật đấy.

Nỗi sợ bí mật của người làm quảng cáo là nghĩ ra một ý tưởng hay. Hay quá. Nghe phát mê liền. Chỉ chớm nảy ra trong đầu thôi đã muốn sống chết bảo vệ nó.

Dở là ở chỗ, nghĩ ra cái mình thích đến thế rồi, chẳng còn động lực nghĩ cái thứ hai.

Lỡ đâu, nghĩ ra cái… hay hơn cái trước? Rồi lại phải bỏ cái idea cũ đi thì sao?

Thế nên thường nghĩ ra một idea tâm đắc rồi, những idea sau người ta sẽ chỉ cầm chừng, sáng tạo vừa vừa thôi, vì tất cả tim óc đã dồn cả vào idea đầu tiên mất rồi.

Tôi thấy đôi khi, cái người ta sợ nhất là yêu một người. Mà yêu quá mất rồi.

Chẳng may gặp đúng người trong mộng thì đúng là tai hoạ.

Làm sao mà yêu phải người vừa giống mình, vừa ngược mình; vừa hợp vừa kị; người mà cảm giác như đã gặp từ lâu lắm rồi.

Làm sao mà yêu phải người, đến cả đặc điểm ngoại hình cũng đúng những gì mình thích. Mà những gì mình thích thì toàn thứ đâu đâu, như ngực phải có lông chẳng hạn…

Yêu rồi đấy, lỡ mà chẳng thành, thì chẳng còn muốn yêu ai nữa. Giống như nghĩ được một ý tưởng hay rồi thì những cái sau chẳng cái nào ra hồn cả.

Vì mấy ai trúng số hai lần trên đời?

Why I find you in a bookshop, explained.

My life is super boring, and that is all my fault.

Not that I wasn’t aware of that. Before I moved to this city (so that I could finally live too far from home for my parents to interfere with me making stupid yet cool decisions), I’d had this whole vision for myself: partying ‘til midnight, “tasting” all the most hideous bars in the town, smoking weed as a creativity boost, having a tattoo that guarantees freaking out mom, stuff like that.

Yet, 2 years from those naïve years, I could qualify as a nun if judged by my very own standards of “living life”. And no, of course I still have not had any tattoo yet.

In fact, on this Saturday afternoon I am here. In a fucking bookshop.

What the hell happened, Daly?

IMG_1746

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I’d say it’s even more impossible to teach an introvert some extrovert tricks. And in my case, not for the lack of trying. I once went to this bar named Apocalypse at around 12am (back when I still believed I could be cool), and at first glance I thought that was going to be my utopia. The music was so loud I could feel my heart jumping to the beats, and we literally had to roll tissues into small earbuds to prevent some terminal hearing damage. About three steps from our table, I could see a round of black men in fine suits, the exact kind of male vibe that could hit me weak in the knees; they were seated there with two beautiful girls – two model-standard beautiful girls in slutty attires that clearly declare they either were celebrities, or prostitutes. I was in ninth cloud, and it wasn’t because of the haze of weed and shisha smoke that was surrounding us. The clashing sounds of EDM were attacking us in every dimension, shots were ordered, and my friends (colleagues, to be precise) started to shake to Calvin Harris in all kinds of moves.  It was strange and quite fun seeing my grumpy boss join the crowd of ecstatic youngster on the main floor, and myself swaying in the most seductive, playgirl demeanor I could pull off.

Then, there it happened.

My mood suddenly shot down South. It was a spiral impossible to stop track. All joy evaporated, leaving me a hollow shell of my very own person that clearly is craving some peace and solitude. God I hate this place. I hate the vacant looks and the annoying laugh and the shouting of people trying to talk above the deafening music. I feel awkward dancing when no one is looking, because everyone is so damn consumed in their own pretentious passionate dancing shits. I like music and dancing, but not like this. Not here.

I wanted out.

I did not bail that day, and actually stayed until the last minute, but I knew this was it. That was the first epiphany for me, before the second time when I inhaled the first puff of cigarette “for experiement” in my life, only to loathe every bit of it. The nerdy freak inside me has spoken. “This just isn’t for you.”

Oh but I digress. Look, this whole post is supposed to be about a bookshop, right? When I can’t think of anything to do on a weekend, I go to a bookshop. You can read a lot about a person when you are at a bookshop with them. At the entrance of the store, which can be understood as the “Star spot”, they display the most trendy books, mostly by young authors, some of them are just barely over 20. A young girl, shoulder-length hair, white t-shirt tucked in a long dress, complimented by a pair of Hunter sneakers that finish up her very unique-like-any-other-unique-and-average-girl look; she is strolling around the “Star spot”. She scans through some books and pages, and finally adds one more into her arms that are already piled with seven books, all of which are proses or inspirational modern fairy tales by the aforementioned young authors. On the other side of the shelf, a guy with eyes of a tiger was digging up the Trump collection, and next to him a thirty something man searching for something Buddhist. Then me. As a profoundly sophisticated young woman, I have no interest in those mundane literature, and just proudly walk past all of them, eye on my one and only true calling: the manga/comics section.

I come out of the store with one volume of Conan, as I’ve done for the last 15 years, and another comic about diet. Neither of these books are important, to be honest, and I just bought them to satisfy the greedy nerd inside me. But I decided to go here for virtually nothing, didn’t I? One or two years ago, I must have been that “unique” girl in the “Star spot” section, looking for answers, or maybe just someone to talk about my very “unique” pains of being young. Several years from now, maybe you’d find me there among those Buddhist-something shelves, again looking for answers in my life.

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I think it is the kind of therapy that bookshops offer us. As soon as I walk in here, the soothing scent of papers tells me it is going to be fine. You have left life outside the door, and in this quiet little corner, the only noisy thing is your vibrant mind that is travelling miles into the fictional world painted by words. And that, to me, is pure happiness.

We come to bookshops when we have a question. We’re looking for the answers in the books, which, sometimes, actually just give us even more questions. But chances are that we will find happiness on the way, then what is the loss?

So nerd up, and head to a bookshop.

Da Ly, April 2017

Your name

I guess I know the feeling.

when Taki checked his phone, only to watch Mitsuha’s notes vanishing in front of his eyes.

when he tried to write down her name, but that name just slipped out of his head, completely. Evaporated. Like it’d never existed.

when it all seemed like just a dream.

What if? What if it was just a dream?

what if what I heard, the call, everything, it’d never existed?

What if these words would vanish one day? And the name would slip out of my head, too?

Your name is the dearest sound. My name through your voice is my favorite in the world.

But nothing is real. Not real enough.

I wish I had it written on the palm of my hand.

But no. Just nothing.

It all will be just a dream.

Even your name. The sound of it, will slip out of my lips once in a while. When I can’t help it.

Nothing, but the longing, is real.

Sad, isn’t it?

Ở lưng chừng con dốc

Giáng sinh 2014 là những ngày lạnh cuối cùng mình còn ở Bắc, mà bố mẹ đi Hà Nội thăm cháu cả. Trước khi lên tàu mẹ hỏi “Ở nhà một mình có buồn không?”, mình bảo, tối con rủ bạn đi chơi. “Con có bạn bè không?” Lại thế nữa. Chẳng lẽ lại không có. Có đầy là khác. Đoạn mẹ thôi không hỏi nữa.

Nói vậy, chứ đêm đó đi một mình thật.

Thường Noel là lúc đông đã vào độ rét ngọt, không dở ương ngày nóng ngày lạnh như hồi tháng 11. Mình không theo đạo Chúa, thấy tiết trời lạnh mà đèn hoa giăng khắp nơi ấm sực, lại có nhạc rộn ràng, thì thích vậy thôi. Noel ở xứ không theo Đạo, người ta nô nức đổ ra đường thuần chất chỉ để cho vui, để hưởng một đêm hiếm hoi nghe tiếng chuông nhà thờ gióng dài, Chúa Hài Đồng sáng rực rỡ trên tháp cao, và Đức Mẹ hiền từ nhìn xuống đám người vô thần đang thở ra những làn hơi lạnh. Thành phố bé tẹo chỉ có hai nhà thờ, một Thiên Chúa, một Tin Lành, đến đêm Giáng sinh người đổ cả về hai nơi này. Nhà thờ Thiên chúa lớn hơn, năm nào cũng đầu tư trang hoàng đèn hoa lấp lánh như công viên; bên trong Thánh đường con chiên kính cẩn nghe Cha giảng đạo, bên ngoài khách vãn cảnh chen chân qua cổng để chụp cho được vài tấm ảnh trong sân nhà thờ rồi về.

Chẳng mấy chốc mà thấy ngộp trước cảnh đông người, mình bèn tản bộ về nhà thờ Tin lành ở mạn Đông thành phố. Tầm 11 giờ đêm người đã vãn. Có lẽ Cha vừa giảng đạo xong, nhà thờ chỉ còn lác đác vài người ngồi lại cầu nguyện trong tiếng nhạc Thánh ca bật to qua loa. Mình dậm bước vào, ngồi xuống một hàng ghế trống. Nghĩ về chuyến đi vài ngày nữa sẽ thay đổi mọi thứ, tương lai vô định, thấy chới với như ở lưng chừng một con dốc đứng. Cô ca sĩ trên loa giọng cao chói vói, cứ vút mãi lên, cảm thấy như đã chạm tới trần nhà, rồi xuyên qua đó lên thẳng tới Trời. Nghe một bài hát mà người hát đặt trọn tin yêu vào Chúa, có khi nào mình cũng “lây” được một chút. Đôi khi, cái ta cần chỉ là một niềm tin mạnh mẽ, bản năng như vậy mà thôi.

***

Đà Lạt cách Sài Gòn một giấc ngủ đêm. Lên xe, trùm chăn lại, mở mắt ra đã thấy rặng thông nhấp nhô trong cơn ngái ngủ. Sau một Giáng sinh ở Sài Gòn nóng mà đông đúc đến phát bực, mình nghĩ ngày này những năm sau nhất định phải ở nơi có chút lạnh. Xe buýt thả xuống trước một con hẻm dựng đứng heo hút gió núi. Bầu trời đầy sao nhưng gió rét thổi vù vù, có mơ màng cỡ mình cũng không sao đứng đó mà thưởng ngoạn được. Với cả, điện thoại đang hết pin. Và mình quên địa chỉ homestay mất rồi. Lúc ấy là hai giờ sáng.

OK, fine.

Vừa hay có nhà hàng bi-a lắp ổ cắm ngoài cửa, mới đứng co ro ở đấy mà đợi điện thoại lên trở lại, trong khi anh trai nọ đã lượn xe máy qua chỗ mình vài lần, không biết có phải muốn hỏi giá không.

Phanh đã lên đây từ một ngày trước, từ tối đến giờ thắc thỏm mình sẽ lên lúc nào. Lúc này nàng ta đã cùng bạn chủ homestay chạy ra hẻm đón mình. Homestay 4Quarters mới khai trương một ngày trước, chúng mình là hai trong số những khách đầu tiên thuê phòng – đúng ra là thuê giường, ở đây. Mình đòi lấy phòng dorm để trải nghiệm cảm giác ở chung với nhiều người, lỡ đâu đêm dậy đi vệ sinh lại ngã nhầm vào giường bạn Tây cao to nào đấy, eo ơi… Rốt cuộc lên tới nơi thì phòng mới có vỏn vẹn hai đứa, cùng với bạn chủ nhà cũng chung phòng luôn. Mình nằm tầng trên, giơ tay chạm trần; dây đèn trang trí xoà thõng xuống, có cảm giác Giáng sinh sẽ rơi xuống phủ lớp lên người mình trong khi vùi đầu vào chăn ngủ.

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Giáng sinh sẽ rơi xuống…
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Homestay 4Quarters rất dễ thương

Lần trước lên Đà Lạt mình ốm bẹp trên xe, cảm thấy căm ghét cái thời tiết sáng rét run trưa nắng phát hờn này. Oan thay cho Đà Lạt. Lần này lên thấy thành phố đáng yêu hơn nhiều. Vì lần ốm ấy đã lết đi được gần hết những điểm quan trọng, lần này mình muốn tìm vài chỗ để chụp ảnh chơi vậy thôi. Đường Cô Giang là nơi được bạn chủ nhà giới thiệu, mà đúng là chỉ có người đã từ phương xa dạt về chốn này, dành cả mấy tháng lật tung thành phố lên, mới biết được. Con đường vòng cung ngắn tẹo, tìm mãi trên bản đồ mới thấy, là nơi tập trung những biệt thự cổ có kiến trúc rất lạ, đã bị bỏ (có vẻ) hoang phế. Nơi đây được chính quyền bảo tồn và cho thuê, chủ yếu để quay phim ma. Đà Lạt giờ vẫn còn nhiều biệt thự cổ như vậy, cho thấy từ khi nơi này được phát hiện, nó đã là chốn dừng chân của những kẻ bải hoải sự đời sục sôi bên dưới con đèo kia, mà lẩn lên đây tìm chút lạnh.Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 2.32.06 AM

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Phanh vừa gặp ma.

***

Sự tích về những kẻ sống hướng nội, chỉ thích ru rú ở nhà (chú thích: một mình!) là có thật. Mình chính là một trong số chúng nó. Kéo được cái thân ra khỏi Sài Gòn đã là kì tích rồi, nhưng lên đến đây mình chỉ ra ngoài độ hơn hai tiếng là lăm lăm về homestay. Không, chẳng phải lỗi tại mình; con nhỏ Phanh nó cũng lười quá cơ, nó cũng thích về ngủ. Cái thời tiết lúc nóng lúc lạnh ở đây làm cho người ta ra đường một lúc là lại phải về điều hoà thân nhiệt rồi mới đi tiếp được. Vả lại, Đà Lạt là thành phố nghỉ dưỡng chứ chẳng phải để du lịch. Đà Lạt chắc cứ làm người ta muốn nằm hoài để ngấm cho trọn cái uể oải kiều diễm của xứ này đó mà.

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Tại Phanh lười chớ không phải tại mình đâu!!!

Đêm Giáng sinh, tụi mình định ra chợ đêm Đà Lạt, nhưng ở nhà ấm quá nên thôi. Thực ra nhà nghỉ có tổ chức tiệc nhỏ. Tiệc kiểu Đà Lạt, có bánh rán, sữa đậu nành nóng, có chủ homestay còn đông hơn khách thật, là hai đứa mình. Trong mấy người góp vốn, chẳng ai là người Đà Lạt, hay sống ở Đà Lạt; họ đều có công việc ở Sài Gòn hoặc Hà Nội, nhưng vì lý do gì đó mà hội tụ cả về đây. Chỉ có Tân, người đã ra đón mình đêm hôm qua, là ở lại đây coi sóc nhà nghỉ, nhưng chính Tân cũng không có ý định ở lại mãi. “Rồi Tân sẽ về lại Hà Nội thôi.”

Bữa tiệc chủ yếu là bốn người bạn ấy đàn và hát với nhau, còn mình và Phanh ngồi hoạ theo. Họ hát, như là ngoài kia chẳng có gì buồn. Họ đệm và mớm lời cho nhau, toàn nhạc chế mà ai cũng thuộc, ai cũng biết diễn. Mình vốn không thích tiệc tùng, tiệc với người lạ càng không, nhưng đêm hôm ấy, không cảm thấy xa lạ. Một phần, chắc do bốn người ấy gần như hoàn toàn diễn với nhau, và mình chỉ cần ngồi quan sát. Cũng giống như Giáng sinh năm xưa, những ngày cuối cùng còn ở Bắc. Lạnh hơn một chút. Được ngồi đó nhìn ngắm cuộc đời, trong khi chần chừ đã đến lúc nhảy vào dòng nước chưa, hay đợi nó liếm tới mình rồi cuốn đi luôn?

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***

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Sáng hôm sau, Phanh kể mình nghe chuyện của bạn chủ nhà nghỉ. Năm trước, trong khi đi du lịch xuyên Việt, bạn hẹn gặp người yêu ở Đà Lạt. Rồi họ chia tay ở Đà Lạt. Cái thung lũng bạt ngàn thông này giống như một dấu chấm chuyển dòng vậy; hôm trước còn bên nhau, hôm sau đã khác. Mình nghe câu chuyện trong khi đang rét run người vì lái xe ngược chiều gió trên đèo Prenn. Nắng lúc ấy đã trải thảm vàng rực xuống thành phố bên dưới kia rồi, nhưng nắng chiếu qua kẽ lá thông chưa đủ làm ấm người. Và những câu chuyện, về những con người đang dang dở. Đà Lạt, ở nơi lưng chừng núi này, cứ như một chốn người ta lánh về mỗi khi xáo trộn trong lòng. Tình yêu, sự nghiệp, ước mơ, tương lai… Cả mình nữa, mình về đây đâu chỉ vì chút gió lạnh?

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Mình thấy mình ở giữa lưng chừng con dốc. Bước lên thì mệt, đi xuống thì dễ. Nhưng chẳng có lẽ nào lại quay trở về?

Dạ Ly

3 words, 8 letters

"3 words, 8 letters, say it, and I'm yours."
"It's pointless, like tears in the rain."

The 8th of March, here it is

Let me tell you a little story

About the little girl with a butter heart,

Been sleeping inside of me.

 

One day she woke up, petrified

The world she’d known dropped out of sight

“Where’s our Rainbow of Hopes?” she asked

“And where is the Fool’s Paradise?”

 

“Calm down, my girl, they’re somewhere near.”

Soothe her I did, feeling my own fear

Her tiny hands, I feel the warm touch

Caressing my face, wiping my tears

 

“I’m sorry dear for sleeping so long

There’s a reason I’ve woken up this time

Only we fathom, the feelings are so strong

When we damn know it can’t be wrong.”

 

“Let me tell you a little story

About the little boy that came visit me

Pieces of heart hidden in the dark

He carries the weight that you won’t believe.”

 

“I looked into the hole in his chest

“Where’s the thing that should be beating there?” I asked

“It’s no surprise my life is a mess”

With a wicked smile, he said “Nothing will last.”

 

“Sit down my friend, sit down with me

Tell me where have you been beyond the sea?

Every place marked with one piece of your heart

Shattered, poisoned, anyhow, show me.”

 

“So he sat down, by my side, he sat

The boy that carries a broken heart

He opened the bag, showing me the pieces

Each comes with a tale, or blurry images.”

 

“Last time feeling whole? I don’t recall

All I remember is a constant fall.”

Lamented him, keeping his smirk

“What matters now? Nothing at all.”

 

“I gathered his heart, piece by piece

Sharp edges hurt my hand, but so be it

Reflected on this fragment of glass

His cold daring set of black eyes.”

 

“You will be fine, my friend, you will be

It is not so scary, walking through shades of melancholy

Let me tell you, a secret, a spell I was taught

When I traveled through Valley of Fantasy.”

 

“This can be fixed, with my spell, I promise”

Gathered in my hands, pieces of his heart

Then you can guess, I cast the spell

That ancient one, 3-word, 8-letter, you can tell…”

 

“It was a flame, aye, a crimson flame

Burning like a phoenix that can’t be tamed

And that’s when it happened, I knew it would

My butter heart melted, for whatever came.”

 

“3 words, 8 letters, it’s that powerful?”

“Yes, my dear, ever thought it would even work?

Bit of madness, of sorrows, and lustful amour

Our heart melted, my dear, ‘cause of his flaws.”

 

“Where is he now,” I asked, “the little boy”

“I wish I knew, really,” with no tears of joy

Streaming down her face now, the reflection of grief

“I think I lost my little boy”

 

“Where is the Fool’s Paradise

And where is our Rainbow of Hopes?

They all disappeared, when we need them the most

3 words, 8 letters, can my heart even revive?”

 

“Because I’m scared, my dear, I’m scared

And that’s why I’ve woken up

3 words, 8 letters, the spell we were taught

Is it with an L, or is it with an H?”

 

“Because I’m scared, my dear, I’m scared

Will it ever be really worth it?

The longing, the loss, the bouts of pain

Will they all be tears in the rain?”

 

Oh my little girl, now she’s sobbing

Her butter heart melting down her chest

Laying down the floor, me and little girl

Drowning deep, silence is our mess

 

The 8th of March, here it is

Let me tell you a little story

About that spell we’ve all been taught

3 words, 8 letters. And the boy beyond the sea.

March 2017, Da Ly.

Thank you 2016

Thank you 2016.

It’s been a ride.

It wasn’t such a ride that includes a full tour around Europe, or conquering Fansipan, or BDSM plays, or marijuana parties, or orgies, etc. The kind of things that I thought would make one hell of a ride.

It was just… there.

It was the year of firsts.

It was the year of, for the first time, everything seems to make sense. *touch wood*

It was the year of tries and failures.

It was the year of crying. And smiling. About things I’d not experienced.

It was the year of nudes… Oh guess I should not mention this haha. But it was fun.

It was the year of conflicting beliefs. Of new knowledge. Of new attitude.

It also was the year I lost Mimi. But as proud as he was, I would move on. Goodbye, Mimi.

 

2016 was the year of comes and goes. Old people and new people. Some encounters I never thought would happen.

 

It was not about achievement. I don’t know what to say. 2016 was like, okay, the line is here, let’s start. Slow and careful. Nothing really matters, except for progress.

Life wasn’t easy.

It won’t ever be.

 

So thank you 2016 for teaching me some lessons. And giving me some joy. Some sorrows. A little this and a little that.

 

I’m coming, 2017. This time, you better give me lots of orgasms.

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