I knew that a change was needed in my life, and though I was uncertain of what form this change would take, I could feel the need for it growing in my bones. So I left for Vietnam completely and utterly open to the idea of never returning.
Just as I had imagined, I fell instantly in love - with the people, the food, the landscape, the history, all of it. A friend of mine was working as a teacher in saigon, and was certain he could find me work. Tentative arrangements were made for my apartment back home, and all that was left was the final leap. But something unknown and unspoken was holding me back.
Then one wet, shivery morning while visiting a mountain temple, we took shelter from the downpour under an ancient pagoda. Through the clear wall of water running over the rooftop, I could see a path leading to a bridge across the pond below us. There was a dark stone structure on the other side, crawling with vines and ravenous ferns. The guide explained to me that this was an old tomb, housing some sort of empress or princess (the details have become foggy). The structure was too dilapidated to allow visitors to enter and, rejected, it seemed to be retreating into the jungle. But there was something strangely compelling about the little red bridge that led to it.
I found myself inexplicably drawn to the congregation of water lilies in the pond, and the strange stillness of the water, even in the midst of such rain. My fanciful imagination had me wondering if I hadn't heard a faint sound from amongst the vines. Like the wailing of a distant siren.
Without a thought for the rain, I left shelter behind and moved toward it. The steps down were once sharp stone, but had been worn in the middle by thousands of years of worshipping feet. And as my flimsy summer sandal skated over the slippery stone and into the air, it would be these thousands of feet that came before me that would save my precious life.
In an instant I was floating in the air, and brought back down with the loudest and most terrifying sound I'd yet heard.
For a moment, everything was silent as I clasped my hands to the back of my head; felt the warmth flow through my fingers and down my wrists. Then all that would come from my mouth was a seemingly endless repetition of the words "oh f*ck. ohf*ck. oh f*ck." I was certain that this would be my final clumsy act; that if I were to release my hands, my mind would come tumbling out to mingle with the rain. oh f*ck. oh f*ck. oh f*ck.
The rest is kinda blurry. The guide helped me back to the shelter. Pressure was applied. The gash turned out to be managable, though far from pretty.
A week or so later I received a facebook message from a young man I had met only once, in a friend's back yard back in Toronto. He had heard rumour of my 'Nam wound and was inquiring after my noggin'. I was pleasantly surprised, as I'd found him very attractive and interesting, and hadn't thought he'd noticed me at all. Then the thoughts came:
hmmm. perhaps i'm not ready to sever all ties to my home just yet. perhaps i'll go home and spend the summer, and if i'm still dreaming of vietnam in the fall, i'll come back then. and who knows? maybe i'll see what this noggin fellow is all about...
...and I did.
Eight months later, that fellow became my husband.
The universe moves in mysterious ways, my friends.