Yesterday was my weekly trip to the supermarket to buy my food for the week. However, this short outing was different than all the other times I’ve been to the supermarket since I’ve been back in the Mount Vernon area. If anyone who is reading this is familiar with the Mount Vernon/Knox County area, they’ll know that minorities are a rare sight around here. But as I was walking through the supermarket, I saw a woman that I know was from Southeast Asia. I didn’t want to stare because that’s not polite in this culture, but I was almost positive she was Vietnamese. She had that slight build and the light brown skin and the thick black hair that I’d been around for years. I wanted to walk right up to her and her family and ask, “Are you Vietnamese?” I wanted to walk by her and pretend to talk to someone on the phone in Vietnamese and have her recognize the rising and falling loops of that glorious tonal language. She was hovering around the small Asian foods section of the supermarket, probably wondering why we have an entire aisle dedicated to chips while only a small section of the place contained a small number of the glorious flavors of that area of the world.
I didn’t have the guts to walk up and talk to her. But when I got out into the parking lot and also on the ride home, I felt like I’d just seen an old, true love of mine; like I’d just encountered an old lover that I still harbored a smoldering passion for, and my stomach was in knots. Yet there was no physical attraction at all. She, this mythical woman in the supermarket, represented an entire country for me… What do these strange feelings say about me? That I’m dying to speak Vietnamese; I’m dying to be with Vietnamese people again.
My Vietnamese languages skills are withering, and it took me about 15 minutes or more to remember the word for “peanuts” on the ride home.