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Voices Out of Saigon By Dennis Siluk Ed.D.

Langdon Abernathy came into ourpany 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, 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 toe, 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, "Youe 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, ande 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 bemitted 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. She said she wanted his mother to be happy with the marriage, and that perhaps he should go home and talk to her. She was digging into the family, digging up more hate ridden motives to bring home to his mother, he had attempted to put this to rest by saying he'd marry her, and in the proper time to give the child a worthy name, his will was offered and denied.
We were not surprised to hear he wasing back, but as a civilian. I learned this from a post card he sent me, here I'll show you, I got it in my pocket, and I'll read it:
"Serge, I struck one final blow fighting with my family, I am leaving them to be with Vang, she is with her family in Saigon, I hear, she is there because of her father's death, Zuxin wrote from Saigon. My young one is doing fine, perhaps because he is my son, and strong as an ox. I will be leaving soon, father was acting as a mediator between me and mom, she has some kind of a premonition on this matter of me going back to Vietnam-it is not like I am running away from home, which I did when I was fifteen. When I return, e see me in Saigon, I will find a cheap hotel, your friend as always, Corporal Abernathy."
The Return
When I got to Saigon, on a two week leave, Langdon was already there, he had his apartment, and I saw something unpleasant upon his naked body, his legs, groin area, naked chest. I guess he had been there going on a six-months before I arrived. It was just one big room, and square, furnished for the most part, with awkward looking furniture. The bed looked like he was sleeping alone a lot; it seemingly sagged too much in one place.
"We still haven't got married Serge..." he told me.
"Have you seen much of your son?" I asked sitting down on a thin wobbly wooden chair.
The room looked as if it was peaceful, too ordinary, too peaceful, too lonely like, and so unlike Langdon.
"She's working a lot, says she got to make money, I brought my savings, all $8, 000-dollars of it." He told me.
I just looked about, things cluttered.
"Make yourself at home, " he shouted, and he got out of bed, thin as a bean, and put a cloths line up, in a corner of the big room, and picked up a pillow, one of two from his bed, a blanket, and threw it at me, saying:
"This is home...Serge!"
Apparently she came and left when she wanted, and stayed only until she got what she wanted, he had paid the rent up for three more months at this point, three dollars a day or $75-dollars a month, or $300-dollars for three months. I suppose it was a deal, and he took it. He shouted out the window often that month, thinking this or that girl was Vanging to see him, but the majority of times it wasn't, it was a stranger, and he'd look at me odd, and say, "Woops, " and go back to having a beer or a shot of whisky, or some of that Japanese Sake, even a joint now and then.
There was a few times the first week, I saw him not moving, just paralyzed, said to me, I think it was to me, "Get these damn bugs off me!"
I never saw any bugs, but he did I guess, methodically building a case of insanity for himself.
Then one night, while drinking Vang keeping uspany, she started flirting with me, she was different now, she didn't care if he saw her flirt, and he flung the mattress on his bed out of the window, like an insane man. I hurried furiously to get it and bring it back before someone else got it, and when I returned, Vang was down the hall, walking into another room. At that point I realized she was only wearing an Army jacket of Langdon's, and had told him she had to go to take a bath, in the hallway bathroom. I didn't say anything, he hade too far to believe anything other than, elegance in her, and for me to say different, was only to bring in fretted rage.
I was real worried about Langdon; I mean I was scared for myself likewise, but I'd make sure when I got back to the 611, I'd get a blood test, and whatever else I needed to see if I had syphilis.
At least he, Langdon, didn't have time to hide his sores from me. I looked at his hands and feet, they had a faint rash, the second week I was there, and his lips were getting sores on them little round sores, with the rash I just mentioned, reddish brown on the hands, palms, spots on his feet, he had a fever the whole month I was there at first I was dismayed, until I noticed swollen glands, a sore throat, headaches, weight loss-as I had seen all in the first week I was there: yes I told myself, he had the whole shebang of known symptoms to the disease, I hate to mention its name, and in perhaps the second or later stage it was for him, I got worried for myself, the pillow, the blankets he gave me, he slept on them, with those sores around his genitals, rectum, now even his mouth. I told him time and again to go get a blood test, but it was too late, his brain was damaged I swear it was, he had what they call developmentally delayed reactions, seizures at night and during the day, even in the mornings, and that ugly word dementia. But he said if he went for help, they would put him in the hospital and he would not see Vang, she'd run off to wherever she did at night-and he never knew where, and she never told him where-he never even knew she was married, and that her husband lived in Saigon (when possible, or allowable), with her and two other kids, besides his.
If Vang had Syphilis, it was in some kind of late stage recall period. I mean, she had it for sure, I would guess, and was unaware of it, but was now aware of Langdon's situation, and therefore had to be aware of her's; and in time, perhaps years or months, it would show up on her, like it had on Langdon. How could she not be?
I'm no specialist in disease analysis area, but it was becoming obvious, and the child, yes the poor little child, I wondered if Vang carried the child during her early stages of her disease, and during her pregnancy. If, the child would show some kind of signs, sores, I would have known, or had a good guess, but he didn't and I saw that he didn't but who knows.
I told Vang privately to bring her boy to get some penicillin, have a blood test, the same thing I told Langdon, and for her to do the same. She may have, I don't know, she was a woman of reason, and Langdon, was turning out to be the opposite, a man no longer able to produce reason, he lived in a space in which he disseminated himself from the rest of us-as if he was a faint image a mile away, that last week I was there...!
Always Mother
His mother, Mrs. Caroline Abernathy, was always there for him, a good mother undeniably. But even she could only do so much. Say what you will, but he loved her, his mother, almost as much as he loved Vang, and now that I think of it, I wish I would not have said what I said, "Let your conscious be your guide, " for now it was his guide and he was not moving, he stayed in the apartment day and night waiting for Vang in case she came with that little one.
I made a call to his mother, went on the base to do it, told her all the unpleasant news I had to, how unintelligent her son was acting now, now that he had contracted her disease-or should I say virus-how he was mulling aimlessly over this Vietnamese girl, Vang. She was a little annoyed, and our voices faded back and forth, but she got the message, and I could hear her telling to her husband "This is an outrage, disgust ..." and then her last fading words were, "I'll be there within the week." Hence, it did show in her voice, the dim light, questioning, contained rage, perhaps in the family tree, stubbornness and subtle effluvium for doing what is right, no matter how strained it my get you.
I had to do it, I had to go behind his back and call, although I was too late in the whole process, that is why I extended my leave a week, to wait for her, I was in high gear I suppose, and didn't know how to slow down those last days. So I waited.
I wanted to tell him: listen Langdon, you don't know her, and as you wait for her, she is at home with her husband who probably has taken all the money you sent, all the money you gave Vang when you were at the 611th Ordnance, and all the money you brought with you here, to Saigon. It is what I wanted to say, not what I said of course, I didn't say anything of the kind, and just waited there for Mrs. Caroline toe.
He did say something to me, a day before his mother came, suddenly, and sharply, "Why you hanging around Serge?" And I said and I lied when I said it,
"I had an extra week, and thought you might like me to hang around."
"Nonsense, " he told me point blank, "you got something up your sleeve!"
"Fine, " I said, "if you think so, what you think it is?"
"You're waiting for me to die, so you can have Vang."
At this juncture, Vang was long gone, and she was noting back, she told me so, and she tried to tell Langdon. Although she did not tell him why, or about her husband-she was just leaving, and leaving for good, never would she see him again. She couldn't watch him even vaguely fade into nothingness, into further insanity, it was becoming too much for her, his bones decaying inside his body, his infected sores with pus, his eyes red as dying roses, muscles aching, fatigue, the whole gamut of symptoms, -she couldn't watch what she gave to him grow and bloom into a complete musing unbearable living corpse; it was too much a strain on her, and he was almost purely existing on air, insistent on air not food, for his existence and rough breathing.
"What? What did you say Serge?" asked Langdon.
"Not a word, " I said, I sat in a chair by the window, looking out it for Mrs. Caroline. The astonishment of his disease was gone. I felt sad he would not see Josue, his little boy again. It seemed to have wiped the smile off my face, that Mrs. Caroline wasing, then sudden and deliberate she was there, down on the sidewalk looking for the address then turned her head upward, looking up at me, I now was eye to eye with her, and her face facing my face, and both of us three stories difference in space, and she waved for me toe down,
"Wait there, " I said, Langdon, mumbling in the background,
"Tell Vang to hurry up, I'm waiting."
He was like a little boy who, always was in a crisis state, if his mother was not around, in this case Vang, or so he acted.
Now shoulder to shoulder, Mrs. Caroline and I stood, stillness on her face, quietly we looked at each other,
"Your boy is up there, he doesn't know you wereing, I dare not had told him, lest he move out and no one would be able to find him before you came."
"I suppose he is in bad shape, he must be going through hell, and the one who gave him this disease, where is she?"
I gave her a dim look, swiftly trying not to look at her.
"Oh, of course, as I thought, unbearable for her to endure her creation; I guess it is a mother's burden to have to endure, to bear -with a scowl I suppose. The fate she laid upon my son, out of pure indifference, shows me it was only her interested curiosity in him and his support; her survival needs were met, like a primitive Neantherdal that is all he was to her, perhaps her fate is simply delayed, I dare not speak out loud, what I am thinking in secret, lest I be cursed with the same fate."
She pulled out a slender cigarette, lit it, as if to soften the grave anxiety that lied ahead. She looked up, and then with a sigh said,
"Ok, Serge, " looking at me straight into my eyes, she added, "isn't that what he always called you? Should we go?"
I nodded yes, and we walked through the lounge area of the one star hotel.
"Incidentally, thank you ahead of time, it may get to be too much for me to thank you after, " said Mrs. Abernathy.
As she walked into the room, her face was now completely stunned, into complete immobility like a wooden mask, her mouth worn from over two decades of insuring her boy was healthy, and his nostrils red, as for his eyes-pupilless. He seemed as if he was numb,
"My god, is this what it does, " she said with a lowered head, pale eyes flickering at his outwardly reduced jaw, that looked red and enmeshed with sores all over his lips, now collapsing onto a chair she tried to hold her tears, caught her breath, he looked like a toothless, motionless savage.
"Well, " Caroline said, looking at her son.
" that really you?"
"Yes, Langdon, it is me, " now the mesmerism left her, yet dumfounded for the moment she remained. She wanted to touch his face, but I had to tell her no, it was idiotic to do so, why put yourself into harms way. Then Langdon made an ultimate and courageous effort, his voice lit up, and he sat up on his bed, contained for the moment; an explosion of strength.
We both looked at him,
"I knew Serge was up to something, " we, that is, he and his mother smiled, and so did Langdon, although his seemed a bit mismatched for the occasion. I sensed his mother was thinking: here is my innocent little boy, turned into a slumbering and glaring diseased savage, and inside of her was outrage.
But that of course was how I foresaw her seeing it, which depends on who is doing the seeing, and the history behind, for me here was a man that made himself, half made himself into a sweeping gestured of a savage, had not God given him a mother who understood women, and warned him. But he let his conscious be his guide, and I suppose the reason I stayed so long was my conscious was guiding me.
I went outside of the room for a moment, and I heard Caroline curse violently, as they discussed her taking him downstairs in a wheelchair, there I waited for him in the lobby, and a taxi waited for him outside, she paid the taxi well to wait, and he sat on his fender counting on his fingers how much money he was making, waiting. If ever a mother or parent wanted to divorce themselves of their children, this was a good moment to do it, or to say, 'I told you so, ' but she didn't, she threw his arm over her shoulder, and they walked down those three flights of stairs, to the wheelchair, walked down them slowly, and her bend body, held his bony body secure.
I think I might have thought of suicide had I been him, and I think he did, but was too jealous to die with me around, thinking I would end up with Vang.
She stood behind him in the wheelchair, said,
"You want to take a whirl at getting into that taxi I have waiting for you?"
"You mean you have a taxi...go ahead, " he answered. She then pushed forward the wheelchair.
"We'll escape everyone, " she said with a tear and a smile a pale gaze of apoplectic hidden rage.
Carefully she pushed the wheelchair out of the hotel onto the sidewalk, near the taxi, her teeth vanished from the open smile, and quietly she told the driver to help pick Langdon up, to set him in the back seat of the car, she wanted to be with him, realizing the front was easier.
"You want to take a whirl, " she said a second time, and hemented, "You already said that mom, I'm not quarreling."
"Well, you can get plenty of rest when we get home, " she added.
Just as they were picking him up, I was in front of the car, Vang came walking down with her son Josue, and her husband and two other kids. They walked right by the car, my back to them, and she never even saw me, seemingly in a rush, she never saw Langdon either, but he saw her, didn't say a word to his mother. I noticed the little boy had a little round red spot on the palm of his hand, as he walked by.
"Ah, Serge, " said Mrs. Abernathy, now just inside the car, "Maybe you'll visit us in Fayetteville some day, thank you for all you've done."
I nodded my head yes, and I noticed Langdon's last look at Vang, as she turned a corner.
I saw her now with her elbows on her knees, she was praying, it was all she had left inside of her, she perhaps was telling the Lord: please accept this, I have nothing left. I think the Lord was saying-for I know for a fact he hears mothers' prayers-: I have already given you him for a while longer; blindly you bear his wounds, and I believe it will be a short time before you two meet again.
For Langdon laid his head back, and with some kind of restoration of faith, a smile on his face appeared, and he died, just like that.
9- Hours (6-5-2998) 3970
See Dennis' web site: dennissiluk.tripoddennissiluk.tripod
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Dennis- Siluk_4009 Dennis Siluk Ed.D. -

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