This positive word got me through a negative year.

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2020 really felt like that bad breakup with the guy you thought was your soulmate who turned out to have a fourth home on Long Island and run it as a brothel for billionaires. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit… probably just millionaires, but you know what I mean. It was that bad. You rang in the year thinking “this is it,” just to end it with “fuck off, I’ll never want to see you again.” We’ve all been through these kinds of relationships before. They’re painful. We wish they were as forgettable as Armie Hammer’s performance in any movies he’s in. They’re a 2.5-star Yelp review at best (because at least the bread was decent). If the live action remake of Cats were a year, it would be this one (meaning: Taylor Swift couldn’t even save it). Nevertheless, I’ll say something cliche I’ll probably regret later, but I feel grateful for this year. I really do. …

“If I see you on the street, I will shoot you.”

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Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

The Tennessee marble that makes up the ground of Grand Central was bitterly cold. The acorn-shaped chandeliers in Vanderbilt Hall hung eerily still at dawn of The Day After. Businesspeople in pea coats and briefcases hurried across the Main Concourse before heading out into the cold, the sign of a perfectly normal day at the Terminal. I was sitting in a corner near the entrance to track 15 after a night of no sleep, my back against the wall, waiting for my morning train upstate. I just got off the phone with a friend; the call ended when his sniffles hadn’t. Even when the celestial ceiling decided to keep a poker face, the change in energy was palpable. Not just here, in this majestic space, but across the city. …

And I used to hate it.

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Image via Typic Travel Vietnam.

On September 2nd, 1995, my mom was on the disco floor before her water broke. I may have wondered once or twice what song she was jamming to when I decided that was enough. “Mom, we should get out of here,” I probably thought. The message translated well as she quickly left the club for Military Central Hospital. It was a humid day in Hanoi. Everybody was going out to celebrate Independence Day. There was only one other expectant mother in her room. A few hours later, I was born.

According to my mother, I was a strange kid. Unlike other babies, I didn’t shed a tear. I still find that hard to believe given the sensitive person I am now. The nurse was so worried there was something unusual with me she tapped my butt several times until I finally cried. …

Is it fair to sell the vision of a dream at the price of one’s survival?

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Photo by Lorenzo Nafissi on Unsplash

My mother’s face lit up when the onion rings came out. The buzzing neon lights overhead were our sole companion in this diner. She must have been starving after a 28-hour flight, but that’s not the reason why she looked so excited. “It smells… amazing,” she exclaimed. Her intrigue took me by surprise because I had never heard my mother say anything remotely positive about deep-fried food, but somehow, she was fascinated by one of the most basic offerings at any American diner. …

I’ve lived in New York for 74 washing cycles. Not two of them were the same.

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Photo by on Unsplash

When you’ve lived by yourself long enough in a different country, you learn a thing or two about routines. Back at home, I could do laundry whenever I felt like doing it. Our house in Hanoi has a washing machine, which allows for such flexibility. It’s always funny to me how in-unit laundry is so common in Vietnam yet a luxury in New York. “Amenity,” they say. Such a fancy word.

In my first week of college, I realized that flexibility was gone. The laundry room in my dorm wasn’t just five steps away; it was a bit of a walk. I also discovered laundry costs money. It was like I walked into a mirror and entered an opposite reality of some sort. I have to pay for laundry in America but can drink water for free. …

There was a long line of people outside of Trader Joe’s on 14th Street. It took me a moment to realize that was just to get in. Once they were inside the store, they would soon realize that all the meat was gone, only a few bags of frozen vegetables were left, and there was no sign of toilet paper. The toilet paper shelf in Target across the street was empty as well, and so was that in any CVS and Walgreens on the island. It was supposed to be a normal Friday morning, even adorned by the nicest weather since Fall — warm, sunny and lightly breezy, but apparently nothing was normal anymore. The anxiety was so tangible you could feel it thicken in the air. That was a handful of days after Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York, and a few hours before Trump declared a state of emergency in all of America. …

I think the second most well-known song in Vietnam, behind our national anthem, is ABBA’s “Happy New Year.” People play it in every home, at every bar and on every TV channel on New Year’s Eve. Teachers teach it in school and its chorus could be sung by most Vietnamese people, whether they speak English fluently or not. Just hearing the phrase “no more champagne” puts me in a festive mood, because those first three words signify the beginning of something so fresh and promising. It is an iconic musical masterpiece, well, until I came to the U.S. …


Sieu Nguyen

In a constant search for something mind-blowing // IG: littlepotatow

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