Conversation #1

Chen Wei

Kept checking the spam mails. So how’s it going?

Not good at all. I shaved my long hair. Where are you now?

My hometown. You’re trapped in Hanoi in this pandemic, or what?

Ah no. I chose to stay in Hanoi. I don’t want to go back to my hometown.

Busy?

Now? No, I’m kinda free now. Just listening to some music. A French song [Patrick Watson – Je te laisserai des mots].

You must have listened to Joji’s Slow dancing in the dark already right?

Oh, yea.

Strangely I wasn’t in the desperate mood of “missing you” as I had thought. Without you chatting with me every day, still, my life just moved on; yet although I have listed your email as a spam email, I kept checking it to see if there were anything showing up. Nah, I mean…

Yes?

I’m finding the proper way to express this, but it isn’t clear enough. 

It’s fine, take your time. Btw, do you know this manga: Shinya Shokudou?

Every time I reflected on how I overreacted, that very memory of myself doesn’t age well. It’s always cringy to look back. The last email you had sent me, you know, with that laughter “haha” or “kk” or suchlike, it’s rude. 

I understand. I can’t understand myself, either.

Shinya Shokudou? Just had a brief search, I’ve heard of it before; one of my friends mentioned it when he described the place that I often visited.

It’s kinda soothing. There is a TV adaptation. Check it out when you have time.

Sure.

Have you listened to the French song I sent you? What do you think about it?

It’s not complicated; it’s moody, dreamy, sort of melancholy. It could turn out to be a boring song at the second replay to me. 

I see, as expected. It’s good just for a very precise moment. What about Slow dancing in the dark?

Ah, the fact that you’re still sentimental, like an emo boy, posting random pictures on your newsfeed with apparently emotional captions and these kinds of songs, reminds me of the song I listened to the last time I was in a mood for them, and that song was Slow dancing in the dark. Still recalled the one time you talked about Filthy Frank.

It just happened for me to hear that emo song today lol. Tbh, I don’t like Joji songs that much.

Slow dancing in the dark was the only song from him that I have listened to.

Do you know the Coffee and Cigarettes series?

What’s that?

A series of talks, revolve around the coffee table?

You’re really a consumer of these nostalgic Western cultural production.

Idk, might be.

I’m not really into American or European stuff, just enough to talk about general topics. Perhaps people of your generation do care about these things, don’t they?

To be honest, I don’t know, they mostly care about Korean and Chinese culture, I supposed. Have you found someone to talk to about Vietnamese history, literature, and music?

Well, I no longer bother doing so. It doesn’t help after all. What about you, after all these months, do you find any new friends with whom you could talk stuff?

Not really. Just dragging through the days, and I’m becoming more and more indifferent to new things. Hmm… and I’m gaining some back now. I kinda want to be filled with something meaningful now.

Surely it’s difficult to sustain undiminished impulses towards things, especially when you’re an atheist.

Haha. Why? I think I got my own interpretation for that but please, enlighten me, and regarding my current situation, yea, it’s even harder.

I just guess so. People who do not believe in anything sacred and are skeptical about anything fearful are likely to surpass most boundaries in their life so that one day they find nothing to look up to or cling on to

I think I do believe in many things and there is a likely chance that I made them sacred in my mind.

Well, then that was just my assumption. It doesn’t apply to you.

How about you?

Me? I’m an atheist and a nihilist. 

Does that mean you didn’t think of anything as a sacred thing/being to you?

I find no project in life is meaningful enough to put my life-time effort into. Perhaps I value my family, but because I owed them, and thus, it’s more like a duty. I live with constraints, instead of fear or hope. Those constraints are my responsibility to my family and my living expenses.

That’s intriguing to me. If no project in life is meaningful enough. How do you know when to stop?

I have no serious project to work on, so this question is unrelatable

Does that mean there is nothing provocative to you, currently?

What do you mean by “provocative”?

Causing thought about interesting subjects.

Well, I’m reading and blogging; those are my hobbies, but I have long abandoned the idea of being a warrior fighting for justice of those mistreated or misinterpreted in history. my interests in Vietnamese literature, history, or music are the inconstant pursuit of aesthetic pleasure

So it’s not an experimental process now? It’s your firmly stated manifesto now?

What do you mean? To be an atheist and nihilist? Well, I think currently I am atheistic and nihilistic, and I have no idea how I would become in the future I also refuse to label myself as this or that identity.

I see. Did it just naturally come to you or you had a hard time realizing it.

It came to me as I was talking to you now. 

Oh really? Like, just minutes ago?

Come on, this is just a random chat. I’m not declaring anything. I’m not a political leader, anyway. So, having a monolithic philosophy of life to back my behaviors is unnecessary. Perhaps we do not need to think that much about how to make our life more meaningful.

Ah no, I’m just full of excitement and want to ask. It just naturally goes that way?

What naturally goes what way?

I mean, you do not need to state anything, it just naturally goes the way it goes. You just put it into words when you were talking to me, and it doesn’t mean that you have to use it as a monolithic compass for your life. Do I get it right?

You mean, had I ever thought of my religious status or philosophical view before I chatted with you?

Yea.

I hadn’t put them in words before, although deep down I could feel so. Only until I chatted with you minutes ago, I put them in words, saying that I was a nihilist. 

Yea, I got it right. I’m having a hard time expressing my idea as usual

Come on, there’s no such thing as “compass”. What you’re saying is, I guess, what people called “essence precedes existence”, that you must first define your life as something before starting living it whereas life might not work that way. Perhaps it only works for those who are fanatically determined.

Thanks for enlightening me. How is it going with your French learning process?

I have stopped learning French for a while. Got to spend some time on another project.

Oh, can I know the name of it?

Nothing special; it’s just that I left the city to settle in my hometown and work as an English teacher. I stopped working in content writing, and taking the first steps in this new career is quite busy.

Ah, did you go freelance (as a teacher)?

No, I’m teaching students at a local public school. I’m not a teacher at the school, but I collaborated with my former teacher, who is having a couple of classes at home, so it’s like a tutoring class.

I see.

Get some sleep, dude.

Actually… I adopt this weird schedule for quite a long time now.

Whenever I talk to people, suddenly I become confident in expressing my thoughts, which I hardly find when I write. Perhaps the best book I will ever write is the compilation of these chat lines.

So I did help a bit, haha. 

Nah.

Kay :<

Those days without you I chatted with some other friends of mine; but still, I didn’t unleash my ability to its full potential – the ability to think and chatting fast, even about philosophical stuff. Perhaps you’re a bit of a challenging conversationist. You know, at the beginning of the forth wave of the pandemic, Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang were the two areas where there were a large number of new cases every day. I happened to think about you; I wondered if after a year, then I unblocked you, and sent a friend request. Would that person have died or something; just like our mutual friend, that girl. It’s as surreal as Murakami Haruki’s novels, with characters entering your life and vanishing in a glance. 

I see. Before the quarantine, I read this novel called The House of the Sleeping Beauties. It has the vibe of things passing away.

By a Japanese author huh?

Yeah.

So you finished reading that one from cover to cover?

Yeah.

Is it a good book?

It is, as long as it opened some new point of view or some new ideas to me.

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