MY QUIET HUSBAND by Vinh Thanh Lloyd Duong

My Quiet Husband

2:48am Tuesday, January 8 ….
While I am still here, I’d like to tell you the story about my love…
After the senseless war that started by maritime rivalry and escalated to the Arctic claims/space territorial disputes, some governments including ours declared victory loudly with glorious parades.  But unfortunately, regular folks everywhere like us suffered huge losses.  Half of the people in this city were blown up by the big blast while many of the other half still suffered radies. Yeah, radi (and not rabies) was what we commonly referred to the multiple radioactive illnesses caused by the big blast – another term we used to call the missile that infiltrated our country’s impenetrable air defence system and nuked the city’s westside.
During the war, my two brothers, Justin and Isaac, joined the navy along with their college buddies and went overseas to fight in the Pacific.  I still remembered vividly the day we said goodbye to them and their idealistic friends, who looked strangely both invincible and naiveté.  My mother tearfully asked Justin and Isaac to quickly come home sound and safe;  but then we did not know that our home was to be wiped out soon thereafter.  The big blast evaporated more than half of the city’s dwellings including our house.  My parents were officially declared dead after the missile hit;  I didn’t share their fate because I was away on a training camp organized by Médecins Sans Frontières at the time.  Having no home and suffering radies, I spent most of my time between the hospital’s ARS (acute radiation syndrome) wing and the university as a fourth year med student.  Despite the constant health challenges, I still loved to go to classes because it was my only escape from the surrounding dark realities.  At least during the lectures I could dream to travel overseas or to be a doctor someday and help aging folks like my beloved parents;  sadly though, those could only be faint dreams because my chemo looked rather gloomy.
It was at the steps of the Faculty of Medicines that I met him.  Just at the very moment my walking cane gave in and I slipped desperately, two strong hands grabbed hold of my arms from behind and kept me balance.  The stranger looked quite different.  His face bored a deep scar from cheek to cheek that almost tore his lips apart.  I thanked him but, in response, he just nodded.  He continued to walk with me in silence all the way to the lecture hall.  “Thanks again for your help.  Goodbye.”  Said I with a smiling appreciation.  Again he just nodded, waved and left.
What a strange boy with shining eyes!  He just nodded in agreement or shook his head to differ but he wouldn’t talk.  His facial scar looked brutally severe, a result of the big blast I bet.  Ah, but at least he had hair, unlike me with my baldhead thanks to the chemotherapy treatment cycles.  His short hair reminded me of the clean-cut look donned by my eldest brother, Justin, who played guitar and loved funky pop songs;  I just wondered if he liked music or loved to read like my big bro.  He’d got to like reading because he studied law, right?  I couldn’t figure out.  In fact, I really didn’t know much about him although I knew I could count on him walking with me all the time between the hospital and the university since that fateful incident.  He still wouldn’t say anything on route, not a single word.  I guessed he just wanted to remain silent, and I understood it well.  Many of us had suffered so much during the war that most still were not ready to open up.  Gradually I grew to accept and respect his polite silence.
So obviously I did all the talking during our quiet walks, bird feeding times in the park, lunches in the cafeteria, and whenever we met in between.  I told him about my family. Dad was a lawyer who quitted the Attorney General’s district office to set up his own practice focused on servicing members of visible minorities.  Mom was a chemical engineer who used to work for Esso but later stayed home and made us kids study like crazy.  It was a no-nonsense policy when it came to education in my family.  “When time’s gone, it’s lost forever.”   Dad often reminded us of his philosophy, and thus we were required to learn as much as possible when we still had amble time to do so.
I loved to read, and so did my two brothers who were reported missing in action during the war.  We read almost everything from classics to thrillers; but as for me, I loved travel stories most. I was fascinated by the descriptions of romantic settings in Europe, of incredible nature in Africa, of native cultures in South America. I often dreamed of taking a stroll along the Seine, trying tapas in Barcelona, watching wild lions in the Sahara, or breathing the fresh air of Machu Picchu.  And since I had always been in a swimming team before the war broke out, I would love to float leisurely on the salty water of the Caribbean and watch colourful fishes swimming amongst coral reefs.
Pride and Prejudices……

Our quite walks did not last long.  I thought I could finish the semester or at least attend class until after my birthday but I had become too weak to continue with the lectures.  The chemo and the drugs so far failed, thus I was just waiting for my time.  

a pair of shining eyes and
again many of us also appeared differently these days. 
to MIA oblivion
Name:              Thomas Young
Age:                28
Parents:           Mom died of cancer when I was 16 years.  Dad still works at the food terminal.
Religion:          None (though Mom was Jewish and Dad was Anglican).
Career:             Student inspired to be a conflict-resolving diplomat.
Hobbies:          Love classical music, drawing, sailing (long lost passion), and being around you!
“I love to be around you, too.” Looked up and said I, “Thank you for being so supportive.” 
For the first time I noticed some tears in his eyes.  He pointed to the last page stapled to the back cover.  I tried but could not remove the staples with my fingernail.  He reached over to help and then signalled me to turn the page.  The question was crafted beautifully in cursive:
“Will you marry me?”
Time was stopped for what seemed to be an eternal dream, then I screamed my heart out: “Yes, Yes a zillion times!”  Thereafter I just cried, cried and cried a river.