Viet Nam News
by Trần Nguyễn Anh
I am a songwriter and she is a singer with the sweetest voice. We once tried to come together but everything was against us. After that, we lived far from each other for a decade.
When I had no inspiration to write, she could sing beautifully, but when she lost her voice, I could write. I tried my best to write a song for her, but they never worked for her. Yet, she could sing other people’s songs. What was wrong with me, I wondered?
I eventually became a household name after winning a songwriting contest. But things changed when I wrote a song for her and sent it to a contest. I was lambasted, with the jury saying the song was “very private”. Why? Why should I write something that I don’t believe in? Why had I suffered such a cruel rejection? I had to stand on own feet. I continued to write and submit my work to singers, but they all dismissed me out of hand, or asked me to write about and for them instead of my love.
After finishing “I love you forever in my life” I stopped writing for a few years. I was drained of my creative juices. I was exhausted by my fantasy love story. How could I write with my heart having frozen over time? I could think of nothing except the girl I love.
She had never told me that she loved me, so what did I know about love? We adored each other the way someone loves a moonlit lake. Trying to grasp it in your hands would be pointless, or worse, destroy it.
I intended to write a song that would win her over, but I couldn’t finish it.
“Your song is mediocre. You should write for someone else,” she told me.
I knew she didn’t want her name in my song.
I was used to feeling pain. Many others had written songs for her. They had stolen my muse from under my nose. She sang their songs with great passion. She had become a symbol of high art, she wasn’t real anymore.
She once told me that she often “dreamt that I died” and she had gotten used to that dream. I had also gradually forgotten my first song. When did I forget that I was a songwriter?
She lived in the lap of luxury and was showered in proposals, gifts and wealth. She was living her dream. Yet, she wrote me a letter one day! “I know that song wasn’t written for me!”
She had made an accidental discovery. She admitted that she was not the best singer of that song.
“I am not a singer,” she continued, “that’s what I think. I have never sung perfectly. I have only shone thanks to the shortcomings of others.”
“No, you are famous. You’ve got money. You’re a queen,” I wrote to her.
She was a queen without a throne. She never wanted anyone else to be famous. Her selfishness angered people in artistic circles. She never wanted to be bound to any songwriter or any genre. She wanted to belong to all, so she didn’t belong to anybody.
As for me, I belonged solely to her.
I had been waiting for her to come back to my world, filled with memories. I waited and waited for what felt like an eternity.
Wherever I was, I wanted to write just for her. Yet, I could never finish a piece.
Recently, she told me she had returned to her home village. I didn’t understand her. I wondered why she had returned to a village where a singer was not needed. What was important there was fertilizer and fruit.
I stood at the entrance of the village to welcome her. I pushed her heavy suitcase, with the village children running after, shouting in the hope that they could hear her sing. Suddenly, she asked me:
“Where is the song?”
“The song you wrote for me, do you remember?”
“When did I write a song for you?”
“You didn’t write that song for me, did you?” she said in great surprise.
How could I tell her? I didn’t write it for her, did I? Then I realised I had written not one song, but a million songs for her, especially for her voice, for her soul, for our past and future. Everything had fallen into oblivion. I understood that love was not unconditional and the song could not be completed when its singer had left its author.
“I did not think I was so important to you,” she said, “you can write songs with your feeling and imagination.”
“Imagine love? How can I imagine love?”
Yes, I often imagined a song about a small house in Phủ Quỳ, a flower garden with several chickens. We sat together and sang a song with meaningless lyrics. Nobody could understand what we were singing. She buried her head on my shoulder. What a distant memory! I had been waiting for this moment for such a long time. The writing in my hand was like a flower garden in bloom.
“My husband is giving gifts to the village’s leaders and some relatives. He’s going to come and take me home,” she said to me.
That was it, I thought. She was a famous artist and was warmly welcomed by the villagers.
“Did your husband agree to let you visit me?”
“He would never do that. I told him I was going to see my old teachers.”
I was sitting, looking at my yellow, dog-eared writing. She said again:
“I never loved you. I’ve become used to living without love. My fame has come from other people’s hearts.”
I didn’t understand her.
Her phone rang. She quickly left and went to the road where an expensive red car was waiting for her.
I could not believe that she had come back to visit me. She asked me about the song, awakening my memories. At the end of the day, she had asked me about that song, not the publisher, not the record company! I was startled. I remembered I was a songwriter; it was as clear as day!
I was still deep in thought when the car drove away, raising clouds of dust. I returned to my house and started writing. Before long, my work was in vogue again and I was offered work.
How could I write now, I asked myself?
Her short homecoming was for charity. But I still wondered how I had gotten a commission to write. I decided I didn’t need to do it. My life was now about farm work, ducks and chickens. Nobody would listen to my songs anymore.
I put all of my collected work into an old trunk. Now, they all lay there in peace. I took a hoe and went to work in the field. I dug holes and planted fruit trees. Those tiny fruit trees will grow bigger and bigger and bear fruit for her. She will come back when the garden is lush and laden with fruit. The garden will be extraordinarily beautiful to her.
Each fruit will be a love song reserved for us. They will be so juicy, tasty and beautiful! She will pick some fruit and present them to the people around us, but none of them will know that these fruits come from a retired artist and song writer. If these people were wise, they would take these kernels home and sow them for fruit.
When the fruit is ripe, birds will come from everywhere and sing in harmony by the window of the old house!.
Translated by Mạnh Chương