Day #7: Brother
It had felt natural, moving to Hue City. Quang Tri was where his parents were, and there was where they would probably be until they die.
But what was in Quang Tri for Hai, what was he to do there? Hang around his brother’s shop, do all sorts of repairs for the neighbors the way Binh had been doing for the past four years?
Binh was three years younger, and like him, was quiet and preferred working on his own. Unlike Hai, he had an entrepreneurial streak and started a repair shop business, renting a shack along the main road a couple of kilometers from their parents’ house. Hai can still remember his surprise when Binh told their parents that he didn’t want to go to university like Hai. Hai had been in his last year in university then, working towards a degree in Tourism, eking out a living as a hotel bellboy in the evenings. He had big dreams for himself, one that didn’t include settling back to Quang Tri.
But Binh had been firm. Hai still couldn’t imagine himself living and dying just seeing Quang Tri's fields and fields of gum trees. There had never been a proper road that led to his parents’ house, and there still wasn’t one until now, thirty years later.
Still, whenever Hai traveled the 300-kilometer road from Hue City to his hometown every year during Tet, he would notice random additions to his brother’s shop: a new garage, hardware items for sale, birds in a cage. One year he came and discovered that the shack had turned into a two-floor building. The top floor had been converted into an apartment where Binh had started to live with his own family. Because somewhere along the way, his brother had gotten himself a wife.
Hai remembered being asked at his brother’s wedding—solemn yet elaborate, and truly Vietnamese-style—why he as the eldest child hadn’t gotten married yet. His girlfriend Sinh had thrown him a pointed look, but Hai had only smiled at the nosy old aunty, a distant cousin of his mother’s. He was married to his job, he joked, in Hue City, where everything else was much better.