The origin story is as follows: a fairy and a dragon fall in love, they fuck.
Then they separate, each taking half of the eggs that would hatch
into the Vietnamese people, for the princess longed for the mountains,
and the dragon longed for the sea.

In the version my aunt tells, so too did her husband:
longing for the water, leaning over the side of their refugee boat,
only 2 hours away from the California coast,
he was lured to the ocean’s bottom. He must have wanted for the green ocean
—ghosts he had gazed at for hours, while they were adrift on a boat full of corpses
and bottles of urine, and though they never dragged up his body
she imagines, if they did, they might still find the pearl earrings
he had in his pocket when he jumped, since pearls,
as you all must know, come from the sea.

Now all my aunt’s stories start with the things we lost to the water:
half of the Vietnamese people, a husband, and a pair of pearl earrings.
Her stories end in the mountains:
widowed in Wyoming, surrounded by throngs of adoring cowboys,
in a small town where the mountains pressed so close, she said,
they were enough to suffocate a woman and her unborn child.

Angeline Truong

Angeline is a graduate student at Stanford University interested in the intersection of storytelling and refugee trauma. She is the daughter of Vietnamese political refugees, who escaped Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.

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