Years ago, I sponsored a Vietnamese refugee to this country. This prose poem is a snapshot of our first night together.
SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT
Her full name is Ho Tuyet Mai. It means ‘Falling Snow.” I didn’t know it snowed in Vietnam. She says to call her Mai. She wants rice. That much I understand. I am going to cook it, but she keeps grabbing the pot out of my hand. And the bag of rice. And stepping to the sink. Okay. Okay. She will make the rice. First she pours the rice in the pot. Then she runs water into the pot and stirs the rice with her hands, washing the little white nuggets. She drains the water. She repeats this process three times. All the while, she looks at me and smiles. Over and over, she says, “Same. Same. But different. Rice. Same. Same. But different.” Yes, it is rice. Yes, it is the food she ate on the other side of the world but now she is in Boston making a different pot of rice. No family. No people she knows. No one. Just this blond American with her pot and her rice and the running water and a stove. An hour later. She scoops a heaping pile of rice into two bowls. It is mushier than what I would have made. I don’t know if this batch of rice is similar to what she made in Saigon. All I know is it’s “Same. Same. But different.”