My Little Dark Age


We ended up with 9. 

9 of us in that little house in Santa Ana. 9 of us against the world

My parents had bought the house in Santa Ana when they had me, the little house I grew up in. 

We had a habit of bringing in new people into our family, people at hard times in their lives, students studying abroad, far from home, divorced fathers, and others just down on their luck. Most only stayed for a few months, that was, until my aunt’s family came to America, at the end there were nine of us, nine of us in that little house, nine of us against the world.

My family and I at our old home in 2015

Quê Hương

My Dad had come to the US as a refugee, my mother as a transfer student, both searching for an escape from the poverty and violence that racked the country of their youth. My bedtime stories were of a foreign land, stories of rice paddies and straw homes, their homeland, their Quê Hương. Stories of hardship and struggle stories told, always, with a hint of longing in their voices, a longing for what was, a longing for what could’ve been

My mother had grown up without her parents, sending herself from rice paddies to university

My father became a refugee at 16, escaping his country in a rivercraft under the cover of night, nothing but the clothes on his back




Those were the words that reverberated through the stories of my parents.

This is picture taken near the hometown of my mom that I took in 2017 on a trip I took to the country


It was in the little music store where I would find the strongest constant in my life. The store was built like something out of a fairytale, with little alcoves around the windows and old painted stairs leading up to a colourful balcony with wooden bannisters and a colourfully painted piano. There was a sense of magic that flowed through that place

That was where I first heard music, not the tinny sound of something captured and bottled up half a world away but there, reverberating through the ground something you could feel something, you could almost touch. That was the day that I promised to myself I would start learning how to play an instrument, no matter how bad I was, no matter how long it took, it was something I stuck to, something that stuck to me.

The fountain valley music store closed down in 2018, I don’t have any pictures left of the place as it is quickly from memory

The Old Silver Car

I saw it go. 

That old silver car. 

The broken back windows.

The rattling engine, wheezing with the smallest of slopes.

Every day on the ride home from school, the glove box would fill up with Bazooka comics, the seats cracked and broken into.

It was the car that drove me out of the hospital.

The first car that I loved.

The car that I outlived.

towed away in that big metal truck.

That old silver car.

File:1987-1990 Toyota Camry LE sedan 01.jpg
This is the same car model of car my father drove from 1993 until 2013, I was always very partial to this car

The Sudden Dark

I remember I was there, I remember the day I first felt true loss

I remember his stern appearance, not knowing about the war and concentration camp he lived through.

I remember the 2011 trip to the midway, that old museum ship in San Diego, where he shared Vietnam war stories with us and chatted with the American veterans who volunteered there, the last trip I remember him being on

I remember the last year of his life the constant trips in and out of the hospital. I watched him slowly become a shadow of the man he once was, that proud, stern face becoming sunken and shallow

And I remember that fateful day, in September 2012 just after labor day weekend, a catholic priest and Buddhist monk coming to read prayers, me sneaking up to his room, where all the parents were to ask for a piece of candy, I remember, waiting from the doorframe seeing his body convulse, heart rate spike then flatlining out. 

I remember the sudden darkness that followed, the silence, the emptiness where life once stood.

This is one of the last pictures taken with my grandfather, only a few months before his death

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s