Why Me.

I haven’t written in awhile. Most of my well-intentioned musings are stored in opaque jars on a shelf called, “I’ll get to it someday.” Occasionally, I’ll get one down, turning the dusty jar with tired hands, opening the lid and examining the contents as if it were a spice I could still use for cooking. Some have expired. Even if I were to extract the contents, the meaning is long gone, trapped within the recesses of my memory—forever. It is complicated being a writer. My thoughts start to build into entire essays when all I want to do is put down the right sentence before the turn of phrase eludes me. I miss the words. Spun just right, I am a weaver of silk that can touch the senses with delicate thread and soft colors. You will remember me in the lasting impression of lightness and texture you cannot explain. It is a gift and one that I am grateful for, if only for a place to rest my tumbled thoughts, the pillow that cradles my head crisp and white underneath the boldness of black Arial font. I recently decided to open a jar, shaking lose the fragments of another time, working to piece them together in the present.

This one is called, “Why me.” It is not a question. It is an understanding of how I was allowed to live rather than the alternative. What that means is only speculation but with a deep certainty that while some of us got that chance, others still had to die. Not everyone could survive, history tells us that. Why not me. It is not a question. It is a lesson in providence, if you believe in that sort of thing. I do. But sometimes I forget, until it lays a soft hand on my shoulder and I have to look back. I am an orphan of war. That is not a question. It is an answer. I used to ask other questions but they only echoed quietly off of high canyon walls, resounding uselessly, unanswered and unattended. Then I started to listen—to the stories of history and the multitude of voices that rose above the slow hum of my soul, allowing me some peace. Not quiet. Nowadays, I do not need to know the whole story. Part of it is fiction anyway. The truth is told in the small hands that are placed in mine until they learn to let go, becoming a part of time and change. They tell me my story and I tell them theirs. I give them history. They can’t write it down just yet but that’s ok. I have been storing jars. I teach them about respect, compassion, the importance of “give” and the limitations of “take.” They see the world through wondrous brown eyes and ask a never-ending stream of questions, their miniature souls buzzing alongside mine. It is that simple. That is providence. They don’t care about Viet Nam. They care about their mother. Why. Me.

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Joie N. Lê

Joie Norby Lê is an educator, writer, and mother of three. She has a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy. She is a guest speaker on qualitative research methods, diversity in the classroom, and topics related to Viet Nam's orphans of war. She geeks out on poststructural philosophy and historical fiction.

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