I met Sophia sitting at the bottom of the steps. Her eyes were red and puffy, she had been crying. “Its so horrible” she whispered. Andy was sitting a few feet away, his head hanging limply between slumped shoulders. “How can people do such things? Babies, children…..”. I sat down beside her, resting my elbows on my knees and starred outwards into the traffic chaos swarming around the War Remnants museum. My mind flitted between thoughts and clouded emotions as I tried to think of something comforting to say but instead settled into a wordless stupor.
The museum was filled with photos of atrocities from the war, only those committed by American featured of course not that it matter, the horror of some of the photos left you numb to such trifling details.Bawling, malformed victims of Agent Orange, photos of grinning marines with severed head trophies, that iconic photo of the screaming child with her clothes burned off running from advancing infantry. One photo showed an aged Senator Bob Kerrey, his face looked gaunt and haunted, his eyes fixed in the distance, beneath the photo was a plaque describing how Kerrey in his later years, tormented by the past admitted that as commander of an elite Navy SEAL unit he had partaken in the cold-blooded murder of Vietnamese families, many of whom were knifed to death during a raid on a peasant village. I was reminded of a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Our time together was drawing to a close and as night fell, not wanting the atrocities of the museum to be our last impression of Vietnam we decided to let the childlike innocence of the Vietnamese water puppet show be our last memory together. The next day Sophia was to fly home to Paris and Andy was to push onward into Cambodia, I had decided to stay an extra day in Saigon ostensibly to visit the CuChi tunnels but in my heart I knew it was to allow some road between myself and Andy. There was no animosity in it but from the limp promises to meet up in Penomh Penh we both knew it was time, I was sure I’d meet him again somewhere along the trail but where we were going now we had to go alone.