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Hmong Contemporary Issues
Hmoob cov Xwm Txheej rau Tiam no
Les Problématiques contemporaines des Hmong

A Unfinished Love
by Kao-Ly Yang

I just loved her so much.
I loved her when she was smiling, doubting, shaking her head and grimacing.
I loved her when she was walking in the narrow drizzled trails and telling stories to children.
I loved her when she was attaching her long silky dark hair, bending to wash her oval face and leaf- eyes, and biting her lips to make them red so that she would not appear too tired after some long interviews and late storytelling nights.        
I met her when I was just twenty-one years old. She never told me her age. But I knew she was older than me. She took me for an uneducated man who had free time to waste.

I was playing with my little brothers outside our house. I turned back and saw a young woman with laughing eyes and all dressed in black. I felt suddently intimidated. I dared not looking at her for very long.
"What is your name?", she said while staring at me, with her confident smile.
One of my little brothers mocked me:
"Hey, old brother, she is talking to you."
"Uh, are you talking to me? " I asked naively, pointing my finger to my chest.
"Yes, you, the handsome one. Well, if you are free, can you help me? I need someone to take me to visit your village and other villages nearby." She inquired, her eyes always shining.
"Visit my village ... Fine." That was all I could say.

Maiyee, that was her name, was lively and determinated. I served as her tour guide in our county. I learned that she was finishing her research for her doctoral thesis.

After days of walking from one village to village, she was obviously tired, but she never showed it. Graciously, she accepted rain, heat, or humidity. With her camera bag, backpack, bottle of peanut butter, and hundred pounds of curiosity, she looked somehow frail and vulnerable. Her beautiful eyes  shined when she arrived in a village. She had excellent observation skills, and always let the others initiate the conversation before starting to ask questions.

After visiting a village, she returned their favors by giving parents and children notebooks, pencils, or gifts. All got something from her. Good hearted, she was.

I never met such a Hmong woman. I was thinking she was not a Hmong for a few days. But, her language and behavior demonstrated her Hmongness. She was just very modern. Patient, open minded and attentive to others' needs, she would chat with them until late night. People did love her wherever she went. She was really rare.

No return. No way to escape her charms. I was falling in love with her. At the end of summer, I was simply madly in love.

But she treated like just like a young brother. And I started to protest. I was not her brother; far from that, I was a young man, loving and caring about her.

She shared her food, ideas, time with me while I was with her. I enjoyed the conversations about education, Hmong culture, history and community issues. She asked me to talk about my life in Vietnam where I went to study. I told her I wanted to become a medical doctor so that I could help my people.

For three weeks, I took her to tour several villages in the province of Xieng Khouang. Then at the end of summer, she returned to Vientiane then flew to America.

For the following eleven years, I had been waiting for a chance to see her again. At the beginning after she left, she was in my thoughts days and nights. I returned to study in Vietnam, more motivated. Slowly, with each season passing, her face had faded away. However, the feeling of longing never disappeared. It had become stronger over the years. Our meeting was brief. But, after her departure, I was sure she would remain my only love. An unfinished relationship that did not reach its bloom. A feeling of regret was stuck in my chest.

My mother knew that I was in love with her. She kept repeating to me:  
- "Hue Yae, my son, in your previous lifetime, surely you did borrow some money from her. Now you have to pay her back by longing for her."
I was amazed by this idea. But it did not help me.

No, it was not a debt. It was love. I loved her because she was like a soulmate to me. In my disrupted and disenchanted days, I doubted about my feelings, not knowing how a poor young man like me could find the way to her heart.

The truth was that I did not know her well. She came like the wind, then vanished in the sky three weeks afterwards. That year, I was back home from Vietnam for vacation after four long years of study. I just finished my bachelor.

I was young, ignorant, but passionately in love with a Hmong woman with such a courage. She came alone in the mountains to study her culture.   

An unappeased love. She left, after a long look at me at the airport. She gave money to go study, but no telephone, no address. No way to find her

After meeting her, I did not want to get married as my parents suggested before going back to medical school in Vietnam. I knew that it would be difficult to find her. I was melancholic and hopeless most of the time. I only wished to marry her.

In November 2002, with the help of my Vietnamese professor, I received a fellowship to enhance my specialization in neurology in Canada. I was so excited because I decided to travel first to the US. I was hoping to see Maiyee, at least for the last time. I was almost thirty-two years old, and still single.
The plane landed in Fresno, California after eighteen hours of flight. Tired, but excited, I was welcome by my cousins. I wanted so much to come to America. But I knew that the country was vast, and it would be difficult to find Maiyee even if she might be a well-known person by now. Fortunately, the Hmong New Year was going to take place very soon, a chance to hear possible news from her.

My relatives showed so much kindness and care: they celebrated my coming with a soul calling ritual. Some took me to several restaurants and parties. I guessed they were impressed by a Third-World Hmong medical doctor, and I had to confess I was quite overwhelmed by their hunger of fame and social recognition.         

I dared not immediately asking my cousins about the woman I loved. People might know her because there were only a few Hmong doctors. However, it would not be a question to ask because I just arrived.

When I realized that the Hmong Americans loved praising their lawyers and doctors, I then asked about them. Her name came out. I was just so glad, but also so afraid to ask more.
- "Where is she living?" I said.
- "Here in Fresno!" All replied.
My heart started to beat quite fast although I kept my face very serious, too afraid to let others know about my feelings. Then I said:  
- "I would like to meet some of the Hmong doctors."
- "We will invite them to your party at the Orchard Hall next week."

Then arrived the day. The room, fully decorated, was filled with people. There were so many who came to  see me. I greeted people, ate, and discussed. From time to time, I turned my head to the entrance, hoping to see her appear.

One of my cousins started to publicly acknowledge the important attendees of the party. But I did not hear her name. I kept shaking hands, eating, and answering questions. People were dancing now. Some asked me to stay in the US. But I barely listened to them.

"She may come. ... She may not come." I was guessing. "She did not really like crowd and social events." I was looking around me. Maiyee was nowhere. Again, I became hopeless, sorrowful.
"In this lifetime, I've loved only you. I would not seek to see you again if this time you came." I somehow prayed and made such a stupid promise to myself. 

Close to ten pm, my hope was slowly vanishing.

"My love, where are you?", my liver was crying. "For eleven long years, I have been waiting for you. I missed you bitterly. I studied so hard to become a medical doctor. We are in the same town, but I don't see you."

After a dance, I felt so disconcerted. I just wanted a drink, and sat down alone. The intensity of my sorrow was unbearable.     

Someone touched my right shoulder. I turned back and saw her smiling at me, holding out her hand toward me. She still carried a camera bag, wore a dark green coat. Her hair was now short. Her face with the shining leaf-eyes has not changed.

- "Hello! It's you, Hue Yae. Do you remember me? I am Maiyee." 

I smiled at her, unable to articulate a word. She remembered my name.
-"How are you doing?" She asked.  

Too surprised, I kept staring at her, hopeful, and saw a golden ring on her fourth finger of her left hand. My mouth dried out.
-"When did you arrive?"

Now, I became voiceless and anxious. She guessed my emotion. Cheerfully, she sat down next to me and spoke softly to me like when I was  her tour guide.
-"I am very happy to meet you again. I learned that you are now a medical doctor. It's Saturday. There are several events in Fresno. I wanted to visit some Elderly Hmong before coming to see you. Sorry, I am late. Finally, you made your way to America."

- "How are you?", I succeeded to mumble, moved and nervous.   
- "Fine! And you?"

I did not have time to reply. A few couples interrupted me. They were leaving and needed to say goodbye. I stood up to shake hands. Then a few acquaintances came with their drinks to celebrate. I had had a few already, so I asked my two cousins sitting next to me to accept their drinks on my behalf, and turned back to Maiyee.
"Maiyee, I ...".
"There is quite a crowd here who would like to celebrate your success tonight. I am also very proud of you. I cannot stay very long, and I don't want to take too much of your time. I have to go home. I have your cousin's phone number, and I will call you." 

She got up. Swiftly, I caught her hand, shook it, and I begged her: "Stay a little bit longer. I have not seen you for so long."
She smiled gently: "Sorry, I have to go. It's going to be midnight soon. I will call you. You have to come to visit me at home."
Then she walked away, cutting my liver leaf, burying my love. I was looking at her back, slender and frail.

An unbearable feeling suddenly seized my chest.
"I am going to regret. Eleven years." I heard myself murmuring. I looked at her again moving toward the exit door. Some Elderly people stopped her to talk to her.

I stood up and walked toward the exit too. A woman with her daughter caught my arm. She wanted my phone number, so I gave my card to her.

A look at the door, Maiyee was not there anymore. So I rushed outside, but could not see her. It was too dark. I quickly searched among the cars in the parking lot. Between two big Toyota trucks, I saw her opening her small car.
Regretful thoughts were running in my mind. I looked at her desperately.
"She must know how I feel!".

Slowly, I approached her. She raised her head and recognized me.
Impulsively, I hugged her, with tenderness. My arms tightly surrounded her, my head laid on her shoulder, my eyes closed. I did not want to explain more.
"This is the last time," I knew.

Maiyee did not push me away. Her warm body was almost covered by my five feet ten. After a few minutes, she kindly tapped my back several times. But I hold onto her, my tears wet her coat.
Then, she whispered softly to comfort me:
"Hue Yae, you will find someone, someone who loves you, and whom you love. You are a doctor now."

I finally dropped my arms. She did not move back, but stood close to me. She looked at me, raised her hand and wiped my cheeks tenderly. I touched her hand, kissed it, and dipped my eyes into hers with sorrow. She gave me a few more taps in the back. Then, she turned to quietly go sit in the car before driving away.

I stood frebile, my heart buried under the dark sky. The moon, like an eye, was my only witness.
Time flew away. I could not erase eleven years, my saddest lifetime. I just loved her so much.


This story is fictional. All characters are created to support the theme of high education, impossible love relationship and missed opportunities.

Edited on July 2018  
Copyright © 2007 Kao-Ly Yang
All Rights Reserved.