Creative Nonfiction East Asian Contemporary

It was the first time in my life I received a handwritten letter from a girl who wanted to make friends with me. The story happened in 2005 when I was seventeen. After appearing on a TV talent show to set a new national record of football juggling, I experienced the sweet taste of fame for a while. The next Monday, the vice-principal commended me and a girl in the same grade in front of the whole school in the patriotic ceremony.

“Our high school is well known for the high academic achievement”, he said with a strong voice. “But studying is not the only path to success. Today I’m acclaiming these two students for their amazing extracurricular performances.”

Five thousand students gazed at us. I had never dreamed of the day I stood there in a patriotic ceremony. It was the stage for excellent students who would probably attend Ivy League schools or top universities of the world.

The vice-principal introduced the girl first. Trang, her name, had just won the silver prize in a singing contest of the city. The students gave her a round of applause. Yet when the vice-principal introduced me, the applause sound was much louder.

“You made my great achievement look so pathetic”, Trang told me with a sad smile after the ceremony.  

I was a bit sad for I ruined her glory. Nevertheless, to be honest, I was more cheerful when hearing that. I was studying in a selective school full of talents. My academic performance was nothing in comparison to my classmates. My homeroom teacher only paid attention to the group of students who would compete in the national excellent student contest and I was not one of them. All of a sudden, I became a hero from zero.

The next weekend, when I came to a nearby public field to play football with the local guys, I heard them talking about me.

“Have you seen the ball juggling guy on TV?”, a young man told his friend. “He is amazing”

“He’s good, but not really impressive. I know some guys can do better. His skill was unremarkable, too”

He was right. I am not Ronaldinho. My juggling skill was just at a basic level. It was the hard work training, a bit courage and luck that made me the first one to do that on the national TV show. Just a month later, my record was broken by another guy. Yet the audience would perhaps remember more about the first one.  

It was funny that the young men did not realize that they were playing football with the guy they had just discussed. But when I went with my class on a camping trip to a countryside area in another province, the local boys recognized me. First, they just talked to each other about me.

“Is he the ball juggling guy on TV?”

“Apparently so”

“Yeah, I think it’s him”

“Let me ask him”, a boy said.

He walked towards me and asked:

“Are you the ball juggling guy on TV?”

“Yes, I am”, I answered him with a smile.

He ran back to his friends.

“It’s real. He is the ball juggling guy on TV”

“We should ask for his autograph”, another boy said.

He ran to me and asked me to sign on his T-shirt which he was wearing. I cheerfully accepted his proposal. Now I knew the feeling of a superstar signing autograph for his fans.

“Wow, it seems that the whole country know you”, a classmate told me. “You have become a kind of celebrity”

Oh yeah, had it been the age of social media like nowadays, I would have probably earned a lot of money from advertising contracts. The media would have lifted me to the clouds. Apparently, I was born too early.

When I came back from the camping trip, my mother told me that a lot of her friends and relatives had called her to cheer for my success. I was glad that I made her proud in a unexpected way. Life is like a box of chocolate, indeed. You never know what you gonna get. The next day, a classmate told me to go to the school mailbox.

“You got a mail”, she said.

It surprised me. Never had I received a mail at school.

When holding the envelope in my hand, I was even more curious as the sender was a unknown girl from a rural province. I waited until the evening when returning to my room to open the mysterious letter. It was a ten-page letter. The length itself impressed me. And I was moved right after reading the first few lines. She wrote that she saw me on TV and admired me so much that she wanted to make friends with me. Afterwards, she introduced a lot of things about herself such as her hometown, hobbies and favorite food, then asked a lot of questions about me. Her handwriting was not really beautiful but neat. Yet the biggest flaw was dozens of serious spelling mistakes, which was apparently the result of her regional accent and poor-quality education she received. I can’t explain it clearly because it was not English but my native language yet it was like when she want to say “I love you”, she would write “I nove you”, which might ruin your feeling. Still, it did not really matter to me as I felt like falling in love. Her emotional letter had a big impact on me. I got used to dreaming about other girls. It seemed that nobody ever dreamed of dating with me as I had never been an attractive boy. I started to dream about the mysterious girl instead of my crush, a classmate of mine.

“What does she look like? She must be beautiful”, I asked myself.

Her beautiful soul evoked a pretty face in my imagination.      

The next day, I wrote a 4-page letter in which I answered her questions about my current life and asked for her photo. After sending the mail at the post office, I was anxious to see her replied letter. Yet my eagerness quickly turned into disappointment a week later when I received the letter. The photo attached with it was the image of a ungraceful girl. She was not really ugly but she wore no makeup and her clothes were unfashionable. I expected to see a rose yet encountered a cactus instead. I got used to seeing elegant city girls and had not known any rural girls. The difference between them was huge in my country at that time. Despite her enthusiasm expressed in the letter, I did not reply for my eagerness had vanished. A long-distance girlfriend was not my expectation, especially when she was not good-looking. When we are young, it seems that we always love a book because of its cover.

A few years later, I had my first girlfriend. I told her about the only two handwritten letters of my fan. She asked me to see the letters so I let her see them. She laughed when she saw the spelling mistakes and the photo of the girl. I laughed with her, too. Afterwards, she took and show the letters to her friends and never gave them back to me. Whenever thinking about those special letters, I felt regretful for I had not cherished the feelings of the strange girl for me. It was my belief that she would become a beautiful woman. I wish I had written at least one more letter for her.

December 01, 2022 07:32

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