Content warning: trafficking, underage exploitation
The rain fell on him as he watched her drive away feeling like Humphrey Bogart on the runway in Casablanca As he watches Ingrid Bergman fly out of his life. There is a geography Of the world Just like he told her when they first met. There is a certain order of how things should be and everything has a place they belong.
Rain has a way of washing out the stains left behind when there has been a disruption in the order of things.
She told him about her world, but he never understood. How could he? He was American. He was the reason her world was in disarray. He tried. She had to give him credit for that, but in the end , it didn't matter. It never did.
The monsoon was here. The world would be raining, a rain that would never stop.
She had been a bar Girl Since She turned twelve and her mother sold her to Mui Soo, an old woman who employed young girls to serve the soldiers who patronized her bar, first the French and now the Americans. Juin Ngra at twenty was getting too old for the business since the American GI's liked them prepubescent.
Pay top dollar. Virgin was best, but even the young ones weren't virgins. Some of the rich businessmen from Hong Kong would pay lots of money for a virgin even if she was not even ten years old. Money was money, all commodities could be bought at the right price.
But he was a problem.
He was one of those guys who saw himself as a knight in shining armor, Out to save Mui's Girls.
His geography was all wrong. He was from Alabama, a Baptist with a strong Christian upbringing with an unwavering sense of morality and belief in Jesus Christ.
She remembered how the French brought in their nuns who ran the mission school her mother sent her to while she sold street food from her cart in the alleyway. Their God was strange. Buddha would never let a son of his die in such a slow painful way. The Dominican nuns even wore Beads with that poor Jesus nailed to a cross.
Then there was Father Chevalier who taught religious study to the young girls. He would tell them about how God was watching their every move and knew their every thought as he slid his hands up their lily white dresses, touching their private parts as he told them, "God wanted him to do it." It would be her first lesson in geography where the white skinned priest was allowed to molest darker skinned girls.
One day the French left when Ho Chi Min forced them to go back home and fix the disruption In the geography, but just as he was about to unite the country, the Americans arrived. Mui was told they would be good for the geography and would put things right, but she saw no difference between them and the French other than the language they spoke.
It happened just before the fighting got bad when these four Gi's Came in one rainy night to Mui's Bar
"Hey Jimbo, We are going to get you a girl." Moe Chimbeck slapped the big kid on the back from Alabama.
"I am saving myself for marriage." He guffawed.
"It is sooo good you might take home a souvenir." Marty Winestock Pointed to Juin.
His name was James Creech and he had big American Shoulders and an even wider grin, but he did not understand geography At that point. When he looked in Juin's Almond colored eyes and her crooked smile, he was lost in her beauty as many are when they first see the alluring beauty of the Orient for the first time. He was the son of a Baptist minister who was only a year older the Join
Geography no good, but when the magnetic pull of physical attraction takes over , there is no greater force known To man.
"I fly missions in and out of the DNZ." He told Juin As he sat drinking beer at the bar and she listened as if every word he spoke was a golden nugget. "I nearly fly non-stop, because The action is constant."
"You brave?" Her smile was barely detectable, but it widened when he took her hand.
There are mountains and flatlands, deserts and forests, but it all fits together like some complex jigsaw puzzle. Put together With skill and precision that no one can tell where one Piece starts and one piece ends.
Lieutenant Creech lifts off the pad as the rain falls. It seems to him it never stops, but then back home in Alabama, It does rain in the spring. There is a commonality he has noticed since coming here. The rotors whirl overhead as the aircraft lifts off the runway.
"So Jimbo, Who was that foxy lady I saw you with.?" Moe, the ship's gunner asks lather thick with innuendo and a lip smacking smirk. Moe found a girl he took upstairs after paying Mui, but he passed out before the deed was done. That part of his story will never be revealed, however, but part of the adventure is finding out what everyone else did. If the truth were ever told, it would be a sad tale that would be told.
“Her name is Juin.” He smiles like a fool. “We prayed some.”
“Prayed?” Moe snickers.
“To Jesus.” He affirmed.
“You prayed before doing it?” He nearly spills his beer.
“Oh no, we did not do it.” He shakes his head, “I’m waiting until I am married for that.”
Moe sees Jimbo for what he is, a religious fanatic. He has been with his kind before, but he’s still fascinated that they even exist.
Mui has seen his type, too and as far as she is concerned they are bad for business. They get all red in the face about how this is a den of iniquity and everyone is damned to Hell. She chases them out with her famous broom, whacking them over the head as they run into the alley to get away from her. One thing about Jimbo is that he is gentle and kind, but she is counting the days before she has to chase him from her bar with the broom.
“You from Al-la-bahama?” Juin asked as she sipped her Coke through her straw.
“Yes, ma’am.” He nodded, smiling broadly. She loved his smile, it was genuine just like he was. “I wrote to my mama and told her I had found the girl of my dreams.”
She paused a bit, her eyes were wide. “I no want to go to Alahabama.” She shook her head.
“But honey darling, when we get married…”
“I no marry you.” She said, feeling her voice catch in her throat.
“Why?” He was shocked.
“I am home here.” She swallowed hard.
“I don’t understand.” His smile disappeared.
“We are from different world.” She could feel the tears burn in her eyes. She did not want to hurt him, but there was a wall of reasons why she did not want to marry him and none of them had to do with him. It was all about the geography. It was all about being an alien in a strange land. It was all about her mother whom she sent most of her earnings to so she could keep up with her other siblings. It was all about this war and what it had done to her. She would go with him and live in a place where the people would look at her like she was some animal in a cage at the zoo.
“I thought we had something special.” He sniffed back his tears.
“Jimbo, you are very special to me…”She started.
“Then what’s the problem?” He asked with a bit of force in his usual gentle voice.
“You do not see it, but I do.” She put her hand over his on the table. Mui was sweeping the sidewalk near where they were sitting. She was listening in and felt her broom twitch a bit. This happened all the time. GI’s would start to fall in love. Love was such an overrated commodity. It was used to hold people hostage, especially her people. These soldiers came from far away to save the poor people about to be swallowed up by communism without knowing that some of them did not need liberation. Let them come down from the north. Nothing would change for her and her business. Her cousin was one of the VC. He would put explosive charges under the trucks and other acts of sabotage. He would speak to her about the western ways that subjugated them, even though she had no idea what he was talking about half the time. All she knew was she sometimes saw the bodies lined up in the streets with American soldiers standing over them, laughing and joking about how they had killed them.
“You go now.” She told him as she pushed his boots with her broom.
Americans always get their way.
Juin opened her mouth into an “O” as she pushed him with the broom.
“Alright, alright, I’ll skadaddle.” He stood up and pushed his chair in.
Later that night in the barracks, Jimbo sulked in his bunk as he idly flipped through an Archie comic book that used to be his favorite reading material.
“Why so glum, chum?” Moe asked as he was trying for an inside straight in a poker game he was playing with three other chumps around the card table in the middle of the racks.
“Juin doesn’t wanna marry me.” He put his arm across his forehead and lay back.
“Hey, consider yourself lucky.” He lay his cards on the table as the three other guys groaned. Using his other hand, Moe scooped up the chips and folding cash in the middle.
“You do not wanna marry any of these bar girls.” He lit his cigar by striking a match on the corner of the rough table.
“Why not?” He sat himself up on his elbow.
“You bring one of these gooks home and you have to live with her as a constant reminder of the crap we had to put up with while we were over here.” He blew a smoke ring.
“But I love her.” He groaned.
“You won’t after a few years, trust me.” He pointed his cigar at Jimbo like a pistol.
No one suspected that at Oh-two hundred hours the barracks would be rocked by a bomb. Since Moe occupied the bunk above Jimbo, the beam that gave way fell on Moe and killed him instantly. Jimbo woke to a smokey room and the top bunk pinning him into a makeshift jail. It took some of the MP’s an hour to get him freed from his prison.
“What about Moe?” He said as they helped him to his feet.
“Son, he’s gone.” The tall MP announced somberly.
“Can’t be...can’t be…” He put his large hands to his face to catch the tears that began to fall.
Mui knew that her cousin planted the bomb that killed twenty seven GIs as they slept. She swept out the pantry where there were rats gathering to eat the crumbs dropped over time.
“Juin! Juin, come here now!” She cried out
“What is it?” She asked as she saw Mui stagger.
“I...I need...doctor.” She would fall to the floor with the rat droppings. Her eyes would be open, but they were no longer capable of seeing.
“I lost my best friend.” Jimbo sat at the table with his head bowed.
“I lost my mamasan.” Juin wiped a tear from her cheek.
“She was not your mamasan.” Jimbo sniffed.
“She treated me like her daughter.” Juin pouted.
“She treated you like a whore.” He said bitterly.
“You take that back.” She slapped him. It took a few seconds for her to realize what she had done. Jimbo just sat there as if he had been shot, his jaw nearly hanging to his chest, his skin turning red by the second. “I am so sorry.”
“No, no, I deserved it.” He turned his head. Ngyen, Gui’s cousin, was wielding the broom trying to hide the smirk on his face. Since his cousin had passed, he decided that he would take over the bar.
“It’s just been so hard.” She shook her head.
“Let’s get married.” He put his hand over hers on the table.
“Perhaps it will be for the best.” She looked into his colorless eyes as he looked into hers.
When he got back to post much later than he had planned, the company clerk handed him a letter. It was from his mother.
We got your letter a few days ago and I don’t know what to say. Nobody here wants you to marry that girl with the slanty eyes. Your father is beside himself thinking about the gook babies you will have with her. Your sister Jen is telling everyone that her brother is going to marry one of them. Honestly, we just don’t want to see you doing something you will regret. I know it seems like the right thing to do and I’m sure you have laid with that woman, but you are my bright shining star. Your Uncle Daryl just got a divorce from that Korean woman he brought home when he was overseas. I just don’t want you to suffer the way he has. We have been praying for you at church and Reverend Thompson has preached about the sins that have been going on over there. We want you to come home soon. I know you will find a nice local gal to get hitched up with. I know Lydia Simmons, you remember her? Well she is looking for a fella. I think you two would make a good couple. Don’t you? Anyway, we are all praying for you.
It took a while for the words to sink in, but when they did he felt a cold shiver run through him. Uncle Daryl had taught him how to hunt and fish in the backcountry. Daryl would talk about Tae’s cooking and some of the things they would eat and how much he loved her. It was hard to believe they were getting divorced.
He watched the company's noncommissioned officer have two men clean out Moe’s locker. He had two months left in-country and he hoped he would make it home. Moe only had thirty days left.
“He wanted you to have this.” Msgt Owens said as he handed Jimbo Moe’s watch.
“No, I don’t want it.” He shook his head.
“Hate to toss it.” He shrugged.
“In that case…” He took the watch from Owens and gave it a good once over before putting it into his pocket. Taped to the wall was a picture of Moe with his dog. He wondered what would become of Buddy. He didn’t want to think about it.
When his orders came through a few weeks later, Jimbo sat on his bunk and read them over to make sure they were official. That evening he went to the far to see Juin.
“You leave?” She looked over the paper.
“With you.” He smiled.
“No...not with me.” She shook her head.
“Nygen will charge you much money to let me go.” She wiped a tear with the back of her hand, “We should not marry. Too much differences.”
“We can overcome it.” He took her hand, but she took it from him.
“No...geography...Gui talked about it...she wanted to marry a French soldier until she found out he was already married.” Juin gulped back her tears.
“I’m not married-”
“No, let me finish...I no want to be something I can never be...people will look at me like I am the enemy. I am not enemy...but I know some who are...and they may do you harm. Leave...do not look back.” She got up and walked into the back of the bar. Jimbo would never see her again.
“You pay now.” Nygen smiled at Jimbo and the big man handed over twice what his tab had cost. Nygen bowed as Jimbo walked away.
Standing on the tarmac with his duffle bag hoisted over his shoulder, a light rain began to fall on Jimbo.
“Orders please.” The flight attendant dressed in her very sharp uniform asked, holding out her hand. Jimbo placed the orders in her hand. “Have a good flight, Corporal Creech.”
“Ma’am.” He nodded as he boarded the C-131 with the propellers already turning.
Some casualties of the war were never recorded in the official records, but they were felt nonetheless. There is a geography of the world which cannot ever be changed or altered, no matter how much the heart wishes it were so.