Contemporary East Asian Sad

Mai was a well-known beauty blogger who was considered a KOL (key opinion leader). The 30-year-old lady lived with her Israeli husband in a luxury apartment in district 7, Saigon. Her life had been smooth until the fourth Covid wave broke out in Saigon originating from the Revival Ekklesia Mission. Like all other people, she supposed the wave would be quickly contained like the three previous ones. However, after two months, the situation was getting worse and worse, which resulted in a stricter lockdown of the city. Meanwhile, her husband was stranding in Singapore and could not return home. She began worrying. It was not only that her career was interrupted but also that her survival became in doubt. Thousands of people had died because of the pandemic, not only elderly but also young people without underlying health conditions. Besides, a lot of people was in danger of starvation as they ran out of money. Many poor ones had not received any of the financial support from the government due to the complicated application procedure. Charity organizations could only help a small number of people and even less when the government imposed stricter movement controls in the city.

Mai suddenly thought about starvation, which seemed to be impossible a few months before. How could a person living in a luxury apartment starve? She had a lot of money in her bank acount, a Mercedes car and some real estates. But had this situation persisted, all her wealth would become worthless and could not be exchanged for a piece of vegetable. She was not able to go to the supermarket and the online market system had been always overcapacity. The price of food and vegetable doubled while ordering was like playing the lottery. The supply chain had been broken as all Southern provinces had gone into lockdown.

“Honey, I’m so nervous”, she texted her husband via Messenger. “I’m afraid I will starve to death”

“Don’t talk nonsense, honey!”, her husband replied. “It’s not possible. You have a lot of money.”

“It’s difficult to order food in Saigon now. I ordered a lot of food but they have not delivered yet. Moreover, I’m scared of going to the supermarkets since there are too many people. I will probably catch the virus there”

“Please stay calm. The government announced that the lockdown will last for two or three more weeks. They can’t force people staying at home forever. In the worst case, you still have a few boxes of instant noodle.”   

She was somewhat upset that her husband seemed not to worry at all. She knew that he was busy with his work. Still, she wished he cared about her more. Right now, she needed him more than ever.

Suddenly, she received a phone call from a strange number.


“Have you ordered some rambutans?”, asked the stranger.

“Yes, I have”, replied the lady.

“I’ve just delivered your order to the security guard. Please, come take it from him”

Mai walked hurriedly to the security booth of the building.

When the security man gave her the package, she felt strange since there were only rambutans while she had also ordered apples, pears and grapes. 

“They delivered less items than my order again”, she sighed. “Should I return it? No, it’s better than nothing in this situation”

She did not want to complain anymore. During the last few weeks, the issue that online stores delivered less items than customers’ orders had become a new normal. They knew that nobody would return the order in that circumstance.

She took the package of rambutans to her room, washed the fruits then ate them. Eating rambutans now lifted her mood a little bit. Nevertheless, right after finishing it, she heard the doorbell sound.

“Who is it?”, she asked herself.

Mai carefully wore mask before opening the door. In front of her was a middle-aged woman.

“Excuse me! Have you taken a package of rambutans recently?”, asked the woman.

“Yes”, replied the beauty blogger.

“It’s mine. Please give it back to me”

“How could it be?”

“Could you please let me see your receipt?” 

Mai took the receipt from the package but she soon realized the customer’s name was not hers.

Her neighbour grasped the receipt from her hand.

“Ah, here it is”, the woman exclaimed. “It’s definitely my name. Why did you take it?”

“I’m sorry”, Mai said. “This is all my fault. I didn’t realize it’s not mine. The shipper called me to come take my order so that I mistakenly took yours”

“Stop lying! I don’t care what you said. You’re a thief. Give my rambutans back to me!”

Mai was shocked as she was called a thief. Nobody had ever called her that.

“I’m sorry. It’s a misunderstanding. I’ve never have any idea about stealing anything from anyone. You see, I don’t lack anything. Why did I have to steal a package of rambutans? Now, as I had eaten all of them, I will compensate for your expenses.”

“Looking at your polite appearance, who would think you’re a thief?”, the hot-tempered woman spoke in an ironical voice. “Do you think you can use money to erase your crime? I don’t need your money. I just need a bunch of rambutans as an offering for my mother. Today is her death anniversary and rambutan was her favorite fruit when she was alive”

“Okay, I will buy rambutans for you. Please give me your number and return home.”

“Okay, I will wait”, the rude woman said. “If you don’t give them to me today, I won’t leave you in peace” 

Then she came back to her apartment.

Mai was filled with resentment. She called the online fruit seller, scolded her for the mistaken shipment and asked for her order. The seller just apologized and promised to refund for the lost package, yet she did not have any rambutans remained to deliver. Mai called for some other sellers in her district but no one had the fruit she needed.

Hence, she had to called the ill-mannered woman to negotiate.

“Hello, I’m the one who mistankenly took your rambutans. I’ve called a dozen sellers but no one still had the fruit to deliver. Can I buy some apples and pears for you instead?”

“No!”, the woman replied neglectfully. “Rambutan was my mother’s most favorite fruit when she was alive. I don’t care how you do it. You must give me a bunch of rambutans today!”.

The strange woman ended the call. Mai was embarrassed. She did not figure out what to do.

Then she called her husband via Facetime.

“What’s up honey?”, he said.

“Darling, I’m in a mess. I’ve mistakenly took a package of rambutans from a neighbor so she called me a thief and required me to give it back but I’d eaten all of them. I’ve called a dozen fruit sellers but no one sell it anymore. I don’t know what to do now.”

“Oh, it’s not a big deal. Just compensate her with twice the cost. Sorry, I’m busy now. I’m preparing for a conference call with my clients in 30 minutes.”

Mai was disappointed. They called her a thief but her husband considered it just a little inconvenience. She felt so lonely and depressed. She continued calling for other sellers in different districts. Some of them had rambutans but refused to deliver same day as they could not find shippers and it was close to the night curfew. She kept asking her friends and connections all the afternoon and evening for help. She even posted a status on Facebook to ask for support. Still, nobody could help her. Next day, the city began going into 2 weeks of stricter lockdown. All people were busy with buying foods for their families for two coming weeks and more.

Meanwhile, the rude woman kept calling and texting to threat her so that Mai shut off her phone. She burst into tears.

“Oh my God!”, she exclaimed. “What kind of KOL am I? I couldn’t ask anyone to help my mother in Hanoi get vaccinated. Now I can’t buy even a bunch of rambutans. Moreover, I don’t even know whether or not I still have a husband” 

Mai sobbed and looked out of the window. Gazing at the curtain of the night, she reminisced about sleepless Saigon, when the beam of lights from spotlights of some rooftop bars had shone in the night sky and the city seemed to vibrate with dance music. Now what she could only hear were the haunting ambulance sirens. People often said that Saigon was the city of flowers and tears, flowers for the rich and tears for the poor. But now, even the rich were shedding tears.  

(Author note: based on a true story happened in 2021. Fortunately, we returned to the old normal quickly.

"Flowers and tears" is a wordplay. In Vietnamese, "flower" + "tear" = "magnificent")

September 28, 2022 03:51

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Tommy Goround
23:44 Oct 05, 2022

Hi Dao, Critique Corner sent me over here late... "Your submissions has already been approved, so it's content can not be edited." alright, let's pretend they don't read comments: 1.) are you happy/unhappy about influencers? The content seems to suggest that the word "influencer" does not translate to a person who influences anyone to help. If that is the intention, then "clap clap" I agree. 2.) The story is toned down if I have your theme correct. Notice how the "flower + tears" has a historical, and cultural specific meaning? (Dragon ...


Dao Huy Kien
08:40 Oct 06, 2022

Thank you very much for your detailed and insightful comment. I highly appreciate it, as well as your carefulness about the cultural difference. It took a lot of effort to write such a long critique, which I hardly ever did, even in my native language. Your suggestion is very creative and rational. And I agree with your concern about the main character. She might be too decent to be an influencer. Regarding other ideas, I will think about them, which are, as you said, too wild to me. Even my fantasy stories, which I used to write long time a...


Tommy Goround
20:07 Oct 06, 2022

You have all the classic elements of a good story. You have layers of meaning. If you prefer a gentle and mild and classical approach.... Perhaps this story is a little too mild for that style of telling. I'm curious how you would tell a story that involved a violence car crash and a assassin.


Dao Huy Kien
10:18 Oct 07, 2022

I did write a few stories which involved assasination or violent scenes. Normally, I don't often describe those scenes in detail but focus on what happened before and after the events. I may post those stories here in future contests but if you are interested, following is an example: https://storywrite.com/story/16755693-Alyosha-by-Spiderkien


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Kendall Defoe
10:30 Oct 06, 2022

It is the small things that matter the most sometimes. Thank you for this intro to a very interesting food and language lesson!


Dao Huy Kien
16:28 Oct 06, 2022

Thank you for your nice and thoughtful comment. Glad you found something interesting in my story.


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Trebor Mack
02:09 Oct 02, 2022

A couple of spelling errors: e.g. acount, mistankenly.... Minor grammar errors (46) and the overuse of vague and abstract words (55) detracted from your story. Ad I like rambutans very much.


Dao Huy Kien
03:07 Oct 02, 2022

Thank you very much for your kind feedback and suggestion. I will try to fix it and check the grammatical errors more carefully next time.


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Tommy Goround
23:11 Oct 05, 2022

Hi Dao Critque Corner sent me over but it is not very kind of them. The deadline is passed so it is almost impolite to mention anything that you cannot change. Be right back.


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