The Year of the Cat

It was February of 1999 when I arrived in Vietnam and made my way to one of the most colorful markets in the world. When I stepped on the brown clay ground of Sapa and looked at my surroundings of bright oranges, reds, greens, and blues, I was mesmerized. I will never forget its blues. The blue in the Vietnamese clothes, the blue in the textiles, the blue in the cat, were so stimulatingly pleasant that I felt as if I were touching them by only glancing at them. I was happy and felt that I had come to the right place after all.

I had heard that in Sapa there was a discreet love market and this was why I had come all the way from the states. I wanted to bear witness to something moving. Something that could give me a reason to keep searching for my love, my discreet love. The love market was not what it sounded like to my friends, who thought I had lost my mind and was heading towards prostitution. This was not what happened at the love market in the slightest. What does happen is between two lovers and a few observing foreign eyes, such as myself. They simply sing songs of love to each other. Simply and beautifully.

As I searched around the market, trying to find exactly where the love songs began, I noticed a Vietnamese man with deep brown eyes. I was held by him, completely stopped, and I believed his eyes to be as strong as the blue I saw. We continued to look at each other and then he pointed to an animal.

It wasn’t a real cat, but there it was, a beautiful blue metal cat and in a pose of both care and strength. Do you speak English? I asked the man with the loving eyes. He shook his head, but took my hand, said something in Vietnamese, and put the cat in it. As I held the cat, I felt a sense of ambition come over me. I felt knowing and yet, undiscovered at the same time. It was a strange wholeness. I thanked the man and headed on my journey to listen to the lover’s song, but believed that I didn’t need them anymore. This was my year, the year of the cat. As I walked, I held that blue cat strong, and I could feel myself more than ever.

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