Vignette:An Hộng Châu Station

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An Hộng Châu Station
Yenbai, Heiban
August 4th, 1998


very morning, on my way to work, around 6 o’clock, I’ll see this girl standing on the subway platform across from mine in the An Hộng Châu station, part of Line Q7 of the Yenbai Underground Metro. The Q7 runs along the outskirts of the city, so it’s not uncommon for most of its stations to be nearly empty — this is particularly true with An Hộng Châu. Most days, it’ll be just me and the girl, sometimes there’ll be one or two other people, sometimes a guard, but it’ll always be us two.

I like to pay attention to what she wears to try to guess what she does for work. She has long, thin black hair, always worn down. I can’t tell if she wears makeup because of the distance between platforms, but if she does she’s very subtle with it. She wears colorful clothes, and carries what looks like a handknit cross bag. She always stands on the same spot, hands crossed behind her back, and tapping her foot to the exact same irregular beat — one I've grown to memorize.

On Monday she wore a white top with short crochet sleeves, her cross bag beige and, below that, a knee-length blue skirt with white patterns I can’t distinguish. This time, her hands were grabbing on tight around her bag's handles but, as always, she was tapping her foot in the same irregular beat. She got on the almost empty subway, and made eye contact with me, as if saying goodbye. Minutes later I got on mine.

Today is Tuesday, and I stand alone on the empty station. Missing the irregular beat, which I've now started to do myself to fill in the silence. When I get to work I go straight to my desk, the TV is on with the morning news as always, I never pay attention to them. I sat on my desk, turned on my computer and got to work. However, around 7:30 something catched my attention coming from the TV.

... the victim was found dead on the subway tracks, between the An Hộng Châu and Quốc Ðại stations...

I rushed to the TV, and my knees nearly gave out as I saw the images. A face so disfigured it was near impossible to recognize, a dirty, and once white, top with short torn apart crochet sleeves, and the shreds of what was once a blue skirt with white patterns that I could now recognize as small flowers.

I took a few minutes to pull myself together, and once I did I was back on my desk, my mind still on the girl. I sat down, and absentmindedly began to tap my foot on the irregular beat I would now have to get used to never hearing again. As I did this, my co-worker sitting behind me called out to me.

Hey, Bình, you know morse code?

I turned around, a bit confused by the sudden and random question. “Morse code?

Your foot. You’re tapping in morse code. It's kind of ominous.

My heart dropped to my stomach.

What am I tapping?” I asked, livid and scared of the response.

He stared at me confused for a few seconds before answering.

Cứu với.

Help me.

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