The Old Leaf

All their lives the leaves knew water; it ran in their veins day to day. Sunlight above, water within, both were their father and mother. They nurtured the leaves, protected them, made them green and gave them life. The branch was their life, and the tree, their world. They were content, and could want no more: they were home.

But life had never been constant. Growth was in change. The green all around the leaf, now yellow of old age, ceased to be familiar. It was now an alien among the younger leaves. Its brothers and sisters all fell to the soil beneath, grey among the grass, forgotten to the years long gone. The leaf was becoming less of a member; it was becoming a burden, and its inevitable fate was the ground, where it would lay with its siblings, fade into the soil and forever gone from the world. Forgotten. Erased. Unknown.

But maybe, the leaf would fall to a wind. The leaf might find for itself one last miracle, and be carried away from the old familiar tree, away from the grey soil and across the lake, into the terrifying and exciting unknown.

But then, it would drown in the lake. Water – its creator and sustainer, would become its ultimate destroyer. The sun would no longer give it life, but burn and dry it to crumbles and ashes. Waves would submerge and claim its remains, wet, cold and insignificant. Would that one last miracle be worth it? Would the promise of fleeting freedom be worth risking the betrayal from its own creators?

On a lone branch of a tree by the side of a clear still lake, one single yellow dot swayed gently to the tugging winds, uncertain and unseen amidst the sea of surety and strong youth.

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This is an exercise in class where each of us get to retell the story of a bank robbery through the POV of one of the characters. I picked the inexperienced robber. In my version, I wanted to explore how an insecure person can be seduced by temptation of the sense of power over people. The inexperienced robber is extremely insecure, and the experienced robber manipulated him through his insecurity into joining him in the crime.


The morning breeze is strangely calming, Trung remarked mentally. Sunlight felt warm on his face as the air caressed his cheeks as he rode alongside the Saigon River on his motorbike. He felt calm and relaxed; the winds carried away the nervousness, the doubts, the what-ifs; only the boiling desire and determination to transform his life remain.

He has always been a nobody. An asymmetrical face with features as bland as wholesale fruits in the supermarket, short stature, skin over bones with barely a hint of the existence of any muscle… he has always been an exemplar of physical hideousness. The very antithesis of beauty. Ugly incarnate. Not only was his shell repulsive to look at, God also made of him as complete a mockery of a human being as history has ever witnessed: academics that hovered below the charts, no talents of use whatsoever, a total social inept, and unemployed. Trung has no friends, and his parents always reminded him that he himself supplies them with generous doses of disappointment everyday.

He is tired. Tired of all the looks that shout at him his insignificance and the occasional glances of pity. He does not want any of that. Can he just for once be looked upon with dignity and respect?

Yes, he can. He looked to his side; Van is on his own motorbike, eyes aglow with excitement, grinning with sinister mischief. The eyes and smile of power, Trung concluded. He will soon know that power for himself.

He met Van a month ago. Van is a thief that got away successfully with his many glorious “operations” many times already. Van has access to firearms. Van is on the run, out of the bounds of laws and justice: no one can contain him, no one get to tell him what to do but himself and the winds. Van is his own boss and badass, and Van wants Trung to help him. Can you imagine?! Van, a godly outlaw that bows to no one but himself, wants his help! Van wanted to up his thievery game as he’s done with petty steals. He wanted to go big – he wanted to rob a bank, and make a name for himself. And that means for Trung also, if he joins.

Of course Trung signed up. Oh the dream – people to stop whispering his name with twisted faces and rolled-up eyes; his name to stop being in one breath with “loser”. What’s even greater was that Van convinced him that he has it in him, that he’s totally capable! Van promised that Trung can see and feel for himself his own power when people tremble before his sight. An impossible notion! But then a gun is itself an impossible thing. Or used to. He can feel its metal against his back, already warmed up to his body.

He and Van parked near the tall pristine fortress; Vietcom Bank, white against the morning sky. Trung looked up at the building and took a deep breath. He trusts Van. A man that free, that powerful, that cunning must know what he talks about, right? How else could he have escaped the law successfully so many times already?

The building stood quiet, blissfully unaware of the storm Trung and Van are about to stir. Still looking up, Trung felt like grinning. And he did. Van was right; he could feel the power coursing through his veins, twitching his fingers. Today, he will rise with a bang. Today will be the day no one will look upon him without respect again. Today he will know the sky, and he will never have to look down ever again. Today he will know God. And become one.

Continue reading “Dignity”