Freedom Ain't Free[dom]

23 Aug 2009

"You've been to Vietnam?"

Oh, shit. He does look about the right age, the right build. But really? What are the chances?

"Yes."

They try to be friendly, get you chatting. Don't chat. This is America, the most dangerous border crossing you've done since since Hat Lek into Cambodia. Concentrate. Remember that they're treating you like a criminal; electronic fingerprinting is no less humiliating than the ink-stained version.

"Did you go to the DMZ?"

Suddenly I can't remember. Is hesitation suspicious? Is lack of hesitation suspicious? Is wondering if you're suspicious, suspicious?

"No; we went up the coast."

He continues. "I was in Vietnam, in the DMZ. I went to a place called Loc Ninh".

The name isn't familiar - damn it, when I did Modern European History in 1995 I never thought it'd save my ass one day. But I can tell from his sardonic smile. I play dumb, naive. I am not getting drawn into politics. Never talk politics when there's an odd number of guns.

"Really? What was it like?" I'm all genuine, innocent curiosity.

He delivers the punchline, just as enthusiastic, but with a nasty edge to it.

"It was fun!"

He holds out a beefy hand, tilted so that I can see the gold ring inscribed with "Vietnam 1972". I finally give him a tight smile to show that I understand.

But I don't.

Not really.