By Kev Minh Allen
As I reached the age of 40 last December, driving through northeast Oregon and California on my way to Reno, Nevada, I was so tempted to stop the car on the side of the highway, get out and walk toward the steel-cold purplish-orange horizon. Dusk was settling in, darkness was prevailing and no other cars were on the winding road except for mine. The moon was a thin crescent sitting in a black void. I was headed south, just entering California. Now and again I would look out the window and just see blank, black land stretching for miles on end. Such seeming emptiness beckoned to me to stop everything I was doing and head toward the freezing, silent oblivion because I was seeking solace, I was seeking relief, I was seeking a way out and a way in.
I was born either face-up or face-down, either screaming until I was red in the face or holding in all my breath until I was blue in the face. Either my mother was given the chance to hold me within the first few minutes of my birth and look upon my face or I was given over to someone else’s outstretched arms and placed in a room crammed with other bawling newborns to stare at a ceiling fan blurring the air as it rotated. Either my father was there in the room to count my toes and fingers or he was a ghost just like my mother. I couldn’t tell you because I just don’t know. Or perhaps I would know the whole story if someone who witnessed my entrance into the world could get word to me. But, I’ve been told before that that is asking for far too much.
Why had I been alone at such a momentous stage in my life and driving so far away from where I lived, far away from the familiar and the usual? Why did I want no friends or family around me on the supposed day of my birth so they could see me, revel with me and celebrate my sometimes quick, sometimes slow accumulation of 40 years on this planet? No easy answers ever came to mind. All I could come up with is that, in order to properly commemorate my 40th year of life, I had to be alone, had to be on my own.
Most likely, my parents are dead, and that is the Unknown that I still cling to, still believe in, because I fear that the Truth will never ring true to me. Mind you, they are not dead to me. In the back of my mind I imagine them talking. Without any sort of mementos or photographs of them to go by, I pretend their conversations revolve around reliving the moment when they wished they had, or had not, met in Vietnam, kissed in Vietnam, made love in Vietnam and met their demise in Vietnam. My memories of my parents are fantasies, little tall tales I tell myself every time my reflection sees itself on the other side of the mirror. I can’t help but recognize myself, but I probably wouldn’t ever recognize either one of my parents, even if they passed by me on the same side of the street. When they left me, I left them. I disappeared into another land, another language, another family. Thigh-high snow drifts in the winter and raucous pool parties in the summer are what I grew up with; not wilting palm trees and morning alms to the shuffling monks on the sidewalk.
In an essay I wrote almost a decade ago, I ended it by writing, “I slipped into this world, and I will slip out of it.” It’s a clever thought, albeit a nihilistic one. I realize now that I can commune with anyone or anything around me, even if it’s within my own mind, whether I’m alone or not, and feel as though I have a purpose in this one life I’ve been given.
I am nothing. I am nothing but a man who drives 14 hours to a city in the dead of winter where no one knows him and no one ever will.
Kevin Minh Allen was born Nguyễn Đức Minh on December 5, 1973 near Sài Gòn, Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and American father who remain unknown to him. He was adopted by a couple from Rochester, NY and grew up in Webster, NY with his two younger sisters. In 2000, he moved to Seattle, WA to pursue a life less ordinary. He enjoys travel and photography when he’s not writing. Kevin has had his poetry published in numerous print and online publications, such as Eye To The Telescope, Meniscus Magazine, AsianAmericanPoetry.com, and Chrysanthemum. His first book of poetry My Proud Sacrifice was published in July 2014.