Hills Like Green Iquanas (Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, 1971)

The hills near Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, a peninsula in the south, were luscious and full with moist towering green foliage, and it had its share of lizards, among them, the giant (six to seven foot) Iguanas: the green, and the three eyed type reptiles. On the more plateau area below those lofty scenic hills, by the South China Sea, there was lots of white sand, and nearly no trees for shade, for the American military support groups, during the 10,000-day Vietnam War, back in 1971. On top of a hill above the 611th Ordnance Company, was a cool shadow of a building, called the Enlisted Men’s Club, it belonged to the Air Force. The Vietnamese girl, with him (Lee Evens) sat at the bar; Lee drinking down fifteen cent can beers and the girl, sipping on a glass of Japanese rice wine. It was a very hot evening, and a song was playing with the words “…silver wings…”

“Should we have another drink?” asked the girl.
She leaned back in her chair, smiled at Corporal Lee Evens, hands on the table, the bartender, pouring the drink in a short fat thin wine glass.

“It’s mighty hot,” Lee said in a complaining tone.

“Put some ice in my wine,” the girls asked the bartender.

“Two cubes, will that do?” asked the bartender as if he was short of ice this evening.

“Yes, two will do.”

The girl drank a small portion of the wine, sucked on the ice cubes from the top of the glass as if to cool her tongue. She was looking out of the side window, into the far off hills, they were just outlines in the twilight, coal like shadows, but she knew how green and wet they often were.

“They look like the backs of green iguanas,” the man, heard her say, his mysterious date for the night.

“I’ve only seen the small ones, never the huge ones, have you?” asked the girl.

“I guess I have, I mean, yes I have seen a seven foot one once, with a back like it had a double spine, with spikes on the side of its face, and it was mighty aggressive, another one I saw once had three eyes.”

The man then drank down his beer, ordered a third round.

“I heard there are two kinds, it seems you’ve seen them both!” replied the girl.

“I suppose I have,” Lee said quietly, moving his glass back and forth on the bar counter.

The man noticed a sign over a small room, and a curtain of string beads covering the entrance, “What does the sign say, it’s in Vietnamese,” he asked her.

“For private use only,” she said.

“What exactly does that mean,” he asked her.

“It’s for a more personal use, you know, if a man and a woman want to drink in private instead of everyone looking at them, but they have to spend $10.00 minimum, to use it.”

“Should we try it?” he asked.

The girl looked at the curtain, then Lee, no one was in there she noticed, “No, I don’t think we need to yet, we’re just getting to know one another, right?”

“I guess so,” he replied in a tired voice.

“Want more Ice?” asked the bartender to the girl.

“I don’t know, I don’t think so,” she answered, adding, “although it’s refreshing with ice.”

“Fine,” said the bartender, “I’ll ask later, when the ice is completely melted.”

“It chills my tongue,” said the girl, and put the glass back onto the bar counter.

“Oh, stop talking so silly,” said Lee.

“Well, then what should we talk about?” asked the girl.

“Are you trying to amuse me, if so, stop it, and let’s try to have a fun instead, ok?” said Lee.

“Alright, I’ll try, I simple was commenting on the green hills and the reptiles that live in them, in lack of nothing else to say, I suppose it isn’t so witty, but then, what else can a girl say other than ice cubes and green hills?” She said slowly and calmly, as if on the edge of boredom.

“I want to try a new kind of beer,” said Lee, “put some tomato juice in it, I heard if you did, you could drink all night and never get drunk.”

“Is that all we are going to do is drink and get drunk?” asked the girl.

“Perhaps,” said Lee, “Why not?”

The girl looked strangely at him; the bartender looked across the bar also at Lee, with a bizarre look.

“They are really green hills this year,” she said. “They really don’t look like Iguanas. I just meant the deep green seems to be the same color of the lizards about here, their skin, like the leaves on the trees, and the tall grass, and the tall trees, you know we have one of the largest ecosystems (flora and fauna) here in Vietnam-in the world?”

“Do you want another drink?” asked Lee.

“I suppose so, why not.” Said the girl; for a moment proud of what she was saying, or trying to say, on behalf of her country (in a similar manner, she put her head down for a moment as if to settle some feelings, she knew the war was damaging what was once a plentiful ecosystem that provided not only chemicals for drugs, to better mankind worldwide, but everyday the war was going on, the damage greatest to their future way of life; at present, it was the eradication of many species of animals, insects and plants alike, and Vietnam and its people would feel it later on, especially if the South united with the North, and the population grew steadily, she was of course thinking thirty-years ahead of her time).

The cool breeze from the ceiling fan blew over their heads, and Lee wiped his brow with his sleeve.

“The beer is nice and cold here, not like in our Company Enlisted Men’s Club, it’s warm as a person’s body temperature,” commented Lee.

“How nice,” said the girl.

“No, really,” said Lee, “the beer is awful when it is warm like that, I mean it.”

The girl looked up as if she was trying to picture the rest of the evening with this soldier she had just met today, down at her village, whom she agreed to spend the afternoon, and evening with, provided he pay the bill, but that was all he was doing, paying the drinking bill.

“Do you mind, Mr. Bartender, if I open the door a bit, let in some fresh air, the fan isn’t doing the trick?” said Corporal Lee, with a slanted tone to his voice.

The bartender didn’t say a word, and Lee took that as a no.

“I’ll buy you a cold beer, Sergeant Henry,” said the girl to the bartender as if she knew him, “just let the air in for a few minutes, then we’ll close the door again, so the mosquitoes and flies stay out?”

“Go ahead,” said the bartender, as he wiped down the counter.

“What should we do Lee, after we leave the bar?”

“We’ll find out then, whatever you want to do I suppose.”

“What bothers you, I mean I want to make you happy if I can,” explained the girl.

The Girl looked at the private room with the beady curtain; put her hand out to touch his.

“You think if we hold hands, and then go into that private room we’ll both be happy?” asked the Corporal.

“Oh yes,” she said with confident certainty, “you don’t need to be afraid of me, lots of folks go in there, and they all come out eventually,” she started to laugh lightly.

“And I suppose you have in the past?” asked Lee, snotty like.

“Well,” said the girl, “if you don’t care to, that’s fine with me, we don’t have to go in there.”

“If you really want to we can,” responded Lee, with a lighter tone than he had in his previous dialogue.

“No it’s ok; it appears you really don’t want to,” said the girl.

“I do care for you,” said Lee.

“I know,” said the girl, but you get upset so easily, I mean if I talk about hills and green iguanas, you think it’s funny, but you have nothing else to say to me, I’m just trying to make conversation.”

“I get that way when I’m bored I think,” said Lee.

“Do you want to make love?” asked the girl.

“If I do, you want some kind of agreement, I mean payment, something financially with me, is that right?” asked Lee.

“It’s perfectly simple, yes!” said the girl directly and now almost coldly. “Then we can do it.”

“What do you mean, do it?” asked Lee.

“I don’t care where we do it, or all that much about me, I need the money, and I would like a boyfriend, my old one went to the States, and he paid me one third of his check to be his steady, but I care about you, and I did care about him.” She said without any emotion, her face blank as the evening sky.

“I’m not sure if I want to do it with you, if you feel that way, I mean it is a lot of money you are talking about, and what if your boyfriend comes back?”

“He will come back in three months, and then our affair is over, but I don’t want you to do it with you if you feel that way.”

The girl stood up and paced the length of the bar, looked out the window towards the hills, the dark shadowy green hills filled with water dragons, and iguanas, high trees, and foliage that reached to the edge of the hill, toward the white sands of Cam Ranh Bay.

“We could have lots of fun for three months,” added the girl to her now monologue, “I mean, it could start this very evening if you want it to.”

“No, I don’t think we can, I don’t want to spend all that money, and have someone who I have to pay to care for me. Only to dump me and care for someone else in the same manner when the time comes, I’m not that desperate for sex and a woman. Actually the desire to have you is gone, and I feel I don’t have to pretend anymore, and I don’t like lizards, or care for hills, we killed a seven foot lizard a few weeks ago-they have big fat eyes, and I don’t feel anything for the death of that ugly lizard or for our parting, of its ways. I don’t want you to do anything for me; you aren’t really good for me to be honest.”

“All right,” said the girl, “but you got to realize, you soldiers come and go, leave us girls with child and never look back, I’m no worse than the rest, surely no worse than you soldiers.”

She sat back down by the Corporal, and they both picked up their drinks, drank it down, and he ordered another round, looked at her, and she at him.

“I’m perfectly willing to buy you drinks for your conversational time, and I’m sure it will be our last date, but I think I like you better as a friend than I would as a lover.”

“It means a lot to me that we can get along,” said the girl, “and it is all right for you to say what you said, would you please not talk bad about me to your friends, I’m sure I’ll see you around?” asked the girl.

“I don’t care about anything you’ve done,” said Lee, then came that song again …silver wings, “Hush!” he said, listening to the words closely.

He picked up his hat, and her hand, walked outside of the bar, still listening to the song, looking at the dark sky, unafraid he might give the wrong impression, “How do you feel?” he asked the girl.

“I feel great,” she said, “there’s not a thing the matter with me, it’s a beautiful night, with a nice friend, what more can one ask for!”

And they walked along the sandy white beach, down to the village he had picked her up at, gave her $3.00-dollars to give the Cowboys, a gang of kids in the village that would stop her before she got to her hut, where she and her mother lived, she’d pay the gang not to beat her up, or rape her, they knew she was with an American they always knew which girls went out with American Soldiers, and the Americans had dollars, and $ 3.00-dollars was the price for safety.

Written 3:00 AM, 12-31-2008 (Lima, Peru)