"Bí mật," she answered with an embarassed smile.

"What's bee-mut?" he asked.

"Secret," Terry said, making a skidding noise as he raked a sneaker along the dirt.

"Secret," she repeated, still smiling and rapidly shifting her weight from one foot to the other. It looked like she was trying to stay warm.

"Oh," he said. He turned his back to their semi-circle and flipped a sausage with the long pair of chopsticks they'd given him to cook the hotdogs. He had never cooked hotdogs in a skillet before, but he was American so the group of mostly Commonwealthers figured he would know how to do it best. He humored them.

But even if there was a boyfriend she didn't want to talk about, she didn't date foreingners. So how had it happened then?

The woman in the blue uniform and paddy hat opened the padlock and slid the barred door open. He was instantly overwhelmed by the smell. He thought he might even become sick. The woman with the paddy hat lingered outside, but she stepped right in, minding her step around the puddles on the floor. She picked up a blind boy, Duc. She kissed him and rubbed his back. He began to sing. She turned around and saw him looking at her. She smiled.

That was all it had taken.

"Bí mật," he repeated to himself. He stood on his balcony and looked out at the lake Sáng Bóng. The lake stretched for a long way. Long narrow swaths of land, dense with foliage cut into the lake like stripes. There was one canoe on the lake that he could see. There were probably more but the fog hid them. A man in brown corduroys and a blue jacket strolled down the road behind several of the brown oxen they called buffalos here. Motorbikes whizzed by. And the occasional truck full of pigs. There were many pigs today for some reason. He sipped a Bia Hà Nội. It was too light for his taste but it was refreshing.

He had wanted to try to learn Vietnamese to impress her, but he saw how silly that was now. He would probably not see her again. And if he ever did a lot would have changed.

The herd of oxen stopped now. They gaily flipped their tails around. They were happy to stop, and they seemd to enjoy the view of the lake Sáng Bóng. They chewed grass merrily. The man in the blue jacket squatted down onto his haunches and turned his back to the man's balcony. He watched them and wrote.