Observations of Nước Hoa

By J Gavin Allan

As a little girl, the waters of the Xepon, or as Westerners spell it, Sepon, would frequently greet my skin. The clear surface gave my wide eyes murals of spawning fish and frightening looking catfish cleaning the bottom.

Every morning the women would take the children for bathing. It was time for cleaning and inspection of tiny bodies treated harshly by the jungle. Even my mother, strict and unbending, saw it as a time to relax in the nude, witnessing the frolicking of her children. Watchful of the calm, but deep waterway, she still could carry on a gossip filled conversation.

Dusk would bring my Aunt Mai, the matriarch of our family, and her grown daughter to wash clothes and give me the opportunity to hold my infant cousin. My feet with a slow and deliberate walk would enter the water up to my knees. Using the excuse of controlling his fussiness, I would advance further, to rub the handfuls on his bottom. It would bring smiles and an occasional giggle from the baby, and the two pretending to be serious women. My aunt expressed that I was born to be a mother. A statement that brought joy to my young heart.

Water was so much a part of our innocent life. My name means water flower.

Fetching the clear liquid in wooden pales built by my grandfather years before my mother was born, I would pretend to be hurrying to my own one room home.

The burden for an eleven year-old girl was balanced by my imagination that I carried a baby nestled in a sling to my front.

Along Route 9, so many new and pretty homes have been built. I knew when I married one would be mine. The waters of the Xepon would be our baptismal oil, as my new family would continue the unsoiled tradition.

Nudity was part of life. The wind, rain and thunder that so frightened even the men, did not change it. Our little hamlet was safe haven to the children and women who unashamed strolled in certain areas for comfort and solace. The heat made it necessary even in the darkest and harshest of storms. Though I cried when the gods would bellow from dissatisfaction with those of other villages, I knew we were all safe. It was the more developed and at times scandalous villagers located in the cities where people rode gas belching two wheeled bicycles and big metal four wheeled monsters.

Those people were located so far from the graceful ripples of the Xepon and its luscious all-cleansing water. No wonder nudity was ridiculed and debased. How could anyone think as a city dweller?

The loss of innocence for my village and myself was born as twins.

Walking one day, proud of the tiny accumulated fat circling my miniscule nipples, the engineer from the city saw me. He made not a sound or expression. But his eyes told me to cover-up.

12 Responses to Observations of Nước Hoa

  1. Bodhirose says:

    I immediately was reminded of my childhood where we girls would run around in the summer months with no shirts on and it felt so free and easy playing in our little, plastic pool that we filled with cool water to splash in. But there came a time when somehow we just knew that it was time to “cover up”. Or maybe the feeling came from outside of ourselves like that engineer giving that silent look. It made me wonder.

    I love this story of feeling safe and at ease with being nude. It’s very accepted in many cultures.–very natural. I wish our culture was more at ease with our bodies.

    The ending was very powerful. A real switch could be felt from pride of your body to shame which came in the instant of a glance.

    Well done, Jaye. It feels honest and real to me.
    Gayle xoxo

    • jgavinallan says:

      Your observations are so profound and real. Thank you for understanding the meaning of the piece.
      I hope others appreciate your masterful work in poetry. A genre that leaves me in awe. As does your work.


      • Bodhirose says:

        Hi Jaye, I’m glad I understood your meaning. Writings (especially poetry) can sometimes be difficult to “get” exactly what the writer was meaning or trying to say. Sometimes I’m really stumped!

        I sure appreciate your kind words for my talent–but I’m not sure about “masterful”! I’m just learning–there’s so much I don’t know.

        Thanks for being you!

        Gayle xoxo

  2. Adina says:

    This has got to be the most beautiful story I have read in a long time. The descriptions and the loss of innocence once in a modern society are absolutely stunning!
    Excellent work, I am so happy to have read it .

    • jgavinallan says:


      Thank you so very much. The feedback from the comments on my work and the good wishes have really helped. I have fewer and fewer days of questioning my own talents.

      Thank you—The Xepon is a beautiful River. It has never changed in thousands of years. No matter how much blood or discharged gasoline have tried to ravage this perfect section of heaven

      love Jaye

  3. Pingback: Winner, ‘Water’ Challenge, and more… | Waxings

  4. Bodhirose says:

    Woohoo! Congratulations my friend for your well-deserved win! So happy for you, Jaye!

    Love and hugs,
    Gayle xoxo

  5. Jade says:

    This is such a great short story! It took a little while for me to get into it, but a few paragraphs in, I was really hooked! The innocence that you wrote of throughout, the little hints of sadness that hid between the words, and your ending! I can see why this story won, you did great, Jaye!

    • jgavinallan says:

      Thank you—I love this story…and love the area where it takes place.
      I left a reply to your other comment…you picked a great day to fill me with hope for success.
      Thank you—wode te be de peng you…zai jian

      • Jade says:

        Yes, I saw your other comment, I replied back to you ^^ and aw…I’m glad I could help…you have a talent, Jaye, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I also can’t seem to figure out what you meant by your chinese here either lol. What kind of friend are you trying to describe me as o.o? “te be de”? Zai Jian ^^

  6. jgavinallan says:

    Mandarin was learned when I lived in bei jing…so it is flavored with two other languages…lol
    I meant to say…”My special friend”…your comments picked me up..jin tian(today)…one problem I have is mixing grammar rules with my other two languages—that is why I am confused most of the day…lol

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