Hoi An is a town of lanterns. During the full moon festival, tiny old ladies and a few children, some dressed in santa costumes, hold trays of paper lanterns, red and green and blue and yellow, candles lit.
You buy one for 20,000 dong and carry it carefully to the edge of the river, avoiding the boatman offering you a ride, eluding the other ladies trying to get you to buy a lantern, apparently oblivious to the one you have in your hand. You thread around the other walkers.
There is a floating edge to the darkness in Hoi An, streets in the old town lit by colourful lanterns strung along every restaurant, every shop. The streets are narrow and full but the noise is soft, no loud music, no motorbikes or cars. The basso thrum of the motorbikes sifts from the edges of the old town.
You lean down and place the lantern in the river, making a wish. Your lantern is red, and you watch it float out around the man’s little boat, tangled for a moment around the prow. The little fold of red paper, lit with a sturdy candle, holds an invocation, a breath to decide what to leave behind, what to bring into the next future. Every moment is fresh. Pema stays with me. I invoke the qualities I am practicing hard to cultivate. I watch my little boat shift gently, then blink. There are three or four or six, and I don’t know which one is mine. My eyes blur for a moment and all of those invocations are mine.
I weave through the surges of people, find my bicycle where it’s been moved to. I know mine in the shuffle of hotel-loaned bikes because i brought my own little blue cable lock. You lock them just so you know which one is yours, so no one accidentally rides it away. They pile up and fill the streets and the vendors, the restaurant owners, consolidate them and move them. You always find yours. I ride to my homestay and sleep in white sheets.