I should have been disappointed with my trip to Atlanta. Instead of sightseeing, I was stuck listening to my parents meet with old schoolmates they hadn’t seen for over thirty years.
One story stuck in my head. My parents’ friends had stayed in Vietnam for quite a while–it was profitable for them and they didn’t want to go to another country, to learn another language, to start up from scratch–until 1978. Yes, it was the year of the Vietnamese boat people.
They paid $200 to escape south Vietnam in a small boat crammed with refugees. They sat hip to hip, unable to get up or move, and were given gruel for sustenance. They lived in fear of the pirates who would board the boats to take the pretty girls into slavery and prostitution. They sat for days in their own refuse resulting in festering sores and death. Some people went overboard into the sea.
Halfway to the rendezvous point with a larger vessel, the passengers aboveboard saw something out in the sea. A pale woman with long curling white hair stood above the waves beckoning the men to come to her. He (my parents’ friend) heard her whispering, cajoling. Frightened, believing it was the ghost of a dead woman who had drowned in a previous boat crossing, he cowered on the deck while he watched other men leap over the railing to their deaths.
Was this really a ghost or the result of mass hallucination? His wife accused me of not believing although I said nothing to contradict her. I’m sure something must of happened to make normally sane men drown, just not the appearance of a siren ghost.