Anna-Leena Harkonen


Lim Eng 


Saigon Revisited

The concept of emotional intelligence emerged a few years ago. If I understand correctly, it refers to an intellectual instinct that has nothing to do with traditional intelligence tests.

Or is it just a nice way of saying that you have no traditional intelligence? I know that my thinking sometimes lacks all logic.

I WAS SITTING with a friend in a bar in Saigon, enjoying the panoramic view. The glittering city below us looked gorgeous. I was fascinated by the car lights on the highway, which looked like two yellow and two red strings of pearls, side by side.

“Isn’t it a wonderful coincidence that there are no yellow lights among the red lights, and vice versa?” I asked my friend. “That those strings of light are so perfectly harmonious?”

She gave me a long look.

“Are you really that stupid?” 

“How so?”

“It’s no coincidence! The cars are driving in different directions. The lights are their front and rear lights.”

THE MOST TRAGIC aspect of this story is that I would never have realized that if it hadn’t been explained to me. 

Being stripped of your illusions is even more tragic. It would have been so wonderful to witness a magical moment when the lights of cars are perfectly aligned in a constant stream of red and yellow, just for us.

WHEN I WAS back from Saigon, I noticed at an automatic teller machine that an insane number of withdrawals had been made from my bank account over a short time.

In a panic, I rushed to my nearest bank branch. I feared that someone had copied my card and was now using my money.

“How can I help you?” the teller asked.

“It looks like someone is using my account,” I whimpered. “A lot of withdrawals that I don’t recognize.”

“Let’s have a look.”

After a while, the teller turned the computer screen toward me.

“None of these seem familiar?”

They began to seem so. That someone using my money turned out to be me.

BRAIN GLITCHES increase with age. I have trouble remembering faces, even from a few days ago, which is embarrassing.

It’s also difficult to remember words. You know there is a word for what you are going to say, but it escapes you.

“Put these bread rolls into the metrowave oven, please,” I once told my son.

“Do you mean microwave?”

“Yes, I do,” I sighed with relief. “It’s so wonderful that you still understand me.”

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2023

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