Bình had always made a point of reminding everyone how important he once was. Every time he left the house, he put on a business shirt, tucked it into his pants, carefully combed his hair, and sprayed some of his old perfume around his neck, which smelled of success and nostalgia. When he spoke, he liked to mention his time as a cadre, his talent on stage, his former beauty, and his popularity with women. Everyone remembered. And everyone knew how he had lost it all.
When he stood on his little boat and cast his nets, he sang songs about his glorious past. Songs he had sung at the club. Everyone from Hà Nam had come to see him then. They all raved about his warm, clear voice, his charm and his attractiveness. They were all proud that he was one of them. I was also proud when he took me with him and told everyone that I was the daughter of his best friend.
Then came the night his world fell apart. He must have known that what he was doing was illegal, but Bình was one of those people who lived life to the fullest, trusting that the universe would always give him an extra dose of happiness. But he was wrong. In Hà Nam, there was a saying for repeat offenders: "Đi đêm lắm có ngày gặp ma" - If you go out at night too often, one day you will meet ghosts. That night, Bình was not haunted by ghosts, but by the police. He claimed that someone must have set him up, but it wouldn't have made any difference. He was immediately dismissed from his post and as a Party member. His wife did not speak to him for weeks because he had not only damaged his career but also jeopardized the future of his children. There was a conviction that the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
It used to be that people would come to him wherever he was. They listened to him, whether he was singing or speaking. People were happy to be in his company. Today, people not only avoid him, they laugh at him. When he came to karaoke in the evening, people left because his singing didn't sound good when he was drunk. People were tired of his talk: that the police were corrupt and that he would expose them.
He never said if he regretted that illegal game night. What he did say was that he thought the punishment was unfair. After all, he had children. After all, he hadn't committed a crime that harmed other people. After all, like everyone else, he wanted to forget from time to time that he had to be a role model and have a little fun. After all, it had only been a bit of fun. But since money was involved, it was all taken away from him.
He never said if he ever wanted to play a card game again. But everyone knew that he could no longer play for money. After all, he no longer had any.