Eleven-year pursuit rekindles old flame

By Hai Hien   May 19, 2023 | 05:14 am PT
Back in his school years, Hai's heart fluttered whenever Nhu Y walked by. Little did he know that after more than a decade, she would become his wife.

HCMC resident Nguyen Thanh Hai, 36, said his love for Nhu Y in high school was "one-sided love."

The two of them were in the same grade, only a few classrooms away from each other. "Nhu Y didn't know that I liked her," Hai said. "If she did, she would have avoided me."

Nguyen Dinh Nhu Y and Nguyen Thanh Hai on a trip to Da Lat in 2020. Photo courtesy of Y and Hai

Nguyen Dinh Nhu Y and Nguyen Thanh Hai on a trip to Da Lat in 2020. Photo courtesy of Y and Hai

Some classmates also had crushes on Y, and a few even went so far as to send her love letters.

Nhu Y was so embarrassed by the expressions of affection that she stopped walking by Hai’s classroom altogether, instead taking the long way around the school.

Hoping he’d still be able to meet Nhu Y one day if he played his cards right, 18-year-old Hai decided silence was the best solution and kept his feelings to himself.

Knowing that Nhu Y likes to read the manga Detective Conan Hai would skip breakfast and use the money to buy new issues that he gave her to read.

He was eventually able to steal a bit of affection when he drew a portrait of the manga’s main character Shinichi for Nhu Y and she praised his talent.

"I couldn’t sleep for several nights after that compliment!" he said.

After graduating from high school, the pair soon lost touch. A few years later, Hai ran into Nhu Y while she worked in a bookstore. Feeling his heart stirred once again, Hai went home and hatched a plan for the two to meet again, but by the time he made it back to the bookstore.

Nhu Y had already quit the job and was nowhere to be found. Once again, the two had gone their separate ways.

Hai knew that Nhu Y lived somewhere on a busy street in District 11, but he didn’t know the address. For days he drove slowly up and down the street in the hope of seeing the woman he loved again, but it never happened. He tried to look for her at local clubs and online forums, but nothing ever came up.

New lives

Nhu Y had already married and moved to Hanoi. But after several years, the marriage collapsed so she and her two kids – a 7-year-old and a one-year-old – moved back to Saigon at the beginning of 2017. She didn’t want to bother her parents, so she rented her own home and started a new life.

To forget about the past, Nhu Y found joy by sharing pictures of her children on social media, this time using her real name instead of the nicknames she had used before.

And this allowed Hai to finally find her.

He tried to befriend her on social media, but Nhu Y didn’t reply. Remembering how she loved Detective Conan, Hai redrew the Shinichi portrait that he had given her more than a decade ago and set it as his profile picture. This caught Nhu Y’s attention and she eventually realized that Hai was the same young man she had once known.

Nhu Y wondered how he had found her after all that time, but once she accepted his request, the pair chatted non-stop for hours. Hai said he was glad to see that Y was still the "same dove-eyed girl with a bright smile."

Chatting with Hai made Y feel young and happy again. After a few weeks, she agreed to meet her old friend in person.

Nhu Y and Hai’s commemorative photo of their youngest child’s first birthday in 2020. Photo courtesy of Nhu Y and Hai

Nhu Y and Hai’s commemorative photo of their youngest child’s first birthday in 2020. Photo courtesy of Nhu Y and Hai

Love two times

As for Hai, on the day before they were scheduled to meet up, he stayed up all night writing a plan for the "date," intending to tell Nhu Y all of his feelings for her.

The woman was both surprised and happy once Hai had shared all his thoughts about loving her so much for so long from so far away.

But Nhu Y attributed Hai’s feelings to good memories and nostalgia, something akin to a mere crush or "puppy love" rather than "real love."

But Hai didn’t think of it that way. He said he always felt that his love for Nhu Y was a genuine thing.

"We had finally found each other again, so I wouldn’t want to miss this chance," Hai said, explaining his persistence at the time.

He kept inviting her to hangout, using excuses like needing help with work, or just wanting to be nostalgic about old times. Their meetings quickly became more frequent. After two months, Hai confessed his love again.

Nhu Y was warming to Hai’s feelings for her, but she decided to reject them, telling herself that Hai was taking pity on her. She advised him to look for another woman.

"If you don’t believe my love is real, then give me time so I can prove it to you," Hai told her.

At that time, Nhu Y was having trouble getting her son to and from his extra class because she was swamped with work. So Hai volunteered to help. Every day, he helped drive the boy to and from home and even helped cook and clean around Nhu Y’s house. Even though their homes were 20 km apart, Hai still stayed up late at Nhu Y’s home so he could teach and play with her two children.

Time on his side

One month, two months, and then half a year passed. Hai was still diligently taking care of the family. Nhu Y started to believe that Hai’s love for her was true, but she was still worried that a long-term commitment would be too much of a sacrifice for him. So she would often find excuses to pick fights, in the hope that Hai would get sick of her.

Nhu Y and Hai’s wedding in 2019.  Photo courtesy of Nhu Y and Hai

Nhu Y and Hai’s wedding in 2019. Photo courtesy of Nhu Y and Hai

But every time he was scolded for no reason, Hai would just sit still and wait till the anger has passed. Then he would tell Nhu Y: "No matter what happens, I won’t leave you."

He would then leave Nhu Y alone to let her anger cool. Knowing that he is a tenacious man, she would act cold and hard to get, and there were even days she would only speak a few words to him – but he was still silently beside her.

Then Nhu Y’s daughter began speaking when she was two years old. The first two words she ever uttered were "Papa Hai" instead of "Mommy."

The mother mother’s previously unshaken heart now began to melt upon hearing her daughter’s words. She knew that children can’t lie, and the man who was silently beside her knew it as well. After that day, Nhu Y accepted Hai’s feelings.

After contemplating for nights, Nhu Y finally said yes to Hai’s proposal.

"Never in my life have I ever felt this happy," Hai said. After that, he planned the entire marriage ceremony by himself, from location, menu, decoration, and wedding outfits for both bride and groom.

Their wedding finally happened in the middle of 2019 with all the rituals, instead of making it "a mere announcement" – something that is often advised for couples with brides who have been divorced.

Four years had passed, and the small family now welcomed a new baby girl. Nhu Y quit her job at the bank and, with her love for baking, opened up a small bakery. At times, when there are too many customers, she and her husband stay up late together completing all the work that needs to be done.

"As long as my wife is happy, I can do anything with her," Hai said.

go to top