I liked Lan. She was cool. We chatted for half an hour then established a tryst for the next morning.
I was shattered so, soon after saying ‘Hen gap lie (see you again)’, I grabbed a snack then headed excitedly up to bed for a big morning tomorrow.
The plan had been to meet at 8 o’clock that next morning where Lan was going to give me a guided tour of an area of Ho Chi Minh City that she didn’t expect I would see on my own; also given that she had been able to promptly locate my Facebook page on her phone, with assistance from the Yen Trang PC, we now had some basis for communication.
I had gone to bed around 7 p.m. the previous day; I was up shortly after 6 a.m. that next day. I quickly showered and shaved, put on some fresh clothes, then headed down for a big Western breakfast. I shot down the hotel stairs just after 7 a.m. and, aware that Loan and her husband opened the café at around 7 o’clock each morning, I excitedly conveyed my order, filling her in on my plans for that morning. I then ducked back into the hotel lobby deciding I’d best check for any new Facebook messages, just in case there had been alterations to Lan’s and my scheduled rendezvous.
This was going to be great; every other prospective woman in Vietnam had ditched me but Lan was awesome – we were going to have a great morning…
The first thing I saw when I opened my Facebook inbox:
I won’t come
…My heart sank lower than I can even describe. I glanced above that message, looking for explanation. There was none. I typed a message, requesting a reason for such an abrupt turnaround.
She’d blocked my page.
I couldn’t work it out; what had happened? How did she go from being so happy and cheerful, so ostensibly excited about our impending meeting, to blocking me from further communication? I felt like crying with exasperation. What was I doing – what was I doing wrong?
I went downstairs and ate my breakfast. I thanked Loan for the wonderful meal and took to the streets. As always Bui Vien was markedly different in the morning; I barely noticed the group of street-youth who eyed me menacingly as I went by.
I cut through my perpendicular avenue and, avoiding puddles in the potholes, started along the back-way home. I walked past the seedy bar where Noobie and I had played pool the morning after our first night together at Crazy Girls; I saw in the distance the street-food restaurant where Noobie and I had shared breakfast, before playing pool at a seedy bar, after our first night together at Crazy Girls. I heard a motorbike behind me; unable to use the footpath for the clutter of trailers stacked with produce, I walked as closely to the curb’s edge as I could manage.
A motorbike rushed by closely, spraying muddy water onto my lower legs. I tried to step onto the footpath but there was still too much junk in the way. Another motorbike raced past; there were no puddles at this point in the road – this rider struck me in the arm as he passed. Another bike; a resounding thump this time between my shoulder-blades. That one was hard; took my breath away. I looked up and saw the pillion had removed his helmet and was using it as a bludgeon. I could hear no more engines behind me and, ironically, there was finally now room to walk on the footpath. I stepped up the 200 millimetres onto the sidewalk and continued walking; I wasn’t surprised, I wasn’t annoyed, I wasn’t perturbed, and I certainly wasn’t worried.
I had been warned it had been brewing, I just hadn’t cared; ‘Let the piss-ants have a go’, had been my thinking, ‘let’s see how far they get this time.’
As I watched three motorbikes turn and come back, one with a passenger, the only action I took was to perform a habitual swipe of my back-right pocket.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Vee T Numb
Photography by Toff Guise