This were rapidly fizzing away between me and W4. I knew this and I had to make a drastic decision. When she told me that she was taking the night off from work to visit her relatives in District 9 and then waiting for her sister to come pick her up after her sister gets off of work I decided the only logical thing to do was to hop on a xe om from District 7 to District 9, about 30 minutes away without the use of the Thu Thiem Tunnel because it was already 9:30 at night. With only four hours of sleep the previous night and after a long day that culminated with two hours of frying my brain over TOEFL I went home and got dressed before heading out. This sudden decision of coming out to pick her up stemmed from my vivid imagination. I thought she was off by herself in ghetto Thu Duc all alone waiting for her sister. When I got there things were dramatically different.
The xe om driver had a difficult time finding the college that she wanted to meet up at. Her directions weren't very clear at first. And as I got to the Thu Duc Intersection I received a text providing for more information. Eventually I made it there after a bumpy and dangerous ride over the Phu My Bridge. This was where a girl got her arm chopped off as men wanted to steal her expensive bike. The road is a mess and people share it with semi trucks. A motorbike vs. a semi truck always ends up the same way. Notions of risking my life did cross my mind as we passed numerous couples sitting on their bikes staring off towards Cat Lai or District 1 from the Phu My Bridge. The city lights truly are beautiful. When I got there she had a cousin with her and introductions were awkward. Things were awkward. I didn't know what was going on as I followed her somewhere.
I thought I would pick her up and we would go back into town and have dinner. But then she sat me down at some roadside oc joint and told me to say hello to her aunt and uncle. Thu Duc is known as a college area so the majority of the customers were students. This was the first time that I had been so deep into this area and it was rather interesting. The streets were ride. The housing was exactingly ghetto and young people flooded the area. I blended right in. Students are not known for having money and this reflected in the environment that they were in. Though, it did feel rather charming to know that I was surrounded by such intellectuals. I do admit at times it was hard to distinguish between the street thugs and the scholars because there were plenty of riced out bikes and small dicks flying around. Plenty of girls in packs walking about like gangs and plenty of drinking all around for a Tuesday night.
I sat down at a table and I didn't even know how to greet her relatives. She sat down beside me and introduced me as her cousin's friend. She came over and apologized and told me that her mother would kill her if she found out that she was hanging out with a boy. I felt rather awkward as her aunt asked me if I went to school nearby and I just nodded. I didn't understand half of what her relatives were saying because their accent was deep northern and they definitely weren't slowing down for my fob face. I wondered what I was doing here as W4 acted as waitress, cashier, sweeper, and occasional line cook to help her aunt out. Her aunt and uncle live in Binh Chanh rural district and set up shop in Thu Duc, which is more than two hours away. That's right, they commute on a daily basis just to sell some shell fish. It's mind boggling to me. I sat there awkwardly and made sure I didn't order anything because I didn't want to be faced with potentially having to accept their food for free. I was a guest and guests are usually treated well here. I was starving though, but I had to keep my pride. Damn, I'm turning into a Vietnamese.
For whatever reasons, W4's sister decided to show up, which made my being there all the more irrelevant. It was already around 10:30 and she showed up and started eating on various oc dishes. When customers died down I was invited over near the cooking area where it was then revealed that I was from America. Luckily they forgot that I was the cousin's friend because the cousin left along time prior. They also didn't ask me how I knew their niece. They were very courteous and offered me some balut eggs that I couldn't resist. The sister and W4 munched on some chicken feet and yes it was a major turn off. In fact, I couldn't stand to see her working there. It frustrated me to see how the female patrons and male customers treated her or how they would glare at her. I felt a certain tug in my heart when I saw her sweeping trash up with a tiny dust pan. It just wasn't right, not when she was wearing heels.
The rest of the time was actually pleasant. Her uncle is quite some character. Having been an avid supporter of Ho Chi Minh during his youth, he had many stories to tell. I wasn't sure if he was drunk or not and half of the time his accent was impossible to understand. He showed me a knife that he carried in his belly and he offered me a drink and a smoke. I refused and pleaded with him to understand that I wasn't trying to be rude, but I just didn't drink. I could feel W4 was uneasy about her uncle conversing with me. At times she said she was very embarrassed because he started giving me massages and even dragged me across the street into the bushes when I inquired about a bathroom. His sense of humor is controlled. He knew when to be serious and when to be funny. I definitely respected his friendly style and his wits. His laid back personality, his inviting ways, and his rambles helped ease the tensions I previously had when the truth was yet to be revealed.
Things did start going downhill when the sister came. She would prepare her own shell fish and eat away. Her sister would help out while she feasted away. She asked me again when I was planning to go back home and I told her like all the other times that she asked me I didn't know yet. Conversations with her would go nowhere. She reminded me of all the other Vietnamese girls that I resented. I would ask her a question and she would have no opinion or say that it was normal or the same. Then she flat out asked me how much money I made per month. This angered me. I know it shouldn't. I know I shouldn't care about it. I know it's the culture here, but to me it's the wrong thing. W4 has yet to ask me and people who have manners simply don't. So you can't blame it entirely on a cultural thing either. My reply was simply that I make enough to get by and there's a little extra if I am careful with spending. I didn't like how she was sizing me up. At least if she was trying to screen me for her sister, at least she could have done it a lot better. She even said that I was short. She said I was like a girl because I didn't drink or smoke. She said people who like pink were gay. Her mannerisms and her delivery infuriated me. I was so annoyed.
Then it was time to go home. So we bid the couple goodbye as I applauded their efforts so deep into the night. I have plates that haven't been washed for a week in my sink and here they were with mounds of dishes and plates that needed washing into the morning. W4 and I cabbed it because her sister didn't bring a helmet. We got back to her place and then the three of us went for a late night dinner. By this time it was already about 1 AM and few quality places were open. A lot of the drinking open air places still conducted business, but I wasn't fond of them. I knew a place on De Tham opposite the Backpackers area towards Vo Van Kiet that served late night goods for affordable prices. When we pulled in, the sister seemed to be mildly disappointed. I could sense that she was expecting a fancier place. This place was smelly and disgusting. The food was good and it was the only thing I knew though. But I knew the sister wasn't too keen. She looked at the menu and asked for something I never heard of and they didn't have it. So she ordered two items and I ordered a crispy fried noodle dish. The meal was pretty decent and the conversations only further infuriated me. She would ask me things like whether or not I could dance and then not follow up on them. There was a time when she turned over to her sister and whispered something like how I was "kho chieu" or I was being difficult to her. When I confronted her about what she had just said she flat out deny saying anything. I was pretty upset and I think W4 knew it.
When it was time to leave we walked towards a cab passing by some fruit carts. I wanted to keep walking. I didn't want to have to pay for anything so I stood far away from them. W4 didn't want anything. The sister was persistent about buying some sour sop. She even asked me if I wanted any and I shook my head. I wasn't going to fall for that one. She also picked up some durian and you all know that I absolutely detest the stench of the devil. The brief cab ride back to their home was miserable. I couldn't breath and I wanted to sit next to W4, but because the sister was so uncivil she thought I opened the front door for myself while I was doing it for her. I think she made a comment stating that I was trying to always hog opening the door or something. I really wonder how her boyfriend could stand her. I would never ever go out on a double date. I would end up having to pay and never again will I dine or spend time with her. Her sister probably thinks I'm a cheapskate and I'm fine with that. But I have no respect for her, especially how she didn't even bother to thank me for the meal.
I can already see the potential conflict that this could cause. W4 is very close to her sister. They only have each other in this big city. I will do my best to never have to think about her sister again, but this will be impossible. So at the end of the night I stood next to her in the brief moment that we had alone together and told her that sometimes the most cherished memories aren't planned. Tonight wasn't planned and it was very special to me. She expressed concern over whether or not I was bored earlier and I affirmed that I am never bored in Vietnam. She told me to text her when I got back home safely. I said I might just take a xe om for kicks. She pleaded with me not to because it was dangerous. I smiled. W4 is starting to show some more investment in what we have here as I start to slip away. I think I'm done though. It's not worth it to me anymore. She's rather traditional and her family baggage might just already be too much for me. But at the same time she is so different than typical girls like her sister. I respect that so much. She has the ability to be physically affectionate. I've seen this with her aunt. I'm envious of just how close she is with her aunt and uncle. Plus, I care about her feelings deeply and she's starting to really be more aware of how I feel, but I don't want the drama. The magic has faded. I think I'm going to move on. Before she left she thanked me again and I said, it's not a big deal, anh thuong em ma... and she just walked away. Here's to hoping that she had a secret smile I wasn't able to see. I'll be sure to see plenty of smiles in the next few days.
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