My girlfriend had a photo shoot at 8:30 so I put her on the scooter and brought her there like a handler or a pimp might. You need your balls screwed on tight for a Hanoi commute. You rev and brake, millimeter by fucking millimeter over Jimmy Carter-era infrastructure as other bikes kamikaze across the grain of traffic. We hit checkpoints and cops with batons poach the weak ones out of the herd for a shakedown. Prop planes from the airport wobble overhead like they’re about to stall out and fall on you. Everyone hits the horn constantly, as if it’ll change something, and the whole damn thing makes your face hurt from holding a concerned squint for so long. I’m worried about everything. But the locals, this is their dance. They’re on Facebook while they drive. They are likely unimpressed by car chases in movies; they can all drive as well as the spies can.
We got there and of course the photographer was a guy. With the exception of Annie Leibovitz, every photographer in the world is just a dude trying to fuck models. He was European and very unfriendly; my existence annoyed him. They left the café to shoot. I ordered, then gagged on my eggs as a guy with long hair growing out of a cheek mole walked in. Mole hair is “lucky” in Vietnam. A truck of soldiers rolled up as my coffee came and kicked over the chairs outside the café. They’re the mob here. Pay them or you can’t use the sidewalk. The café girls hadn’t paid.
And what was I gonna do about it. I definitely wasn’t going to tell them off, do the white savior thing and stand up for justice. I still speak no Vietnamese. No idea about anything Vietnamese. President or prime minister: couldn’t tell you. Population: no idea but based on traffic it has to be at least 9 trillion. No idea about anything Vietnamese, and I will never assimilate. Too busy maintaining a shit blog and whining about my inevitable return to the workplace. My sarcastic excuse is that the locals would get annoyed if I appropriated their culture. That’s why no one likes Iggy Azalea.
The soldiers left. While I waited there for my girlfriend I was reading The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. It’s about people fleeing Communism. I can’t relate. I did the opposite and took up residence in this anarchist nation, in an apartment up a crooked rape alley. It can get a little too real at times and make you miss the bright, quiet snobbery of gentrification. That is, until you remember that a beer here costs fifty fucking cents. Then all manner of stress becomes worth it.