Monday, May 28, 2007

The Grapefruits of Wrath

Actually, there is nothing wrathful about this story, nor is it macabre in any way. I just wanted to reference John Steinbeck, whom in my humble opinion was the greatest 20th century American author. However, it is grapefruit related so the title is relevant.

It’s strange that I never appreciated grapefruits when I was in the States. I always found it too sour and bitter for my preference. My first memory of someone actually enjoying it was on a February night in Berkeley two years ago. Though I greatly enjoyed her company, I could not convince myself to consume even a slice.

Since I’ve been in Vietnam, my aunts have been serving me tons (or at least several dozen kilo’s) of it during our lunch meals. Like everything else, including bitter melon which I have despised since birth, I began to develop an appreciation and somewhat affection towards it. Now I must have at least two grapefruits a day. If not, I feel a deep sense of forlorn as if I’m missing an essential lover from my nutritious diet. Perhaps the grapefruits in Vietnam taste better due to tropical climate, but I would like to believe that they’re more glutinous because they have been peeled by my aunts’ sweet hands.

Anyways, after waiting nearly 1 ½ hours at the immigration office to attain a visa extension form this afternoon, and experiencing the slothness of the Vietnamese bureaucratic government, I had a great experience riding home on my bike. After I finished pushing and shoving through a wild impatient herd of people at the office, I realized the light rain shower that had developed half hour before I had stepped into the immigration office, had now evolved into a full tropical thunderstorm. Not to be disappointed, I took off my shoes and my socks, shoved them into my backpack, along with my prized visa application. I retrieved a paper sheet thin neon yellow raincoat that I had bought for 20 cents in Hue, and quickly pulled it over myself in readiness to brace the storm. When I arrived at the parking lot to retrieve my bicycle, I discovered all the guards were absent, I suspected that they were all possibly hiding from the storm. So I climbed on, pedaled bare footed on my rusty piece of shit bike, clad in my hole-ridden 20 cents piece of shit paper thin neon yellow raincoat, and raced away avoiding to pay for my ticket, while hearing angry shouts from guards behind me demanding me to pay for my fare! But in my defense, I couldn’t hear them clearly because the thunder was much too loud. I swear.

Into the storm I pedaled dodging 6 inch puddles, slippery cars, and wobbly moped drivers while weaving through a maze of Saigon traffic. When I was nearly a third of the way home, I saw a man fell over in a puddle of brown sewer water with clear white plastic bags and fresh lime green colored grapefruits strewn everywhere surrounding him. Without a moment of thought, I ran to him, tossed my bicycle and began gathering his grapefruits from the street, in 6 inch puddles of water, barefooted, completely careless of the bacteria that were consuming my beautiful feet. Immediately, two other college students also came to his aid. I think college students have this strange way of congregating whenever there is trouble because they have an innate desire to save people. Maybe it is the super hero TV pop cult culture that influenced this, or maybe it’s the idealism of youth, because there were tons of older people racing by on their fancy motor bikes, and they didn’t give a shit. So I thought, if Batman saw this man in such a messy wreck, he would have done something for sure.

So there we were, the four of us, slosh sloshing in puddles of sewer water trying to retrieve the man’s wily drifting grapefruits that were flowing dangerously into incoming traffic. But the unhesitant storm continued to pour heavier, and thunder roared louder in the background with sharp shards of water slicing our backs while we were urgently gathering grapefruits, shoving them into his bags, and quickly tying them onto his dilapidated iron red moped. Yes. Did I fail to mention he was riding a moped? People in Vietnam carry all sorts of shit on their mopeds, and this incident was no different. I counted that he was carrying seven large bags, with at least twenty grapefruits in each bag, so there were at least 140 grapefruits tied to his vehicle! Crazy.

So thirty minutes later, we managed to tie everything together, helped him start his bike with him cuddled between one massive bag at his frontal groin area, and another perched on top of the previous, situated between his chest and the handle bar, barely enough for his eyes to periscope through the top of his bag. He didn’t say much the entire time, but neither did we. when he started to ride away, he glanced at us and said “chu cam on cac con nhieu”, which means: uncle thank you children very much or thank you very much. Those little words meant everything.

So when I finally pedaled away on my rusty piece of shit bike, clad in my hole-ridden 20 cents piece of shit paper thin neon yellow raincoat, I had the biggest grin on my face and impervious to the thunderstorm, and Saigon’s weaving traffic madness. But I only did it because I enjoy grapefruit so much.

1 comment:

Diana said...

Stuff like this just warms my heart. Go figure. It's you. I wouldn't expect any less.