Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Two Horrified Faces of Nam

Tarn has been sick since Sunday...fever, nausea, etc. Today he ventures out to the morning market after K and I leave for school and mentions his sickness to Thuy and Tan. At noon, after the market closes, guess who is at the castle door. Thuy has brought rice soup, some eggs meant for boiling and some ginger for tea. She spoon feeds him the soup and later the tea. They watch fashion TV together for a while. Later she tells him what he has been eating is all wrong (fried rice, tortillas, rice and beans). She tells him he has at least two more days of illness and leaves the soup to speed his recovery.

I get all of this information from Tarn while he is laying on the couch in pain and I am laying on the carpet next to him in pain...two pathetic castle-members, both flat on our backs. Through my pounding pain, I am being reminded that men don't give up good details easily. "So what happened then?" and "Then what did she say/do?" I am both laughing and crying as I pursue the necessary questioning. pain: on the way home, we are in the usual traffic jam after Nam picks me up from the gym. It has just started to rain. We are either stopped or moving slowy when I receive a blow to my lower back. You know how both fast/slow motion these things always happen, but after the hit, Nam, the motorbike and I timber to the ground and in the same moment, Nam is trying to pull me up (quick as a parent's reaction should be, but perhaps not quite first-aid approved), twisting my back even more. "Stop!" I say, because my legs are still wrapped around the bike. I unwrap myself, but my back is hurt. I stay on the ground for a minute. Nam's face is filled with horror. I think I got hit by a handlebar, but I'm not exactly sure.

When Nam sees that I can stand, I learn a string of Vietnamese curse words as he tells the driver (whose young son is with him and who has stopped to make sure I'm OK) what an idiot he is. Somehow I climb back on the bike and I'm crying from shock. Our drive home is fifteen more minutes, and three times - about every five minutes - Nam pats my knee twice and asks me if I'm OK. I don't know how to answer. Maybe the worst part is that it happened, after becoming so comfortable with the chaos. When we get to the neighborhood, he pulls over to the pharmacy and points to my back. I can't imagine what I could buy there, so I tell him to just take me home. Our candle neighbor is outside and Nam reenacts the whole thing and she is horrified, too, stroking my arm and making cooing noises. Her son comes out and hands me a rose. "Happy Teacher Day!" he says. My kids have been asking me all day with little smiles..."Ms. Marjorie, do you think you will get any presents on Teacher Day tomorrow?" so I know it's a Vietnamese universal gesture. They love their teachers.

And that's when I come into the castle and see Tarn on the couch and lay on the floor and cry and laugh as Tarn pries himself up to venture out to buy me some prawn fried rice. "I'm in better shape than you are," he says.

My back has been on ice for two hours now, but I guess time will tell how bad it is.

This morning was weird, too, and in it was Nam's first horrified face of the day. I usually get out to the street between 7:05 and 7:15, and today I emerge out of the alley at exactly 7:07 and do my usual scan for Nam. But this time I see something extremely disturbing: a tall, blonde man is standing next to Nam's bike and he is putting on Nam's passenger helmet. Huh? I quicken my pace. Nam is facing away from me and he is getting on his bike, with TB about to take his (my) passenger position. I am too far away; I might not make it time. Finally, I run a little and yell, "Yo! Nam!" and Nam's face, filled with horror, turns (talk about a slow-motion moment) to see me. In one sweeping gesture - one very similar to the anti-first aid gesture almost twelve hours later - he practically pushes Tall Blonde off the bike and motions for his friend to drive him. I tell TB that Nam is my driver and that he probably thought I wasn't coming this morning. TB just looks confused over why he is being ejected from the bike.

I know what happened; Nam just wasn't sure how crazy the Americans really are...would they take another Typhoon Day off for no reason? I joke with Nam. "You were going to take him instead of me? I wasn't even late this morning!" and I can tell he is embarrassed. "I didn't think you were coming," I think he says. And in the back of my mind, I think, wow, Nam drives other people, too. He was going to drive a pretty distinguished, tall blonde Dutch man. Hmmm. Interesting. He has no problem getting other people. I ponder this all the way to school.

When we get there, he hands me a breakfast present, the rice with custard, coconut and sugar that I have now received three times. I can't help but wonder, would Tall Blonde have gotten my breakfast if I had emerged just a few moments later? The thought makes me shudder. But you know, I think probably not.


Brian Bowker said...

Oh Marjie! I hope your back is ok! What a way to shake your confidence in the madness of the HCMC traffic!

Just try to remember how many times you've been in it before with out incident. You've just got to trust Nam.

kumma said...

Holy cow... and the adventure continues...

Update us QUICKLY on the status of your back.

Anonymous said...

Marj, find a physical therapist or at least a massage therapist soon! The longer you wait, the more contraction will take place (yes, I've gotten my medical degree since we last spoke).

Hey, isn't your Number One Fan a nurse-to-be? Advise here!

Anonymous said...

Hope you feel better now! It sounds a tiny bit scary to drive a motorbike in Vietnam.

The Norris Clan said...

OH man... Of course something crazy happens to you when I had to take a blog-reading hiatus... I hope your back is doing better...