After school, when Nam hands me another steamed corn on the cob, all I feel is dread. If he even makes the suggestion of telling me how to peel this corn, I will completely lose it. It's been a busy day- I didn't sleep well last night - and I just can't...well, you know, deal with my mother and his detailed instructions this afternoon.
So everything is going fine, all the way home (except that he wants me to pronounce my gift, something like "pop" - but I can't say it correctly and he makes me say it over and over again when all I want to do is chill on the back of the bike and be mesmerized by all of the close motorbike calls in the heavy traffic). When we arrive at the castle, as I am fishing through my bag for my keys, I tell him "thank you" again for the awful gift. He nods a "you're welcome" and he and his long fingers make no attempt at instructions while he waits (he always waits until I am inside ever since Sue locked me out of the castle). Only I can't find my keys. I have to free up my hand to fish some more, so I take the abomination - which is covered in a plastic bag - and put it under my armpit.
At this shift, Mom's eyes practically pop out of his head. "NO!" he says, sharply, in a tone that says people do not put corn under their armpits! and he grabs it from me, trying to shove it into my hand to make me hold it properly.
Here is where I throw another one of my tantrums in English that he cannot understand, but in tone and gestures that are - I'm guessing - quite clear.
"Nam, I can HOLD THE CORN ANY WAY I WANT!" I grab it from him and - even though I have my keys now and do not need the other hand - I put the bag-o-crappy-cob BACK WHERE IT WAS, under my armpit. "See! I can put it under my armpit! Look!"
And you know what he does? Instead of giving me his signature puppy dog look, Nam finds amusement in my display, and he laughs at me.
"See you again?" he asks - it's what he always asks when he makes me mad - as I close the gate, go inside and jump up and down and throw the stupid thing on the floor. Someone analyze what is going on here. The man makes me crazy.
Later, on a more peaceful and delicious note, Thanh and I take her motorbike to a place I have asked to go... last week, she showed up at the castle gate with a delicious kind of banana jello with tapioca sauce for all of us, the same tapioca sauce that my banana cake market lady uses - the same sauce that would make a slug taste great.
At her spot, they were grilling the bananas wrapped in banana leaves as usual, but the jello was sitting on the side (my lady doesn't do the jello). It's served in plastic cups with sprinkled nuts on top. Do I need to say "yummy"?
By the way, my banana cake lady has been very off and on in the market since Tet. Mostly off. But when she is there, like she was this morning, Pineapple Lady just can't wait for me to get there so she can moan and moan and point me in the right direction (about ten feet away, in case I can't find it). And our pomelo guy has replaced pomelo with the terrible, stinky durian fruit for the past two weeks. K and I buy pomelo from this man almost every day...he peels it and sections it and puts it in a container - all for only 30 cents. For the last two weeks, we have had no pomelo and no banana rice cakes and Bum Bum Massage Tran has been on vacation, so again we have begun to speak of the imbalance we feel in our neighborhood...the insecurity of the lingering question: what is going to go next?
Well, this morning the pomelo was back (I had to send K a text I knew she would be THAT excited), plus the banana cakes. But you know what is gone now? Our rice stand, our go-to fried rice heaven. There is a big banner on the site and it looks as though they are moving. But how can we know for sure? Therefore, K and I are depressed again tonight.
This is what we get depressed about in Saigon.