Often, I feel like I am living on a movie set in this neighborhood. Sometimes the voice in my head says things like, "Cue woman with cone hat and two baskets hanging off her shoulders like weight scales," "Cue children playing with an old tire in the alley," "Cue man selling boiled rice and pork in banana leaves in a basket on the front of his bike," "Cue fresh fish and vegetable market with rice cakes down the alley," "Cue three day funeral with bad music and revelry outside my door..."
Even after ten months of living here, I still catch myself every time I am eating at my won ton soup cart: I always almost forget that I need to pay. People wouldn't pay if they were on a movie set, right?
Katherine and I, especially, have consistently marveled at our thirty second walk down the alley into Bum Bum Magic Land. It still doesn't seem real to us that all of that is at our disposal. K's famous line regarding the Bum Bum has been, "The fragility of it all..."
It could change at any moment. It's all just an illusion and someday we will wake up. That has been our M. O. in dealing with it.
Well, it has happened. I mentioned a few weeks ago that Tran, our massage girl and good friend, "went on vacation for ten days." Last week, we finally got up the courage to say these words out loud to each other: "It's been much more than ten days. What is up?" Katherine felt she was strong enough to search for the truth. I was content to remain in a state of delusion a little longer.
A few days ago, K goes in to get her hair washed. She asks about Tran.
"She married," says the owner - Lieu.
"Married?" says K. "Is she ever coming back?" To which she gets a negative hand gesture.
When she gets upstairs, she tells her hair washer, Chin, how sad she is about Tran. So Chin calls Tran and hands the phone to K. On the other line is one of Tran's friends who speaks good English, and she acts as go-between. Their conversation goes like this:
"Tran! Oh....Hi! Please tell Tran congratulations on her marriage!"
Laughter. "Tran not married!"
"Oh, the owner just told me she got married!"
"Boss lady lied to you!"
"She did? Well, where is Tran?"
"She working at new salon. District 3. You can come."
And so on.
K gets the address, but~
We are devastated. And we think that the owner has been trying to save face this whole time, which we know and have heard over and over is a very Vietnamese way of handling sensitive information. She's been gone for weeks, and we've been believing in her imminent return.
One of K's nicknames is The Masseuse Whisperer. K can speak to her in long paragraphs and Tran will nod and agree with everything she says, but if I just ask her how her parents are, she scrunches up her face with confusion. So K is especially devastated. Tran, besides being an amazing masseuse, is so friendly and unassuming and upbeat - someone we just love to see on a regular basis.
K sends me texts about her sleuthing while I am with a friend who doesn't understand my sadness. When I get home, all I can say to K when I see her is, "Can we talk this out?"
It's going to take us many incense burnings on the roof to get over this one.
Cue two hammocks on the roof with a palm tree.