Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A New Friend

Yesterday was awful. After days of being sick, I'd tried to work at my computer but the words just kept mashing up together. After feeling dizzy and sickly all day, I finally passed out.

I woke up several hours later, rested and famished, with no desire to actually cook. As a rare treat to myself, I ordered food for delivery. Thai food, to be exact. Later, a small, dear man came to my door to deliver my Green Curry and Thai Eggplant with complimentary egg rolls. Yum. I tipped him, bid him good night and he left.

I set up the DVD (still making my way through "Buffy - The Vampire Slayer" - now on Season 3) and excitedly prepared for a feast. Then came a knock at the door. It was the delivery guy who nervously explained that he'd locked his keys in his car and did I have a coat hanger?

I fetched him a coat hanger and also told him I'd call AAA - my steady heroes. I called, explained the situation, gave the address and went back to my dinner biz. Another knock at the door. The poor man had tried to work the coat hanger with no luck. I told him to come inside - it was maybe 20 degrees out - to wait for AAA.

And there we were. "Sooooooo .... ?"

Since he was shivering, I made him some green mango tea. I invited him to sit but he wouldn't. He was quite mortified with the situation. I assured him that his only crime was being human and that we all do such things. In his broken English, he was very apologetic and insisted I go about my dinner. "Eat! Please! PLEASE! EAT!" he kept saying. Clearly, he felt terrible and hated interrupting my evening.

I had to explain that this was impossible - not the way I was raised. My mother would never hear of it. I could not sit unless he sat. Also, I could not eat in front of him as he was now a guest in my home and this would be rude, unless he was eating as well. "And hey look, I've got some food right here. Some nice man brought it to me!" I said. We laughed at this though he emphatically shook his head no.

Somewhere in his 50s or 60s, this sweet, shy man was trapped in my living room for 30-40 minutes and I did my best to entertain him like a proper guest. Finally, I got him to sit (he would only sit on the floor, with his shoes outside the door) and so I did too. I asked him everything about his life and eventually he opened up.

Though he said his name was 'John', I learned that he'd changed it from Vinh when he arrived from his home country, Vietnam, over 23 years ago. He admitted that it seemed like a good thing to do at the time but now, he's thinking about changing it back. I told him that I thought he should keep his original name - too many Johns around anyway.

Sometime in the 80s, Vinh arrived in the U.S. via a small boat with 58 other people. They'd come to seek a better life - to escape political turmoil. The eight-day trip was grueling and they hadn't prepared very well.

"Very thirsty," he said. "Very scared."

He only had a nephew here but he made the best of it. He's lived in so many states, he's lost track. He lived in Oakland for eight years so we shared our memories of the Bay Area. He has two children - ages 8 and 11 - and they are arriving in the next few months to live with he and his wife in a studio apartment. I asked him if he thought life in America was hard and he agreed that it was.

"Very hard. Work, work, work. All the time," he said, with a weary smile.

In turn, I tried to share things about my life so it wasn't a '60 Minutes' thing. I told him I was from Long Beach, California which made his eyes go big. The LBC (and nearby Orange County) is a haven for refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia - he knew it well. In a moment of desperation, I pulled out my guitar in an effort to fill the silence. From the outside looking in, the whole scene must have appeared comical.

Ultimately, the locksmith arrived and Vinh went down to get it sorted. Then, another knock at the door. Vinh was back to thank me. He insisted that I am deserving of a home-cooked Vietnamese meal and wanted to know when he could bring it by. "Thursday," I said, "I should be home Thursday night."

Whether he shows up or not, I'm happy to have met Vinh. (The photo above is not Vinh but he looks similar. I thought about asking to take his photo but he seemed so painfully shy, I was afraid he might faint at the idea.) It was pretty cool to get a new friend with my egg rolls - bonus!

6 comments:

hotdrwife said...

You rock, you know this? I loved this story and you know, I believe him to be very true to his word.

Maria said...

that is the sweetest story! it put a big smile on my face - I could totally picture the entire thing. As someone who has locked the keys in the car on many occasions (once even when the car was in reverse) I can relate. I'm with hotdrwife - I bet you'll be eating Vietnamese on Thurs

fyrchk said...

This is why I love you.

ClizBiz said...

Thanks, guys, I know all of you would have done the same. I just kept thinking, "What would Mama Iva do?"

Kath said...

Mama Iva knew what she was doing when she raised you!

Independent Thought Americans said...

I cried - I dont know why....thanks