A night in Hanoi
By Susan Wells
Sounds of honking motorcycle horns rise from a swarm of traffic and fill the air.
The occasional car beep announces a car pushing its way through the jammed streets. A news broadcast crackles out loudly from large speakers mounted on street corners. I weave my way through the melee toward the old quarter.
The Hanoi air is heavy and cold and grey. Misty rain sprays my face. Awnings along the street above the pavement are leaking dirty water and a stream catches my leather jacket. I’m on my way to the bar in the old quarter and I pace on firmly ahead. Will I get there in time? What state will I be in when I arrive?
It’s early evening and I enter the bar heading for a table at the front, but then see the Pakistani man up at the bar. He’s talking to a petite young blonde woman and an older man with greying hair. They both seem to be remarkably suntanned for this time of year. I surmise they’ve travelled from the tropics and are now on their way home … Europe, America?
The Pakistani man glances around, and then beckons me over with a somewhat arrogant hand gesture. My heart races as I remember our last meeting. I recall that I had been intrigued and had allowed myself to be seduced into the risk … As I take a seat next to him, he greets me with a dazzling smile and takes my hand.
“How are you, Anna?”
“Good thank you! And you?”
I smile, trying to mask anxiety and excitement. I’m glad it’s getting dark and the bar is dim.
He’s dressed smartly in white shirt, black jacket and designer jeans and his long, shiny black hair is secured into a neat ponytail. His black eyes, laced with the most beautifully long eyelashes, dance and sparkle as he speaks, even though he speaks carefully and in a business-like manner. His eyes, as before, captivate me.
We talk for a couple of hours. The connection is there. He still seems so easy to talk with and tells me I am as well. His wide smile turns into bursts of laughter at my lame jokes and anything else he finds amusing with me. I finally strike up the courage to ask him if he’s heard from his wife and children. He doesn’t answer, just asks me if I want to go for a meal. I don’t pursue the line of questioning any further. We head for one of the restaurants down the street. The cold has settled.
The waiter greets us with a cheery “Bonjour”. The warm greeting delights me and I suddenly wish I knew how to speak French. Plates of fragrant spicy meats, noodles and salads arrive at our table with Vietnamese beers, the perfect accompaniment to this lavish and spontaneous banquet.
After dinner we walk on, into the chaos of the night, through the crowded streets, and I remind myself that I’m sure Hanoi never rests. My Pakistani man walks quickly ahead of me and I follow his lead home ...