Chili Peppers

There is a creepy, dilapidated park on Hanoi St. in Hue, just off the main street next to the river, where sad, old children’s rides sit unused, rusting in dementia of faded glory. Perhaps this park used to hold lots of happy times for the local children. They would ride the carousel with parents’ hands gently resting on their backs. They would wait impatiently in line for the silly little dragon roller-coaster with a 2 meter drop. They would eat soggy popcorn and sugary cotton candy and get that bouncy little step of childhood excitement.

Those days are passed, as in my two hours in as many days spent exercising here in this park saw only old men pissing on old trees, groups of old people talking about old topics, and a few young kids with parents passing through on their evening stroll. But, I did meet one family. His name was Xiyen (Zune). He started to talk to me about this and that and ask why I was exercising. He said, “You strong! Let’s arm-wrestle.” He said it in a way that I knew he was stronger than his frame suggested. We did and he didn’t win and he didn’t let me win either. We just locked arms and he’d push me to the edge and then relax. He had the rough hands and burly forearms of a lifetime laborer. My calloused right middle finger where my red pen rests as I correct faulty grammar and white board writing forearms can’t compete with that kind of natural power.

He said, “You like chili peppers?” I affirmed I liked them but not too much because then food is too spicy. “NoNoNo, like Chili Peppers…Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now!! Can’t Stop!” Another classic misunderstanding of communication. He liked American music, and a good band as well. We laughed and sang some verses together. He left with a wave and a flourish as his three nieces crammed onto his motorbike creeping into the ceaseless wave of motorbikes.

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