I slide out of the steady stream of motorbikes and ease my scooter onto the tiled sidewalk. I halt, and peek.
The hotel where we landed so gently months ago on the left. The low plastic chairs, stainless tables, steaming giant metal pot where we had our first true pho, dead ahead.
This is a bustling street. Restaurants, shops, impossible alleyways all beckon. Kerfuffle, sound, fury.
I’m taking it all in, when I spot the slender dark-haired woman, with fire in her hand.
She’s gently pinching a white piece of lined paper, handwritten notes in blue ink defining the red lines. At first I can’t tell why it holds my gaze, but then I see.
A whisk of flame, nibbling the corner, dancing, threatening to gasp and whimper away
but a breeze brings the fuel it needs.
The paper catches and, with a satisfied look, she leaves it on the concrete to burn.
As the tiny wisps of smoke climb across the street,
I have questions.
Is this an attempt to lure lucky spirits?
Meant to whisk away bad omens?
A note from a lover, spurned?
Soon-to-be deleted evidence of wrongdoing?
Her way of recycling?
This seems like the best spot for this
she must be thinking.
Unflappable, unfazed, she retreats down the stairwell into her nail salon below the striking blue sign
Leaving only the paper and me, this tiny spectacle. I can only stare as the flame builds then fades in a matter of seconds.
Soon, only ash, the fire out.
I’m still so puzzled.
And then, she returns, this time with a broom. She coaxes the ashes into her pan and retreats yet again.
There is a charcoal stain on the sidewalk
and on my brain.