Pet Roll


That’s what this is.

I’m in line, waiting for bread and blood. Inching forward patiently, my mind elsewhere.

Em oi

I’m stunned back to reality from a wandering, wondering mind

Peek behind and realize I’m being ushered to the right

Make a new line

The first few times I went to fill up were uncomfortable. A friend offered advice on how to do it.

Make sure you have your money handy

Stay out of the way

Get the cap loosened before you get to the pump

I’ve practiced it a few times now, but it’s still stressful

As with all things in the Blessed Church of Motorbike, Hanoi Branch, there is a unifying dogma

Keep it moving

I slowly ease my way into the two-abreast, twenty-deep line of bikes, observing closely the cues from others.

There’s a self-consciousness that comes from doing something new. Novelty breeds awareness, to a fault. Dreading a cultural faux-pas that would out me, the noob.

But in a city of 9 million, I find mercy and grace, as I remind myself

It’s not about me

I cut the motor, dismount, and pop the seat, revealing the metal lid. Push the bike along, keep the line moving

It’s cold today

My hands don’t function great when chilled. I think it takes two of them to get any traction on the gas cap, but eventually it gives.

Em oi

Make a new line

The second line wants to become three.

All in the service of keeping things moving. I apologize to the person behind me and slide the bike to the right.

As I get closer to the pump and the smell assaults me, I wonder

How do the people who work here handle it all day?

They’re wearing masks, hopefully that helps a little. They’re busy. This is as full serve as full serve gets.

I find myself at the front of the line

The attendant barks at me in Vietnamese and I point my hands to heaven, ask for a fill

Redemption for my driving sins

I keep a crisp 100000 VND note in hand

My offering to the church of oil

(I know what you’re thinking, it’s about $4)

I’m up close and personal to the rapidly filling tank. Centimeters away as the golden liquid hisses and stirs.

Holy water

She takes my money and leafs through a stash of bills, deftly making change and hastening me on

I tighten the lid, make sure it’s sealed properly, careful to avoid spillage.

I drop down the seat, slide my change back into my pocket, start the bike

And, once again redeemed,

wheel gently into the night

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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  1. Hi Radutti! I’m so happy to be reading your writing again. I didn’t get the title until I remembered who the author was, then… of course…petrol, ha ha! I enjoy and value your pieces, like this one, about trying to fit in and not be the noob in your adopted culture. I especially like how the gas line splits and then splits again- sort of like traffic there, flowing like water. Also enjoy your sense of melodrama- golden liquid, holy water, redemption. I look forward to the next 29 pieces 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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