Last Meal

September 3rd, 2014, 6pm

There are only 8 meals left. Eight. Tonight’s dinner (which I will make at home), two full days of breakfast, lunch and dinner and a quick breakfast before this self-sanctioned exile is over. Discovery is no longer what I’m interested in but what my last meals will be. Should I have lunch at my favorite Bun Cha place with the really good Nem; where the ladies have come to recognize me, the soft smiled young guy watching the motorbikes always says goodbye to me in English?! Should I go over to that stall in the back alley with the great Bun Ca, which I’m addicted to, and even though I go there at least once a week, they do not seem to know me from a hole in the wall?

This afternoon the lady pushing the cart with sweet adzuki bean soup stop by the café window, looking for me. I was deep in an email but you always know when someone is looking at you, we made eye contact just in time. She puffs her cheeks and nods at me; I nod back at her. We’ve developed this routine in this last two weeks. She now slows down when she walks past the café so I don’t have to chase her down. She puffs her cheeks in a way of asking, would I like a snack. I wasn’t hungry but I bought one anyways — this one could be the last one. She topped it off with some coconut cream, a little extra, and didn’t charge me for it. I wanted to tell her I won’t be here next week, that I’m leaving. Except I don’t know how to say “goodbye” in Vietnamese. Aside from a handful of menu items, I only know how to say “hello” and “thank you” — ironically, they barely use those two phrases. How do you say goodbye? No — really — how do you say goodbye?

I’m starting to curate these remaining hours — a long ride with Sylvia around West Lake, one last Cà Phê Trứng, one last bowl of this and that — I’m also curating the memories of this place, of these times. Church bells and monsoon rains; my office come café with the staff of five; mylar balloon vendors around the Old Quarters on Friday nights; high school kids riding their electric bikes each with a juice in hand. A hundred days from now, when I close my eyes and think back, what will I taste?

Mike, Michael, Sanna, Philippe and 13 others said thanks.

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Charlie Grosso

Photographer - Writer. Adventure Traveller. Brand Consultant. Art Gallery Director. Possible Spy. Always on the road, living under an alias. Seeking co-conspirators.

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