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  • Flora Le

Motorcycle Mechanics



I spent three days total in Huế, including a full day for rest. I could have continued sightseeing in this city that is so rich in monuments and history. But I didn't feel like it. The day before my departure, I went to pick up my motorcycle from Kim the mechanic. As he had done some important repairs, he had to keep it for two full days. I had left him my cell phone number so that he could call me when it was ready. When I arrived at his place, I almost didn't recognize my motorcycle. It was like brand new. Parked across the street, it glistened in the afternoon sun. It looked like Kim had scrubbed it with a toothbrush. When I pointed this out to him, he replied, "A man can ride a dirty motorcycle. A woman can't." I gazed at my Honda for a moment. As a man would admire a beautiful woman. Kim reviewed with me each of the repairs they had done. For each one, he showed me pictures taken with his phone proving that he had changed this or that part. The work he had done seemed very thorough. He had inspected my motorcycle from the horn to the suspension, and down to the last piston. I didn't listen to him carefully since I trusted him completely. And since I knew nothing about motorcycle mechanics, I was not really in a position to contradict him. The list of repairs he had done was long: changing the front brake and seal, repairing the rear tire punctured by a nail, aligning the steering, changing the oil, cleaning the carburetor, etc. The bill amounted to six million eight hundred thousand dongs, or thirty-four dollars. Considering the scope of the work done, it was nothing. Kim assured me that my Honda would get me to Saigon without any problems. I was happy to hear that. Indeed, I was planning to go to the south of Vietnam not by the coast, which is densely populated, but rather by the highlands along the borders of Laos and Cambodia. Thus, much of the next 2,000 km looked almost uninhabited. Kim was another of those thoughtful and considerate men who I had come across. As with all the other men who had crossed my path, I was amazed at his kindness towards me. And men like him always landed in my path without me looking for them. Once again, I felt blessed to have met Kim. After spending two days on foot, I was looking forward to getting back on my Honda. Certainly, I had developed a relationship with my motorcycle. With all the hours I had spent on my bike, and all the experiences I had had on the road, my Honda was more than just a vehicle. It was a travel companion. It was the supporting character in this movie where I was the heroine. It was also my anchor. My only home. Never before in my life had I been homeless. With my bag strapped to the back seat, I was a nomad. Nomad: which comes from the Greek "odos," meaning "the road." The present moment, they say, does not exist. It is only that fleeting moment when the future becomes the past. My motorcycle trip was a similar mirage. A succession of elusive moments where the road disappeared behind me. As if the asphalt disappeared as my motorcycle passed. As if these kilometers of landscapes disappeared after I had put my eyes on them. And of all these images seen over thousands of kilometers, my memory could only recall a handful. The vast majority of what I would see along this ribbon of asphalt would soon fade into oblivion. I thanked Kim for her work and paid the bill. I started the engine of my Honda. It purred like a cat. I put it in first gear. In my mirror, I could see Kim waving at me as I drove away.


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