Making children cry

I feel disturbed. I made a little boy cry.

Nam, my little friend who sells roses. He is ALWAYS happy. No matter what happens to him he is happy. Tonight I saw him in the street and went to give him a high five and he pretended but then pulled away and I was like “ohhhhh… no high five.. no buy roses” and we kept walking in different directions.

Then his sister Lynne comes skiping up to me ten minutes later and of course manages to sell me more than a dozen roses with her cute loli charms. But then Nam comes by a bit later and offers me some roses and I’m like “Nam… you didn’t give me a high five so I bought from your sister Lynne”.

I don’t truly know if I touched a nerve or whether there was something going on in his life but I really don’t think he was putting on an act, because Nam has never in his life tried to bullshit me or tug at my heartstrings but suddenly he just started crying. I’m sitting there with a beer and a ten year old boy in front of me wiping away tears with both hands going “You always buy from Lynne. Never me” and I’m like “Dude. I bought flowers from you last night and one the night before”. But I think he meant “You only buy single roses from me. You always buy a huge bouquet from my sister”.

I didn’t feel so awful just because I didn’t buy a rose or because Nam cried. Mainly I felt so awful because I sat there wondering whether there was something going on in his life, but also because I was mad at myself for even wondering if they were real tears or just “crocodile tears”. Because if he was trying to bullshit me he would have stayed and made a scene and waited for me to buy something. But as soon as he realised he couldn’t control himself and he was going to keep crying he just bolted.

It screwed the rest of my night. One of my Vietnamese friends who would otherwise not be so tactful said “Maybe it wasn’t you. Maybe he just had a bad day” and I tried to comfort myself with that.

But I feel so bad anyway. Thing is, I played favourites with Nam for a year and would not buy from anyone else no matter how hard they tried until someone told me Lynne was his sister and I finally agreed to buy flowers off her and I’ve even bought her gifts such as clothes.

But Nam cried right in front of me. He accused me of only liking Lynne and only buying flowers from Lynne and I was trying to say “That’s.. not true. I really do buy off you quite often even if it’s mainly a little more off Lynne” but somehow the words just seemed pointless.

Even when Nam had a black eye, he just came out working with a grin on his face and remained stoic and refused to admit that it hurt. Yet today, the same super-toughest 10 year old I ever knew just broke down crying in front of me.

And I feel really upset that I don’t understand why or whether it is in some way my fault or if he’s just had a really shitty day and is super mad at his sister for stealing his business. I sat there trying to ask “Are you OK Nam ?” and he seemed ok at first and would nod his head but I could see the way he was squinting his eyes that he was holding back tears and eventually they just came out.

It’s just awful when your friends are unhappy or there is something going on in their lives that they are unhappy about and you don’t really understand and can do nothing about it. Even when that friend is just a 10 year old Vietnamese kid who sells you flowers a couple of times a week. I guess maybe BECAUSE he’s a ten year old kid. Some people are pretty manipulative and can look very sad when they want something, especially in Vietnam. But as smart as Nam is, I just refuse to believe that he would cry crocodile tears to make a dollar. It’s not worth his time and it’s just not who he is.

When Nam cries, it’s because he’s sad… and that really affects me. I kept it to myself for an hour and pretended to be happy and drink with people, but I wasn’t, and when I came home I couldn’t help it and I cried too. It was a long day and it was lots of fun and I had such a great time with my girlfriend, but then this happened.

One time when I talked about Lynne on my blog and how it made me happy to see her every couple of days and I feel like she’s my own child, and one of my friends said “Get over it. She’s not your kid. Stop caring so much”. But family isn’t just blood ties or legal relations. Sometimes your family is just who you know. Who you see every day, and who you care about. One day some asshole hit Nam with a beer bottle and I wanted to KILL whoever it was. One day he came out working with a black eye and I wanted to cry. Last night he cried. I don’t know if it was my fault or I was just the trigger. All I know is I have to find him and see if he’s ok.


I did find Nam yesterday. In the evening he came past and I said “Are you ok ?” and he nodded. I said “Were you angry at me the other night ?” and he shook his head. I asked “You have a fight with Lynne ?” He shrugged and looked at the ground and kicked at a pebble with his foot exactly like you would expect a 10 year old boy to do. I said “I’m sorry if I buy more off Lynne sometimes. I used to only buy from you, but now I buy from her and your other friend as well sometimes, but I still buy from you. You’re my man, dude” and I give him a little punch on the shoulder and said “Can I have one now please ?” He pointed to a single rose and said “This one ?” I said “Yeah. I’ll buy more later ok ?”

Later that night I was at my new bar DJing by myself and Nam’s friend came in saying “Hey, you said you buy later. Today ?” and I said “Nah man, sorry. I promised Nam. Not tonight ok ?” and he said “Ok” and walked off. One of the little chewing gum girls spied me through the door and came running in and put her chin on my leg and looked up at me. I sorta get annoyed by these kids. The kids who sell chewing gum are much less polite. They’ve been taught to pester the fuck out of people if they say no, whereas one of the things I love about the three rose kids is they will all take “No” for an answer without having to say it 20 times. But she’s an ok kid. Her name is Lynne too actually. And I hadn’t bought anything in a few days and I was smoking a cigar so I DID need some chewing gum, so with just a smile I reached for my wallet and gave her ten thousand dong and she grinned happily and passed me the chewing gum because she made such an easy sale and all she had to do was run in, look sweet and get handed some cash, even if it was only 50 cents.

When I left, I was looking for Nam. I was hoping I could catch him on my walk two blocks back to home. The likelihood of seeing one of the rose kids on Bui Vien at 1:30am is extremely high. They make a lot of money during this period of the day and sometimes Nam will work much later than normal if he thinks he can make more money. Sure enough, just as I got close to my alleyway, along comes Nam. I said “Hey Nam. Come on. I got paid earlier. Give me a big bouquet ok ?”

I didn’t even care that the bouquet was pretty old and some of the adorning flowers around the roses were actually wilted and even brown. It was just about buying the flowers from Nam. Nam is not a beggar and I would never just give him money. He may be only 10 but he has a job and he is proud of it. You can give him an extra 5,000 and let him keep the change if you want, but he won’t just take money for nothing. So it was sorta good that I picked his oldest bunch of flowers that he probably wouldn’t have sold anyway. I didn’t have room for them anyway. I just tore a single one out on the walk home to leave beside my girlfriend as she slept in the lobby and when I got up to my apartment I tore them apart, threw away all the shit ones, and mixed them into my largest vase alongside some pretty glitter-covered roses I got off Lynne the other night.

I still don’t know what caused Nam to burst into tears, but it’s not likely something he wants to tell me about. His home life isn’t always paradise from what I gather, but he’s a happy kid and sometimes for a kid with trouble at home, having to work for 11 or 12 hours a day smiling your arse off even when you’re covering a huge black eye can be a little fucking tough. I know I couldn’t do it. That’s why Nam has my utmost respect and why I bought 13 roses off him last night and if I see him again tonight I will buy more. Because Nam is my little man and when I am away from Vietnam for a while, he is one of the faces that I miss seeing the most. He’s my friend and it makes me happy to see him even if we don’t go out drinking in bars together. Though we do hang out in bars together sometimes while I drink hahaha !

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