At this time three years ago, you’d find me cycling in the busy streets of Hanoi in the dead of a winter night without any clear destination, only having that very clear purpose of getting my mind rid of prurient, malicious, tired, self-impaling, even suicidal thoughts by dousing them using the unforgiving, cold gush of December wind and the suffocating exhaust from motor bikes that went past me and my red bicycle I whimsically named Peggy.
I thought I have completely forgotten how to ride a bike after selling that red bike to my friend’s mother and leaving Hanoi. But it seems that it takes longer than three years to forget something as rich in memories as the act of riding a bike.
So today because of lack of anything interesting to do, I took the rusty bike from the garage and cycled like it was my student days in Vietnam, when I spend the whole afternoon going around the neighborhood crisscrossing the maze-like Hanoian hamlets, saying ‘chao!’ to the woman who sold banh my, waving to the small children playing by the lake, and flirting with high school students on their way home from school, while doing my best to remember the way and to avoid, as much as I and my shamelessly poor sense of direction can, getting lost.
I was heavily perspiring after several pedals, but I was too happy to take notice of the dripping sweat. All I knew was during those brief moments I was transported back to a time when things were a lot simpler, when the biggest problem I had to solve was where to get the best my xao (fried nooodles) in the district, or having my bike washed, and when riding a bike could give me that unexplainable ‘high’ and a feeling of absolute freedom.
Many things have changed since (in fact, most did), but some remain simple, some remain the same, some becoming even more precious and worth-unforgetting.