My new girlfriend

Fish drying on the Nha Trang beach, Vietnam
Drying fish, Nha Trang, Vietnam | Photo by Lauren Girardin

I don’t hear the moto‘s engine as it pulls up behind me, so I don’t realize a woman is behind me until she starts humping my leg.

This all happens while I ‘m standing next to my bicycle on a bridge that spans the Cai River in Nha Trang, drawing a picture of the distant Ponagar Cham Towers. Until her arrival, the bridge was a peaceful place to be.

“You want hotel room?” she huskily says in my ear, while continuing the rhythmic rubbing on the back of my thigh, “I get you hotel room, you want hotel room?”

From a Bridge in Nha Trang
View from a bridge in Nha Trang | Art by Todd Berman

“No, no, no,” I reply quickly, while taking a big step back and turning around. I’m confronted by a woman wearing a bandanna over her face, as is the style for most Vietnamese people on motorbikes. I say ‘woman,’ but underneath her bank robber disguise, she certainly could be a man.

“Oh, you married?”

“Yes, yes, I’m married. My wife is just over there,” I point with one hand while holding the woman back with the other. My aggressor steps away, so I turn my back and continue drawing hoping that if I ignore her, the conversation will be over.

Alas, the humping resumes. “I give you massage. You want massage?” I guide her away from me again and for another moment the sales pitch stops.

Nap time - Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nap time on the Nha Trang sidewalk | Photo by Lauren Girardin

But no, it was just a pause. It’s not over yet. She presses against me one more time, “I give you massage, very cheap…” and grabs my crotch,, harshly, digging in with her long nails, a painful and surprising sensation that makes me drop my best black marker off the side of the bridge. Losing my marker is the last straw. I grab her wrist and shove her away, all my gentleness gone.

Laughing, my assailant hops back on her motorbike behind a small man who smiles shyly, blushes, and drives away.

I quickly check my pocket to make sure that my dong is still there. It is! Also, while my Vietnamese cash is where it should be too, the receipts from the last couple of days are no longer in my back pocket (thankfully, this is no big deal).

Drying our wet dong after a rainy bike ride - Nha Trang, Vietnam
Drying our wet dong | Photo by Todd Berman

I call over to Lauren who has been standing just 30 meters away photographing a fish-drying operation below, oblivious to the whole encounter. Lauren’s always saying that, as a woman, she’s been lucky to travel with me through a few countries we’ve visited where the harassment of women is an unfortunate cultural norm, while I’ll be better off by her side in Southeast Asia, where the harassment of men is a side effect of the entrenched sex tourism industry. Lauren was apparently standing too far away from me.

As I search the beach under the bridge to retrieve my black marker, the racks of drying fish smells tremendously rank. I’ll have to finish my drawing later, after we visit the Cham Towers and after we bike back to our hotel in the pouring rain, our umbrellas propped opened over our bike baskets to keep our bags, cameras, and my sketchbook dry, while we and our clothes get soaked through several times over.

Photos from Nha Trang, Vietnam

If you can’t see the photo slide show above, view the photo set on Flickr.