Not everyone can say they were kicked in the balls by the Vietnamese Mafia. I can’t say that. Not truthfully anyways, so if I see you at a cocktail party and I tell you the mafia punted my nads, you can call me out. I only know one person who has been kicked in the nuts by the Vietnamese Mafia, and that’s my friend Perkins. He told me this around 7 AM on a Saturday morning, outside our dorm room in Hanoi, right after he’d been robbed. Perkins was obviously upset and shaken by the event. Since then, I’m happy to say that both he and his testicles have recovered.
In recreating the crime, we need to first set the scene: Hanoi, Friday night. Motorbikes everywhere, zipping up and down the streets, honking their horns. Older women with funny hats and banana poles on their shoulders, acting as a balance, a bowl of fruit hanging from each end, roaming around trying to sell that fruit to whomever they come across. Shops selling prints of propaganda posters from the Vietnam War. Outside the Bucket Bar, people sit at red plastic tables eating pho, drinking Tiger beer.
Then there was Perkins and me. We had gotten into Vietnam only a day earlier. The city still seemed new and exciting. We bounced from Temple Bar to Funky Buddha to a dodgy place called The Lighthouse. We threw back beer and talked with backpackers, locals, and a hooker we found in The Lighthouse named Queen Bee. She wore enormous white sunglasses and, after realizing neither of us was interested in a transaction, spent the remainder of the night sitting outside texting. I wasn’t sure who she was texting, but I was glad that her occupation allowed her a decent phone plan.
Sadly, for me, the real excitement happened after I left. Around 5 AM I was too drunk to think, wandered outside, jumped on a motorbike and went back to the hostel. Perkins was still in party mode, and so he stayed. I’d see him two hours later, when he banged on the door to our dorm room.
“Bru,” he said. “I got kicked in the balls.” He bent down and took a deep breath. I could tell the situation was serious.
Perkins had eventually left The Lighthouse and jumped on a motorbike as well. Only his motorbike didn’t take him to the hostel. Instead it took him across a bridge and into a quiet, vacant area.
“Where the hell are you taking me?” Perkins asked, angrily, getting off the motorbike, trying to walk away. He didn’t get very far. In an instant, eight bikes surrounded him.
“Vietnamese Mafia!” they yelled. One of the bikers pulled out a switchblade. Another stared at Perkins with crazy eyes – eyes that showed the madness of seeing the Water Puppet Theater one too many times. The leader of the gang went up to Perkins, kicked him in the nuts three times, and took all the money out of his wallet (about four hundred bucks USD). Worse than that, though, the leader saw that Perkins had an ATM card. Onto the bike they went, with poor Perks in the middle. The leader drove, and another guy rode at the back, keeping a knife in my friend’s back.
Thankfully, Perkins is a good talker. Instead of being brought to an ATM to empty his account into the hands of the Vietnamese Mafia, he talked his way into being whacked in the head and thrown to the side of the road. The “Mafia” even left him some money to get spring rolls. Despite the pain he was in, he was able to walk back to the hostel and tell me the story.
At the time, I hoped that maybe we could find a Vietnamese testicle donor, maybe someone working in a rice field who didn’t need his love spuds anymore. Then Perkins could get a transplant and make babies that would look like little Ho Chi Minhs. That was my hope anyways. As it turned out, things just ended up going back to normal. It was only a crazy night in a strange city that’s filled with money and commerce, sitting quietly on the bank of the Red River.