Dinh's Journey

by Andrew Passey

Chapter 1

You do what you have to do to survive. That's what I always told myself anyway. So when I was lying face down on a bed back in Can Tho trying not to cry out as I was being raped by the son of the local chief of police I convinced myself it was just one of those things I had to do. When I ran away with Phuc and left him on his own again it was just another one of the things that needed to be done. All the things I have had to do since then, well that was just me surviving.

I guess I just didn't realise the sheer depravity and inhumanity of some people in this world. I probably should have known after my experience in Can Tho but I hoped the world was full of people like Phuc rather than the bad people I'd been with. More fool me I suppose. The things that have been done to me and that I've had to do have been so much more extreme than I ever expected. I feel like I've been broken into a thousand pieces and I don't know if I'll ever be put back together again.

Although maybe all that bad shit is behind me? Maybe this is my one chance to start a new life? I guess it all depends on what I say to them when they come back and ask me more questions. There's a risk that if I tell the truth it will end badly for me. But then again what else do I have left apart from the truth?

The door opened and they came back in. Serious expressions to match their serious looking uniforms. My experiences in Vietnam had made me very suspicious of the police. After all, I'd been fucked repeatedly by the son of the local chief who clearly knew exactly what was going on. Well not just knew what was going on, arranged the whole fucking thing. Corruption was endemic. Was it the same here? Were all the police and people here bad people? Was there anyone I could trust?

The interpreter sat off to the side with my legal representative next to me as the two policemen sat opposite me. I didn't really need the interpreter, I understood their questions well enough and spoke good enough English to communicate with them. However it did give me time to think about my answers as well as make sure I was saying exactly what I wanted to. Which up to now had been nothing.

"So Mr Silent," one of the policemen started to say to me. " As I said before, you are in a very bad position. You've been caught growing illegal drugs and prison and eventual deportation back to Vietnam is on the cards. However, it's clear that someone else is behind this. If you tell us what you know and how you ended up here we can help you. If you've been trafficked here then come clean and we will support you. Help us get the people doing this. Tell us everything and don't protect the people who have hurt you."

I considered his words. Could I trust him? I had no idea but I was all out of options. I wanted to be free of the bad people who had enslaved me and telling the truth might be the only thing that could save me. My experience had been hellish a lot of the time and I'd faced such pain and suffering that I didn't want to relive it again. However I knew I had to tell them everything. If the truth wasn't enough to set me free then at least I would know I'd done what I could. So I took a deep breath and began to tell my story.

It was hard but it also felt cathartic as I talked and talked. Saying those words, telling my story, well it seemed that just the doing of this helped me process what had happened to me. It also allowed me to piece it all together, where it all started and how I'd come to end up here in this police station. It helped me see the overarching picture of what I'd been caught up in and I hoped by telling my story it would mean the people who did this would pay. If nothing else, hopefully it meant that I wouldn't be in trouble for doing what I'd been forced to do.

So, where did it all start? Well I know where it all started to go wrong anyway. I was so sure and confident of myself as my bus pulled away from the Ben Tre turn off and I watched Phuc stand there on his own waving at me. I really wished he'd come with me but I knew he was probably right that splitting up was safer. I worried about him but I thought I'd be fine. I was streetwise or so I thought. I had an address of someone who could help me in Ho Chi Minh City. All I needed to do was to get to the bus station, get off the bus and find my way there. What could be simpler!?

The reality of course was that Ho Chi Minh City was much bigger, much busier, much more chaotic and much more of a culture shock than I could ever possibly imagined. It made Can Tho look like the provincial place it was. The noise, the traffic, the throngs of people, it was all too much for me. I'd sort of convinced myself once I got there it would all be fine but once I was off the bus I felt overwhelmed. I stood in the bus station struggling to understand a bus map and work out where I needed to go.

"It's very confusing isn't it!" A voice boomed next to me. I jumped slightly in surprise and turned to look at a well dressed man who smiled at me warmly. He was middle aged and I knew I should be wary but I didn't detect anything to be worried about. He looked smart and rich which was a slight surprise to me.

"Um yes it is. I'm meeting a friend and I don't quite know how to get where I have to get to," I replied keeping things simple.

"Well maybe I could help you? I've just dropped my son off at the station. He's off to Mui Ne beach with some friends for the weekend. I offered to drive them but they want the adventure of a bus journey. Personally I think they're mad spending four hours on a packed bus when I could have driven them in air con luxury but I guess it's all part of growing up! Where is it you need to get to?"

I relaxed slightly at the knowledge this man had a son and that he'd been dropping him off here. That explained why someone so well dressed was hanging around here. While I had to be wary I also didn't want to be paranoid and suspicious that everybody was out to get me. What was the harm in asking for some directions? I told him the name of the place I needed to go to and his eyes brightened.

"Of course I know where that is!" He said, smiling broadly. "My brother is a teacher there. Crazy really. Giving up working for our company and earning lots of money in order to teach the next generation. But then again if we don't invest in our youth like you, how are we as a country going to rise and fulfil our potential? Although even though I know WHERE it is, I'm afraid I don't know how to get there by bus. I drive everywhere. I can come and help you find someone who might know though. I'm sure there must be an information desk around here."

"Thanks, that would be useful!" I replied grateful for some support. I was still slightly overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the station so someone who knew the ropes might be useful. The man then introduced himself as An and we walked quickly in the direction of where the sign for information was pointing.

"Why are you at the bus station and why do you need to get to this school?" An asked making small talk with me. I had to be careful at this point. Telling the truth was risky so I just said I'd come up from the Delta and I had a relative who worked at the school.

"He probably knows your brother!" I said enthusiastically trying to make it all sound very normal and matter of fact. It seemed good enough for An and he said that was quite likely as the school wasn't too big. He helped me find the information desk and then waited while I asked how I could get to where I needed to go. The young man behind the desk tapped on his computer before he got his answer and told me the news.

It seemed I'd need to catch three different buses. Luckily the young man wrote the instructions down for me which helped but I was still a bit unsure of what to do. I hadn't got a city bus before and it sounded a bit intimidating having to get so many buses. I probably had enough money for a taxi but I didn't want to waste it in case I needed it.

"What did he say?" An asked me. I explained that it was three buses and that it was a bit daunting but once I found my first bus I thought I'd be fine.

"Look it's up to you Dinh and I certainly don't want you to do anything you're uncomfortable with but I'm more than happy to drive you to the school. It'll be much quicker and safer for you, lots of pickpockets work the buses. Also it's a great excuse for me to take a bit of time off work and an opportunity for me to see my brother. It would also maybe help you to know someone else there like my brother? It's up to you of course. But my car is comfortable and most importantly on a day like today air conditioned!"

I paused while I thought about what to do. An seemed nice and trustworthy. I hadn't picked up any bad vibes from him. I wasn't totally convinced though so I decided I'd follow him to his car and see if it checked out. If it was a battered old thing then he would be lying and I'd make my excuses and leave. However as it happened when I followed him to his car it was large and impressive. He clearly was a rich businessman and I relaxed in his presence. It would really help to have him drive me there. He was also right that his brother would be useful if my contact was unavailable. Finally a bit of good luck and things were hopefully looking up!

I climbed into the back seat at his invitation while he got in the driver's seat and started the engine.

"Here, have a bottle of water, you must be thirsty," An said, handing me a cold bottle from his mini fridge in the front.

I was thirsty and it was hot so I took a long drink as we pulled out into traffic. An turned the radio on and he played music. The air con kicked in and kept me nice and cool. I started to relax and I kept drinking the cold water as I was still thirsty. It had been a whirlwind arrival into the city after a very very stressful escape from Can Tho. That already felt like a different world. I wondered how Phuc was? I was fairly sure he hadn't landed on his feet anywhere near as much as I had. It made me wish he'd stayed with me but I guess it wasn't to be. As we edged slowly along the road in the afternoon traffic, I felt unnaturally tired and my eyes started to feel heavy.

"You look tired Dinh, the traffic is pretty bad so it'll take us a while to get to the school, why don't you have a nap? I'll wake you when we arrive!' An said looking at me in the rear view mirror.

That sounded like an excellent idea, in fact I realised I couldn't stay awake even if I wanted to. I closed my eyes and I drifted off to sleep hoping I'd feel more awake by the time I reached the school.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead