Friday, October 23, 2009

Winter home

I used to walk in slivers of shade made by lamp posts or trees.

Now I wait under awnings, looking up at the droplets that fall in drunken patterns, making it appear as snow. Meanwhile cockroaches scramble up from flooded sewers as worms do from sodden grass in Canada. Except cockroaches snap like firecrackers under your shoe.

Winter has come to Taipei.

The city is cool and grey and walking is more bearable as long as you have an umbrella which you can buy for a few dollars on any street corner, in all colours and patterns, with ruches or lace on the edges.
The journey through my neighbourhood is a comforting routine.

Before nightfall, everyone is busy. A man marinates steaks in plastic bins. In the stall beside him, the girl behind the fresh lime juice stand with the spiky faux eyelashes and the adorable round face greets me with a nasally, high-pitched, elongated: "Ni hao!" Across the way, four people sit at a table, wrapping light pink minced meat into skins and then rolling the finished balls across the powdered stainless steel.

If it is early evening, I might see a queue of people at a food stall which usually prompts me to line up as well even though I have no idea what we are lining up to eat. But a line-up usually means good food or fresh food. So, when I get to the front, I just point at something.

At the corner of my street, I wave at Sally, the owner of a refreshingly casual clothing shop; he grins at me with his comic book good looks - his exaggerated, thin features remind me a little of Prince. I always ask him how his day is so much so that sometimes he just says: "Hi! I'm having a good day."

When I reach my apartment, a white cat with orange and black patches is splayed on my door step but never deigns to acknowledge me. In the afternoons, a woman who lives above me practices opera and her powerful voice echoes through the concrete stairwell.

I eat the surprise that I ordered over the sink. If I eat at my breakfast bar, I wipe away every last particle. I am not leaving even an edible ion for those critters.

There will be no Winter feast at the Liang house.

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