I am writing this instead of an assignment I have to complete for graduate school and feeling that sort of guilt that seems to creep around every corner and give me meaningful stares from across the room.
‘Write your paper’ it whispers, the basilisk of my conscience, ‘it’s only an autobiography, it happened to you’
That’s precisely why I can’t write it. Trying to encapsulate my existence into 3-5 double spaced Microsoft Word pages is like trying to fit Taipei into a walnut shell. Of course, I can, but little bits will come spilling out like the suitcase you can’t get to close after a long vacation filled with a bit too much shopping and altogether wonderful memories.
So I’ll write the darn thing, knowing that there will be aspects of me that won’t fit inside the parameters, and that that’s okay. Funny how something that isn’t prescribed seems to flow from my fingers when everything else does not. I could say something profound about human existence.
But I am quiet. My mind ticking and mulling around a hodgepodge stew of experiences. Somewhere in there, if I fish around, is the right combination I need for my assignment. Somewhere in there are the words that will impress my future professors, make them think ‘wow, she’s something special, we’re luck to have her’ make them wish to meet me.
Instead of writing my autobiography and laying my life onto the keyboard with fingers red with heat and slightly sticky with melty dark chocolate, I will give you the gift of the night market, whose one instance somehow forms itself into linear sentences much easier than the past 23 years of my life can.
It’s Thursday, the beginning of a four day weekend sounded like heaven and lasted like hell. Spiraling into the anxiety that only spare time can bring, I sat on my bed feeling like I was filled with one thousand spiders, body still, heart and nerves aflutter.
The phone rings. It’s Leo, the guy I met on the bus home from Taipei earlier in the year. He’s stationed at the army base here in Yilan and wants to know if I want to hang out on Friday night. Maybe I sound too eager when I reply, effusive in my ‘yes!’ and keen even in my facial expression, which he can’t see. I’m thankful for something to get me out of my square, rock hard bed. It has been getting to my tail bone. We plan to meet at You Ai, the second department store in Yilan (out of two) and see ‘Noah’ then walk to the night market. I hope he doesn’t think it’s a date. I’m just excited to see that movie and have something to do with my twitchy spider legs.
When Friday comes, I put on the top part of my outfit in the morning and the tights, then over the tights I put lounge pants, intending to don a skirt later, but feeling like dressing up inside our secluded abode is unmerited. I’m right. I spend the day in bed until it’s 6:30 at which point I shed the pants like snakeskin, zip myself into the skirt and head out to walk the half hour to the department store. I have six escalators to think to myself before I reach the top floor, where the theatre is, and realise that I’m not sure I remember what he looks like. What if he’s cut his hair? I start looking expectantly at every young asian man, giving them half smiles that can easily be changed into, ‘oh hey there you are!’ Luckily about the third person in, I’m right. I’m also right about the hair: he’s cut it.
The movie doesn’t begin for another half an hour, so we awkwardly walk around the department store. The floor below the theatre is empty with an almost warehouse feeling, yet has the air of minimalism that only department stores selling overpriced furniture can have. ‘Who can afford this here?’ I ask him, momentarily forgetting that his family is from Yilan, ‘I mean, most people couldn’t!’ Time ticks forward slowly and finally we enter the movie, armed with the 3D glasses I had no idea the movie called for. Soon I’m having typical epic movie reactions, complete with hand over mouth action and ‘I need to shield my eyes now’ and ‘oh my gosh how could he!’ Etc, etc, etc. The movie ends after what has been the duration but seems short to me. ‘That’s it?’ I exclaim? My mind is mulling everything over.
Although I’ve never been overtly religious, my upbringing in Waldorf School means that I spend my young years at the knee of my classroom teacher, listening to bible stories and moulding figures out of beeswax. We did a dance to Genesis Creation Story and our third grade play was about Noah’s Ark. I played Noah’s wife opposite Carl, the object of my affection. Typical.
We walked to the night market as I compared everything I remembered from the real stories to the movie adaptation. If there was a time to mess up the translation from page to screen, this was NOT it, although I suppose there was no author to write a scathing review and no rights to revoke. Pictures. I promised I had those for you. If you’ve lasted this far, I thank you. It feels good to be writing again. Each time I begin, I am astonished how I could have ever let it go.
We did about two laps before I finally took out my camera and took pictures. I didn’t want to feel like a tourist in my own city, but needs must.
There are any number of things you could want in the night market. I’ve only ever bought boots.
But I expect I’ll need a pair of sandals or two before the year is out. Sneakers are quickly growing too hot for my body which I’m sure is allergic to heat. And if you’re in the market for shoes, the night market is the place to be. Huge selection. Small prices. Can’t assure quality of course, but I generally take good care of mine.
For those of you non-Taiwan dwellers out there, that’s about USD 6.61!
This is the only picture I could get of Leo.
These were cats I wasn’t supposed to photograph. Exactly what I was afraid of.
We did a few rounds so I could get photos aplenty and also because we were both feeling awkward and could not stop deferring to each other in terms of what to do next. ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘Oh you choose. After you!’ Leo taught me a bit how to use Aperture! So I walked around bending at angles and pointing my camera in artsy ways at things. Pity the light wasn’t better.
I like the night market. I believe I’ll find myself back there quite soon for to purchase some sandals as the weather gets more and more unbearably hot. Love, Hannah