Last night you decided to go for a walk.
You had been cooped up in the apartment all day, planning and outlining your new book.
You felt slightly guilty for not having seen any of the sun, although winter has officially come to Taiwan so there was little sun to see. Strange how you complain when it’s too hot, but as soon as those warm days leave (which is only for 3 months of the year) you welcome their return with open arms.
So you wrapped up, grabbed your umbrella – always a wise thing to do in Taiwan, as the sky can suddenly rip open without any warning whatsoever – and set off.
No destination in mind, just one foot in front of the other to take your mind away from the story you are working on.
The characters wouldn’t leave you alone, muttering this and that in your ears, but you tried your best to focus on the feeling of your feet caressing the cold earth.
You walked towards the bank, a path you seldom take since your dog passed away five weeks ago. You walked her this way every morning. She did her business, you picked it up, and then you both headed home for breakfast.
You carried on walking, perhaps whilst reminiscing.
Crossing the road, in the opposite direction to you, was a man, and under his arm was a small white dog.
You did a double-take. You couldn’t believe it. Pekingese dogs are extremely rare in Taiwan. Not once whilst walking her did you meet another like her, and yet here was one looking exactly like your friend, the one your wife had shared 13 years of her life with.
You turned around and followed that man into a 7/11. You didn’t care what he thought of you; thought little of the fact that he was withdrawing money from the ATM, and therefore wouldn’t want a foreigner crawling around his feet; you greeted his dog as if it was somehow a descendent of your beloved companion, as if, somehow, it was in touch with her, that it could talk to her beyond the veil, that it could pass on a message.
This feeling was so strong, that you felt compelled to say: “Say hello to Hanbao for me, will you?”
You took the wagging of its tail and the lick of your hand as a comforting yes.
The owner didn’t care you was filming his dog, taking photo after photo of it. He stood there, filling his wallet with cash. You wanted to shake his hand, as if to say thank you for the gift, but at the last moment you retracted.
You said thank you, and left, and for the rest of the walk you could not stop smiling.
Five minutes later you were pulled over by a policeman. He asked to see your ID. You have been in Taiwan for 3 years, and this is the first anything like this has happened.
“Of course. Here. What’s the problem?”
It’s the dog owner. You shouldn’t have been taking photos of his dog when he was at the cash machine. A bit of a stupid thing to do, don’t you think?
Such things were going through your head as the officer took a picture of your ARC (Alien Residential Card).
Next, he looked at your face, then quickly to a picture on his phone.
“No, it doesn’t look like you.”
You asked him if you could see the person you were supposed to resemble. He was friendly about it.
“It’s the beard, see?” he says.
You are looking at a screenshot of some CCTV footage.
“But this guy’s from the Middle East,” you say. “He’s got a black moustache and I’ve got ginger stubbled.”
The policeman giggles to himself, says thank you, gets back on his motorbike, and off he goes.
You dig your phone out, replay the footage of the small, white dog that looks so much like your friend, and you can’t wait to show your wife.