A Typical Day in Taipei


Journal, Life in Taiwan / Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

A leaf dances in the wind, a tree waves to the sky.

A child takes her first steps beside a blood bank.

The reflection of a bird flies by on the screen of your phone.

A toothless old woman, beautiful when looked at through selfless eyes, grins at the alien.

Young girls take selfies with victory Vs and Korean hearts, and old girls pose next to monuments. Been there. Been there.

An elderly man sits like a butterfly, day in day out, ankles purple and swollen, bruised and cracked, like an old painting or an ancient ceramic pot unearthed. Every day he waves but never smiles.

His son sometimes sits by him, listening to Buddhist chants on his phone, smoking, and drinking bottles of sugar-free green tea.

A profusion of sounds and colours: laughs and greens, cries and blues. Reds, oranges, pinks and yellows, and the barking of a dog as it chases a rusty squirrel.

The thud-thud-thud of a bouncing basketball, it sloshing through the net.

The crunch of gravel under fallen feet.

Leaves rustle, and lapping water licks.

Families having picnics, children chasing bubbles, climbing slippery rocks.

The mechanical sounds and harsh smells of manmade things: scooters and trucks, cigarettes and fried food. Incense.

Coffee beans roasting, and a wicker basket of wrinkling tea leaves basks in the sun.

A fruit fly buzzes and moans, and a caged bird sings the old song of freedom.

Mosquitos whistle whilst trying their best to pierce your armour.

Weeds between the paving slabs not trying to reach the sun but succeeding anyhow.

A plane flies overhead, below one even higher. A swallow shows off, then returns to its spittle home above your head.

A black cat in the market sits on weighing scales, dozing, with its tiny pink tongue hanging out.

A crying woman is hugged by a stranger—bad news.

A man sits alone on a bench—no news yet.

A scared boy cries for his mum, bottom lip trembling. A tatty street dog puts its head under his hand, and the boy stops crying. It’s not so bad being lost, you know.

Groups of men playing dominoes and checkers in the shade of great banyan trees, while their wives dance with other men.

Dogs in pushchairs, children on leads. Parrots on shoulders.

An old woman, walking with a stick decorated with bangles, yells obscenities to those only she can see. She lives in ruins.

The delicious smell of sweet potatoes in sugary syrup, shiny and golden.

Freshly baked breads with red beans.

Windows filled with cakes that tease the eyes and disappoint the tongue.

The unconditioned nose wrinkles at stinky tofu, and the eyes gawp at pigs’ trotters, marinated intestines, and the hearts of chickens.

A pig’s mask, all flesh and no bone, hangs by a hook through one of its drooping eye sockets. Good for broth.

Vegetarian buffets aplenty save so many days.

The day retires with a sky of purple and pink.

A small black bat shoots through the steam of cooking chestnuts, under the orange glare of a streetlamp.

The moon rises yellow over cold, quiet buildings.

But the city never sleeps.

***

 

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