Saturday, March 30, 2013

White Rolls Royce on the Streets of Taichung

  Back in Taichung.  Back to the mosquitoes and the grime and smog and filth and confusion and apathy of Chinese thinking.  Back to this city that no one has ever heard of past an Ang Lee Oscar Speech.  Back to give it another go.  A new university job... new interests and loves... and then the walls almost came crashing down.
  Not that anyone really noticed, but the earthquake three days ago lasted a full minute of glass shattering terror.  About an hour afterward when my hands stopped shaking, I attempted to go outside for a run and that’s when things got even weirder.
  I put my key in the lock and it wouldn’t come out.  The key to the gaudy golden door with the locks from Germany mailed especially for the apartment owner with only one set. (Only in Asia would an apartment owner be vain enough to spend a thousand US dollars on a front door lock that if slightly broken would cause unbelievable hardship for his renter… all because he liked telling people how expensive his doorknob was…)
So for about fifteen minutes I twisted, jiggled, turned, pushed, and prayed… but the key wouldn’t come out.
  So I went back inside the apartment and threw my shoes against the wall for a good couple of minutes and tried again…no luck.  Key still stuck.  So I went back into the apartment and ripped off my shirt, (yes, like the Hulk) because by now even my sweat was angry (you won’t like my sweat when it is angry), wadded my shirt into a tiny little ball of aggravation, and threw that against the floor a couple hundred times until my arm was sore.  Then I tried the key again… still no luck.  So I went back inside and filled a tall glass of water and sat down and thought about it and came back and sprayed the lock with half a bottle of WD-40 and tried it again… yep, no luck. 
  This time I went back inside and sat on the floor and sulked for about ten minutes scratching the living daylights out of all the mosquito bites on my ankles and forearms and neck until I’d had enough.  This was life in Taichung.  I knew it.  I knew it.   What could I do?  So I just left the key in the lock and wet for a run.
  Now I’m out on the streets. Running past cars that purposefully swerve at me.  Dodging motorcycles barreling down sidewalks.  Jumping over old drunk men snoring on benches.  Sprinting past lines of little children in uniforms that scream at me and point…  “Bai pee-fu!  Bai pee-fu!”  and I don’t care because I’ve seen it all before.  Running is the greatest gift of my life.  To be able to still motor, at my age, when all the other people I know are cracked and broken down… to still be able to fly with my legs and arms and chest…  and then wham!  I step off a curb and run right in front of a speeding car.
  Not just any car.  A chariot!  A pristine, enormous white Rolls Royce.  Yes.  A Rolls Royce, complete with the Double RR hood ornament.  It might as well had a Richie Rich Dollar Sign painted on the front.  What in the world is this car doing on the dirty, filthy streets of Taichung.  It was like seeing a unicorn.  The driver, a woman in Gucci sunglasses barely able to see over the wheel, slammed on her brakes came within inches of crushing me, and I just laid there in the middle of the street, staring up at her, gasping for air. 
  Then she cursed me, ripped me up and down with every fowl Chinese word I’ve ever heard, and slowly, as if this sort of thing happened to her every day,  puttered away in first gear as I rose to my feet and stared in complete bewilderment.  
And I just continued on my jog as if nothing had happened. 

Sometimes I think,  it isn’t so much that “All Life is Suffering.”  Those Buddhists are kind of wimpy in their analysis.  I believe it’s more fatal, more like… every action or deed a person does or doesn’t do… causes irreparable damage and suffering to someone they least expect.  Someone they have no idea they are hurting by their action or non-action.  We are all just earthquakes in each other’s lives.  Raging in full blown terror or simmering set to explode, it’s no matter.  We just keep moving, leaving the people behind in our wake.

Oh… when I got back home, the key came out on the first turn.  Somebody up there must be laughing hysterically. 

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