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…)
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.
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.