Medium-length short story inspired by Taipei night-life. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental (or is it?)
• • •
Taipei at night is desperately bright – street signage smears of vertical neon lipstick against the night sky, the phosphorescence of a drink teetering on the corner of a glowing bar. The sleek shimmer of a sequined dress, worn by shiny young things, the glitter of vacant eyes in dark corners. The apartment’s boasts a naked window, overlooking the city lights. Her legs rest arrogantly on the open edge – somewhere in the distance, a radio turns on, blasting profanities. But she looks calm and at peace…
Halfway into the next block, when they’re waiting in traffic, she leans over and kisses him right on the mouth. Her smell unfurls in the space between their lips, with the faintest trace of sweat. It’s mid-July in Taipei, and he can feel the humidity seep, settle inside the car like poison.
“What the fuck,” he says.
She pulls back and licks her lips, a wolf smirking in a den of swans.
“Don’t do that again,” he says, putting a wondering hand to his lips, an unconscious movement he doesn’t notice until it’s far too late.
She just laughs. This version of her is all edges: hard eyes, jagged heels. Except when she smiles. He follows the lush shape of her mouth, mesmerized.
• • •
“”I love oysters. You know, they sell them at that bougy Japanese fish market near Minsheng Road. We could go there now and get some. You, me, and a million fucking oysters. We’ll bring it up to Elephant Mountain and eat them until we get sick. Then lets book a plane, get the fuck out of this tropical swamp mess of a city, and don’t return until we can’t stand to be away any longer.”
He laughs, barely keeping it on the right side of cruelty. “This is 台北， 寶貝 (This is Taipei, baby). Plenty of skin and flesh to be had here. Don’t think I can’t go out, look around, and pick up a dozen girls just as pretty as you. But that’s the thing – I don’t want what you offer,” he finishes, watching her face go still in contemplation.
• • •
“You’ll get tired of it one day,” he tells her when she shows up at his flat half past midnight. “You’ll get older, the champagne will taste shittier, the cities will all look the same, people will move on, and you’ll get sick of it all,” he says.
“I am older, people have moved on, and I’ve been all over the fucking world,” she says. “I still love oysters.”
• • •
As he walks out from the club, he finds her waiting for him in a taxi, idling and awash in 3 am lights. She’s slouched in the driver’s seat, her legs propped up on the dashboard, insouciant and infuriating. The driver is gazing distractedly at his smartphone.
“Where should we go?” he asks, leaning in the window to look down at her.
“I’m extremely disappointed, you know,” she replies. “You should have tried harder. You should convinced me to do things your way. We could have gotten an apartment we can barely afford, tied ourselves down with mortgage payments, taken soul-crushing commutes together to the jobs we hate. You could have been a manager, and your 奶奶 would have been so proud.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” he sighs, mournfully. “Willing to disappoint everyone, just for a fuck.”
“Not just a fuck,” she says, and laughs. “The fuck of your life.”
“No, the fuck of my life was a very imaginative yoga instructor during the Chinese New Year holidays two years ago,” he says, eyes never leaving hers. “You’re maybe number two or three on that list.”
“Don’t front,” she says. She waits until he’s slid into the backseat before maneuvering the tight space between them and straddling his hips. “Don’t pretend I didn’t change your life.”
“You’re poison, that’s what you are,” he sighs, and she looks entirely too pleased by that as she lowers her poisonous mouth and kisses him, as the taxi drives off in the heavy hot Taipei summer, awash in a neon glow.
• • •
• • •
“I don’t see why people shouldn’t get everything they want,” she informs him, matter-of-fact and drowsy in the passenger’s seat, car racing the sunset across the wide swathe of asphalt– the highway, the love letter to the wanderer.
He reaches over to comb her hair out of her face.
And then, through the approaching darkness: “Oh, just because you do…”
She just smiles, and says nothing.
• • •
image via Bobby Doherty