My clothes cling to me as I walk home. The night air is heavy with humidity. I look down and realize I have forgotten to change out of my work shoes again. Shit. Another weekend without my trusty sandals. Oh well. It’s too late to turn around and go back – the school will be closed by now.
I continue homeward, passing through the usual stores crammed on top of each other on the sidewalk. There is no such thing as pavements here. You literally have to walk through shop fronts. Some are shuttered up for the night but most are alive and kicking. A lot of the food vendors are still open. The aroma of stinky tofu hangs in the air on one particular corner. I hold my breath as I pass. It’s a delicacy here in Taiwan. Personally I think it’s putrid in both taste and smell.
Next I walk through the auto repair workshop that is always cluttered with scooter parts, various tools and people. The customers sit in a line on small plastic chairs that extend into the street. I pick my way through metal bits and pieces strewn across the floor. There is a female mechanic that repeatedly draws my eye. She is the only woman that works there. She is always in black jeans, black studded sneakers and a grease streaked work shirt. Her black hair is pushed back from her face and she is perpetually busy, a concentrated look etched on her face. What a badass.
Onwards I stride – through cellphone stores and tea shops, clothing stores and bakeries, hairdressers that are bustling even at this late hour. When I reach my road I turn left at the massive fruit stand that sits on the corner and never seems to close. It was even open during Typhoon Megi last September – fuck the weather, people need oranges.
As I draw closer to my building I fall behind a man walking in the same direction. His clothing is old and dirty, and his pace is slow. He is having a conversation with someone I can’t see. We approach my block and I turn into the entrance. I watch as he stumbles on straight, mumbling to himself in Chinese.
I walk into the lobby and immediately fill my water bottle at the dispenser there. The guard behind the desk looks my way and gives me a slight nod, which I return. I glance towards the elevators and see one has just arrived. Perfect timing. The doors open and the few people waiting pile in with those already on board from the basement level. Fuck it – I’ll take the next one.