On a recent trip to Hualien we had a long layover in Taipei. After a few hours of roaming around the city, finding something to eat, and getting lost in the rain, my companions and I decided to retreat to Taipei Main Station to await our evening train.
By this time we were all exhausted. We found our way to the main hall where people were allowed to sit on the black and white checked floor in a large cordoned off area. There were masses of fellow travelers gathered there. Dumping my bags down I immediately lay down in relief and stared at the expansive ceiling and walls.
Almost as soon as I had settled in comfortably for the 5 hour wait that still lay ahead a security guard approached us and told us we were allowed to sit on the floor but not lie down. This was around my 30th hour without sleep and my entire body hurt. Having to sit up, unable to stretch out like I had, seemed like pure torture.
We resorted to playing silly word games to pass the time, which served as a hilarious distraction for a while, but after an hour or two restlessness got the better of us. We took turns staying with the bags while the rest ventured out to find dinner.
When it was my turn to keep watch I looked around cautiously for the guards in their neon yellow vests. When I didn’t see them I quickly lay down for a few seconds at a time – anything to temporarily ease the pain in my back. It was then that a mother and her son came and sat down near me.
They didn’t have any luggage with them, which I thought was strange. They both sat cross-legged and facing each other. The boy looked to be about 9 or 10. As I watched them they began to play some kind of game with their hands. I have no idea what it was, but from the look of glee on their faces I gather it was fun.
I began to feel strange watching them, like I was spying on an intimate moment, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. They were totally in their own world and didn’t even notice me. Every so often the boy would giggle and squirm with happiness, as his mother laughed and spoke softly to him. After a while they got up and wandered away.
I can’t quite explain it but seeing them brought a kind of calm over me. My mind was pretty fragile from lack of sleep and I had been feeling rather unwell. In the few moments that I watched them I saw the love and joy that they shared, and this somehow anchored me into the present and soothed me. I’ll never forget them – whoever they were.