I shouldn’t have had that coffee. But walking by a coffee shop is so rare in Taiwan I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
And so, it’s 3am and I’m completely conscious. I’ve freshly stepped out of the third floor shower, but my skin is already beginning to freshly perspire from the humidity. And yet, it’s pouring outside the barred window of the bathroom. It’s typhoon season. Wet and humid. The suicidal bathroom light flickers between dim and altogether non-existent, it’s a tough job servicing a family of five. And so what illuminates my way is the yellow haze of light that seeps onto the tiled floors from the streetlights below. The barren roads give the misguided impression of a rural setting from this face of the apartment. The reality is you cannot walk five steps from the front door without passing lines of restaurants and retail stores.
I twist the doorknob as quietly as humanly possible and walk into air-conditioned haven, the back of my neck is singing with the abrupt gush of welcome cool air. Children and mother sprawled across floor mattresses or the random cot. I crawl in next to my cousin onto the hard bed. I’ll never understand the desire to populate a single room when countless rooms lie vacant in this five-floor walk up. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring me any sort of comfort to come undone beside my flesh and blood.
It’s 3am, still awake. I’m going to regret running on four or five hours sleep tomorrow. I’ll have to down the whole coffee my grandmother makes me every morning. The dreaded thing. My family don’t say I love you, I care. Their love language is money, luxury gifts, food. Read: stability, status.
I hated the coffee. I loved the gesture. That little cubicle of a kitchen became a place of solace each morning. It became a game of sneaking into the kitchen, ever so gracefully reaching for the cup of coffee, whilst making no sudden movements as to alarm the farm of dogs in the back terrace. Leaning back against the kitchen counter and revelling in the morning calm before the children awoke and the day’s itinerary kicked into gear.