i’d like to think if i were to believe in a deity it would be taiwan. it would be 95 degrees in july.
it would be the english fading on my tongue, the bright red of my fingers after burning the tips on fried mushrooms from the night market. i’d like to think if i were to believe in a deity it would be the kind of deity that loves you back.
the kind of deity that compels the ayi selling dragonfruit to avoid calling me a tourist.
i’d like to think taiwan is the kind of deity to make me from blood that is just as pure as everyone else’s.
maybe then i can take out the trash without coming back covered in mosquito bites.
i wonder if even the bugs are taught how to spot a foreigner.
taiwan is the kind of deity that feeds me zhu xie tang without flinching, without second-guessing my american girl tastebuds. taiwan is playing on the scrap metal piles in gong gong’s factory in shalu. taiwan is the soles of my feet remaining unscathed like the other kids; taiwan is my ankles exploding into boils from the heat.
when i get heatstroke from eating ice cream at sun moon lake, when there is brown rice stuck between my wisdom teeth,
or cockroaches scuttling under the tv set,
that is taiwan too. taiwan is the winnie the pooh blanket i slept with in pong pong preschool. it is the receptionist that called me a doll and marvelled at my curly eyelashes.
taiwan as a deity is unforgiving. it’s the set of instructions i memorized at 6 to guide taxi drivers to our family home，
it’s my grandparent’s friends, who emerge out of their screen doors to watch us drag our suitcases past the iron gates.
taiwan is my grandmother telling me to remove my ring before we go to the market, it’s too flashy, there’s no need to show off. it’s the lady at sogo department store pushing tone-up cream into my hands. it’s the girl at the lancome counter that calls my mom dark when i am darker and right there and tries to sell her a cushion compact in the same breath, looking at me all accusatory.
but taiwan as a deity is the swell of pride in my chest when i see the rainbow flags in taipei.
it’s the double takes when i hear mandarin in the crowd at dim sum restaurants.
it’s the passion with which i defend calling trash cans “le she tong” when my chinese friend insists it’s “la ji tong.”
and when it is 85 degrees and i am sweating, sitting at the dining table with relatives i don’t know and have never met. that is taiwan too.
“一直往前走，看到圆镜子的時間維下来” translation: go straight until you see the round mirror and then stop.
the chinese is a bit clunky but my brain is in "english mode" right now so please excuse that.