By Caleb Cole, in Taipei County
There is an eccentric man in Xin Beitou selling pocket-sized novels of an overtly sexual nature outside of one of the Seven-Elevens en route to the public hot springs, for which the locale has come to be known.
I randomly learned of his existence last Saturday after he sat down beside me outside of the convenience store and molested my personal space by promoting his sordid artwork in near-perfect Chinglish.
He insistently handed me a copy of his book which I politely accepted, unaware of its message. The first chapter was entitled, ‘Cunts on Fire.’ After reading the words I looked up at the author, astonished that he knew that particular English expression. For all intensive purposes, we will refer to him as Snake Anthony.
He smiled brightly at me, exposing his tarnished choppers. Each row of teeth was encapsulated in a confederacy of silver, betelnut residue, and nicotine. Neglect alone could have given his dentures this distinct gray lacer, but due to the relentless bombardment of exogamous influences, Snake Anthony’s teeth were exceptionally decrepit.
From a distance, he looked rather inconspicuous. Snake wasn’t a very tall man, but kept himself in pretty good shape, which made his exact age very hard to determine. It wasn’t until you got close to him that you became aware of his peculiarity.
Supplementing his rotting teeth was a litany of tattoos covering the visible parts of his neck, forearms and eyebrows. The artwork took on many different shapes and sizes, but it was the distinct symbol of a starfish on the side of his neck that had the most significance. This starfish symbol was not only visible on Snake Anthony’s body, but was also displayed on the hood of his beat yellow jeep that undoubtedly served as his harem. It wasn’t hard to imagine our beloved acquaintance as a roaming sexual nomad gathering the fresh and unsuspecting in a city park near you.
Snake Anthony sat effeminately next to me, lit a cigarette and asked me what I thought of his book. I thumbed through several stories depicting sexual episodes from the bizarre. Each tale was comprised of an act of conquest that seemed only to add fuel to an already raging libido charmed by indecent lust. The grammar wasn’t bad.
I smiled and looked him in the eye, said “I don’t know,” and flipped to the last page, where it was indeed punctuated by photograph of a man — presumably the author — penetrating a stuffed animal with his erect penis. “Yeah man, I just don’t know.”
The author laughed and said he would sell me the book for NT$100. I considered it for a moment, but eventually decided to hand it back to him. He looked confused and started into his sales pitch for a second time around. As if he were on cue, a friend of mine walked out of the Seven-Eleven and listened intently to the fervent harangue. He was captivated. With each page, he found himself giving way to resplendent chuckles. “How much?” he asked and handed Snake Anthony a bill.
As we walked away from the Seven-Eleven, I was thinking to myself, my God what an impulsive purchase. What on earth could one do with a product like that besides hide it on a bookshelf far away from the minds of decent people? But as we soaked in the sulfur enriched waters of the Beitou hot springs, I realized that the book’s content was not straying far from the sphere of immediate conversation.
It was a hit, by God. No person in the group could resist the sheer lunacy of the written text, even memorizing some of the most outrageously lewd bits to boot. It was in that moment that I realized that I had passed on something far greater that what I could initially comprehend.
I had passed on something that was truly genuine, something that could not be found anywhere else in the world at any other time, except for on that tiny wooden bench outside of a Taiwanese Seven-Eleven. Ultimately, I had let a moment pass me by that would never return in that concentration of purity.
It made me think: How in the hell did I get here again? It seems like only yesterday that I stepped into this time warp of an airplane and hit the ground running on this treacherous island all in the name of escaping the mundane reality of living a privileged life, in a country where I understood the native tongue. Christ Almighty! I even made a de facto commitment to abstinence! And after all of this, I don’t even have enough sense of adventure to buy an irreplaceable piece of art from a man with facial tattoos and filthy dreams for the price of a mediocre cup of coffee back in the States. That’s just rude, man.
I mean, sure on the surface, Snake Anthony seemed a little seedy, perhaps even a little bit dangerous. But underneath that superficial image of a crazed sexual deviant could have been a compassionate, insightful, and trustworthy pederast. You just never know.
But isn’t that why we are all here, we‘ex-pats’? You know, to experience something a little out of the ordinary? Now I am not suggesting that you should go out on the street and start grinding the next warm body you see, or for that matter, accept the help of any old luckless stranger. But the fact remains that the time we have here on this island is fleeting-fast, and that goes for everyone, not just the foreigners.
There’s an old saying back home in Alabama that if you don’t grapple with the horns of life every once in a while, well then my friend, you’re kind of a pussy. Now I don’t know who said that exactly, so don’t go quoting me and shit, because I don’t like angry plagiarists.
The point is, get out there and get the feet wet a little. Who knows, it could be the first steps toward something beautiful and worthwhile. Something that you’ll never forget; a memory unchanged in the halls of your mind that you will be able to summon at the drop of a hat to piss off all of your friends back home that have already heard the fucking story thirty times before and are sick of you telling them how great your life has been in comparison to theirs.
Or this random experience could leave you face down in a piss-soaked gutter choking on the tail-end of a wad of betelnut, trying desperately to drown out the sound of screeching dogs and the faint whisper of ‘Fur Lise’ circling faintly in the alleyways of your densely populated neighborhood.