Republic. From the year 29 to the year 87. Fifty-eight years old,
not a bad run. C.J.'s father had died at 53 of a heart condition,
and his father before him had died at 52 from the same congenital
disease. No doubt about it, 31 years from now (he had generously allotted
himself one extra year of life, to 54) he will be following their
hallowed path. All praise Buddha, he muses silently to himself as
he kicks away some of the dried-up leaves that have gathered at the
foot of the site. He doesn't believe in an afterlife, he doesn't necessarily
believe in life. It is like a switch~on position, off position, and
with a single click, lights out. Around him, the cicadas buzz in surround
Who are you?
An elderly woman has waddled up to him, a modest bundle of flowers
in hand, the stems uneven and scotch-
taped together. To ward off the afternoon sun she has opened her pitch-black
umbrella; Doesn't black absorb heat? he wonders. Her stringy
hair is a rich and all too-artificial shade of brown. The family flatness
of her face, the shape of her eyes, all unmistakable. Immediately
he thinks back on the files he has read, the blunt paragraphs about
the deceased's mother~unemployed, living in retired military housing
(late husband was in the Nation-alist Air Force) in downtown Taichung,
three hours south of Taipei, scheduled to be moved to subsidized housing
by year's end, the old home demolished.
Excuse me. Are you Mr. Chen's mother?
Yes, she says. She breaks into the Taiwanese dialect as if willfully
attempting to confuse him.
Sorry, my Taiwanese~