This is a true story which happened to me on the night/early morning of March 1(2), 2014. It is a story which still confuses me to this day. I know I shall never have all the pieces to solve the mystery. I suppose this is just life and some things are unexplainable, like the plastic bag of raw meat that is the focus in this tale.
This story takes place in the methodically chaotic city that is Taipei, where I am, at the time of writing, an exchange student. As anyone who has been on an exchange may know, one of the blessings the exchange program grants is the opportunity to party in a foreign city. This story happened at the aftermath of one of those kinds of nights. After being a responsible drinker (one who does not launch particles of half-digested food back out through the same opening it came from) for almost a year, this particular night saw me push past self-set limits in search of a great enjoyment. As those who have experimented with alcohol may know, there is a tipping point with a steep descent. And on this particular night, I fell.
I took a taxi with a newly acquainted French associate to get back to our respective homes. We had been at an unmemorable bar/club after coming from a comparatively lively dorm party. We were two out of the original four that had headed out for grander heights of amusement. Unfortunately, it was in here where I pushed past a little bit too far. Thankfully, falling made me feel a lot better and I was now more lucid in comparison to the state of reckless excitement I felt before.
After arriving at our neighbourhood, he turned right to go eat at Mos Burger, a fast food chain, while I turned left to head home. There was a slight drizzle but it was not unpleasant. After walking a quarter of the way I saw one of the street stalls open, one which specialized in chicken oriented dishes. I suddenly felt like it would be prudent to eat some chicken noodle soup for the stomach and the hangover the next day. Some warm broth always did me good after poisoning myself a little too much.
Behind the stall was the same old woman that had been there last time I came for a late night meal. She was of diminutive stature with a voice of a surprisingly solid tone. She looked as if she was way past a reasonable retirement age, with a thin wrinkly skin surrounding her skeletal features. The thing that caught my eye the most was her hands. It was abnormally large and seemed unusually solid looking for a woman her age. The way the thin layer of skin surrounding the hands pronounced the underlying bone and muscle structure gave it a cruel look. I ordered my chicken noodle soup, and I examined the way her practised hands used a short butcher knife to hack a chicken leg into equal widths, creating a convincing ‘thack’ sound every time the knife went down. There was only one other customer at the stall, an older looking gentleman.
After drinking the broth and eating every edible portion of the chicken and the noodles, I felt satisfied and felt like it was time to go home to rest. During this time, the gentleman had eaten his meal and had already left. The rain changed from a drizzle to the start of an all-night downpour. Listening to the rhythmic tapping of the rain, I was glad that I was sheltered from the rain. However, the lack of an umbrella meant that I was not to be safe from the rain for long. It was at that time when I heard someone shouting at me from behind me, from the direction of the street. I turned around and it was the driver of the taxi. I couldn’t clearly make out what he was saying with my imperfect Mandarin, but I made out some of the words he said:
“一起。。。 送给你。。。” (“Together… Give to you…”)
The old stall keeper went to the taxi driver and soon came back with a plastic bag. With some clarification, it did seem to me that he was saying the person with me in the taxi wanted to give me this bag of unknown contents. It was a nondescript plastic bag with a plain gray colour, like the ones you would get from shopping at an outdoor vegetable market. However, it was clear that the contents of this plastic bag were not vegetables. There was a definite mass to it, and it had the texture I could only describe as a firm squishiness. The taxi driver drove away. I finally looked into the contents of the plastic bag. It contained sizable hunks of raw meat.
At the time, I did not know what to make of the situation. I had been on two rides in the past few hours. One was an alcohol driven roller coaster ride with a steep drop. The other was the change of mood and state from a wild exuberance from the party to a solemn calmness befitting the sounds of rain in an empty street with the occasional sounds of a motorcycle. The whole situation seemed surreal.
Not being used to being given raw meat at 3 am in the morning, I asked the old stall keeper if she wanted it. She looked inside and said no. So I took the 5 minute trip to my room with the steadily pouring rain, accompanied by the definite weight in my right hand, and the occasional contact of the bag of raw meat with my right thigh. One hundred metres from my room, I dropped the bag off in front of the entrance of a neighbouring apartment and did not see it the next day.
(picture above is the noodle stall)