Sunday, May 08, 2005

The World's Highest Wedding

"Why do you look so smart?" asked my flatmate. "I always look smart," I said. "Yerright... Why did you iron a shirt? Not seen you use the iron since the day you bought it back aways in nineteen-ought-six." That sounds good in an American accent. "Because I am going, and this sentence will get progressively weirder, to a wedding, of two people I've never met, or seen, in Taipei 101, the world's tallest and least romantic building. My student and her parents are taking me as their guest." "You look rich," he said, noting my rich man's jacket and tie. "I am rich!" I said. "You'd better come home with a chick tonight," he said.

It took me a trifling 30 minutes to get from my house to Taipei 101 – during rush hour – which included 15 minutes of walking to and from the Rapid Transit System (MRT) stations. I thought of a slogan the tourist board could use: 'Taipei - the MRT is good.' Taipei 101 is good too, I suppose, but I wouldn’t want to get married there.
The banqueting room on the 5th floor had been arranged into 40 richly decorated tables. I noticed that there was at least one pretty young woman at each table, and each wore a badge bearing the words 'single and looking.' I sat next to one of them and smiled at her for 5 happy seconds. Then I was moved to another table. The women on my new table were so old that they knew the words to 'Land of Hope and Glory' and remembered canasta. The official photographer seemed fascinated by my existence, and he took many photos of me.

There are 3 main features of a Chinese wedding. First, the food is plentiful and delicious. Second, old men give long speeches. Third, the bride changes dresses three or four times. My student, her parents and I ate food and listened to speeches. I asked my student to translate if anyone told a joke or an amusing story. 40 minutes later I reminded her. "I know," she said, "I will if they do." Later still, I reminded her again. "But there haven't been any!" 2 hours - no jokes. Taiwan.

The first course was lobster. My student's father dumped half the lobster on my dish. I don't like seafood and it makes me die so I ate it slowly hoping some of it would evaporate. It didn't. Then my student's mother noticed how much lobster I had. She seemed angry. "Andrew! Why do you have so much lobster? Ayy!" "But..." I said. My student whispered to me, "Lobster is very expensive." "Well, I don't like lobster very much so maybe you can help me eat it," I said to the mother. She looked offended. "It's very good lobster! Very fresh! Delicious! Eat it!" She picked up another bigspoonful of lobster and dumped it on my dish, and stared at me viciously until I started eating.

The food was good but the most sumptuous, well-presented dish was the bride. She came in three flavours - white, burgundy and blue. While she was wearing the burgundy dress, complete with frilly netty silky gloves and subtle body glitter, we went over to present our respects. I didn't even try to understand what my role was supposed to be, nor did I try to understand any of the conversations. I simply stared at her, enchanted.
As I was admiring her eyelashes she looked at me - oh! - and asked if I could speak Chinese. I replied fluently, "I know how to say 'You look beautiful'." She smiled again. I knew that if she were my wife I'd be happy every day. I spent a few moments fantasizing that she'd remember me when she looked through the wedding photos, and perhaps she'd wish she'd married me instead. I trudged back to the table, stared in envy at the old married couples who sat there mocking me with their lifetimes of contentment, and as soon as I could, made my way down six flights of stairs – and then back up one flight because in my misery I had gone too far – and out into the night.

Then I went home, alone.  It took less than half an hour. Taipei - the MRT is good.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing to think that anyone as handsome as Andrew would have to go home alone! Maybe it was due to the allergic reaction to the lobster - after all, Andrew never could eat seafood without coming out in hives.


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