The second incident occurred a few days later, with the Fried Rice Episode classified and packed away as a survivable event.
As I was exploring my new apartment, I discovered a storage space in the ceiling above the hallway between the living room and the bathroom. This space, I found after further investigation, could be reached from a small, partially hidden door in the spare room. I pulled up a plastic stool, opened the little door and scanned the dark, stuffy area. Old clothes, a hat with a feather, a useable looking briefcase, and various other signs of past human occupation of the apartment filled the space. Just as I was ready to step down from the stool – slightly disappointed at the discovery, except of course for the briefcase – I saw a light dimly flashing on-off, on-off against the opposite wall. I thought it might be a gem reflecting light, so I reached into the darkness. The item was still beyond my reach. I pulled myself halfway into the space, and leaned on a pile of black bags to edge closer. This time I could barely touch the object with the tip of my finger. That I may have stumbled upon something of value was evident, and I decided to pull my entire body in, with only my feet still dangling outside. Reclining on probably a decade’s worth of carefully collected junk, I grabbed at the item.
Fate, however, was on my case. As I tried to pull the object closer – which at that moment had developed an almost demonic red glow – the ceiling cracked under my weight. I remember that I uttered a fairly common swear word. I remember a bright flash of light. Then gravity kicked in, pulling me, several black bags, the briefcase and a portrait of two Chinese lovers down to what I had assumed will be the floor.
I was still screaming, with a black bag under one arm and the two Chinese lovers under the other, when I came to rest on a patch of soft, green grass. A waterfall, not far in the distance, pounded out a quiet rhythm on the rocks. I was obviously stunned. For a few moments I just gazed straight ahead, trying to blink all the dust from my eyes. Then I got up, put the bag and the two lovers against a tree, and started walking downhill in the direction of the waterfall.
No fantasy could have prepared me for the sight of which I became an appreciative observer the next moment. There, under the waterfall, with bodies like mythical Greek goddesses were half a dozen beautiful young women! When they saw me – hiding behind a bush, they waved at me, laughing gaily, without even for a moment pretending to lay a hand on bosom …
Okay, not really. My sudden descend ended in a tree, in what I identified soon enough as Hai Feng Gong Yuan (Sea Breeze Park), a few blocks from my new apartment. The inside of the tree was shaped like a funnel, which was a most fortuitous coincidence. I sat for a moment in the middle of the tree in a place which, oddly enough, almost looked like a throne. After realigning my thought processes, I jumped to the ground.
I greeted some onlookers, mostly old Chinese Civil War veterans, with great dignity – I had discovered the hat with the plume was leaning over my brow, so I slightly touched the tip the way men greeted each other a few generations ago. As I walked back to my apartment, the strangest thought entered my mind: Could it be that the branches of the tree were filled, not with leaves, but with tightly rolled bundles of one thousand New Taiwan dollar notes? A quick recall of the Fried Rice Episode reminded me that my life is not a fictional tale.
Nevertheless, the possibility was enough to stop me in my tracks. Rushing back to the tree, I grabbed the nearest branch. And, lo and behold, there it was: freshly printed one thousand New Taiwan dollar notes!
Naturally I stuffed my pockets full of “leaves”, and luckily I also had the briefcase there, which I also stuffed to bursting point. Now a little more wary about the Chinese masters on their bench, I risked a quick glance in their direction. Studiously reciting pieces from the annals of Confucius, they ignored me. More than that, no one in the neighbourhood seemed to be aware of the extraordinary feature of this special tree!
With money bulging from my shirt pockets and a few notes peering from under my hat, I walked home. Halfway I remembered that I didn’t have my keys with me, seeing that I ended up in the tree in the most unorthodox manner. When I arrived at my apartment, though, the door opened by itself, as if it was triggered by my approaching footsteps. Once inside, I immediately took off my shirt. In the process, I accidentally knocked the hat off my head.
The spectacle of money tumbling to the floor and floating around like butterflies in some tropical paradise almost brought tears to my eyes. I had a few quick shots of green tea, and then I started gathering the banknotes. Half an hour later I wrote the number “87,000” on an unopened telephone bill. “I must go back,” I said out load, and started looking for my shirt and hat.
By the time the sun was touching the horizon, I was already halfway between one and two million NT dollars. My day was definitely reaching unprecedented levels of prosperity!
Shortly after my last run to the tree, I had an unpleasant sensation. I suddenly realized I do not know my own name. I wanted to make the unique nature of the day official by addressing myself, but I could go no further than, “Well, uhm … Whatsyourname …” Standing in my living room trying out a bunch of names, hunger pangs stimulated another disturbing thought. I had no clue what kind of pizza I liked! A vague awareness that I had previously also suffered from such ignorance was not in the least conducive to a sense of inner peace. The situation became worse when I suddenly realized I had no idea where I come from – America … Egypt … Sweden?! I stared at the pictures on the wall in the hope that this will bring forth some emotion or sentimental memory, and perhaps inspire an idea of my identity and where I belong.
Then it hit me like a ton of rotten cabbage: I have an almost inexhaustible supply of financial resources! I could have a little fun! What does it matter that I was unsure about a few minor administrative matters?!
People will sometimes refer in their stories to “some of the best times of my life”. Over the next few days, I experienced what they mean. I picked a name for myself and fabricated a story about a youth in places like New York and Paris. I bought new clothes. The few hairs I have left on my head, I fluffed up in a grand, impressive style. I even tried crooning love ballads in a karaoke bar with friendly and skimpily dressed young ladies. Pizza was of course enjoyed in abundance, even though I had to try out quite a few before I realized I was a Super Deluxe guy.
After a few days of uninterrupted revelry and indulgent extravagance, I began to calm down. I was, however, still very much pleased with the improved quality of my new existence.