“Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being. ”
– Judy Blume
Writer’s block is horrible. It feels like your brain has become a couch potato, flipping the pages of a tabloid or mindlessly changing channels while it is killing itself slowly with gallons of Coca-Cola. There is no motivation, no ideas, and you wonder how you ever wrote anything before. It had been almost two months and I’d written nothing.
I sat on cement steps, twirling a pink strand of hair around my finger, trying to keep the setting sun out of my eyes. Sizihwan was packed with Chinese tourists, who like me, had come to Kaohsiung for some southern sun. This bay is promoted as the best place in the city to see the sunset, so I’d walked for ages to get to it, but the swarms of tour groups did not, a relaxing moment, make. I was annoyed, glum, and hugged my knees trying to shield myself from the still powerful rays of sun.
“Where are you from?”
I looked up and squinted at an older Taiwanese man, who was standing astride a bicycle. He had glasses, hair smoothed to the side, and wore a button up shirt and khaki shorts with long white socks almost up to his knees.
I didn’t know if I wanted to talk to this stranger. Being a white, blonde (and at the moment pink haired) foreigner can attract the wrong sort of people, but he seemed harmless enough and there were waves of Chinese around to protect me.
“Oh, I lived in the States for fifteen years! I went to Michigan State.” He set his bike down on the steps. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m an English teacher in Hsinchu,” I replied, as he decided to sit down beside me. Maybe it was because he wanted to practice his English (although his was flawless) or perhaps I had looked strangely alone. Either way, I was happy for the company.
“Ah, very good. I am a professor at the university. Did you know that all these people here are Chinese?”, he asked, seeming to get to the heart of the matter of what he had wanted to talk about.
“Oh yes, I know. I think it would be much nicer here without them,” I grimaced, expecting him to agree. He shook his head.
“I’m so happy to see them here. You know, I was born in China and the way they speak reminds me of my parents. I listen to their dialogue or have conversations with them because I like to listen to them.”
“So, it feels like home,” I noted.
“Mmm, yes. It does. As a local, I like them being here. They have only started coming the last twenty years.” He waved his hand over the bay.” Twenty years ago, there was no one here! A lot of Chinese have money now and we want them to spend it in Taiwan because our economy is not very good.”
Intrigued, I let him talk and continued to listen.
“I actually just wrote an article about this place. Forty years ago, no one was allowed here. See, that port there had to be protected. We wouldn’t want anyone coming in there because they could attack us. And up on the hill? Those radars? There had to be road blocks to protect those. ”
He got out his phone. “I was just riding my bike over by Chiang Kai Shek’s old villa. I took a picture.”
On his phone was a picture of a modern looking home, looking like it had a new coat of green paint. The next picture was of an old-school garage with a vintage black Ford in it.
“That was his car!”, he exclaimed to me, pushing the phone closer to my face.
“That’s really incredible, people can just go there and look at his old car?”, I asked fascinated.
“Yes, people still go there. It is very interesting.” He seemed to suddenly remember his manners. “Oh, by the way, my name is Edmund.”
We sat silently for a minute, looking at the sun which was now smearing into golden light, as it dipped into the water. I took a picture with my Ipad and he stood up to get his own picture.
“Would you like me to take one of you?”, he offered.
I went and stood at the railing, smiling at the stranger I now knew as Edmund. He took the picture and frowned. I was a dark silhouette.
“Oh, don’t worry! I like it,” I told him.
He wasn’t convinced.
“People will think I can’t take a picture..”he worried. I laughed and reassured him again. There wasn’t much more to say and so Edmund decided to be off.
“Have a good evening, Hannah.”
“You too, Edmund. Nice to meet you.”
As soon as he was out of sight, I began to type on my Ipad, trying to get down everything he had said to me. I felt feverish with words. I’ll never know why Edmund stopped to talk to me that day, but I’m grateful that he did. He was my writing angel in professor’s clothing. My brain was getting back into shape and the block was gone.