Sunday, 31 May 2015

On Survival: 10 Years, Not Out

There was no wind. The young man bunny-hopped from the steep road up onto the precipitous edge of the concrete wall. As he cycled alongside and now slightly above his friends, he made some casual rejoinder in the conversation they were having about Sasha Grey's tits. Then he fell.

The drop was easily 100 feet.

I turned away with eyes wide open and a sharp intake of breath. There was no point in rushing over to help. That was it. A moment's stupidity paid for instantly and irrevocably.

That was the dream I awoke from early on Friday morning. I don't cycle much myself and nor do I know anyone who rides BMX bikes along precipice edges. But it is an image that evoked a curious confluence of horror, dismay and pride. I can see where it came from. I had been ruminating all week on a strange kind of "birthday": Monday had marked, to the day, ten years since I first came to Taiwan. May 25th 2005 to May 25th 2015. It is not quite what I would call an achievement, but it is something remarkable nonetheless. During all that time, and despite a few fairly close shaves, I have not been killed on the roads here. Yet it is something I think about almost every day, if only for a fleeting moment; every day I get on that motorbike could very well be my last. A moment's slip of attention, a fleeting distraction or a second of stupidity is all it would take to kill me.

Staying alive is not an achievement as such, but the sustained attention and intelligence it requires is something which must not be taken for granted. I owe my life to it. And that is, in a way, of greater significance than some achievements.

I write this on a Sunday morning whilst sat on the train to Douliu. In just over half an hour I shall be driving north to Taichung city.

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