Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bus Stop Proposition, Taipei

A small round woman in a shabby teeshirt and sweatpants approaches me at a bus stop and asks if I want her daughter. She speaks in a heavily inflected Chinese and at first I'm not sure I heard right. Dropping her plastic bag of household cleaning items, she reaches to shake my hand.

"Can we be friends?" she asks frankly, then repeats the query about the daughter.

I don't offer her my hand.

"Well at least look at her," she says, and gestures toward a girl about five paces away.

The girl is maybe twenty and is obviously retarded. She's grinning sheepishly at me. Rounder than the mother, she looks like an oversized Chinese steamed bun forced into mismatched house clothes.

The mother--she's finally managed to force her hand into mine--explains that she doesn't know what to do, the daughter never listens to her and always complains that she talks too much.

"You can take her if you want, do whatever you want with her, I'm not asking for much," she says to me through her four remaining teeth.

Noticing my eyes are on the gaps in her denture as she speaks, she points to the daughter and says:

"Oh, she's got better teeth than me, don't worry."

At this the girl frowns and sticks out her tongue at us, but then obliges by smiling widely to show her teeth.

In fact she does have better teeth: she has teeth.

"I'm fifty years old last month, and I've given birth to seven children. Two of the sons died, and a daughter died too, so this girl is one of the four I have left."

I don't bother to ask how her having four children left relates to the fact that she's trying to sell one.

I see my bus approaching and say, "Sorry. I've got to get to work."

"C'mon. Won't you consider it?" the mother says. "Just take her with you. I'm not asking for much."

She runs her hand over the brown paper Subway bag I'm carrying, as if to say, "Give me the turkey sub, and the girl is yours."

As the bus door opens for me to get on, the mother takes her retarded daughter round the shoulders and struggles to force her onto the bus with me. But the girl is stronger, and the ploy doesn't work.

As the bus pulls away, I watch them recede through the window, the mother cussing at the daughter and the daughter waving bye to me with her wide retarded grin.

No comments: