Unshaven, still drowsy, I lock the door to my 5th floor Taipei flat. I check my watch as I wait for the elevator, realizing I'll likely be late for class. When the elevator door finally opens, after an annoyingly slow descent from a floor high above, I come face to face with some upper-story neighbors, a mother and her young son. The boy is four or five and carries a huge slice of watermelon covered in clear plastic wrap. I notice the yellow of the melon perfectly matches the yellow of the bicycle stenciled on his teeshirt. The mother, as usual, has way overdone her makeup, and is carrying an oversized Louis Vuitton bag. The boy smiles at me, but the woman keeps her gaze on the floor.
Then, as the doors close, she suddenly whacks her son sharply on the head and snaps in Mandarin: "Stop touching the melon! You'll ruin it and no one will want to eat it! It's like butterfly wings. If you touch them you ruin them!"
I watch the boy's reaction in the mirror as the elevator begins to descend.
"Do people eat butterfly wings?" he asks her after a few seconds.
She makes a scoffing noise and says just a single word: "Stupid." She clutches her bag closer.
As we near the ground floor, I catch the boy's eye in the mirror. He's clearly upset to be hit and insulted in front of the tall foreigner. As the elevator slows to a stop, I smile at him and say: "We eat them in my country."
And just before the doors open, he looks up at his mother and defiantly says: "He eats them!"
As I step out of the elevator, I catch the mother scowling at me. But the boy is happy. I know in his mind he's already picturing foreigners munching on yellow butterfly wings.
That I'll be late for my class matters little now. I step out into the rain, hoist my flimsy umbrella, and head to the subway. I'm glad I caught them on the elevator. One must always try one's best to get to children when they're young.
[四十多歲小孩寫的文字。 謝謝我學生畢莘幫我改我的錯誤，但她應該太有禮貌， 應該還有怪怪的地方。]
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