Alto-Soprano Dream

It was a long, multiple medium text message. She had sent it last night, silently while I had been asleep. The message was something more along the lines of instruction than conversation. There wasn't much else to talk about anyway. We had already bid our goodbyes.

A photo of a street corner, the bus station, what bridge to look for, by this landmark and that road, the time, and the description of a man I was supposed to meet. He was a friend of her's.

"He's about halfway between five feet and six feet, not too short and not too tall. A bit on the skinny side, but more muscular than your average guy. He sounds like he ate an old ragtime piano and all his vocal chords got rearranged. He has a straightforward, but expressionless face."

"A straightfoward, but expressionless face?" I asked. It wasn't much to go off of.

"That's what he looks like."­­­

I checked online to see if I could find an address. It was located in an outer district of Taipei, on the northern end of Yangmingshan. I printed out a map and marked the meeting place in red. On closer inspection, it seemed to be right in the middle of a single road. There were roads everywhere, overlapping like musical cables, but the road I was to go to seemed to be occupying a space in a parallel world. You couldn't possibly see it on the map, but it felt like it was floating away nevertheless.

I thought to myself. Let's hope I don't get lost.

She was twenty-five, with a healthy, attractive body and an alto-soprano voice that floated perfectly on top of any crowded room or quiet city night. As hard as I try, I couldn't recall her face. Each time we saw eachother she had on a different look. Her hair tied up, exposing her forehead, she was a completely different person than when it was down. On some occasions, her face resembled a bird. On others, she was as uninteresting as the next girl. Which of these faces she considered her real face, I had no idea.

I first met her four years ago, while she was in America studying as a summer student. It was the beginning of July. I was doing a fellowship at a laboratory on campus. While doing my research, I'd spend hours at the library.

She would be there too, drinking cup after cup of coffee, stacks of CDs next to her laptop. She would sit there and listen to all of them, one by one.

One time she was listening to strictly Russian classical music. Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, those guys. Another time, it was movie soundtracks from the 1960s. Another time, jazz music, but only from Japan. There were an endless variation of genres, and the handful of students who stuck around that summer would donate their own collections to her. Those were the early days of music streaming, after all. Who needed CDs anymore?

She and I would listen to some songs together on a hi-fi system. Before we knew it, her summer program ended, and I got a job working as an analyst. We didn't see eachother for another four years.

When we did finally meet again, we spent just around the same amount of time together. One whole season. And then we parted just as inconsequentially as the last.

The afternoon I set off, which was only a week after I had last seen her, I got on a train at Gongguan station. I got off at the very last stop of the red line. Before I knew it, the humid day had turned into a rainy evening. I hadn't even noticed when the sun disappeared.

There were a great number of people spilling out from the station and onto the crowded and uneven streets full of shops and restaurants. It was so lively that I didn't want to leave. I could have just stayed and smoked pack after pack of cigarettes, watching the endless stream of families, young business professionals, high school friends, hoodlums, and cafe baristas finish up their days.

I couldn't stick around, though. The bus drivers would soon be wanting to head home, so I tried to figure out the best route to take. There were over a dozen buses in total, and they ran in all sorts of directions. Each time I asked someone for the most efficient route, I got a completely unique set. Even the online recommendations were confused. I ended up picking what I thought would be the largest bus, in case it was crowded.

I bought a ticket and waited about three cigarettes before the bus arrived. By then, the station had become dramatically quiet. It was as if a composer had instructed everyone to decresendo. There were only a handful of people waiting in line now. I checked my phone. 8:47pm, no new messages. Pianissimo.

The bus ride was an ordinary bus ride, except for the fact that if I looked out the window and past the streetlights I could see nothing at all. I didn't want to fall asleep and miss my stop, so I loaded up a movie. I don't remember which anymore, except that it was an old Hollywood film. Black and white, with long opening credits.

My world existed now only inside the screen. The main character of the movie was now the main character of my life. After an indeterminate amount of time, I fell asleep anyway.

I dreamt that I was on board a train on the Trans-Siberian Railway heading east to Vladisvostok. Travellers left and entered the car at every stop, except three others besides myself that were also bound for the farthest station.

There was a beared old man, heavyset, and tall. He was dressed warmly in an oversized jacket, even for his size, and carried with him a four-foot tall cardboard cuboid. Who knows what was in there? He hadn't said a word for the entire four days we sat together.

Seated next to him and his box, by the window, was a young lady. She looked and acted almost exactly like Veronique from Godard's La Chinoise, even down to her Maoist theories. Her name, she told me, wasn't Veronique, but Katherine. She was so sincere in wanting revolution, that when she tried to recruit me into her communist cell, I joined.

I too was seated next to the window, and next to me was a humanoid monkey with all black fur and red eyes. I think he was more scared of us than we were of him. How did I know the monkey was a man? I couldn't see his penis underneath all that fur, but I felt for certain that this monkey was a man.

"Don't you think political assassination is necessary to overthrow an illegitimate authority?" Katherine asked, sincerely. I had to think about it.

I thought about it for hours. We looked out the window and could see the pure white snow for miles and miles. Other travellers would occasionally walk past our car door.

Just as I arrived at an answer, I was forced awake by a formation of bright white lights. It was my stop.