You will know when you see it: there are people–most often children, but adults too–who are lost. Lost in themselves. They do not know their own hearts, but in time to come, they will learn. Hopefully. Most have been this person at some point in their lives, sometimes they will find themselves for a brief, fleeting moment before falling, lost once more. Eileen Tan was one such individual–or not-individual.
The almost-twelve-year-old had dark hair that was in plaits one week, loose and straight another. She had brown eyes she always wished were blue, or something less ordinary. Her room was decorated with fake boy-band posters one month, Disney merchandise the next, second hand anime figurines the month after. As I said, you will know when you see it: Eileen Tan was lost.
Three weeks, two days, and five hours ago, Eileen and her father and mother had left their home in New York City for her mother, Jessie, to be a visiting professor in Taiwan. On the ride from the airport to the university campus, the taxi driver had blasted the same song over and over again, and despite not knowing what the lyrics meant, Eileen was filled with homesickness.
Eileen found herself wearing ribbons in her hair, and a blazer over her crisp, white blouse and tartan skirt.
“Wait…why are we here? I’m in middle school.” Eileen whispered in her mother’s ear. They stood before the doors of Renren Academy’s elementary school building. Little kids marched across the school field in neat queues.
“Middle school in Taiwan starts in seventh grade. You’re in elementary school, it’s no big deal.”
“See you later, honey!”
A woman with a large bosom and a button nose came up to her. Her eyes were doll-like. “Hi, are you Eileen?” the Doll said.
“I’m Ms. Dong. I’m your homeroom teacher.”
“Oh. I’m…uh…you already know my name.”
“Mm-hmm. Your buttons are wrong. Fix it, please. Follow me.”
Eileen strained her neck to look back at Jessie, who was already gone.
The national anthem was played on fifty pianikas of the school band then, the bell rang for class to begin. Students all sat rigid in their seats.
“Alright class,” the Doll stood at the front of the classroom on a small platform running along the wall, “Wo men jin tian you xin tong xue.” She nodded to Eileen, who understood none of what she had said.
“H-hi, I’m Eilee–I’m Ellie,” Eileen smiled, blurting out her new identity.
“Alisha, you help her,” the Doll instructed a girl who was all ribbons and immaculateness. Eileen recognised her from the school band that morning.
“Yes, laoshi.” Alisha smiled obediently. Her uniform was perfectly ironed, and not one hair was out of place.
“Lai, shang ke koujue kaishi!”
The students nodded and sat up even straighter. They opened their mouths and chanted a very long stream of words Eileen had no understanding of. It lasted two-three minutes before the Doll went on to teach a lesson in all Mandarin that caused Eileen to grow bored and stare out the window.
A few uniformed adults piled into the classroom carrying large metal boxes wet with condensation. They placed them onto a long table in the back.
Students opened up the boxes and placed ladles into them.
Eileen sat still, unsure of what to do.
“It’s lunch time,” the girl sitting next to her said.
“Um, I’m Ellie,” Eileen said. “Sorry, I can’t remember your name.”
“Alisha,” said the girl. “You don’t speak Chinese?”
“That’s fine. We’re all just going to put the food there on our trays.”
Eileen followed Alisha and got up. She piled food onto a metal tray.
“Did you bring chopsticks?” Alisha asked. Eileen shook her head. “Oh. Go borrow one from the teacher. Or…” she saw Eileen’s pleading face. “I’ll do it for you.”
Alisha went to the Doll. After a minute of conversation, the Doll strode up to Eileen. “Ni xia ci yao dai, oh!” the Doll said.
“Next time bring your meal gear!”
The Doll bounced away, and Alisha demonstrated the Doll’s meaning.
“You have to buy this table mat,” Alisha said, gesturing to the green cover on her desk. “You also have to get this table cloth,” she smoothed a pink cloth over the green cover. Alisha passed her a pair of chopsticks. “You know how to use these, right?”
“Of course! Duh,” Eileen took the utensils.
Eileen sat down and began piling food into her mouth.
“No! No!” Alisha waved her hands frantically. “You can’t eat now!”
“Oh?” Eileen said, mouth full. She hid her face in her hands and swallowed as quickly as possible.
“Hao, kai shi!” the Doll said.
Again, the students chanted what was as good as a curse to Eileen.
“You can eat now,” Alisha whispered.
Eileen nodded and took only small bites until she finished.
There was nap time. Eileen lay her head on the hard desk, confused. “So, we just sleep?” she asked.
“Yep,” Alisha whispered. “Sleep quickly; we’ll get points off if we move or open our eyes.” “Alisha!” the class president shouted. “Are you moving? One point!”
Eileen played dead.
English class rolled by. At least this classroom didn’t smell like piss–like the science classroom, which required one to travel through the boys’ lavatory to access–and the teacher bothered to turn on the air-conditioning.
“I’m Mr. Rogers,” the caucasian teacher said.“Like Steve Rogers, you know? Captain America.” He looked more like a drug addict than a superhero. As he walked past Eileen’s desk, she caught a whiff of him. She forced herself not to retch; he smelled worse than the thick clouds of marijuana one would walk through often in New York City.
“Looks like we have a new student…” Captain Stink said.
“I’m Ellie. Tan,” Eileen said.
“Ellie, huh? Ellie the Elephant.” The students giggled. Eileen winced. Seriously? Eileen sat still as the man dangled his greasy black locks over her. She let out a breath when he crossed the room to the whiteboard. “Alisha, hand out these books.” “Yes, teacher!” Alisha jumped up and eagerly took the stack of books.
“Kids, start reading when you get yours!”
Eileen wrote her name on her empty copy of the book, and opened it. A script! This could be fun.
“I like to ride the MRT,” a student read. “MRT stands for Metro…polly…tuhn ruh…transportation…”
Oh, kill me now.
The students were dismissed and Eileen left as quickly as possible.
“Mom, I hate it here,” Eileen cried, tugging at her collar with all fingers. “I wanna go home.” “This is home, Eileen,” was Jessie Ong’s response.
“No, I meant New York.”
“No, Eileen. That wasn’t home.”
“Well, it was my home.”
“We just got here, Eileen. It’s gonna take a while for you to…adjust.”
“I hate it here. I hate our house. It’s always wet, and everything is old and rotting!” “Hate is a strong word,” Jessie planted her feet to give her daughter a look. “Well, it’s accurate. I haven’t been able to find a single good burger, everything I eat is sweet, the air–the fucking air is heavy.”
“Eileen Tan! What has gotten into you?”
Jessie sped up and walked ahead of Eileen, just out of reach.
The takeout luroufan pork-rice for dinner was hardly eaten, Eileen’s father, Fred Tan, attempting to break the angry wall of silence between the mother and daughter with pleasant conversation.
At 9.00 PM, Eileen settled herself in bed. As she was reaching for the light switch, Jessie opened the door.
“Hey, Eileen,” she said.
“I’m sorry…you don’t feel at home here. Am-ma’s coming soon, OK?”
Eileen nodded. Her grandmother always made things better.
“You know…” Eileen said, “I don’t sleep well here. I get weird dreams.”
“When can we go home?”
“Oh, don’t start, Eileen. I’m sorry for what I said, but we aren’t leaving anytime soon.” Jessie eased the door shut.
Eileen slept uneasily yet again.
In her dream, a woman’s voice begged and begged her to come home. Home… Please…Ailin. Ailin! Ailin!
She jolted awake, the sun barely creeping into the room.
School finished for the last time before the mid-autumn-festival holiday.
“Ellie, bye-bye!” Alisha waved innocently.
Eileen smiled and stepped out of the school grounds, breathing a breath of freedom. Her grandmother stood at the gate, waiting.
“Ah-girl-ah!” Am-ma embraced her granddaughter, her thick Singaporean accent coating every word.
“Hi, Am-ma,” Eileen said, voice strained from the embrace. “How was your flight?” “OK. OK. You know, there was one very polite young man on the flight–he helped me with my bag.
“But then,” Am-ma continued, “he sat down next to me, and he smelled so bad! Like stinky tofu, like-that. Some more, hor, he snored ver loudly the whole way!”
“Did you bring mooncakes?” Eileen asked Am-ma.
“No,” Am-ma said, incredulous. “Here don’t have, meh?”
“Well…I haven’t tried them yet.”
“Same same, lah,” Am-ma said. “What are you scared of? Mooncake is mooncake, what?” Eileen shrugged.
“Let’s go buy right now!” Am-ma took Eileen’s hand and hailed a cab.
The traditional pastry store on Dihua street was old and cluttered. It felt oddly…familiar. Unsettlingly so. The walls were decorated with wooden Japanese clogs.
The floor tiles were comfortable beneath Eileen’s feet, and a tracing of her finger on the buckling shelves felt…right.
“Have I been here before?” the girl mumbled. She couldn’t have been there before; she didn’t even know what Taiwan was when her mother announced they would be going there the day after Trump got elected.
Am-ma spoke in fast Hokkien with the shopkeeper. She paid and she and Eileen walked out of the store carrying a small box of mooncakes.
“This shop is damn old, you know,” Am-ma said. “Been around for decades.”
“Wow. Did you see the wooden clog-slipper things hanging on the walls?” “Ah-huh. The laoban said it used to be a clog shop. I used to help my mother make them, you know.”
“They’re called chakkiak in Singapore, but my mom always called them geta; Japanese.” Eileen nodded and peeked under the lid of the box. She pointed at what looked like a coil of pastry. It looked tasty, but…
“That doesn’t look like a mooncake,” Eileen scoffed.
.“What do they think they’re doing? What is this?” Am-ma screeched. “This is not a mooncake!”
Eileen laughed and shut the box.
“Ah-girl-ah,” Am-ma said, sobering, “how come that girl called you ‘Ellie’?” “Oh, at school?” Eileen stopped. “I just…”
“You don’t like your name?”
“You know, you were named after my mother, your great-grandmother.”
“No, no, you feel how you feel. Can’t control that.”
“Mm…I just…why did Mom have to just up and go; drag us all along with her? New York was our home. My home.”
“She couldn’t help herself. Poor thing, she must have been itching to move,” Am-ma sighed. “You come from a family of travellers, Eileen. My mother… your great-grandma’s family came down from Xiamen to Kinmen to Taipei. Tan Ailin–your great-grandma–she went to Singapore from there. She was a strong woman.”
“Mm-hmm. So many small businesses and odd jobs! She made ice-lollies for a few years, then clogs, then…mooncakes, actually. She had one regret, though: her sister.” “Her sister?”
“Quite sad, lah. Tan Suilin was left here, in Taiwan. Your great-grandma passed without ever seeing her again.”
“What happened to her?”
“No one knows. One day, she stopped sending letters. Anyway: ah-girl, how was school today?”
At home, Am-ma opened up the box of mooncakes. Jessie took one and popped it in her mouth. The family collectively grimaced.
“That’s…not what I was expecting,” Jessie said.
“What did you expect?” Fred laughed.
“Not pork floss!”
Eileen peered out the window. “No one’s carrying lanterns,” she said.
“They don’t do that here,” Fred munched on a mung bean mooncake–one that tasted normal.
Eileen grunted and opened the window. She sniffed. “Do you smell that? It smells like…” she sniffed again. “…barbecue.” Families sat outside on stools, roasting meats over small barbecue grills. Barbecue in Autumn?
“Huh, weird.” Eileen shut the window.
The adults retired to bed.
“Don’t sleep too late, Eileen,” Am-ma said as she climbed up the stairs. “You’ll grow ugly if you do.”
Eileen rolled her eyes and put on her earbuds to call her friend.
“Aaaaah! Eileen!” Karen squealed as she picked up the phone. “Hi, honey!” “You sound like my fucking mom, Karen!” Eileen said, smiling ear-to-ear.
“Why aren’t you sleeping? It’s, like, really late there, right?”
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“Aww! She misses me! So, did you make any new friends?”
“Yeah, but…not a real one. Everyone here is like a fucking stock photo. They all go to cram school after school and on weekends.”
“That’s too bad you don’t have me there. Cute uniforms, though.”
“Oh my god! They are such a pain in the ass.”
“What, Mom?” Karen shouted offscreen. “Sorry, my mom’s calling.”
“Oh,” Eileen said.
“Gotta go, I ‘didn’t keep the groceries properly’.”
“As usual,” Eileen laughed.
“It was great seeing you! Bye–”
“Bye,” Eileen sighed to no one.
Eileen went to the fridge and fetched herself two mung bean mooncakes and a plate. She settled herself at the table and opened up YouTube.
The mung bean mooncake was not bad; much better than the pork floss her mother made her try.
She took another bite of the mooncake and–
Paper. She’d bit into paper.
She plucked the paper from the bean paste. She glanced at the rubbish bin, but she felt she ought to see what the parchment slip was.
Eileen licked the paste off the little note:
Something…no…under a light…Spring wind…blow? Seventeen…eight…? Was it some sort of Taiwanese fortune cookie? None of the other mooncakes had a note. Eileen finished the mooncake and opened another. She broke the second mooncake in half to inspect its contents. Another note:
See…less-year house…fruit? No…something…surface meat white.
But not a coincidence.
The words seemed to beg her to listen, but she couldn’t understand. It almost pained her to watch the notes drift from her hand into the rubbish bin.
Eileen lay in bed, earbuds in. She went into Spotify and chose Hey, Jude by The Beatles at random.
“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.
“Take a sad song and make it better.
“Remember to let her into your heart,
“Then you can start to make it better…Brrzt!”
Just as Eileen had begun to drift off to sleep, the music began to distort. Incomprehensible noises intertwined with static filled her ears, but she couldn’t move to take the earbuds out or stop the music.
A voice. A woman’s voice.
“Go ya bo pua xiu deng ei
“Chun hong dui bin chei
“Chap tsit puei he-ya bui chut kei
“gi diu xiao lian gei
“Ko lian piao dit bin bak pek, sia ga lang tsut tei–”
It was the song from the airport taxi! Eileen regained control over her hands and yanked the earbud cord from her phone.
Eileen’s heavy, scared breaths.
The loneliness that didn’t only belong to her.
Eileen somehow managed to sleep. She dreamt she was older, and had lost something she would forget upon waking.
“I miss Ailin, mama.”
“I know you do, so do I.”
No comfort, no words saying I would see her again, only “I miss her too.” I ate mama’s gueibneah during Zhongqioujie, but with no Ailin to fight over them with, the pastries I once swore by tasted empty.
I met Chua Tianho a week after Ailin and papa left for Nanyang. I thought at first that Ailin was left with papa because she was naughty, and papa had to go all the way to Malaya to find a boy willing to wed her. I know now she got to go on because I am weak; too sickly to move on to a better world.
I made Chua Tianho a pair of geta. I am a master geta-maker–I can tell how much wood and how much string and cloth to use just by looking at a customer’s foot. He asked if I was looking for a suitor, pretty girl, aren’t I lucky you haven’t been snagged yet, you seem just the right age to be wed. I threatened to throw this clog at him if he said anything more, flirty bastard. I felt a blush creep up my neck, and I cannot say if the blush was only because of anger. He paid me and said to keep the change. Chua Tianho blew me a kiss as he left our shop.
Eileen awoke with a blush on her cheeks, as though she had been eavesdropping on people casually catching up on gossip all night.
“How was school?” Jessie Ong asked her daughter. Eileen undid the top buttons of her shirt. Eileen’s only accurate response to the question would have been the loud groan of an ingrate, but she chose to say: “Not much to say, really. Fine. Normal.”
“That’s alright. How’s that Alisha friend of yours?”
“OK. I still don’t know much about anyone. They’re…friendly, but…not…I dunno. Never mind.”
“Can we go get more mooncakes?”
“We still have left over…” Jessie sighed. “Sure, I’ll find a place near our house…” “Wait…can we go to the place I went to with Am-ma?”
“Uh, sure. I’ll ask her to text me the address. Why?”
“I…like that place.”
Jessie and Eileen entered the old pastry store, the air even more familiar than the last time Eileen went.
Jessie browsed the boxes of mooncakes. Eileen snuck past her mother and went to the back of the shop, where a notebook sat patiently on the ground before her…waiting? Eileen picked up the old leatherbound book and flipped through. It seemed to be a diary. Eileen could only read a few simple characters from the entries, but, thankfully, the book was full of beautiful black and red ink drawings.
Eileen broke a mooncake from the old box open, and even before she saw it, she knew: a note.
Something began to knock against Eileen’s windowpane. Tok…tok…tok… The hammering of a nail. No. The hammering of a nail connecting a piece of fabric to a wooden clog.
Eileen felt fear course through her; the sound was too familiar.
If she relaxed, she knew she would be soothed by the sound, but she could not. The noise continued through the night, begging, begging, begging her to listen.
Chua Tianho kissed me. Oh, thank the gods. He kissed me on Zhongqioujie. I loved it. I love him.
“Suilin,” Tianho said to me when our lips parted, “will you throw your clog at me now?” My gueibneah fell from my fingers and I reached for him.
My response was another kiss. My mother was married when she was sixteen. I am seventeen. Will I marry Chua Tianho?
“Don’t think I will marry you,” I whispered. “You are a good kisser, who is to say you are a good husband?”
Tianho laughed and laughed and laughed.
“Come to my house tomorrow. Sayonara, miss Tan Suilin,” he turned to leave me, the full moon continuing his laughter.
“…sister,” Eileen found the word in her mouth as she opened her eyes to the sunlight peeking through the drapes.
“Who are you in love with? Ni ting bu dong ren hua ma?” The Doll snapped a finger in front of Eileen’s nose. Eileen blushed again and flipped her textbook to the right page. “…Mooncakes were used to carry hidden messages…”
A cartoon in the social studies textbook depicted a family innocently pleading Mongolian soldiers to deliver mooncakes to others.
“…the message was to overthrow the rulers at the time…”
During breaktime, Eileen opened the old diary and ignored many of the pages, searching only for drawings labelled ‘蔡添和, Chua Tianho’ to eye curiously.
The drawings appeared to have been done with a thin calligraphy brush or pen. The drawings were all of a young man with a soft jawline and a cheeky grin.
“Did you draw that?” Alisha gawked. “That’s really good.”
“Um…” Eileen was at a loss for words.
“Let me see!” Alisha flipped through the book.
“Who is Tsai Tianhe?”
“Isn’t it Chua Tianho? He’s just some guy I dreamt of.”
“Oh, in Taiwanese. Did you dream of Chen Rueilin, too? Sorry, Tan Suilin.” “Who? Oh.”
The page was signed 陳芮琳.
“Hey, I draw too–”Alisha stopped and grinned. There was a letter stuck inside the pages of the book. “Where did you find this?”
“On the ground–” the truth began to escape Eileen’s lips.
The bell rang.
“Wait, Alisha,” Eileen struggled. “Can I have it back?”
“I’m reading it, hold on.” Alisha gave it back to her. Eileen was comforted by the diary in her hands.
“Eileen!” The Doll said. “Shou qi lai!”
“Put it under your desk!” Alisha hissed.
“Eileen!” The Doll was standing beside her desk and swiped the book away. “Wait, no, I need it!” Eileen cried.
“No.” The Doll went behind her own desk and hid the book from Eileen’s view. “You don’t understand–I need it!”
The Doll shook her head and muttered under her breath.
“Shang ke koujue kaishi!”
Later in the day, Eileen sat down for her English test.
Students from the other–Mr. Ezra’s–class joined hers. Captain Stink passed out test papers and Eileen held her breath as he walked past.
“OK. Mr. Ezra’s class, let’s play a joke on your teacher, OK?” Captain Stink leant against the chalkboard. “Write down Mr. Mexico instead of his name, OK? Oh, oh! No–Señor Chihuahua, yeah? Yeah, Señor Chihuahua. It’s gonna be so funny.”
Eileen bit her tongue. She hadn’t seen Mr. Ezra many times, but he’d said before, he was from Belize, not Mexico. Tasteless stink-head.
At lunch, Eileen tentatively opened a mooncake she put in her bag in the morning. The Doll left the room, and Alisha left her seat. Eileen turned around to find Alisha holding the old diary out to her.
“You stole it…from the teacher?”
Alisha smiled as she took her seat and set up her desk for the meal.
“Alisha,” Eileen hissed, after a few moments’ contemplation, “you asked me about the diary…”
“It’s not mine.”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you…”
“You already started telling me, don’t stop now.”
“I’ve been…finding these notes.”
“In mooncakes.” Eileen waited for a reaction, but it seemed Alisha was the same. “I just found another one.”
“Give it to me!” Alisha took the note.
“It’s an address, I think,” Eileen said to break the silence.
“Da dao cheng xia hai cheng huang miao,” Alisha read. She looked up. “You have to go.” “What?”
The moment the Doll came back into the room, Alisha stood: “Laoshi! Ellie isn’t feeling well, I’ll take her to the nurse.”
“OK, kuai qu.”
Alisha took Eileen’s hand and dragged her out of the class.
“W-what are you doing, I’m fine,” Eileen struggled.
“Not for long,” Alisha said, not batting an eyelash, “if you ignore that note. I see them too, you know. The note, the sketchbook–it’s all from that lady following you around.” “Wha–sorry–?” I’m not crazy?
“You have to go where she says.” Alisha winked and made a peace sign with her fingers. “I’m going to help you get there.”
Oh my god, I’m breaking out of school, Eileen’s mind dashed just behind her feet, with psychic Little Miss Perfect.
Alisha stopped abruptly behind the kindergarten gate, where there were–strangely–no guards. There was a bit of netting around; part of the building was being renovated. “I think you’ll want to know what this says before you go,” Alisha took the diary from her, unfolded the letter and cleared her voice.
“‘Chen–’ sorry, ‘–Tan Suilin…’
‘How could you do this to me? How could you say no? I am willing to marry you. Soon, you will be too old and no one will want to marry you. Just say yes, please, darling. Marry me. Your sister must be happily married to her husband, too. Your sister doesn’t matter now. She can’t take you from me. Just say yes, and we can all be happy.
Chua Tianho up’
“Sorry, I mean: ‘From Chua Tianho.’ The rest of the diary is really juicy, too, you know. I’ll read it to you sometime.”
“Oh,” Eileen said. “Thank you, Alisha.”
“No problem, Ellie.”
“You don’t…please, call me Eileen.”
“Use my back,” Alisha crouched down on all fours before the gate.
“Oh, you sure?”
“Do it, now! And be careful; get low, I don’t know if the sensor’s on or not.” Eileen stepped on Alisha’s back and swung herself over the gate.
The alarm sounded.
“Remember, she wants you to listen!” Alisha called as Eileen ran off to the main street to find a taxi. “Good luck, Tan Ailin!”
He’s following me. He’s following me. He’s following me…
Eileen couldn’t tell if the voice was hers or Tan Suilin’s.
Eileen slithered through the crowded Dihua street, her destination clear. She stood before the temple for a moment before entering. Her legs quaked and her ears popped. Her heart raced.
This is where it happened.
“Where what happened?”
You will see.
Eileen’s eyes rolled back and she saw Chua Tianho.
She’d hidden in the temple. He’d chased her all the way there in the pouring rain. Here, she was dry, and the comforting tang of incense filled her senses.
“Why are you following me?” she said. There was no reply. He stood there, rain running down his face, soaking into his clothes.
He advanced into the temple and removed his coat.
“Wha-what are you doing? The gods are watching, what are you doing?” He reached for her cloth buttons. She slapped his arms away, and he hit back harder. “Chua Tianho!”
Sister, help me…Ailin, help me. Help me, sister. Ailin. Ailin, please, Ailin… He pinned her to the pillar and tore her dress away. The rain smothered her screams. She struggled against him, and he kicked her back. Her arms went weak, and she kicked him in the crotch. He howled and put his hands over his groin. She ran, the wet ground working against her smooth shoes. Her cheek hit the pavement, the shock ringing through her head as she pictured herself continuing to run above her. She was back in the warm temple, and the incense and the gods lay witness.
He took you. He took you, right here.
The crack of skull against wall. She lay on the ground, the sky kept getting closer… She wondered if the rain had become red as it touched her, or if her mind had already gone…and…no….sister…
“Why couldn’t you just say yes?” Chua Tianho spoke to what was now nobody. “Because of you…because of you, I…”
I’m sorry, Suilin. I’m sorry I wasn’t there, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. Suilin… The sisters held each other and cried.
Ailin…You’re home. Good.
Eileen’s eyes opened and focused. Her mother stood above her, flanked by a smug Alisha. “Eileen?” Jessie stood. “Eileen? Oh my god! Eileen! Are you–are you OK?” “Where are we?”
“You’re in the hospital. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”
“Sorry, Eileen,” Alisha said unapologetically “Laoshi told your mom.”
Eileen nodded as her mother cradled her in her arms. The rain pattered against the window panes.
“Let’s go back to New York,” Jessie sniffled. “It’s OK. I can go back to teaching at Columbia. Just…I want you safe.”
“No, Mom,” Eileen looked past her at Alisha, who gave her a wink. “I think…I think I’ll give here a try.”
The spring wind escorted the two girls to a mooncake shop.
“I want a yam one,” Alisha said.
“I want to try red bean,” Eileen said.
The girls browsed the pastries in the store, the geta decorations swaying gently. “Are there…any people following me around now?” Eileen bit her lip.
“Yeah, three,” Alisha laughed. “You can ignore them. Your aura’s changed, though,” Alisha patted Eileen on the back.
A song came on over the speaker, and the girls turned.
“Suilin loved this song,” Eileen whispered. She opened her mouth and sang along; she found she knew the lyrics by heart already:
“午夜無伴守燈下Go ya bo pua xiu deng ei
“春風對面吹Chun hong dui bin chei
“十七，八歲未出嫁Chap tsit puei he-ya bui chut kei
“見到少年家gi diu xiao lian gei
“果然標致面肉白Ko lian piao dit bin bak pek
“誰家人子弟sia ga lang tsut tei
“想要問伊喲驚歹勢Siu bei meng iyu gia pai sei
“心裡彈琵琶Sim lai dua bi bei
“想要郎君做為夫婿Siu bei long kun chei ang sai
“意愛在心內Yi ai zai sim lai
“等待何時君來採Tang tai ho si kun lai chai
“青春花當開ching chun hui dong kai
“聽見外面有人來Tia gi gua bin oo lang lai,
“開門來看看kui meng ga gua mai
“月亮笑阮憨大呆Ge niu chiou gun xi gong tua tai
“被風騙不知Hor hong bian mm zai.”
You will know it when you see it: on the other side of the world, Eileen Tan had found herself.
FROM YAKUZA BABY: “I was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City, to Singaporean parents. When I was 8 years old (2017), I came to Taiwan because my mom was a visiting professor at a university in Taiwan. In Taiwan, I have attended 4 different schools–public, local private bilingual, and international schools. I currently live in Taiwan.”