Lost in Familiarity
After a grueling twelve-hour flight, the plane finally touched down at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Charlie’s heart swelled with anticipation and exhaustion as he stepped onto the soil of his birth country, which he left two decades ago and moved to the States alongside his mother.
Charlie’s youth was consumed by getting good grades at school. Following graduation, he embarked on a career in the marketing industry, worked tirelessly to ascend the corporate ladder and earned him the director position at a young age. With this responsibility, Charlie was entrusted with managing several significant accounts for his company.
However, his personal life was a tangled mess. During his demanding work hours, he also shouldered the weight of caring for his ailing mother, whose battle with cancer had recently come to a bitter end. It was a time of immense emotional strain for Charlie, compounded by the pain of his breakup with his ex. While Charlie busied himself with his caregiving responsibilities, his ex proved emotionally unavailable, unable to offer the support and understanding Charlie desperately needed during this daunting journey. The discovery of his ex’s infidelity delivered the final blow. This painful betrayal shattered Charlie’s trust and, ultimately, the remnants of their once-shared love.
So, this was a bittersweet journey for Charlie, as he embarked on this trip to fulfill his mother’s final wish—to scatter her ashes in the place she had always considered home. At the same time, Charlie desperately needed a change of environment, and yearned for a different scenery to seek solace from the weight of his sorrow and the need to heal his broken heart battered by recent events.
Lugging his luggage, Charlie walked through the airport, his eyes darting around in search of familiar sights. Memories of his childhood in Taiwan surged—vibrant streets full of life, the tantalizing aromas of street food, and cherished moments celebrating Chinese New Year festivities. Yet, this time, a subtle melancholy shrouded his sentiments about the trip.
Taking a seat in the back of the Uber, Charlie gazed out at the animated streets of Taipei as they finally approached the capital city of Taiwan from the airport. This city had metamorphosed since his left the country. New architectural marvels had emerged, replacing old structures, and even the city’s skyline had transformed. Yet, within this evolution, an undeniable vitality permeated the air—a harmonious fusion of modernity and tradition that made Taipei genuinely distinctive.
The Uber driver dropped Charlie at the centrally located Airbnb he had reserved. As he checked in to his new home, a hint of detachment washed over him. This place wasn’t the space of his childhood, and he no longer possessed a clear sense of belonging, but it would be fine for the next few months, as Charlie decided to work at his company’s branch in Taipei, aligning it with the purpose of this trip.
Charlie slowly unpacked his luggage but couldn’t focus, so he decided to take a stroll around the blocks to get some fresh air and combat his jetlag. As Charlie stepped out of his temporary new home, the streets of Taipei became a maze of unfamiliar faces and foreign conversations.
Charlie navigated through the vibrant night market and wondered at its colorful stalls. The tantalizing fragrances of stinky tofu, and vermicelli beef braised noodle soup which evoked a sense of nostalgia growing up in Taipei.
Summer in Taiwan was relentless, with scorching heat and an abundance of captivating scents that intensified Charlie’s emotions. The humid air clung to his skin, mirroring the weight of his sadness. The thought of fulfilling his mother’s final wish had constantly weighed on him since he arrived.
As the night deepened, Charlie stood at a street corner, caught between the glow of neon signs and the flickering lights of passing scooters. He looked up at the night sky, and his eyes fixed upon the towering structure that dominated Taipei’s skyline—the magnificent Taipei 101. It loomed over him, symbolizing the city’s modernity and progress. Yet, despite its significance, Charlie felt a peculiar sense of aloofness from this architectural greatness. Finally, Charlie was exhausted from walking around his new neighborhood. He was ready to call it a night.