And so it was that they found themselves asleep on a slightly damp harbour wall, awaiting the first ferry to their slice of paradise. Everything had gone according to their plan, or lack-of, rather. Equipped with a week’s supply of seaweed-seasoned snacks, sneaky minuscule bottles of liquor and a Chinese manga filled with a foot-fetishing gentleman and all kinds of strange souls, The Birthday Girl arrived. She was met by Leaf Girl, and together they sought out The Boy and his speakers. They boarded the night train and attempted to snuggle down for the evening amongst the excitable Old People, promptly covering their ears with earplugs and headphones to block out the garbling and chattering flowing throughout the carriage.
As the mosquitoes flurried and played within the lights, they lay on the brick-hard wall, and allowed the itching to commence, satisfied that they had found a suitable bed for the next few hours. They had debated between hopping aboard a random’s boat, open to the idea of waking up in the middle of an unknown ocean. The Birthday Girl had also suggested a bench, only to discover the very next morning that this bench was broken and filled with filthy water.
The wall it was then. As soon as the sun rose and the clouds turned a tinge of pink, fishermen began their quest into the depths and the silhouetted figures practicing a balancing act on the edges of their pier pulled in their early-morning catches and strolled past the rather strange people asleep on their usually silent, still wall, give or take a dog or two.
An hour later, it hit them, right on the left side of their faces; bright, burning sun, freshly awoken and ready for the day ahead. Thus, they gathered their belongings and strolled towards the ferry.
It was torture. Torture in the form of vomiting neighbours, thanks to the choppiest sea in the world. They pulled through after a quick escape from sick alley, and made it in one piece to the chamber of dusty lamps, cockroaches and tarantulas. It was actually a step-up from the boat. And as their heads hit the sticky pillows, emanating a slight twinge of mould, they laughed off the circumstances in the name of adventure.
Their mode of transport whilst on the Green Island was to be a bicycle run by electricity, aka the lazy man’s bike. It was perfect. They sped along the coast, high on blue skies and the greenest leaves and the brightest sun. Leaf Girl could have sworn they were driving along the Cape peninsula, The Birthday Girl was stunned by the burst of white as the bluest waves she’d ever seen smashed across the rocks, and The Boy, who had in-fact graced this land with his presence once before, took it all in as if for the very first time. They raced along, secretly hoping to spot a deer or two, out dancing under the trees. They explored every corner imaginable, and didn’t stop even when The Boy’s bicycle decided to give up on him. Leaf Girl lived up to her name and used a gigantic leaf to protect her milky skin, providing endless entertainment for passersby.
They climbed the ‘great wall’ and searched frantically for a path to ‘the ridge’, never succeeding, but also never giving up. They inhaled the freshest air, squinted under the brightest sun and laughed continually as never-ending sweat poured, all the while circling the island, full on seafood, remnants of plants from far-away lands and an adrenaline, particularly found in such a happy place.
They awoke fresher-eyed and The Birthday Girl really was the birthday girl. To celebrate they feasted on secret fruit concoctions, steamed fish and raspberry in the form of fun juice. Lying on the ever-so reliable purple blanket, they talked life and frolicked with balloons under a stormy sky.
They pedaled home under the watchful eye of the wind and cooked their own food to smithereens into the late hours, before retreating to salty-pools accompanied by the lapping waves, seeking out the hottest rocks to push back the shivering seeping onto their skin. Again, they laughed and chattered until the little hours, before embarking on a night venture to try their last luck at finding deer and a starry blanket. Instead, they found themselves on a journey into the history of the island with a rather merry fellow, full on beer and the simple life.
As quickly as night had trickled in, morning rose. And with it, farewells. A farewell to the spiders, a farewell to the deer, a farewell to their electric friends, but mostly a farewell to an island that provided them with exactly the escape they were craving- an adventure, an ocean, endless green and peace and laughter, unknown paths and explorations.
And so it was only natural that as they entered the bustling, soggy train station in Taipei, they emanated relaxation. The others frantically fumbled through the crowds, serious faces, on a mission if ever there was one. But they were different. They glided, their relaxed bodies and minds clutching onto the memories of Green Island and all the magic that it beheld.
They said their temporary goodbyes and headed homeward. Leaf Girl stopped by her local bakery to grab a loaf before the stale breads were left to waste for the night. As she handed over the exact change, the baker looked her right in the eye and said ‘Lu Dao 綠島’ before handing her the receipt. She blinked. Was it the freshly-formed freckles dancing across her face? Was she trickling sand through the breadcrumbs? Or were her eyes smiling a Green Island kind of smile?
‘Lu Dao 綠島’ means Green Island in Chinese. Perhaps she misheard, or perhaps she really had brought a little piece back. Either way, as she ran across the road, splashing in the rain, she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of that little green gem of an island and all the perfect mystery that it encompasses. It’s not something that one can just leave behind. It stays.