Thursday, April 9, 2009

The temptations of being treated III: Getting into trouble

Pierre was starting to get into real trouble.

That evening I was meeting him in some expensive wine bar in the financial district on the other side of town because he owed me money. It bothered me why I was owed the money but had to fit Pierre’s schedule in order to get it back. I would have been completely justified in telling him what time I would be home, and to bring the money there punctually, but Pierre always had this way of making you feel his schedule was more important than yours: he was never in a place out of desire but necessity, and as a friend could you do him this favour…I was now sure this was the last time, as on arriving, I was press ganged into buying a couple of drinks, making the money returned not worth the trouble of coming. Again, it would be impossible for Pierre to imagine you didn’t want to stop and chat to him.

Pierre's phone rang: “I am going to Hong Kong tomorrow for a few days. Next week, hao bu hao…Bu hao yi se, bu hao yi se (Excuse me, excuse me),”he kept repeating.

Bu hao yi se (excuse me) was one of the top five essential words in Taiwan, they said it to each other constantly, because if you showed contrition everyone had to back down.

“Going for visa?” I assumed from the content of the conversation.“No, that is bullshit! Bit of trouble! I don’t want to see the guy!”

“Okay,”I replied not really interested in knowing at that point.

“You know how it is," he continued. "Taiwanese always want to go out and spend money. I am getting tired of that sort of thing. I want to go to a quiet bar and chat with my friends. Maybe, I’ll even get rid of the mobile,”he said without his usual confident tempo. Pierre’s soulful reflections would have impact if they were not so frequent, contradictory and, usually a cover for something. I guessed he owed people money but by his tone I could tell it was not a few hundred dollars.

"How much," I asked.

"It is alright, I have it under control," he replied.


"200,000," he said.

Even though he was talking NT it wasn't a small amount. Being a bit anal about my safety I felt compelled to ask. "Who to? Ahuei?"

I had met Ahuei once or twice when Pierre had invited us all to an adult KTV. He was smartly dressed and super friendly, generous, just like most gangsters were. How did i know he was a gangster? Well he picked up the check in the KTV which was around 2000 US, and you could only do this on a regular basis if: you had your own company, were high up in a tech company, had just won the lottery, or were a gangster. A brief questioning of his employment status and, unfortunately, it was the latter.

Pierre didn't answer as an admission of fact.

"I think you have two solutions," I said. "Actually work hard and teach full-time...That way you can pay it off in six months. Alternatively: leave Taiwan."

Pierre being Pierre came up with a third way that we really didn't see coming.

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