She laid on the bed thinking. I was rolling us a joint, sitting on the floor. We weren’t really that far apart, my bed was just a mattress on the floor. It wasn’t bad or cheap, my room was built like a traditional Japanese house so you were supposed to sleep on the floor I suppose. Or well, it was as traditional Japanese as a room built in the ‘80s in Taipei could be.
As I was wrapping the paper up, struggling to be honest, I heard her roll over behind me. “Are you from the city or those American suburbs I saw on TV?”
I laughed, both at her comment and at the satisfaction of actually rolling a nice joint in spite of my ineptitude. “I’m from the City more or less.”
“More or less? She posed.
“Well I’m from what’s called a Streetcar suburb. Around 100 years ago almost all American cities had extensive networks of trams, which we called trollies or streetcars. Almost every city, including mine tore them out, which is a shame and knida why public transport in the US sucks. Anyways the neighborhoods right out the very center of the city were called streetcar suburbs. They were built for people to take the tram into the central city, then commute out to a small house with a cute little yard. The trams are long gone, but the streetcar suburbs remain, now they are part of the city center, but still retain their suburban flair, though not like the huge suburbs that you see on TV. Those came much later and were all built for cars. So where I am is a bit of the city, a bit of the suburbs.”
“Best of both works.” she intoned.
I laughed again, licking the joint closed. “Yeah you could say that, or when I lived there we always saw it as the benefits of neither with the problems of both.”
She laughed. I laughed too and held the joint over my shoulder for her to get started. She declined telling me to light it, ‘rollers privilege’ she called it. I wanted to protest, but she was the kind sort, so I knew my protests would be gently rebuffed. I shrugged and grabbed the lighter. Holding the joint with my lips I returned the question. Are you from the part of Manila with enormous traffic jams?
She laughed over the sound of the lighter’s flint. “Every part of Manila has traffic, Manila is basically one giant traffic jam. But I actually live a bit on the outskirts, where the city begins to fade into the lush paradise north of the city.
Isn’t there a huge volcano there? I asked as I passed the joint to her.
She took a mighty puff. “Several.” she said, exhaling with a wry smile. A smile that seemed to smirk at the danger the volcanos pose. What, no volcanoes in Kansas?
“We don’t have hills, much less the kind that spew fire.” She laughed, I did too. The subtle buzz of the ganja began to seep into my system.
“Na, where I live, baring some apocalyptic eruption it’s safe, the main concern is typhoons, but my house is safe from those, well maybe a tree goes wild and does some damage, but otherwise its ok. Honestly Manila, the central part you visited, is kinda pain in the ass to visit. The crowds, the traffic, all that. I don’t really go that often- maybe to Quezon city or a big mall closer in, but not really. The north part of the city has everything except a major airport and we’re sort of getting one of those, so except going to the main airport and the odd other errand I keep to my part of town.”
She handed back the joint and I was briefly adrift in her eyes before I remembered I needed to make my body move. I took two big hits and cocked my head.
“It’s weird.” I trailed off. “We come from such different biomes.”
She laughed. “Biomes? The difference between Kansas City and Manila comes down to biomes? I think there are a couple more differences than that.”
“Oh for sure, no doubt. I’d say we’d run out of weed long before we got through all of them.” She laughed and I couldn’t help but smile. “But at a base,” I continued, “the biomes are super different. You’ve never been in a blizzard and I’ve never lived in the shadow of a volcano.”
She looked at me and cocked her head. “Dude, we’re in Taipei, Yangmingshan? Fuck you’re surrounded by volcanoes!”
“Oh shit yeah.” The realization hit me and we both laughed. In our peels of laughter I looked down at the joint as if to show it was the weed talking. She laughed even harder, curling up and rocking from side to side. I handed her back the joint.
She grabbed it and smiled, trying to suppress her giggles. “That’s the American education system for you.” I smiled back, again adrift in the brown ocular seas, “Yeah, tax money hard at work.”