Alone in Taipei (a short story) - Part 1

James Shih hotel room in Xinbeitou

David swipes through the women on his phone.


“You’ve got a match.”


She’s cute, a local flight attendant that loves dogs. She’s hotter than most of the women he’s ever matched with in LA. He lays there naked on a bed in a hotel room in Xinbeitou, north Taipei. He is alone.

He flicks through his dating app for a while longer then gets up and grabs a towel. He catches his reflection in the mirror. He lightly touches the sensitive, red area on his skin on his right side. He flexes. He looks down and flops his dick around.

It’s a nice dick, David’s ex-girlfriends have told him. One time, after his ex returned from a family vacation, she grabbed his crotch as he entered the room pulling him close. She whispered in his ear how much she missed “him.”

He looks at his reflection and wonders if this pain will ever end.

The last time he had sex with a woman was with her seven years ago. He knows it shouldn’t be such a big deal. He recently went through a slew of self help and pick up artist books saying: divorce yourself from the outcome, work on yourself first, don’t be needy…but he is.

He is so damn needy and is not sure what to do.


MOM flashes on his screen. He hesitates, then wraps himself with a towel and answers.

“Hi mom. Yeah my skin’s better, the warm springs have helped. Sorry I didn’t LINE you back…”

David listens as he opens his laptop.

“Ma, I don’t go clubbing, I’m too old for that — how’s your leg? Dad taking his medication?”

David’s mom tells him how he shouldn’t worry about them and that he should take care of himself and focus on his career. David listens as he touches up a powerpoint presentation on his computer. He deftly edits one of the images.

“Ok, ok. Hey ma, what’s a good Taiwanese gift I should get A-chan?”

His mom tells him to save money but if he wants to get something for his niece, make sure it’s safe for kids. He puts his phone on speaker and continues to listen:

“you qian de hua, ni keyi qu yige hao laopo ranhou you ziji de xiaohai.”

Yes, my life, my education, my career, my money…it’s all for getting a good wife and having children. Surviving and replicating.

He taps the wifi symbol on his laptop.

Damn, what’s the password?

“Ma, I’m going to get back to work. wan’an”

“hao a, hao a. bie shui tai wan. wan’an.“

David hangs up. He saves the powerpoint then puts on his robe and slippers. He walks out of his room to the front counter. The attractive female receptionist with the round face–her name tag says Ting-Ting–sorts through keys and paperwork at the desk.

“buhao yisi,” he says in his stilted Mandarin.

She looks up and eyes him.

“Do you have the wifi mima?”

Without saying a word, she hands him a slip of paper with the wifi code. Another female clerk pulls up a laundry basket full of towels behind her and Ting-Ting helps her unload it.

“wa, hen duo towels.”

She shoots David a perplexed look, the same when he checked in.

He nods his head politely and hurries back to his room. That look.

Earlier that day, he had asked her in English,

“Is there free breakfast?”

He gave an awkward smile. David had found that if he speaks English at Taiwanese tourist places, he’d usually get better customer service. Also, sometimes the female attendants would show more interest and ask where he’s from.

Instead she gave that look. David asked again in his ABC accented Mandarin and she shook her head.

“Only coffee and tea free.”

He goes back to his room and slips off his robe. He connects online and types in a few letters into the browser. It auto-completes to the last porn site he visited. His index finger hovers over the enter button.

He pulls his hand back. He’s been porn-free since he landed in Taipei a week ago. Maybe he can last a little longer.

He goes back to his dating profile. In the upper right corner he sees he has 80+ women that have liked him. Back in California, that number would hover around four. He was twenty times more desirable in Taiwan than in America.

If he lived here, just by the numbers, this drought would’ve ended a long time ago. Maybe it’ll end tonight.

It’s so fucking stupid, a man my age caring so much about getting laid.

When he tells his female friends this, they laugh it off as immature and funny. When he tells his heterosexual Asian American guy friends this–they nod solemnly.

Some of them are happily married, in relationships, single, some are even former pick up artists. Regardless, they know. They know the pain of not feeling desirable. They know how much harder they’ve had to work.

I should just move to Taipei.

It was ridiculous. As David went through the app, he was matching with attractive women that would not give him the time of day in the U.S. He felt somewhat validated, but at the same time, it made him want to burn everything to the ground.

The hotel balcony.

Before this business trip, David went out for dinner in Los Feliz with his friend Mark. As they sat waiting for their tostadas, he saw Mark do that familiar swiping motion with his phone.

“How many matches you got?”

Mark flipped his cell around. He had 140+ matches, most of them being Asian and Latina women, based on his race and location preferences. Mark shrugged his shoulders and returned to swiping.

“It’s like a fucking full time job trying to keep up. How many matches you got?”

“Just a couple.”

David excused himself and went to the restroom. He didn’t need to go pee, he just didn’t want to show Mark his phone. He didn’t want to show him how after spending hours crafting the perfect profile–with a practiced smile and pictures of him doing cool shit and living his best life–he had five matches and they weren’t really attractive.

Mark–who’s six feet tall, white, ok looking–met David in business school and when he found out David was into pick up too, they would “go on the hunt” regularly.

One time Mark went up to an Asian woman at a bar and said,


She sneered. David thought she was going to slap him.

“Wrong race asshole, I’m Korean.”

She turned away.

“I’m sorry, annyeong haseyeo.”

“Oh wow, you speak Korean.”

She turned back and smiled. David was fucking floored.


“Can we meet later at 1930 instead of 1900? Sorry!”

The message pops up on David’s phone. He had set up a date that night with Yuwei, a logistics manager that lives in the Beitou area. She’s 163 cm (5’4”) tall, likes travel, eating good food, and gentlemen that open the door for her. Her profile picture is her in a dress, drinking wine on a balcony with Taipei moonlit in the background.

“That’s fine. manman lai. See you soon!”

David scrolls through and replies to the rest of his online dating messages. He makes sure to be playful and terse with his responses. It takes him a good twenty three minutes to get through all of them. Mark’s right, this is like a job.

“Get laid homie! I want a field report when you get back,” Mark had told him..

If I have anything to report.

David checks the time, he’s got an extra hour. He goes to his laptop, the porn site blinks in the address bar. If he watches porn now, it’s going to take at least thirty five minutes and after he finishes, he knows he’s not going to have enough drive to be engaged during the date.

He closes the screen.

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I enjoy writing about film/TV, travel, slice of life, language, Asian American issues, and other interests. Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment or message if you have any thoughts to share =).

Los Angeles, CA

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