The Suffocation of Youth
Tamsui, Taipei 2016. Photograph and words by: Kenneth Lee
At an eatery by Tamsui, the siblings and their parents sat across of me. She was taciturn while he was pretty much in a daze most of the time.
"What is up with you?" the assertive father, sat by their right, sounded out at the reticent young girl. "Nothing," she replied rather ingenuously. Her father went on, lamenting about her supposed "attitude." She remained silent.
There weren't qualms about her brother who was equally as quiet, but had the knack of smiling every now and then without motivation. His father found that demeanour rather pleasing.
The man softened his authoritativeness into a mellifluous tone when he communicated to his wife, complaining about their daughter promptly. She mumbled about and didn't have much to say.
The shopkeeper sounded their orders aloud. The father barked out orders at his daughter, commanding her to fetch their lunch. His lean daughter moved without hesitation, receiving two heavy trays of hot soup and tofu vermicelli stacked upon one another, sliding her feet awkwardly but carefully towards her destination.
He would be fussy about her way of distributing the plates. Her brother would try to help but she couldn't escape criticism.
The siblings ate in silence while their father spoke merrily to their mother. When their plates were empty, the man of the house called out ebulliently to his children. "How was lunch?" he asked. The boy managed to churn out a generic smile once more and replied "it's nice." However, his sister did not reply. She just nodded.
Right then, my eyes met with hers. I looked away with full comprehension of her emotions. It was the suffocation of youth that I had choked on many years before.