Drunk In: Taipei, at La Boca

We’re not Drunk In Love, but we be drunk all right – and probably all night. In this series, we explore the gatekeepers to the city’s final howls, whispers and ruminations – be it a bar, club or even your local park bench. From London to Melbourne, we drink and live to tell the tale. This week, we’re at Taipei’s La Boca.

I am drinking at La Boca. It’s a notoriously small bar for muscle boys in similarly small t-shirts. It has a white to Asian ratio of 1: 10 and a gin to tonic ratio of 3:1. The internet calls it a place with “trendy gay guys meeting friends for a drink, or just chilling while looking for the new guy in their life”. This is a statement wholly contrary to my experiences here – the first of which resulting in a near-two-hour interval lying face down in the bathroom stall (see above: gin to tonic ratio). And because I never learn, the weekends following that spectacular episode usually echoed the same shameful pattern: five drinks too many, consecutive Ariana Grande song requests, violent dancing and violent vomit.

By now, I am well aware that heading to La Boca for “just a drink” is actually code word for diving into the fiery depths of alcohol hell. There are no bouncers either – so once you’re in, you just burn.

Unfortunately for me, La Boca is not only just streets away from where I live but also the most hospitable watering hole for my friends and roommates. Tonight it just so happens that my roommate Hai is celebrating his successful evasion of Taiwan’s mandatory military service via clinical depression. He and I have never been too close, but since I just became unemployed and have nothing better to do anyway, I am convinced into joining them. I have one beer that turns into a Gin and Tonic that turns into unidentified shots with lurid tones, as force-fed by Hai’s boyfriend Sean, despite my protests of potentially repeating La Boca history.

I ask Hai why he can’t get high when he drinks (the bad joke works in Chinese too). When my best friend and I used to hit Taipei’s gay circuit more frequently, we’d see Hai at the bar or lurking behind bodies by himself – but in a way that was more composed and less creepy or sad. That’s not my style, he says. I’m like a vase, you know? He raises his eyebrows at me knowingly. I actually don’t know; I can never really tell when ‘vase’ is being used as a pejorative label in Chinese. I don’t ask him if he means he likes to stand there looking tall and pretty or he’s just really hollow inside.

Do you wait until the goods are delivered to you? I ask instead. Of course! he says, rolling his eyes. No, la, I’m just a bit ‘Ging’ – which is a funny and endearing Taiwanese way of saying rigid and awkward; unable to let go. I’m not that open at all – it’s actually hard for me to talk to people.

I want to tell him I get it but know that it would feel undeniably disingenuous – because having only lived with each other for a couple of months, and me having stumbled into their world kind of accidentally anyway, what the hell do I really know?  In my inadequacy, I force-feed everyone, including myself, more drinks. By 3am, we’re the only ones left in the bar and the bartenders passive-aggressively turn on the lights, so we leave. I am so drunk by this point I don’t remember or care how we get home.

Days ago, Hai, and I had coincidentally left the house at the same time and caught the elevator down together. He told me that he was on his way to the hospital, because depression. I didn’t say anything, so he just laughed at me and said it was to get out of military service. Then he hobbled off in his slippers, scooter helmet in one hand and prescription for antidepressants in another.