VI. Windows

muma2.JPG

[Partly translated by Arthur.]

It hits me like a shot of heroin, and I don’t know why.

Light through rain through the bus window, slamming and diving at my reflection, a blur dissolving into the painted world outside. Like in Fallen Angels. I straighten my tank top. Rain droplets wash through and over, sanding away at the winding city, new towers and old blocks, slick line in a window’s light. Open doors hang in black space, naked limbs just visible between pulled blinds. Towers stretch upwards, bodies and minds separated only by concrete, steel, wood, plaster. I stretch in the seat and wipe, cat-like, at the rain droplets. The bus slides, purring, beneath me. I stood huddled beneath the bamboo when it pulled to a halt, the doors slid open and I ran, rain pelting me, swiped my Octopus, and the doors catch.

Caught inside, and I am trying not to think, only to watch, watch and feel. Running along the second story, the people, ants dwarfed by an ever growing hive—the unfinished husks in south Kowloon glower half lit, tower cranes spiked in red so many meters into the storm—give way entirely. I place my hand over my breast and feel myself breathing. The bus comes to a halt, the brakes catch like a whale’s respiration, someone climbs the stairs behind me in combat boots. When I turn around, I can barely catch sight of two, skirts, jeans, spiked hair and rain soaked jackets. Bizarre Wants Awesome Knows. I turn back to the rain. I can feel it even if the air conditioning is washing over me, even if the window glass melts me into the neon gloom. An HSBC sign passes, a solitary white point sliding further and further away. The window lights fade, and I am only staring at my reflection, my own face melting into the rain. The strap of my tank top has slipped from my left shoulder.

Arthur took me with him to one of the expensive, English bookstores in Causeway Bay. We checked out the writing manuals together before I jetted over to the books of architectural photos, thrilling, in a weird, possessive way, to a photo of the Transamerica pyramid. But it couldn’t hold my attention that long and I gave up, started just staring at myself in the mirror—pink converse, sea-blue jeans, silver belt (in lieu of my pink one) milk tone skin—thin black eyes and hair unstraightened. The books didn’t look at all like me, I’m faceless, nothing for me. Nothing captured me. Nothing advised me. I kept staring, running one hand along my hair. I tried to smile naturally at myself. An old man, bent three quarters and searching the heavyweight Oxford English Dictionary—between Gallows and Gaulic—asked me if he could use my cell phone.

“Um, yes, fine.” I followed myself in the mirror while I went through my fake black mini-purse—I hunched my shoulders too much, but Arthur wasn’t watching [I am now]. My face gave nothing away, for a moment. I was no model. The man took my phone and spoke—his voice was thin with age.

“Hey, KK—I’m at the store—a gibbon is a kind of monkey.”

“I’ll be home soon” –“Thanks.” He handed back the cell phone. His fingers left slight traces of oil across the plastic skin. Keroro swung weakly on his chain.

“It’s fine.”—“You know. I know of a band named Gibbon.” I placed the phone back into my purse.

“What?”

“Musicians—Gibbon—play music.”

“Oh.”

He glanced stupidly at me and, bent further, inched away. I watched for a moment, made a face like a Gibbon (I imagine) and walked out of the shop, into the mall—chewing on an imaginary banana. I saw a mini-Starbucks across the hall, stepped over, and bought a real one. Arthur called a half-hour later—they’d kicked him out for not buying anything.

We took the MTR together as far as Admiralty, and I crossed back over to Kowloon. I like to think that it was an ocean breeze that I felt down there, under the harbor, but I know that’s impossible. The ocean in Hong Kong is way too warm for that. In a place so packed full of people, you’re never far from life, from that big random occurrence—that sudden impact and shift of fate. I’m not sure I believe in fate though—just in desires. I wanted to stay in Kowloon so that something cool might happen—impact my life, off balance on the red line. I’m being Hollywood, Tony Leung and his neighbor’s apartment, long traces of love and wanting, coils of cigarette smoke. Living is like playing mahjong all night—stay at it long enough, hard enough, and you may come out a dollar ahead, but I don’t even know how to play anymore, really. Arthur will tell you [no] that I wanted to find a beautiful boy and get swept off my feet like the train pulls into TST station—who doesn’t? But I also wanted to touch that old man in the bookstore—to see, for just one moment a single soul shining through the harbor smog in answer to what must have been my own light.

“I’m really bored, you know. Maybe that’s what I forgot to tell you earlier.” I said to Arthur on the metro—but he couldn’t hear me. I called Wendy when I reached the top of the stairs but she didn’t answer.

I walked from the harbor to Mong Kok, mostly down Nathan Road. For a while I walked behind a white girl with burnt shoulders and wide hips, taking endless photographs of highrises. The sky was a lighter blue than usual, and little icebergs of cloud floated through it in checkerboard patterns like so many fluffs of packing cotton. The towers seemed to rise to the point that they’d pierce them. The girl kept on swinging her head back, almost until it snapped, and took more photos. Sometimes she’d run into people, and they’d glance back and some even said mean things she couldn’t understand. When I finally passed, head thrown back again, her mouth was just a touch open, unconscious o, and a strange feeling swept over me, a wave of almost-emptiness, like I couldn’t feel like that, like I wanted to, liked I needed to. I caught myself, as I often did lately, thinking about Wendy, about her reactions, her bubbliness. Her. And soon it was I who was staring aimlessly into the sky, running into people, biting my tongue hard. I passed an electronics store and stared at the I-pods in the windows. The doorman stared me down. A kind of trance took me. Past blocks by, I kept walking, and I stopped thinking. Just stopped. My parents were gone. Wendy was gone. The boys in the bar, with their acne scars and baseball caps, it all disappeared. It was only me and the street, only my legs rising, stick like, pumping forward, my legs and my feet. By the time I arrived near my old apartment I was almost crying. So instead I began to sing. Softly at first, but as I kept walking, and people kept flying by, louder and louder, until I was almost screaming. I stopped by BarMango and asked if I could have my old job back. They tried to pretend to be unhappy, but it wasn’t much use, they love me. I waved hello to Chris. I didn’t bother calling Wendy this time.

It hits me like a shot of heroin. And I don’t know why.

It rains in the morning. I return home for a bit, riding the elevator, lights falling out. Beyond the grate, I can smell cooking, but no-one is home. My window has been left open, puddles of water run along the new carpet. I stared for a minute before walking up into the wind to close it, cutting in hard against me. So much like always. It felt smart to grab a couple of towels from the kitchen, and, elbowing my way around the table, to dry up. A little. My mattress stays so damp. Don’t look out the window so long babe, but the noise of the rain, slamming into concrete, follows me back in. I sat down in front of the television and put my head in my heads. My body feels like lead. Hold me. We’d exchanged phone numbers as he unslid from me, to the taxi, to the busses. I placed the phone on the mattress in my room.

He wouldn’t look so good in daylight. They never did. Even Wendy didn’t take bar dates seriously. The rain incessant against the building side. I got up, pulled on my hoodie, and stepped into the heat of the stairwell, open windows staggered about, water dripping down in the shadows. I lit up a cigarette, but only smoked half of it. The shadows crawled weirdly along the dives of the building. I leaned, my head back and mouth open, against the metal frame of our door. Somewhere above, dim fluorescence. I looked at my phone and began to dial Lin Na’s number, then stopped. I held him around the back, I held him close, his sweat mingling with mine. Please.

He pulled me closer, closer, kicking his legs against me now. Wiry but not as. I heard his voice, in English, ringing against itself, against the club air. I pulled away and he only pulled closer only pulled closer. I’m lying prone on my bed, the TV is on. I need to move.

I began walking down, walking down the whole building, rain dripping in my ears. Not once on the way down, the stairs folding endlessly over in grey rings, did I see another living soul. At the podium, wind hollowed against a slate of exercise machines, women huddled in doorways. Out on the scrape, lights blinked in the distance, between the downpour. He licked his lips, eyes up, arms long and reaching. He moved faster, faster, than I expected. An occasional sharp elbow. A thrown drink. He moved faster than I expected. A blur in sweat soaked white. Street pounding at him. I felt myself going. I began shivering, rain soaking through my hoodie, crashing through my shoes, pounding into me and dissolving me beyond the thin windows of the bus. I left again, without even leaving a note that I’d been home. My mother called and I didn’t even answer.

A young man walks up, straight, to the door to the Mango. American legs, he pulls at his jeans, his hair is MK cut. There are no words, I feel myself going out again. He sits with his friends and they talk in English, and then he calls me out. A bolt of electricity and I feel myself going over. My heart began beating hard, hard, hard. He lifted his glass to his lips and said his name was Yan. I called Lin Na about a half hour later, my legs shaking in my skirt. Mouth dry, mouth dry. I see him the moment he walks up, steps off the street, out of the river, into my life. Ce qu’il arrive, ce qu’il devienne. I’m searching for a metaphor, but there is none. He steps up and shakes the leaf from the water. Lin Na answers her phone.

“Yeah, I told him to look for you.”

“Why?”

“You looked really down the last time I saw you. You need to meet a wahkiuh. You already fell in love with one American.”

“How do you know he’s worth it?” I was running so far ahead of myself. I cannot seem to express myself. I cannot seem to scream loud enough. An old woman sits next to me, smelling of water, water and age. This is her stop, she gets off the bus.

“His dad is a bigshot lawyer.”

Her voice crawled across me, gave me lift. I stood out in the ally behind the bar. I walked through, the light grazing off me, stumbling against a stool, stumbling. I pushed open the metal door. I walked back outside, and he was waiting. I heard my voice and I hated it, and he looked at me, stepped out, and was nearly run over by a mini-bus.

“Hey you can use English.” My voice sounds mean. I sat down opposite him. When I spoke, he held my eyes.

“So, why did you go to California?”

“My parents thought it would be a good idea. I’m not sure if it was. My aunt gave me the name LAX. At the airport.”

“But you went to San Francisco, I thought you said?”

“I did…it was a joke. Kinda…”

“Did you like San Francisco?” My hand plays with the edge of the table, the strap of my tank top.

I must have laughed. “I think I did. I loved the beach. Can I tell you something? I have a lot of trouble saying about how it felt. It’s hard to do here. People in Hong Kong expect you to be so…mainstream. So much like everyone else. Its actually really scary, if you’re a Chinese like me.” I made a face, maybe a little like a Gibbon.

He took a small sip of water. “I think I get it. I guess I’m lucky I don’t feel that way yet?” A slightly mocking smile.

“You’re…you’re…she, My aunt, said I should have gone to LAX. I did fly out through there. Its nothing special, just another airport. I felt a little like I was leaving my heart there anyway. I left my heart there at the…gate.”

“I don’t mean to make you feel self-conscious, but you have a weird way of using English like that. It’s cool…it’s different.”

“I know. I didn’t…I don’t. Americans talk a lot about their feelings, so do I. So do I.”

“Its ok, you’re allowed.”

I noodle slipped from my chopsticks and splattered against the table. “You know, can I start to talk to you over again?”

“What?”

“I feel like I’m making a monkey of myself. Do you like it here, in HK?”

He raised his eyebrows. “You know, LAX. Can I tell you something? I think you’re tough.” He used his chopsticks badly, maybe because he kept on holding my eyes, over his glass, over mine. My blood, on the bus, in the rain, in the windows I see him through, my blood is pumping so hard. I want to be, suddenly, so hard, the girl in Fallen Angels, but not. But not. “Be in Love,” it plays over the sound system, it rings in my ears, against the Shatin silence. Against the rain patter, against the bus drone. Against everything I could be. Yan’s hand is cool in mine.

We met, the following day, at Argyle Center. Not because it was romantic but because it wasn’t, the endless sweeps of white light, the Cantonese calling of the vendors. I began by looking at shirts, shirts and purses. Yan had never been here before.

“I feel crowded out here.”

“You should. I felt crowded out here after I got back from San Francisco.”

“You were studying there, right? In high school?”

“Yes, in high school.”

“So what do you do now?” I caught a note of derision, a flatness of tone, in his voice. I didn’t have to think about it long.

“I’m working. I’m making some money.”

“You can’t be making tons, working in a bar like that.”

“Perhaps I’m not, then. This is a tough city to make a lot of money in. This is a tough city.” I make boxing poses, trying to smile naturally.

“I’m not always so sure.”

I pretended to look at a purse, could feel his eyes on me, searched for words. “You haven’t been here that long, and, anyway, you’re rich wahkiuh.” I turned and punched him lightly on the shoulder

“You do know the other girls, right? Wendy, I think, was one…”

“Haih-a. I know Wendy.”

Outside, the air was clogged again, I pushed against the current, into the street, stepped back into the river. Yan followed after. Clasped at my hand. I let him have it. Cool, dry, long fingers. It shoots through me.

“Do you ever wish you really were a wahkiuh, then?”

“That’s a sucky question.”

“I’m only curious.”

“No…Hong Kong is my home.”

I pushed harder against the crowd. We walked south, crawling through lines of kids, of pushers, of life, and arrived near Neway city, kids with beer hanging off the guard rails out front, sidewalk grease splattered. I blinked, held up. The pace itself smashing against me. Yan looked angular, cut. Had I ever seen someone like him before? It was in his walk, the sling of his shoulders, the hang of his face. Places the hand on my bare shoulder, shooting down with his fingers, almost blending in then failing. Body straighter than his thinness implied. I can’t contain my heartbeat. Yan’s hand slides down along my shoulder. I can’t say anything I am breathing so hard. His clothes. He caught me staring at him and smiled. I feel myself caving, caving in, the red and green play of life washing against me, a man smoking a cigarette. I shoot towards him, along the line of the guardrail, I kissed him—release so quickly, like a shot, I don’t know why, my heart beats so fast.

I left him that night, to go back and sleep above the bar. I pass Lin Na on the way in, but we don’t talk. The light hits the rain at odd angles, presses and fuses me with the glass. My skin is still here. My breath still clouds. But the bus stops at a light, and I feel myself dissolving. It is like the window is not here and the rain is pouring in, I swipe at the drops, as if I could catch them. I pass Lin Na, walk upstairs, smell the club floor on my skin, between the smoke and the street, go take a cold shower. I can feel wind, rain, a flood hitting me at all moments, pounding away at me, even in the subway tunnel, even here, even now. Even now. I stretch my hand out into the empty seat next to me, along the thin padding, the patterns, the light. I stretch out and breath hard into the window, again, and again and again. And all I have to do, all of sudden, is stretch out and breathe. Again, again, again, again. “I. Love. You.”

This entry was written by Matt Mucci , posted on Tuesday October 23 2007at 08:10 pm , filed under Asia Pacific, Fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments are closed.