I return, and as a lover who, after a lengthy period apart, reunites with his beloved, I search for all those familiar signs to connect my memory with what I now see. Thus, I wander through your wet markets, savor your haute cuisine, and listen in on the buskers nearby. It is not the sensory enjoyment that I relish per se, but the memories that are inextricably linked to them that provide comfort.
Some may see an urban Wasteland; but with each rusted bolt and murky sewer, your every pulse reminds me of where I came from, tells me where I stand, and perhaps, if I am attentive, shows me where I am heading.
And so, Hong Kong, I love you.
“A world that can be explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in a universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranger. His is an irremediable exile, because he is deprived of memories of a lost homeland as much as he lacks the hope of a promised land to come.”
–Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
We found it there in the shadow of that tunnel, just as we had found it in other things along the way. I had sensed it the moment I stepped off the cool airplane carpet and onto the city’s hot streets – or at least, I had sensed its absence – and I looked down at my chest and saw for the first time the erosion that threatened to cave my ribcage in and bury my heart in my stomach. I had always hoped that it would stick around forever – but I think I lost it somewhere in the shadows under my bed. So I began my search, foraging through the mossy air and fish-markets to find what I had lost. If I was vigilant, I would catch glimpses of it in the heat waves and steam wafting off the top of a bowl of noodles. I caught sight of it in dumplings. Or in other things, in festivals and glowing lanterns. In dilapidated apartment buildings. In the musty temples or in the porn on sidewalk newstands. In the concrete. In the noise. In the humidity. In the incense. I’m telling you this so you can keep your own chest from collapsing. I’m telling you this so you know.
It can be a tricky thing, losing your sense of home.
It can be downright, shit in your pants terrifying. So there we were, paralyzed, dangling from the precarious balance beam of hope and hopelessness, and staring hard into the twilight of that tunnel. When I said earlier that we found it there in the shadow of that tunnel, I guess that wasn’t really God-honest truth. You can’t really find a thing like this just like that. but in the echo of my frantic cry, I felt it. Maybe I just needed to hear it in my own voice, as if the answer to my quest was whispered into my ear by a phantom draft that drifted from the curved outline of the tunnel. Maybe you wouldn’t have been able to hear it, or it’s something you haven’t lost because it was never had, or you’re too far around the bend to even care anymore. Maybe I’m just a jealous lover coming back to find that life here has gone on without me. Maybe we’ve got too much history to give it up. I love you Hong Kong.
“…the end of our exploring,
Will be to arrive where we started,
And know the place for the first time.”
– T.S. Eliot
The city of eight hundred fifty two.
rebuild it or cover it,
change it or redefine it,
but do little to forget it.
When I was younger,
I would look up to the brilliantly illuminated buildings
worn out by years of labor…
…then a droplet of dirty water from an old air conditioner would hit my eye.
Hong Kong, this is why I love you.
There are stories no one but yourself will ever know,
of sunflowers growing from the gutters, miles of cornfields,
cities seen from the edge of forests twisting roads and glittering streets, unfinished stories of lost lovers’ empty promises and hopeful questions,
from a book you don’t want to finish
but are always sure the last pages are closed
because it could only go downhill from now.
And it’s somehow all a contest but it’s not how fast you got there;
instead the time you took to really think about those sentences.
You wake up
dry and out of breath
everything neatly tucked under the bed.
I know myself to know that I can add ink and liquid
to create a sea of poetry and graves,
and your addition and your lusting reciprocate back to me.
You still want me for my unfazed brashness and stop me
mid-sentence to stress your waiting, mystery,
glimpses into our similar mind maze that open with our rusting key.
The days here are finally getting longer.
It took seven years and nearly three countries before we slowed down.
Now I ask myself, do I go up or down the stairs?
The craft of street hanging is – in my humble and probably narrow opinion – a lost art. Street hanging is not equivalent to street loitering. Loitering is for lazy and feeble decision makers unwilling to settle down in a cafe or bar wandering aimlessly through the streets. Whereas the hanger intentionally wanders in the streets in a way that some would describe as “aimless,” but in reality it’s just that the hanger is making the streets his cafe, his bar, his club, his whatever he wants it to be in the deep of the night.
The art of it is to find a tenebrous hideout in which the cops won’t bother you – pointlessly asking for your IDs, padding you down head to crotch region to toes, and searching your bag. Camera. Cell Phone. Ipod. On the Road; where there will be the least amount of human traffic giving you condescending stares; and a hideout in which there’s a good spot to take a piss break when needed – a location private enough yet close enough so that you won’t have to work to go do your business. But the golden rule is, no money is spent on the place – only on your habits and the traveling.
To street hangers, 7-Eleven is heaven. A park bench is luxurious. An ex-fighter pilot coming to talk to you for a few months every time you’re at your haven, telling stories of being in the British army is interesting. The same ex-fighter pilot showing you naked pictures on his cell phone of girls he hooked up with in China over the weekend while on a “business trip” is repugnant, distasteful and calls for excommunication. Having someone unknown join the night is exasperating. The baggage of tristesse is always brought to but never brought back – at least by you. The time between late night and early morning is the functioning day and the functioning day is the night. Street lights are our suns, our stars. The security camera that scopes out the pissing area along the fence is big brother. Sleepless trains and buses are companions of comfort. Conversations are always deep and almost always forgotten. Reticence is non-existent.
The hangers are a brother and sister hood. The hanging is an immature rebellious movement, it is therapy.
It is what I believe got us through.