Hong Kong Laid Over: A Exploration of the Senses

The airline gave us a dark plush room in a nice hotel located in the heart of Hong Kong. There were two shower caps, one sewing kit in a hard plastic case, two free bottles of water, one large can of peanuts for eight dollars, two paper bags on a peg next to the toilet with the words “Disposal Bags” printed in Victorian script. Two large bottles of lotion, one large bottle of Bath Gel, one large bottle of Shampoo, two sets of toothbrush and razor heads that share a handle, three delicate milk-colored soaps.

We thought there was a shiny river below our window until we saw in the morning it was a string of tennis courts. The bay, silent out there in the dark.

In the morning, joggers and Tai Chi-ers in groups, mist on their heels in Victoria Park.

Later, two girls holding hands across the street and daring me to look askance, long-crotched pants, hair swooped low across their eyes. Thirty women to every man, women cooking under the freeway ramp, smoke blackening the cement above them, over the blankets they’ve laid out.  Stalls with cheap scarves, colorful scarves, more women, more girls holding hands. The details crowd out my breath, we stop to look down at our feet. Men squatting on their haunches, smoking on the curb.  In the street, backpacks slung across stomachs. A woman in her thirties, hair newly gray, holding her father’s arm to keep him from falling into the crowd. Teenage boys running remote-control cars over your feet, everyone’s hands in their pockets, swerving, crossing, gawking up through the corridors of steel, concrete, and light.

Five lithe young cats sitting in the window, one with a toy mouse in her mouth, one with white fur and velveteen ears stepping out of the litter box, one slim and dun-colored, climbing carefully up to the ceiling. They’re too cute to be real, are they drugged with catnip? Everyone stops to watch them play, and I feel better.

The forever escalator I remember from Japan, a merry-go-round of hardcore shopping, heaven on the last floor. Wave after wave of people streaming upward, some making a break to push into stores, determination. A children’s fashion show booming in high pitch from the bottom floor. The girl in the clothing shop kept bringing me shirts that looked like garbage bags. When she realized I wanted something to wear right now, she brought me low hanging pastel tank tops. “For jeans,” she said. I think she meant “You too big. Hide yourself. ” Skin-whitening cream, bright plastic heeled shoes, slipper shoes, wedge shoes, tiny painted feet strapped into city-stomping shoes. Wrist-sized ankles, loose skirts, draped blouses, shiny dark hair.

Leaving, we saw the candy clusters of high rises, identical abnormal shapes. The dinosaur cranes still quiet before lifting their containers, watching the liners come home.

Leave a Reply