These lonely late evening walks from Ho Man Tin to Hung Hom are becoming a kind of a daily ritual. I can walk these walks everyday but only today, on Friday night, I can take as much time as I want.
I know that I always take the longer road back home. There must be a faster way to get back but I still take the long one. Partly because I am used to it, partly because I am afraid of cockroaches and rats, partly because I want this walk to last longer. My ears are not filled with k-pop or any other music which is now by Allah's Mercy long gone from my life.
My ears are not filled with music. They are filled with my thoughts, the traffic light beeps, the construction site noise, the double decker bus engine growling, a dog or six of them in total along the way barking, the wind blowing in crowns of the tropical trees, and canto-urdu (or possibly not urdu)-mandarin-english speech of the strangers filling the busy streets at 10.30 pm. Sometimes even the gorgeous silence of lonely elderly people slips into my ears. The delivery man’s bike's wheels rolling and the flow of the omnipresent Hong Kong street water also got minor parties in this penultimate October night ambience.
Take a left turn on a much emptier street and here is me, desperately, pathetically trying to capture the sounds by actually capturing images on my outdated phone with last megabytes to employ. "Do I look weird? Would I look less weird and more justified if I had a heavy Canon camera in my hands instead of a 2016 release Samsung smartphone?"
Cross the street and take a few more steps on the ever-wet pavement. All too familiar black and big Mercedes-Benz salon and an all too familiar aunty with a DIY trolley full of used cardboards to be recycled. But the all-famous wealth gap of Hong Kong is most pronounced not in its people but in the non-living components of the city. It is most manifested in its buildings. Skyscrapers stand in a mute pride and shackles just as tall stick to them growing out of them. Massive residential towers - concrete, complicated, peaceful, and dissected into a myriad of, by the standards of my mom (and probably most other Kazakh moms), hardly livable cells.
Now, let me introduce you the main hero of the streets, the greatest equalizer of 2020 - a surgical face mask stoically occupying every human half-face as a sobering reminder, a necessary metaphor of our biological vulnerability, and as a fresh and yet annoying symbol of Hong Kong people's iron discipline, collective responsibility and utmost care towards each other.
Pakistanis, Egyptians, Bangladeshis and other brothers from Muslim-majority countries... among them are the ones who only cause fear and an immediate self-suppression of any potential racist thoughts in me which I never actually have because among them are also the ones who humbly, in the lowest voice and with the warmest smile respond to my rare salaams and often make me feel safe, respected, protected and cared for.
Stranger office workers passing by in a hurry... would they ever imagine that a girl sitting on the bench is writing about them?
Me, sitting on the bench right in front of my dorm building, hesitating to enter it, something is holding me back. I am waiting for another line of raw thoughts worthy to capture in my notes in my third but arguably most eloquent language.
me, a foreigner, a student, a stranger,
a slave of Allah...
...and hong kong, not my home,
a casket of memories, a life-changer.