「week 3」Not belonging

There’s a traditional banquet-style Cantonese restaurant (Tao Heung) in Tsing Yi mall, right at the ground floor next to the escalator that I’d pass by every day as I go out and come home. Since I moved to Tsing Yi three years go, every time I passed by that place, I looked at the big groups of people dining inside, and knew it’s a place I’d barely have any chance to eat at. Yet, just as some girls always get attracted by unavailable men (or vice versa), the thought of that, made me wanna eat there more than any other restaurant in the mall.

I did eat there, twice before today, in the past three years. The first time was with my ex-boyfriend. After I told him that this is sort of my “dream restaurant”, we went one day early in our relationship to help me realize this “dream”. The second time was 2 months ago, when a friend visited HK and crashed at my place, I took him there for the dim sum that was on his to-eat list.

And then it’s today. On my way back home in the morning after a night spent away, around 8:30am, I passed by it as I did a million times before, a sudden crave for dim sum struck me. I walked over to the counter and asked if it’s possible to get takeaway dim sum. The counter lady told me, sure, but if you eat in the restaurant, it’s half price. There I went. Out of the economic saving’s sake and a faint mindset to challenge myself, I followed her in and sat down at this shared table with two other local ladies, a pair of senior mother and middle-aged daughter.

As someone who’s very used to doing things alone, not many situations could easily make me feel uneasy anymore. But as I looked around, I still couldn’t help feeling amusingly out-of-place while almost everyone else in the huge restaurant are grey-haired, the dominating clientele in a dim sum restaurant before 9am. And I, a woman in early 30s and looks younger than her age (as she is constantly told), wearing her AirPods and reading her New Yorker while she was waiting, was evidently someone who doesn’t belong.

A few minutes after sitting down, I realized the “daughter” at my shared table is mentally ill. She couldn’t stop mumbling stuff in Cantonese that made little sense and was marginally rude, while her mother, seemingly in her 60s, could only smile apologetically at me. Through their conversation, I learned that the daughter lives in a mental hospital, and this dim sum breakfast was apparently a special weekend treat for her as she was taken out by her mother.

They left while I was half the way with my food, the mentally-challenged daughter said “Goodbye beautiful girl” to me in Cantonese on her way out. Shortly, the next group of guest was brought to my table, an old lady and an old man in his wheelchair. At a quick glimpse, I saw on the wheelchair a sign that claims it a property of some elderly home. I couldn’t help but feeling that I’m sitting at a table that specifically hosts people who needs special care – an equivalent to the priority seats on the subway. The old lady read the dim sum menu slow and loud to the old man. She’d give him two choices a time, and he’d choose one, in his feeble voice. They ended up ordering only three dim sum. We can’t eat that much, she said. He didn’t respond.

I finished my three dim sums (which is obviously too much) before their food arrived. On my walk home, I thought of three years ago when I was about to move here, this little island that’s half residential and half industrial, a friend pointed out “You just don’t seem like someone that’d live in Tsing Yi.” I knew I didn’t. I guess I still don’t. If one is to hashtag Tsing Yi, it’d be #family #kids #dogs, maybe #airportexpress. Three years living here doesn’t make me one of them, just like 14 years in Hong Kong doesn’t make me one of them. I never feel I belong here. But then I never feel I belong anywhere. The feeling of not belonging is, oddly, something I’m most used to, and inevitably, something I’ve come to terms with after all these years. After all, this is home now. Or at least the closest thing to home in the world to me.

And I do find a connection between me and my community – we are all the kind of people who’d do anything to just satisfy our sudden crave for dim sum on an early Saturday morning, be it from a mental hospital, from an elderly home, or from the void after a long journey of walk of shame.

PS: There was a lot of things I thought I could write about this week. The night I went to a friend’s opening and ended up bonding with two young girls and unexpectedly enjoying it (with the help of alcohol). The day I went to run in gym but forgot to bring my phone so I could’t listen to anything as a distraction while being a hamster on the tread mill and spent the most tedious 20 mins in my life. But I just proved these are things that can be said in one sentence so, I guess that’s that.

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