I arrived at this airbnb apartment in late afternoon. It’d be my temporary home for three nights. I have no plan for the rest of the day, and no plan for the remaining days either.
I took my time to examine every single detail in this little studio flat. It sits on the second floor of a short village house building. It has a small balcony, facing some nice green trees. The view however is slightly compromised by several modern cars parked downstairs. The owner has good taste of small objects, and he/she stocked the fridge with nice basic stuff, yogurt, soft drinks, wines, eggs. My previous worry over food was slightly eased at the sight of that. There’s is a small wooden table and two chairs, I suppose this will be where I do most of my activities in the next few days – writing, reading, eating, drinking. The bed is bigger than my own and it looks comfy. I have yet dived into it.
There’s really not much more to be said about this place. It’s very simple, but for some reason immediately feels like home. After a while I slowly unpacked my stuff from the little suitcase I brought, and laid them out in the bathroom, the wardrobe, the entrance chair, the fridge. As I did that, there was a moment it felt like “i’m starting a new life here”. I wonder if this temporary imagination of “a new life”, this brief shift of existence, is – instead of a byproduct of going elsewhere – a more fundamental need itself. It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t even take a plane anymore.
For now, this “new life” is only lacking a toothbrush. (But I did remember to bring toothpaste, strange mistake.) And I wish I had a small speaker with me.
I can’t remember when was the last time that I was writing on my laptop with a glass of wine by my hand. Anyways, this is what I’m doing right now, writing, with a glass of wine that’s getting acceleratingly warm.
I left the house and walked towards the beach after 6. When I was walking towards the beach, people were leaving. When I arrived, it was almost empty. I set out the beach mat, sat down and enjoyed the private beach while it was still quite bright. There wasn’t marvellous sunset today, instead, the sky was emitting a greyish blue. Without me noticing it, the moon was already hanging up there, watching the beach quietly. She is in her perfect half shape today with an impressionist illumination, as tolerant as she always appears.
I didn’t bring any towel/tissue with me so I wasn’t planning to touch the water with my barefoot. But as the sky grew dimmer, the moonlight appeared brighter, the waves also looked more and more inviting as it repetitively rushed onto a people-less beach. I changed my mind and walked towards the sea. With the music in my headphone, I started dancing a bit in the shallow waves. It’s always great to dance when no one is watching. Again I realize, there’s nothing purer than the kind of romance you feel when you’re alone.
I’m still patiently waiting for my writing heart to reveal herself. While I’m waiting for her, I eat, I listen to music, I clean myself, I dance. I have plenty thing to do. But I don’t look forward to going out today, I got this conclusion by stepping out to the balcony for 30 seconds. It’s another scorching hot day.
I do realize one thing not so ideal about this apartment. As it’s on the second floor, if I wanna sit by the window in the warmth of the sun, everyone passing by downstairs would be able to see me, and perhaps my underwear. This morning, as I was sitting by the balcony door eating a banana, with the knee of my left leg raised to my breast level, a man walking his dog passed by and gave me a quick glance as he looked up. It was a very brief moment of awkwardness. I can’t help wonder what do I look at that moment to a stranger – an untidy-looking woman eating banana at 8am behind the half-open balcony door, facing outside…
Writing wasn’t happening much, but for some reason I’m quite content. I reviewed a few stories/ideas that I created files of but never finished as if I was looking at someone else’ documents, and decided to rewrite a yet-to-be-finished short story into a flash fiction. It was very slow, and I was basically just deleting what I wrote almost one year ago. But I guess deleting is sometimes a progress too.
Around noon I still hadn’t develop enough courage to go out, so I decided to cook. I made carbonara – practically the only thing I can remember the steps without checking any instructions. I wouldn’t say it tastes fantastic.
In the afternoon I had a video call with Jorge – we agreed to have a coffee together, in his morning and my afternoon. We haven’t talked properly for four years since he left HK. I reached out recently when I thought I was going to Spain for this break. It didn’t happen, obviously, but it made me realize how much I’ve missed Jorge as a friend.
There are very few people in the world that whenever I think of them, a small dosage of warmth would instantly fill up my chest. Jorge is one of them.
I knew it’d be a long conversation, but it still surprised me when it turned out to be a 2.5-hour call. It occurs to me that even when Jorge was in HK, we didn’t meet often, but every time we did, it felt special, and we’d wish to prolong the meeting as much as possible. It was always intense, but never dramatic.
After the call I left for the beach. It was earlier than yesterday so I read a bit with the last half hour’s sunlight of the day. When it became too dim to read, I walked a few rounds along the beach in the shallow waves, and ruminated everything I talked with Jorge. It was very relaxing to walk and let the stimulated thoughts and emotions gently sink in.
On my way back from the beach, I walked into the one and only Chinese restaurant in the neighbourhood for dinner. It was a very earthy little place, and I expected to have a plain and quiet meal.
As I took some time to look at the dinner board when trying to decide what to order (as a tourist alway does), and as the waitress auntie was impatiently waiting beside me, this scene unfortunately drew the attention of a guy two tables away from mine. He started talking to me by advising me what to order. The curry beef brisket is a must try if it’s your first time here, he said.
It was quite empty in the restaurant and he looks like an old harmless local uncle. Out of politeness, I mildly entertained his awkward attempts at making conversations, even though it was quite impossible. But soon I realized the questions were never gonna stop. And as most people I met when I was travelling alone, he was particularly puzzled by my solo existence.
Are you from here?
Oh, where do you live? I’m the postman in this area.
Oh, with your friend?
Oh, how come you’re alone?
Why not boyfriend? You’re pretty.
Where is your friend?
Really alone? Don’t you have friends?
I grew more alerted when at some point he just walked over and sat opposite me at my table to continue the interrogation. Just when I was running low with my patience, the waitress auntie came out from the inner room and urged him back to his table. “Your beer is getting warm. Go finish it and leave the girl alone. ” And as he reluctantly drifted back to his table, the waitress came to stand right next to me, holding a small piece of paper towards me on the table. Assuming she was bringing the bill for my order, I realized it was actually a written message. It was in verbal-style cantonese writing and I didn’t have enough time to read it word by word in two seconds’ time, but I made out the general meaning: “this man is getting drunk, try not to engage him anymore…” She was tipping me off.
And just like that, what I thought would be a “plain and quiet dinner” became me eating crazy fast, dramatically fleeing the restaurant while making sure I wasn’t followed all the way back to my apartment.
As unpleasant as it was, the whole incident, especially the countless questions about “why are you alone”, did awaken reminiscences of when I was actually travelling.
When I had my morning coffee today, I thought of Jorge and our talk, and I missed him immensely. It’s the best kind of “missing”, the kind that doesn’t make your heart ache, but makes you feel the world is a better place becoz this person exists.
Jorge told me yesterday that I looked different, that he’d never seen me so free of tension. I guess I know what he meant, and I like this remark more than any other compliment about my appearance.
After a few hours’ writing in the morning I felt a little restless. I still don’t know how to proceed with the story so I decided to switch channel and made myself presentable. I took a few self-portraits with my film camera in different settings in the studio. I haven’t felt the mood for it for a long time, taking film portraits for myself. But today the urge came back, and I answered to it.
My plan is to go for a super late lunch around 3pm and stay out till after sunset. I left home when I felt too weak to wait further. The whole Pui O area seemed empty and dead at that hour. I wanted to give the local pizza joint a try but a black dog barked at me fiercely from inside the closed front. I hopped on a bus for Lower Cheung Sha beach instead, and ended up at Long Island again. It’s funny that I’ve been to Lower Cheung Sha quite a few times, and there are plenty options of restaurants there, yet for some reason I always ended up eating at Long Island, sulking at their overpriced menu and mediocre food.
I ordered too much food for one person, and left half of them for the flies to sniff. At about 5pm, I was already dozing off at my book thanks to the aperol spritz, and decided to move on to the beach. A loner buffalo had my attention as he (I assume it’s he) left the group and started marching towards the center of the sea. He appeared so purposeful and at some point I wondered if he was suicidal. Turned out he was just really craving a deep bath, and stayed in the water for a long while with only his head floating above the surface of the water.
My good time on this beach didn’t last long. When I finally settled down at some spot away from the crowd, and took just one sip of my take-away aperol spritz, a strong wind swept over and the sands started dancing. It was so strong that without any hesitation I knew I’d need to leave immediately. Huge dark clouds were creeping over and it was evident it’d pour soon.
The whole atmosphere grew quite gloomy all of a sudden but somehow the drastic change of climate made me quite excited. When I got off the bus in front of my village, the rain was on the verge of dropping, and I didn’t wanna go home yet. I indulged my instinct and stayed at the bus stop. It was a deserted bus stop by the road. I sat on one of the shabby chairs, watched people and vehicles flashing by in front of me, felt my hair flying to every random directions, and waited. Finally the rain poured down. It was a great moment.
It was the first day I used alarm to get up since I was on leave from 13 days ago. I wanted to have an early breakfast at the “garden cafe” – a cha chann ten – in the village. When I almost arrived there, I realized I forgot to bring my mask.
I wasn’t really wearing any mask in the past few days here coz on day one when I walked in the village I realized people look different here, after a while I figured out what was it: most of the local residents weren’t wearing their masks – either not properly or not at all. I happily adapted to the local norms during my stay, but still always had a mask with me in the bag.
But this morning when I left home it simply slipped my mind. When I realized that, I was half way there. I wondered if they’d not let me in without a mask, and hesitated if i should walk back and grab it…but decided against this stupid thought. When I arrived at the cafe, the waitress greeted me joyfully. No one gave a fuss about masks here.
It was such a small detail, but I was so grateful for this rare privilege, this old “normal”.
I’m leaving in half hour, with a sense of reluctance, as usual. It’s always very easy for me to grow attached to a place, a pattern, a newly developed existence, and it’s never easy to leave. I’ve become very used to the brevity of things, but being used to it doesn’t make it easier.
Now, I try to focus on the thought of reuniting with my piano soon. The book I’m reading is coming to an end and I’ll be able to start a new book today. There’s usually something to look forward to, no matter how trivial they might seem.