UNTRACINGS BY ETTA SHON

FICTION + ART BY E SHON

The Darker Side

RECORD STREET MONG KOK HONG KONG SIGNGHOST HEART SHAPED GLASSES HONG KONG STREETINTERSECTION BUSSES CROSSWALK JORDAN HONG KONG
REPEAT WINDOWS HONG KONG JORDAN
MIRROR JEWELER JORDAN HONG KONG KOWLOONCOUNTING COINS YAU MEI TEI HONG KONG ANCESTORS SHRINE BURNING KOWLOON HONG KONG

Thanskgiving. I should be spending this with my family.

What is it about this place that gets to me. I mean truly, profoundly irritates me to the core.

The people who seem to float around in a perpetual cloud of weed smoke, zig zagging in random (and painfully slow) trajectories in the street with their noses in their whatsapp/candy crush/ tinder/ insert BS here. Their blank stares when I shoot them a dirty look for not moving their asses in the MTR. Christ let’s not start about the MTR. If you’re going to watch a Korean drama on your mobile during rush hour, do it anywhere but in the doorway, asshat. No one ever seems to know what the fuck is going on. Ever. These people are forever confused. Maybe all the pollution in the air got to them.

Clearly I am the common denominator and therefore the problem. Me and Hong Kong just don’t jive.

Oxford Street

ladies headscarves strolling oxford street sunday londonindian ladies oxford street shopping londonladies primark headscarves london oxford street
London, September 2014

Mong Kok Series #1

BLURRY OLD MAN MONG KONG STREET HONG KONGWOMAN WORKER STREET MONG KONG SHOE REPAIR HONG KONGKNIVES SELF PORTRAIT MONG KOKRUBBER GLOVE STREET MONG KOKBIRDS BORN IN A CAGE MONG KONG PROTEST SIGNMONG KOK BUS RIDER STREET HONG KONGMONG KOK HONG KONG HIGH RISESHOOKER MONG KONG STREET HONG KONGTIRED MAN MONG KOK REST CARDBOARD BOXES HONG KONGDRYING LAUNDRY SIGN HONG KONG MONG KOK STREET

Industrial stink, nagging din, weirdos of every variety and five dollar hookers. The fascination has worn off and I’m over it. What a fucking oppressive dump.

Macau

MOTORCYCLES MACAO HIGHWAY STREET EVENINGMACAO CONSTRUCTION SITE OLD BUILDINGSDIRTY RAGS HANGING MACAO STREETOLD BUILDINGS CIRCLE SIGN MACAO STREETPEOPLE STREET MACAO CHINESE NEON SIGNSSHELL CHINESE SIGN STREET MACAO
Macau

It’s 7:45, chilly as fuck. The whirring of the passing motorcycles interrupts her thoughts. She starts from the beginning. The lines run over and over again through her head. She’s rehearsed them continually over the course of a forgotten length of time. Other than a slight variation in order, they remain more or less the same.

She knows she won’t go through with it.

She lists her grievances anyway. The forgotten anniversaries, the unreturned phone calls, the habitual lies. That buxom slut at the corner bar whose eyes knowingly linger a millisecond too long every time he walks in. Everything she doesn’t have the balls to walk away from. Maybe this time she’ll do it.

She woke up with a funny feeling in her gut that morning. The light was harsh and white. Thin beams of sunlight cut through the opening between the curtains, highlighting the fine cracks around around his eyes. It’d been a long time since she’d inspected him that closely. He’d aged a lot in the past few years. She traced her finger lightly along a wrinkle across his forehead. His breath was light and steady, pure peace all over his face. She sidled softly out of bed, careful not to wake him.

She called in sick. Stomach issues. Shrowded in somewhat of a trance, she headed out the door, not sure what direction she was headed in. In the street, something felt off in her steps as she deterred from her usual trajectory on that Tuesday morning. At some point she ended up at the edge of the bay in front of the ferry terminal. Her eyes scanned the list of destinations on the overhead hand painted board. Macau it was.

______________

The sun’s gone down and neon signs illuminate her path. Her phone beeps, signaling that it’s got low battery. She checks the screen. No messages yet.

Her stomach is churning from hunger and she realizes she hasn’t eaten all day. It occurs to her that she could spend the night here and not come back for a few days. Let her thoughts air out a bit. She indulges in the idea for a minute before a low, laborious sigh escapes from her belly.

She knows she’ll get back on that ferry. She’ll trudge it back home and open the door and there he’ll be, barely looking up from his computer. She’ll halfheartedly throw a dinner together as he clicks away in is office. She’ll set the table and they’ll sit down in their usual places opposite each other. He’ll talk about himself, recounting his day in painstaking detail between bites as her mind drifts off. Her silence will go unnoticed as silences often do. At midnight they’ll lie down in bed, she on the left and he on the right. She’ll turn and face the wall as her mind slips away to some other time and place…the beach town of her childhood, fantasies of the life she would have had if she’d made a different turn here or there. Memories of happier times before this all started. And so it’ll go on.

This rhythm, however painful, has a powerful pull on her and she knows it.

She stops in her path and looks up at the glittering Grand Lisboa, it’s impressive height imposing itself onto the skyline,  streaming lights shooting up towards the petaled towers. The strangeness and unfamiliarity of this backdrop has an oddly calming effect on her. The air is cool and moist, filling her lungs with a vapoury mist.

She takes one last look at the lights in the distance before turning back towards the street to hail a cab.

Spirits

sai ying pun street flyers hong kongghost face truck hong kong streetsheung wan criminal flyer street hong kongsheung wan street hanging shirt handtrucks

Death Is Free

grandpa back view sheung wan hong kong streetdeath is free graffiti hong kong streethanging t shirt street hong kongcardboard box pile sai ying punmao figurines hollywood road sheung wan hong kongfood delivery truck sheung wan street hong kongghostly old man shop window soho hong kong

He’s been waiting to be plucked from this veritable hell hole for some time now. What once used to torture him has now diminished to a humming nuisance. The stink, the heaviness, and of course the Heat. It smothers his body in its fervent vapors, incinerating his lashes and drying up the last trace of moisture in his throat.

He doesn’t know what the afterworld will look like but he knows he’s headed there soon. Their faces play in reverse chronological order in his mind, occasionally shuffling backwards and forwards as he searches his memory. Long gone friends, distant uncles, lovers, people he hurt, the ones who he left. He’s forgotten some of their names. Most of them disappeared before he could say his apologies.

He straightens the brim of his cap, his grey hairs matted down to his forehead in sweat. This must be a good time to make his peace with God, if it was ever going to happen. He can’t think of what to say or how to put it. His regret may count for something.

He waits with an uncertain expectation, not knowing exactly how it’ll happen. He looks up to the cloudless sky, the heat waves melding the colors of late summer. He’s up next.

In a little while…

sheung wang window view connaught road west

Strobe lights and blown speakers 
Fireworks and hurricanes 
I’m not here 
This isn’t happening

 

It’s bloody hot and my head is boiling.

workers breakcat sheung wan street chinese medicine hong kongsheung wan medicine shop office street hong kongworker break inside truck street sheung wan hong kongsanitation worker street sheung wan hang hong konghat sanitiation worker garbage sheung wan street hong kong

Sundays

BRIDGE HONG KONG TO CENTRAL STATION FILIPINO HOUSEKEEPERS WOMEN LADIES SUNDAYFILIPINO MAIDS MOBILES BRIDGE CENTRAL HONG KONG STATION SUNDAY DAY OFFFILIPINO MAID UMBRELLA HONG KONG CENTRAL STATION BRIDGE MOBILEFILIPINO HOUSEKEEPERS DAY OFF MOBILE STREET CENTRAL HONG KONG

Sundays are the only day off for domestic workers in Hong Kong, the majority of whom are women from the Philippines and Indonesia. The streets around Central district in particular are bustling with the influx of women who use this day to do their shopping and take care of all their personal needs. The few parks and public spaces sporadically dispersed throughout the city are filled with these women who relax and profit from their day of freedom. They come decked out in their Sunday best and socialize in small groups, huddled on blankets on the ground while doing each other’s hair, applying manicures, and chatting.

The top three photos above were taken on the bridge between Central station and Hong Kong station. A long row of women on either side of the bridge lounge around in makeshift cardboard shelters while napping or watching movies on their phones.

I couldn’t help but to feel a current of guilt as I walked through this bridge, camera in hand as I documented the scene. I knew that these women were very much here by choice and that their work was honest. But in the stark physical separation of the space allotted to them, dividing them from the rest of the population, the disparity in class was highlighted to an almost shameful degree. Shameful for whom, I can’t quite say.

 

 

Sheung Wan Heat

OLD LADY STRAW HAT SHEUNG WAN STREET HONG KONGANTLERS VENDOR STRAW HAT SHEUNG WAN HONG KONG STREET DRYINGSHEUNG WAN STREET ART GRAFFITI HONG KONGSCRAP METAL VENDOR JUNK SHEUNG WANG STREET HONG KONGOLD LADIES HATS SHOPPING SHEUNG WAN STREET HONGSHEUNG WAN CHINESE MEDICINE SIGN CANTONESE HONG KONG

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