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 along 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 cool mist.
She takes one last look at the lights in the distance before turning back towards the street to hail a cab.
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.
I once found myself in an unknown city in the middle of the night. I was standing in the street and people were passing me in all directions. They were barely alive, each at a different stage of life passing out of them. I knew that I was already dead.
The colored lights from above bounced off the planes of their smooth faces. Strange faces staring a millisecond too long. They were catching onto me. I did my best to mimic their language, this undulating cadence with no name. I smelled it before I heard it. The syrupy falseness in my voice, drowning out my unholy secret.
The air was thick and smelled of caster oil and foods with unpronounceable names. My throat closed up with fear. I didn’t know how long I’d be stuck in this limbo. It was close to midnight and I was alone. I wanted to go back.