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Charles is dead. In a flash, he’s exited this world leaving me with nothing but my guilt. I won’t be riding on the back of a rickety motorcycle, pressed between his broad damp shoulders somewhere on a dirt road in Southeast Asia. I’ll no longer murmur my prayers for him, destined to an unknown country or cry from exasperation at his drunken public antics.
Bago was supposed to be our next city. The selfish, reckless bastard.
There’s a storm brewing tonight over the water. A thick muggy mist separates me from the distant scene on the other side of the harbor, forming an impermeable film. It’s the only thing that touches my skin. A strange weightlessness creeps through the fibers of my body as if to float me above and over the bay to Kowloon.
Their faces waft gently in and out of my consciousness. So many people, so many different people. I know I’ll never see them again. And if I live beyond this they’ll only become a questionable memory. Even now I’m not sure that any of it is real.
This means nothing to me.
Greg, you’re here with me tonight. I will remember you, your sweet face and your clear innocent eyes. It’s the first time I’ve noticed their color, wintry and reptilian. Such a jarring contrast to the warmth that emanates from your open spirit. I’ll remember the gravelly texture of your voice that calms me, your calloused hands. Your every move and word a calculated but well meaning pretext, my gentle interlude.
A faint numbing buzz vibrates beneath the shallow surface of my skin. Apart from this unnamed sensation, nothing touches me, nothing reaches me.
You turn to look at me and I smile. I wear my robot well. She’s disciplined and responsive, well trained. I rattle off my verses dutifully.
A low, suppressed sigh escapes me.
I think to you, Eric. You taught me not to give a shit. It was the one thing you were so convinced of- this expansive and limitless futility, and after all these years you’ve managed to convince me. The weight of your ego pushed all the breath and remaining life force out of my chest. I love you and I wish you well.
It doesn’t mean a motherfucking thing to me. There is no tragedy, no light, no triumph nor betrayal that could shake me. The only thing I mourn is the loss of my ability to mourn at all.
The shadowy figures that have rallied around me have melded into the background, reduced to an innocuous nuisance. Their incessant demands on my time and energy fall like clanging nails onto a shaky roof. They stretch their mouths open, gasping for air between greedy bites, chipping their teeth on caustic iron. Shame is not an element in this game.
Their obsessions and their petty wars mean nothing. Their flimsy facades and their carefully construed personas mean nothing. This will all fall away.
Others have been kind and generous. These are the lights that have sustained me. I’ll carry them with me. The only thing I am deeply grateful for.
The sky is a murky deep red tonight- the color of beet juice stain, transparent and dotted with the flickering lights of Hung Hom across the water. Towering oil rigs traverse the backlit skyline, forming stark geometric slices in the brilliant multicolored gradient. I will remember this. I will take this with me.
The details are sharp, coming into focus as if I were taking it all in for the last time. Greg, your voice jolts me back to the present. You’re recounting all the things I used to long so deeply for and now know I’ll never have. I should be sad but I’m not.
My sensations return with a sudden rush. Your warm hard thigh is pressing with intention against mine. I turn towards you and you towards me. Your expression is so unassuming, open and eager with anticipation as if you were receiving a gift. Your bright, round features are arranged in a pleasant constellation on your broad face. You’re a sort of angel in this foggy dream, if angels existed.
I won’t ruin this with a fuck.
Charles, you left behind a destitute lover, my little brother. I send a prayer up to the heavens for your soul. I’m perturbed by my lack of faith that I hurriedly push down beneath my gut.
It’s suddenly all so clear, laid out before me like an old hymn sung over and over and it’s only now that I grasp the meaning. This is a blip in eternity that stretches on beyond my human comprehension. I give in to the complete loss of control and it’s here that I find my peace. Far away from this confused jumble of getting and spending as we prolong death. I’m succumbing to the reaches of unreality and therein lies my Truth. I’m going to miss this.
The Perch was inundated tonight with every genre of LA stereotype and then some, self consciously postured throughout the perfectly cliché French dining hall. They checked each other out anxiously, fanning themselves with the oversized menus filled with misspelled dishes, dripping in jewelry and affectations. This was not the LA of my childhood.
After dinner we braved the streets to get back to the car. It was unusually frigid for Southern California, even in December. As usual that horrible sucker punch to the gut got me as I weaved through the dense web of homeless people. Obnoxious Christmas music filtered in from all directions from the nearby hotel lobbies, filled with people actually celebrating. This quite possibly had to be the shittiest day out of the year for the homeless. I raised my camera to take a photo of an overhead marquee and nearly stumbled into a guy passing by in a wheelchair.
“Merry Christmas miss,” he said, nodding as he continued on.
My chest ached and a stifled sigh rose up in my throat as I watched him wheeling down the avenue.
Admiralty, Hong Kong. October 5, 2014
This was a couple weeks into the protests and they were still in full force. I’d been avoiding the Admiralty area since the movement had first kicked off, after seeing coverage of the police violence that had gone down in the first couple days.
This was the first time I’d stepped foot in the area, accompanied by a local friend who urged me along. I was floored by the sheer size of the manifestation as well as the zealous energy running through the crowd of normally stolid locals. I absolutely had to capture the event. I ran home to grab my camera gear. Unfortunately I was down to my last 2 rolls of film and I kicked myself on the MTR ride all the way back to the protest site.
To make matters worse, a bottle of orange juice came unscrewed in my bag and leaked all over one of the film canisters, which I discovered two days later. So much for professionalism. The liquid leakage led to a pretty interesting, almost tin type effect which I may explore later on.
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.
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 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.