Learning Cantonese: A Tuen Mun Love Story . . .

Beyond the Dream is a novel by the Hong Kong writer 蔣曉薇 Jéung2 Híu2 Mèih4. The thing that first got me interested in it was the setting: there aren’t too many books in any language set in the new town of 屯門 Tuen Mun! To me the place evokes a discordant mix: the concrete river channel that splits the town geometrically in two, the massive architecture of the MTR stations, both at Siu Hong and the terminus, the incessant traffic streaming down the vast Tuen Mun road, the shuttling, metal clatter of the light-rail trains, and towering over it all in the distance, the jagged green ridge of the Tsing Shan Mountain (Castle Peak).

In this 4-minute video put together by 文化者 The Culturist and 網上閲讀平台 the SHKP Reading Club, Jeung gives us some insight into the themes of the book, its two main characters, the young woman 葉嵐 Yihp6 Làahm4 (嵐 means “haze; vapour; mist”) and 阿樂 Aa3 Lohk6, and its subsequent transformation into a very successful film. The Chinese title 《幻愛》 is much more interesting than the English version: to me it suggests a kind of hallucinated love, the word echoing 幻想 “fantasy” (literally, “an unreal thinking”) and 幻聽 “hearing voices” (“an unreal hearing”). You can see how it might have defeated even the most determined translator . . .

The Cantonese highlight in this video is an example of the verb 㧬 [ng]úng2 = “push forward with both hands or body” — you don’t hear it that often, so every encounter is a treat! My trusty 《香港粵語大詞典》 gives two examples of its use, 㧬開度門 = to push open the door, and 㧬㧬去 = (roughly) to push and shove one another. Other treats include the word 鎅 gaai3, used both as a verb meaning “to cut” and in the compound noun 鎅刀, a kind of small knife, somewhat like a Stanley knife (at least, in some contexts); 抌 dám2, a verb with a number of meanings including “to throw away (rubbish)”; and the very Cantonese 第時 daih6 sìh4 = “in the future, another day”. Jeung also reads a passage from her novel at the 2-minute mark. Learning to understand Standard Written Chinese read aloud in Cantonese is a real challenge, and any opportunity to work on this (uneasily mastered) skill is worth taking.

You can watch the video here (Chinese subtitles only). If you want to take a look at the (rough in places) transcription, notes and English translation, please scroll down.

And if you would like to take a look at the trailer for the film with English subtitles, you can view that here.

And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary. You might also like to make use the Ekho Text to Speech Converter if you have trouble matching any part of the transcribed Chinese text to the spoken version. Just make sure you select “Cantonese” under the language menu before you paste cut and text into the relevant box.

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蔣曉薇:呢個好糾結内心世界係 | 啫,係我去寫嘅時候我自己都覺得痛呀

● 糾結 gáu2 git3 = to entangle; to tangle together; to be in a knot

Jeung Hiu-mei: This tangled-up inner world is one that give me pain myself when I set out to write [about it].

Caption: 幻愛 | 小説作者 | 蔣曉薇 Beyond the Dream | Fiction Writer | Jeung Hiu-mei

我覺得電影其實都係主要係阿樂嘅視點嘅 | 去到我自己作爲創作嘅時候呢 | 我覺得,呃,葉嵐呢個角色呢 | 喺個電影度仲有好多發揮嘅空間 | 可能係因爲自己係女性 [㗎嘛] | 我係好容易去代入到女性嘅角度同埋視點去寫 | 好多時候,葉嵐嘅内心世界 | 佢,佢嘅過去係點樣成長㗎 | 佢同媽媽之間嗰個命運嘅連擊係點樣㗎 | 呢度我係花咗啲心思去,去諗啦,去構思啦【1:00】

● 視點 sih6 dím2 = perspective | ● 發揮嘅空間 faat3 fāi1 ge3 hūng1 gāan1 = (?) room to give free play to | ● 代入 doih6 yahp6 = (?) to put oneself into the shoes of another person | ● 連繫lìhn4 haih6 = (?) connection; link | ● 心思 sām1 sī1 = ① thought; idea ② state of mind; mood | ● 構思 kau3 sī1 = (of a writer) work out the plot of a literary work

It is my feeling that the film is in fact mainly [from] the perspective of Ah Lok. To me, as the creator [去到我自己作爲創作嘅時候呢], I think that in the role of Yip Lam there is still plenty of room in the film for development [發揮嘅空間]. Perhaps because I am a woman too, it is very easy for me to insert myself when I write into a female role and perspective. I spent a lot of time thinking about and plotting Yip Lam’s inner world — what her past was like when she was growing up, and what kind of destiny linked her and her mother together.

噉我記得喺電影裏面呢,有一幕呢,就係 | 葉嵐同阿樂呢,就喺屋企樓下撞到 Uncle Wong | 然後佢哋就觸發咗一個衝突 [喇] | 就係葉嵐,呃,啫,覺得自己好 . . .  [佢] 嘅過去好不濟好不堪 | 佢覺得自己好唔配得,呃,阿樂嘅愛 | 然後佢就㧬咗阿樂出,呃,屋企嘅 | 噉然後葉嵐瞓到半夜嘅時候就扎醒咗 | 然後佢就望住手上面嗰條紅繩 | 就,呃,鎅刀鎅,鎅斷佢 | 然後抌咗落垃圾桶 | 啫,呢一幕,呃,可能係好短 | 大概十秒八秒咁樣呢 | 噉但係,啫,我都要一個,賦予佢一個心理狀態,就係 | 佢做乜醒咗之後係要做呢件事 [嘅] 呢,咁 | 噉我就寫咗喺書裏面嘅【2:00】

● 一幕 yāt1 mohk6 = an act (in a play); perhaps here “a scene (in a film)” | ● 屋企樓下 [ng]ūk1 kéi5*2 làuh4 haah6 = lit. “downstairs of one’s home”, but in the case of a housing estate probably “outside the building one lives in” | ● 撞到 johng6 dóu3*2 = to bump into; to encounter | ● 觸發 jūk1 faat3 = to spark; to trigger | ● 不濟 bāt1 jai3 = useless | ● 不堪 bāt1 hām1 = cannot bear; unbearably; cannot stand; “have had it up to here” | ● 好唔配得阿樂嘅愛 hóu2 mh4 pui3 dāk1 Aa3 Lohk6  ge3 [ng]oi3 = not at all worthy of Ah Lok’s love  | ● 㧬 úng2 = push forward with both hands or body | ● 扎醒 jaat3 séng2 = wake up suddenly; wake up with a start; startle from sleep | ● 紅繩 hùhng4 síng4*2= a red cord/string | ● 鎅刀 gaai3 dōu1 = a knife blade, a razor blade; a paper cutter | ● dám2 = ① beat (with fist); bang; pound ② smash; shatter; stamp (a chop) ③ throw; discard; abandon | ● 賦予 fu3 yúh5 = to bestow on; to endow with; to vest with

I remember that there is a scene in the film in which Yip Lam and Ah Lok bump into Uncle Wong outside the building she lives in [屋企樓下], which sets off conflict between the pair. Yip Lam feels that she is quite . . . // in the past she was both useless and fed up [過去好不濟好不堪]. She felt that she was quite unworthy of Ah Lok’s love for her. After that, she pushes Ah Lok out of her house. After that, she suddenly wakes up at midnight and, seeing the red cord on her wrist, picks up a knife, cuts the cord and throws it in the rubbish bin. This scene may be quite brief, lasting around 8 to 10 seconds, but in it I invest her with [a certain] psychological state. Why it is that she wakes up and does this is something I wrote about in the book.

最教她無法原諒的 | 是母親任憑自己的男朋友 | 隨便進出她們的家裏 | 任由他們隨便在自己女兒的身上摸 | 並沒有及時出來保護她 | 當 Uncle Wong 的事被母親揭發 | 她以爲自己有救了 | 母親卻是狠狠地摑了她一巴掌 | 葉嵐不斷哭著 | 不是,不是這樣的 | 但母親卻不容她解釋 | 直罵她的祖宗 | 罵她的基因 | 罵她生來就注定是個便宜貨 | 她跪在地上看著母親的眼神 | 那裏只有暴戾與嫉妒 | 再沒有關懷、真誠與愛 | 佢諗返呢個過去 | 佢 [都係] 覺得佢無辦法原諒媽媽 | 所以佢就用鎅刀鎅咗嗰條手繩仔 | 媽媽答應佢同佢祈福,就係 | 第時佢哋將來會過好日子嘅一個承諾 【3:00】

● 任憑 yahm6 pàhng4 = at one’s convenience; at one’s discretion | ● 任由 yahm6 yauh4 = to allow sb. free reign; jumping over; ignoring | ● 摑 gwaak3 = to slap; to smack | ● 暴戾 bouh6 leuih6 = ruthless & tyrannical; cruel & fierce | ● 嫉妒 jaht6 dou3 = to be jealous; to envy | ● 第時 daih6 sìh4 = in the future, another day

“What she found most difficult to forgive was that her mother let her boy-friends come and go as they pleased, and put up with their touching her whenever they felt like it, never appearing in time to protect her. When her mother found out about her and Uncle Wong, she thought she would be saved, but instead her mother slapped her hard. Weeping, Yip Lam kept repeating, no, no, it’s not what you think, but her mother had no time for her explanations, cursing her ancestors, her genes, cursing that fact that she gave birth [to a child] who was destined to become cheap goods. She knelt down on the ground and looked into her mother’s eyes, but all she saw there was cruelty and jealousy. There was no more care, sincerity or love.” She thinks back over her past, and also thinks that she cannot forgive her mother. And so, she takes the knife and cuts the cord on her wrist. Her mother accepts Yip Lam’s (?) promise to pray for her, and for a future in which they can live together happily (I am not sure if I have understood this sentence correctly).

好多,呃,影迷係好錫,呃,《幻愛》呢套戯 | 噉啊因爲疫情嘅緣故呢 | 呃,啫,戲院唔開 [喇] | 噉大家得入戲院去支持啦 | 呃,知道大家係好失望啦 | 或者係好著急嘅 | 好想戲院快啲開 | 就繼續可以支持導演 | 支持成個《幻愛》嘅團隊 | 噉嗯噉我諗《幻愛》團隊除咗電影之外 | 都包括,呃,小説創作嘅一部分嘅 | 噉大家都可以,呃,花啲時間去閲讀小説嘅 | 我覺得都係一個,一個思考嚟㗎 | 你睇完之後可以之後將佢 *jeui 同電影做返一個對讀對比 | 都係一個有趣嘅經驗 [呀]

● 影迷 yíng2 màih4 = film fan | ● 緣故 yùhn4 gu3 = cause; reason | ● 著急 jeuhk6 gāp1 = to worry; to feel anxious | ● 導演 douh6 yín2 = ① to direct (a film, a [play, etc.] ② a director | ● 團隊 tyùhn4 déui6*2 = a team; perhaps in this film context, “a crew” | ● 思考 sī1 háau2 = to think deeply; to ponder over; to reflect on | ● 對讀對比deui3 duhk6 deui3 béi2 = (?) to compare and contrast the book with the film

Many film buffs are very fond of the movie Beyond the Dream. Owing to the Covid-19 situation, cinemas are not open. No one can get into a picture theatre to show their support. I know that everyone is very disappointed about this, or worried, and hopes that the cinemas reopen soon so that they can continue to be able to support the director, and support the whole crew of Beyond the Dream. Apart from the film [side of things], I think that the crew for Beyond the Dream also includes the creation of the novel, [so] everyone can spend some time reading the book. My sense is that this reading is also a kind of deep thinking about things. When you’ve finished the novel, you can make a comparison with the film version — another interesting experience.

探訪:張美珠 Jēung1 Méih5 Jyū1  | 攝影、剪接:陳昶達 Chàhn4 Chóng2 Daaht6 (Note: 昶 chóng2 = long day)

“Mother Cat” by 張婉雯 Cheung Yuen Man, translated by Audrey Heijns

Pregnant cats always remind me of Aunt Ng.

When we were still getting to know each other, I found it hard to know how to talk to her. Her voice is very loud, and if she shouts from one end of the street, you can hear what she says at the other end. When the people she hangs round with start discussing political issues, she is liable to suddenly go off on a tangent and start talking about a cat on Yau Ma Tei Street or dog kennels in the northern New Territories, about cats and dogs that were fortunate and those who were unlucky, about volunteers who were poor and others who were very wealthy, long and short stories, one after another. But issues such as policies, rights, pressure groups, social activities… these she knows next to nothing about.

Yet once in a while she calls me to have a chat—no not a chat: in her case she would talk “official business” when she spoke of her days looking after cats and dogs out on the street day after day, about feeding them and taking them to the vet. Sometimes in a single night she would catch seven or eight cats from the neighbourhood and call a van the driver of which she knew and she would pay for transport herself. She would take them to the SPCA to be neutered and then return them to where they came from. That was Aunt Ng’s main job for many years, but besides that she had another profession—she was a casual cleaner.

Just like all affairs of the world, along the way there are bound to be obstacles. Aunt Ng said to me:

“Last night when I caught a street cat, a couple of Nepalese asked: ‘Why are you catching those cats? Are you doing something against the law?’ I told them I was taking them to the vet to get neutered. They said ‘Oh,’ and walked away. But there were some local people instead who made some sarcastic comments. For crying out loud!”

That is why I say that she and I live in two different worlds. While I sit at home sipping hot tea in front of my computer writing essays criticizing the policies of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Aunt Ng is outside on the cold street, hoping to bump into a cat. One winter in the middle of the night, some of the night stores on main street were still open. There was one that had a steaming hotpot on the table where guests were playing the drinking game Chai Mui, they were shouting numbers and drinking. In the dim kerosene lamplight at dawn Aunt Ng transformed into a dark figure at the entrance of the lane. With a cigarette in the corner of her mouth, arms crossed, eyes narrowed, line of vision sneaking off far into the deep lightless alley. The dark figure flew past with a swish, then the cage snapped shut with a click. A sad and shrill cry of a cat was heard. The spark in the dark night that flew mid-air was Aunt Ng’s cigarette stub tossed accurately in the bin nearby. Unhurriedly she walked over, crouched down, tapped the top of the cage with her fingers and laughed saying:

“Dear cat, be good now. You’ll be back in two days.”

That scene is based on my imagination after watching too many martial art movies. In the way I imagined it, there is none of the actual fatigue and frustration. That night, between 12 midnight and four, Aunt Ng caught six cats. Whereas I as the writer, who is good at making things up but hopeless when it comes to taking any real action, was already sleeping like a log.

But Aunt Ng isn’t bothered by that. She only wants to have someone to listen to her. Many of her stories she told me either over the phone or in text messages—she has no idea about the internet. As a result she also doesn’t have any web-friends. She only has real life friends, volunteers, people who listen to her troubles, and in turn she listens to theirs. Everyone feels a bit better after that and returns to the street to continue being busy feeding cats, trapping cats, neutering cats and returning them again … after the torment, cats and humans live on and occasionally bump into some luck and kindness after the fatigue and disappointment. There was a man who would walk his dog every night and he would help Aunt Ng throw dry cat food on top of a high eaves, so that the cats could eat their fill straight away. “He is tall and I am short so when he turns up I don’t need to go looking around for help.”

The other day Aunt Ng received another call for help. “There’s an old lady who keeps a dozen cats. Five of them had feline ringworm (a common type of skin disease) and she didn’t have money to cure them. She said she wanted to commit suicide with the cats in her arms. I said, ‘Don’t even think about it. Ringworm is easy to fix,’ so I went to the pharmacy to buy some ointment, I showed her how to apply it and later all the cats got better. I even had to call her every day just so that she could get a few things off her chest.” I said: “So, Aunt Ng, you care for human beings as well as animals.” It seems that she expected that remark for she chuckled, “Sometimes when you care for cats, you also have to care for their owners.”

Later I finally understood why Aunt Ng would make such a statement: one afternoon many years ago, when she was on her way home, she saw a pregnant mother cat on the side of the road. Only her belly was big—the rest was a bag of bones. Her eyes were closed up because of infection. She was curled up in a ball and shivering in the flowers. When Aunt Ng saw her, it reminded her of something that happened to her many years ago: pregnant, single, no one to take care of her, no money. So then she went out and started to feed stray cats.

That day I arranged to see Aunt Ng, having bought some extra cat medicine and food for her. When I saw her cross the street, she was limping with her left foot, so I asked about her health, and she said that she suffered from joint strain, as a result of all those years lugging the vacuum cleaner back and forth. And staying up late to roam the streets at night to catch cats. I handed over the goods, and she thanked me. Then she told me that she had got three fines from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department—each of them for $1,000. I know it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Nor is she the only volunteer who gets them. Later I saw her limping into a vet clinic. I know the clinic is kind. It gives 30% discount on the treatment of stray cats. I saw Aunt Ng pull out of her pocket a wad of $500 bills held together with a rubber band.

Officials once proclaimed: “The Trap-Neuter-Return Plan is not ideal.” I wonder what their interpretation of “ideal” is. But I think the view of those honourable senior officials must be very different from that of Aunt Ng’s. Sometimes I run across a mother cat in the street. While next to her a few kids get carried away playing a game, the mother cat looks around carefully and makes sure she protects her kittens. Her demands are voiceless. Yet her dignity is innate. Yes, I see Aunt Ng in every mother cat.

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母貓 / 張婉雯

大肚貓總是讓我想起吳姑娘。

初相識的時候,我不太懂得與吳姑娘相處。她說話嗓門很大,街頭喊一句,街尾也聽見;大伙兒在談論政策問題,她會忽然岔開,由油麻地街貓說到新界北狗場,一頭又一頭幸或不幸的貓狗,一個又一個貧或富裕的義工,一個又一個短或長篇的故事。政策、權益、壓力團體、社會運動……這些玩意兒她不懂。

然而,吳姑娘間中還是會打電話來跟我閒聊——我也說錯了,對吳姑娘來說,她都是在談「正事」,也就是指她日復一日地照顧街上的貓們狗們,餵食,看病,一個晚上捉七、八隻貓街坊,然後召相熟的客貨車,自付車資,送到愛護動物協會做絕育手術,然後又把送回原居地。這是吳姑娘多年來的日常工作,她在正職以外的專業——吳姑娘的正職是鐘點女傭。

如同所有世事一樣,過程總有阻礙。這一天,吳姑娘對我說:

「昨天晚上捉街貓,有幾個尼泊爾人過來問我:『你捉貓作什麼?是不是作非法用途?』我跟他們說是捉貓去絕育,他們『哦』了一聲,就走開了。反而是幾個本地人,對我冷言冷語,哼。」

所以我說,我和吳姑娘是兩個世界的人。當我坐在家中,喝著熱茶,對著電腦寫文章批評漁護署政策時,吳姑娘正在寒冷的街上守株待貓。冬天半夜,大街上尚有幾檔夜店,桌面上冒著火鍋的煙,交織著猜枚聲與么喝聲。昏黃的大光燈後,吳姑娘,化身成巷口的一個黑影中,嘴角叼著一支煙,雙手交叉胸前,眯著眼睛,視線遠遠地溜向無光的深巷。一個黑影『啾』聲飛過,『卡嚓』一聲,籠門關上,傳來貓的淒厲叫聲。一點火星在黑夜的半空中拋出半圓的弧度,是吳姑娘把煙頭準確地丟進不遠處垃圾桶中。她慢條斯理地走過去,蹲下來,手指叩一叩籠頂,笑著說:

「貓呀貓,乖一點哦,過兩天便可以回來了。」

以上只是出於看武俠片太多的想像。想像中沒有現實的疲累與挫折。那個晚上,半夜十二時到凌晨四時,吳姑娘捉到六隻貓們。而我,一個善於想像而拙於行動的寫作人,早已沉睡夢中去了。

可是吳姑娘不計較這些。她只想找一個能聽她說話的人。許許多多的故事,都是吳姑娘在電話中,或是用短訊告訴我的——她不懂上網。吳姑娘自然也沒有「網友」,她只有現實世界中的朋友、義工,聽她吐苦水的,吐苦水給她聽,然後大家吸一口氣,又繼續往街上跑,餵貓、捉貓、放貓……苦惱過後,貓和人都得繼續活下去的,在疲乏與失望之後偶爾碰上幸運和善意。有一個男人,每晚遛狗的時候,會替吳姑娘把貓餅拋上某處高高的簷篷,讓那兒的貓早點得溫飽。「他長得高,我長得矮,他來了,我就不用四處求人。」

這天,吳姑娘又接到個案:「有一個婆婆,養了十多隻貓,其中有五隻患了金錢癬(一種很普遍的皮膚病),沒錢醫,說想抱著貓兒一同尋死,我說千萬不要呀,金錢癬容易辦呢,於是便往藥房買藥膏,教婆婆如何照料貓,後來貓就痊癒了。我還得天天打電話去,聽婆婆哭訴呢。」我說:「吳姑娘,原來你待動物好,對人也不差。」吳姑娘像是料到我會有此一說,「嘿嘿」地笑了兩聲:「有時關心動物,也得關心牠們的主人呀。」

後來,我終於知道吳姑娘何出此言:很多年前的一個下午,她在回家的路上,看見街邊一頭懷孕的母貓。除了肚子大,母貓整個身體都是一副骨頭,眼睛因為染病而瞇著,瑟縮在花團中。吳姑娘看見牠,就想起多年前的往事:大著肚子,單親,沒人照應,沒錢。於是,吳姑娘開始跑到街上餵貓。

這天,我約了吳姑娘碰面,幫補她一點貓用藥物與食物。我看著她從對面馬路過來,左腳一拐一拐,便問候她的近況,她說是關節勞損——長年累月拖著吸塵機走來走去,晚上還得捱夜捉貓。我把東西交給她,她謝過了,又告訴我最近收到漁護署的傳票——三張,每張一千元。我知道那不是第一次也不會是最後一次,而她也不是唯一有此遭遇的義工。之後,我看著她蹣跚地走進一間獸醫診所。我知道那間診所很好,七折服務流浪動物。而我看見吳姑娘從口袋裏拿出來的,是用橡筋圈捆成一疊的五百元紙幣。

官員曾說過:「流浪動物絕育放回計劃未如理想。」我不太清楚他們口中的「理想」是甚麼。但我想,尊貴的高官,和吳姑娘心目中的「理想」,應該大不同了。有時,我在街上碰見母貓。三兩個孩子在她身旁忘形地嬉戲,母貓卻環視四方,留意周圍的一切,盡她的所有能力去保護幼兒。她的要求是無聲的。她的尊嚴是天賦的。是的,在母貓身上,我看見一個又一個的吳姑娘。

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● Cheung Yuen Man likes writing and is concerned with animals. She won the 25th United Daily News Award for fiction debut (short story) in 2011. Her publications include You Are Here 《你在》 (2020), Those were the Cats 《那些貓們》 (2019), Daily of Dust《微塵記》 (2017), Sweeties 《甜蜜蜜》 (2004), and The Pole《極點》 (with Mok Wing Hung). In 2019, Cheung won the Recommendation Award in the Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, the Hong Kong Bookprize and the Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Award for Daily of Dust.

● Audrey Heijns
, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

“My Rebellious Grandfather” by 張婉雯 Cheung Yuen Man, translated by Audrey Heijns

My paternal grandfather was born in autumn and his name was Kwun Ng, literally “viewing the parasol tree”, based on the phrase “After the leaves of the Chinese parasol tree fall, everyone knows that autumn has come.” Because the phoenix rests in the Chinese parasol tree, he changed his name to Sai Luai, literally “fabulous bird”, when he got married. Later, after he came to Hong Kong for work, he called himself Sum, the Chinese character made up of three trees, meaning “luxuriant vegetation”. My grandfather as I know him went by the name of Cheung Sum — a handsome, stubborn old man.
            It was my grandfather who taught me how to use knife and fork. In my childhood, there were still Hong Kong style “Soy Sauce Western Cafes” that offered affordable, reasonable Western food, similar to today’s cha chaan teng, but slightly more sophisticated. They offered grand dinner meals for Christmas and Easter with half a roast chicken, fruit punch and golden paper hats as gifts for the children. Fok Tin Restaurant in our housing estate was that type of restaurant. Every Sunday grandfather would take my brother, sister and me there for breakfast. He always had his butter bun and hot coffee, and when he saw me pick up my knife and fork he showed me how to use them. My first taste of banana boat and Irish coffee also happened there. For a 7 or 8 year old it was a very fancy place.
            But I didn’t like grandfather. He was the black sheep of the family. My grandmother used to say he was a fickle husband and an irresponsible father. Grandmother was his legal wife, but later he had two concubines, I never learnt the full names of these two nominal grandmothers and only know their nicknames, one being “Sang Fan Hing” and the other “Ah So”. San Fan Hing — meaning “savage darling” — was, as her name suggests, very bad tempered. In China, grandmother once lived with Ah So for a time, but they couldn’t get along. Meantime my grandfather came to Hong Kong for work—he got out of China as quickly as he could, he wanted to leave before the start of the Cultural Revolution, when all his family property was confiscated and only his life was spared. Grandfather was originally well looked after by his father, and they were very wealthy, owning a shopping street. No wonder he hated the Communist Party all his life.
            Although the Communist Party had confiscated his family property, they could never deprive him of his bon vivant lifestyle. In his leisure time, he would recall past events, sometimes saying “Once I danced in the dance hall…” Stories like that. I almost never saw him go into the kitchen, and even his tea was poured for him by grandmother. Before his retirement, whenever he returned home, he would ask us to get his slippers and then reward us with a dollar. He bought me a remote-control toy car and a beautiful little red cape. He was liberal with money except in the case of his wives.
            Not long before I was born, grandfather moved back from Ah So’s place to live with grandmother and my parents, the reason being that he had a falling out with Ah So and the children there. Ah So had left her family in the countryside and came to Hong Kong before grandfather did. Have I seen this grandmother? I don’t know, I’m really not sure. Have I seen her children? I must have seen them once or twice. At grandfather’s funeral, one of my uncles, the one who never showed up during the preparations, came and kowtowed before the stone tablet and left. They said he was Ah So’s son. Even if we happened to meet face to face, I had no way of knowing that the blood of the same person flowed in our veins.
            When grandfather came back to live with us, grandmother was very happy. I still remember that when grandfather took a nap, she would sit beside the bed, reading the newspaper by the window. Usually it was a quiet sunny afternoon. The bed was a plain, metal one with a chequered sheet that was soft and faded from washing. Grandmother would wear embroidered slippers, black framed spectacles on her emaciated face and grey strands in her hair. Grandfather would sleep on his side with his back to her.
            Grandmother’s attitude toward grandfather started to change after Ah So’s death. One day, grandfather was sitting on the sofa, tapping his feet, when he said in a casual, relaxed tone “Ah So passed away.” Later I heard that she had died of breast cancer. Later I heard that grandfather never visited her after she got sick. Later I heard mum say: grandmother observed grandfather’s reaction and was very disappointed. In any case, once I was old enough to understand what was going on, I heard all the time how difficult it was for grandmother to raise six children; how father had to discontinue his studies to support the family and how aunt managed the household. All the result of one cause: grandfather had too many wives and children and was unable to take proper care of them.
            My impression of grandfather up till a couple of years ago changed a little. It was the year that his younger cousin who was eighty something then — by now also deceased — came back from the US and arranged a family reunion dinner with our family in the old district of Sai Wan. In the course of the conversation, he told us that, back then, grandfather actually preferred grandmother’s younger sister, but grandfather’s mother was taken with grandmother and therefore it was grandmother who crossed the threshold. When grandfather took a concubine, he wrote in a letter home saying “Mum, the decision of my legal wife is your business, taking a concubine is mine.” At the time grandmother was already crying her eyes out. Grandmother’s pain was real. Grandfather’s feelings were also real: he didn’t love her. Sometimes love is a luxury, it’s so extravagant that it causes a few generations to hold mutual grudges. At other times love is commonplace, so common that it’s worn away by the little pieces of life. When I came to experience love for myself, at the same time I transcended time and forgave my grandfather for being a rebel. Finally, it dawned on me that besides being a fickle husband and an irresponsible father, he was also after all my doting grandfather.

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叛逆的祖父 / 張婉雯

家祖父生於秋天,起名「觀梧」,取「梧桐一葉落,天下盡知秋」之意。又因鳳凰棲於梧桐,故成婚時又改名「世鸞」。後來港工作,自己取名「森」。我認識的祖父是張森,那個英俊、固執的老人。

教我用刀叉的人是祖父。我年幼時,香港尚有好些「豉油西餐廳」,類似茶餐廳,但又高貴些,聖誕節復活節供應大餐,半隻燒雞,雜果賓治,小孩子有金色紙帽作禮品。公邨裡的「福田餐廳」就是這種格調。每逢周日,祖父便帶我們姐弟三人到那裡吃早餐。他是固定的,油餐包,熱咖啡;見我拿起刀叉往碟上鋸,便執手教導。我也在那裡初次嚐到香蕉船、愛爾蘭咖啡。對一個七、八歲的小孩來說,算是很奢華了。

然而,我並不喜歡祖父,他是家裡的黑羊。在我祖母口中,他只是薄情的丈夫,不負責任的父親。祖母是正室,底下還有兩個妾侍;這兩位名義上的祖母,我連她們的全名也不知道,只知一個綽號「生番卿」,另一個叫「阿蘇」。「生番卿」人如其名,性格暴燥,祖母在內地時有一段時間跟她同住,相處不好。其時祖父已往香港工作—他走得快,趕在文化大革命前離開,只被沒收家財,總算保住性命。祖父本來是有父蔭的,有錢,有一條街的鋪位。所以他一生人最恨共產黨。

然而共產黨雖沒收了祖父的財產,卻沒收不了他的公子哥兒脾氣。閒時懷緬往事,祖父偶爾會說起:「從前我在舞廳跳舞……」這類的小故事。我幾乎未見過他進廚房,茶都是祖母給他倒。還未退休時,每外出而返,祖父便著我們替他拿來拖鞋放好,然後打賞我們一元。他給我買過搖控車,漂亮的紅色小斗篷。他對他妻兒以外的人都闊綽。

在我出生前不久,祖父從阿蘇家裡搬回來,跟祖母,我父母同住,原因是他跟阿蘇和那邊的子女反了面。阿蘇在鄉間是離港出走的,先於祖父來港;我有見過這個祖母嗎﹖我不知道,也不肯定。我有見過這個祖母的兒女嗎﹖應見過一兩次吧。在祖父的葬禮上,我的其中一位叔父,事前既沒參與喪事籌辦,在靈堂上也只是躬一個鞠就走了。據說他是阿蘇的兒子。即使面對面碰見,我也不知我們身上流著同一個人的血。

祖父搬回來,看得出祖母是高興的。我還記得:祖父午睡時,祖母便坐在床邊,湊在窗前看報紙。那通常是安靜的、陽光普照的午後;鐵架床的線條簡潔鮮明,格仔床單洗舊了,質樸軟熟。祖母穿著綉花拖鞋,瘦削的臉上架著黑櫃小眼鏡,頭髮黑白夾雜。祖父側著身,背向著她。

祖母對祖父態度轉變,始於阿蘇之死。某一天,祖父坐在沙發上,抖著腳,用一種家常的、輕鬆的口吻,說:「阿蘇死了。」後來我聽說阿蘇死於乳癌;後來我聽說祖父在阿蘇患病時沒去看過她。後來我聽母親說:祖母看著祖父的反應,覺得心寒。反正我自懂事以來,聽到的都是祖母如何含莘茹苦地養大六個子女;父親如何輟學養家;姑姑如何操持家務。這都是為了一個原因:祖父太多妻子與孩子,顧不及他們。

對祖父的印象,一直到數年前,才略有改變。那一年,祖父八十多歲的表弟—如今他也過身了—從美國回港,約我們一家在西環舊區聚餐。閒談間他告訴我們:祖父當年喜歡的,是祖母的妹妹,但祖父的母親屬意祖母,結果入門的也是祖母。納妾時,祖父的家書中有一句:「媽,娶正室是你的事,娶妾侍是我的事」,祖母的眼睛當時就哭壞了。祖母的傷心是真的,祖父不愛她也是真的。愛有時很奢侈,奢侈得花上幾代人來互相怨恨;愛有時又很平庸,平庸得都在細碎的生活中磨蝕掉。到自己經歷過了,我也同時越過時空,體諒了祖父的叛逆。我也終於想起,除了是個薄情的丈夫與不負責任的父親外,他畢竟也是疼愛過我的祖父。

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● Cheung Yuen Man likes writing and is concerned with animals. She won the 25th United Daily News Award for fiction debut (short story) in 2011. Her publications include You Are Here 《你在》 (2020), Those were the Cats 《那些貓們》 (2019), Daily of Dust《微塵記》 (2017), Sweeties 《甜蜜蜜》 (2004), and The Pole《極點》 (with Mok Wing Hung). In 2019, Cheung won the Recommendation Award in the Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature, the Hong Kong Bookprize and the Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Award for Daily of Dust.

● Audrey Heijns
, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

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Interesting material about Cheung Yuen Man (in Cantonese):

RTHK interview with Cheung about her book Those Cats

Articles about Cheung on the website HK01:

Part 1 【張婉雯專訪.一】我城空轉虛耗 無力感瀰漫 文學成最後避風港
Part 2【張婉雯專訪.二】凡人比英雄更能代表這個時代 瑣碎中呈現人性

【張婉雯】《微塵記》後的《那些貓們》 印證香港有好文學
動保人兼作家張婉雯 日常瑣事變新作 力證「了解比標籤重要」
【鄉郊動物.四】作家張婉雯: 以文字疏理城鄉動物差異

《一紙空文》/ A Mere Scrap of Paper

The Hong Kong writer 鄧小樺 Tang Siu-wa (Dahng6 Siu2 Waah6) is the author of the poetry collections Unmoved Bottle and The Opposite of Sound, as well as several collections of essays. She also founded the literary magazine Fleurs de Lettres, and was instrumental in the establishment of the House of Hong Kong Literature.

During the anti-extradition treaty protests in 2019, she was arrested and charged with violence, an experience that took her ⸺ mentally, emotionally and spiritually ⸺ right to the heart of the current crisis in Hong Kong.

Earlier this year, she was interviewed by a reporter from Vision Times [看中國]. In the interview, she shares her views on the plight of Hong Kong and presents both an impassioned and a carefully reasonable response. I hope to transcribe and translate the full 22-minute interview on Chinaman Creek some time in the new future, but for now, here is a brief key excerpt in which Tang specifically addresses the role of the international community.

Next time you hear someone say that Hong Kong is an “internal matter” for the People’s Republic of China, please call to mind Tang’s very relevant words: 「一國兩制」係一個國際嘅承諾,嗄 = “One Country, Two Systems” is an international promise.

【15:28】我希望國際係可以再令返 . . . 中國人,中國呢個整體去重視返咩叫承諾呀?「一國兩制」係一個國際嘅承諾,嗄。佢係一個莊嚴嘅承諾,suppose 咁樣。啫,啫,係啦, 就係我睇到一個承諾嘅破滅,唔係冇結果,應該係有結果。然後,啫,去 . . . 大家一齊去 eh 令到失信嘅人去承擔佢嘅後果,應該係咁樣。啫,然後【16:00】我希望際係可以支援到 eh 有需要離開香港嘅人,係呀,就係有啲朋友,其實,處境真係好危險。我希望,啫,國際可以關注佢哋嘅 ah 未來,例如黃之鋒,例如羅冠聰、周庭。我諗佢哋好危險,係呀,咁樣。噉跟住另外就希望國際係,如果係,啫,我覺得係就人道嘅理由等等,啫, 希望係可以對,啫,如果係違反人道嘅事件,咁就應該有制裁,係啦,就希望國際可以睇到香港呢一個地方,佢嘅命運就係喺大家手上,啫,我希望係有一個 eh 啫,國際嘅朋友係可以關注香港嘅命運,係呀。啫,企喺香港嘅示威者呢一邊。

● 失信 sat1 seun3 = to break one’s promise; to go back on one’s word
● 支援 ji1 wuhn4 = to support
● 制裁 jai3 choih4 = to sanction; to punish

I hope that the international community will be able to make the Chinese people, to make China as a whole, regain some respect for what it means to make a promise. “One Country, Two Systems” is an international promise. Supposedly, it is a solemn promise. If in my view (?) a promise is being ripped to shreds, this can’t happen without any consequences, there ought to be consequences. Then all of us, [working] together, should make the people who broke their promise face up to the consequences. That’s how it ought to be. And then, next, it is my hope that the international community will support those individuals who need to leave Hong Kong. Some of my friends, actually, are in very serious danger. I hope that the international community will show some concern for their future, for people such as Joshua Wong, for Nathan Law and Agnes Chow. I think they are in grave danger, I do. And then finally I hope that the international community, where there are grounds, including humanitarian grounds, I hope that in the case of instances in which human rights [人道] have been violated, I hope that the international community will consider imposing sanctions [應該制裁], in the hope that the international community will see that the destiny of Hong Kong is in the hands of everyone. So I hope that our friends in the international community will show concern for the destiny of Hong Kong and stand on the side of the protesters of Hong Kong.

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (6)

Tung Ping Chau Beach View_APR 2016

327, Tung Ping Chau

I read in the newspaper that Tung Ping Chau has become severely polluted, and this makes me sad. Tung Ping Chau used to be such a beautiful place, now some of the large rocks have been moved to Ocean Park and tourists have make a mess of it.

*   *   *

Is it better for a place to remain unknown? In the past, Tung Ping Chau was a quiet and clean place. Recently, we visited it again and there were mahjong tables everywhere, radios blaring, chicken bones and soft drink cans strewn all over the place, as well as scraps of paper and plastic bags . . .

*   *   *

The government has done a good job of cleaning up the beaches this year. Could it be that they have begun to pay some attention to cleaning up the outlying islands? Otherwise their beautiful scenery . . .

 

327 東平洲

閱報得悉東平洲的污染十分厲害,讀來真是傷心。東平洲原來是那麼美麗的地方,現在岩石搬了一部份去海洋公園,地方又給遊客弄糟了。

是不是一個地方不著名還好呢?過去那是清靜乾淨的地方,近年我們再去,已經是一桌桌的麻將,已經是收音機吵耳。雞骨和鐵罐扔了一地,廢紙和膠袋……

市政事務署的海灘清潔今年已做得不錯。可否開始留意一下離島的清潔?不然,那些美麗的風景……。

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Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste
83, Winter
183, Weather
186, Hong Kong

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Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

 

Photograph: 香港東平洲:沙灘 Beach on Tung Ping Chau, Hong Kong (2016)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (4)

Hong Kong Fog_2 APR 2020

183, The Weather

The weather is changing. Wet floors. People slip. A feeling of stickiness is everywhere. Birds are chirping. Spring has not yet taken shape.

*   *   *

Moisture on the walls. Something is going mouldy. Hazy mountain tops. Gazing into the distance at a patch of grey. A brightness behind the clouds. Something’s building up in my chest.

*   *   *

Trivial. Wronged. Misunderstood. Unworthy. The flashing of screens, the flickering of shifting images, someone faraway is talking. Hens clucking. Wet carpets, in the hall of a building. Wood waste. Metal pails. Soft cloths are stretched out in the wind, so far out that they stroke someone on the face.

 

183天氣

天氣的轉變。潮濕的地面。有人不小心摔倒。四周黏黏膩膩的感覺。鳥兒的叫聲。未成形的春天。

牆上的水份。發霉的什麼。迷濛的山頭。遠望一片灰色。天空雲後的明朗。胸中積著的一點什麼。

煩瑣。委屈。誤會。不值。熒光幕的閃閃,畫面變幻不定,有人在遠遠的地方說話。雞啼了。濡濕的地毯,在大廈樓下。廢木。鐵桶。柔軟的布幅,迎著風飄起來,仿佛拂到人的臉上去。

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Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste
83, Winter

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● Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

Photograph: Hong Kong Cloudscape (Audrey Heijns, 2020)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (3)

Audrey Heijns_Tai Po Lam Gei Chaa Siu CROPPED_30 MAR 2020

83, Winter

When the weather is cold, a plate of lap-mei rice can make you particularly warm. After such a meal, you feel a warmth all over. If it’s even colder, you’ll see hotpot and claypot rice for sale in the street. The flickering flames resist the cold.

*   *   *

I don’t much like winter, it’s like I am more slow-witted, more sluggish in winter. Someone says: ‘you’re always sluggish, it’s got nothing to do with winter!’ When I think it over, that does make some sense.

*   *   *

No matter what, when the hot weather is gone, the cold weather comes along, and the street scene changes. Winter, whether you like it or not, always arrives on time, just like TV commercials, debt collectors, toothache, and bad luck.

Note: lap-mei rice is a traditional Cantonese dish of preserved meat with rice cooked in a clay pot.

 

83 冬天

天氣寒冷的時候吃臘味飯,特別感到暖。吃了彷彿整個人就暖和起來。再冷一點,你在街頭就可以看見火鍋和煲仔菜。晃動的火光,對抗寒冷。

我不大喜歡冬天,在冬天裡,人也好像呆一點,遲鈍一點。有人說:「你平時也是那麼遲鈍的了,關冬天什麼事?」想想又有道理。

不管怎樣,每年熱天去了冷天就來,街頭又有一番景象。冬天,不管你喜歡不喜歡,照樣準時來臨,像電視的廣告、像收賬的人、像牙痛、像噩運。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain
46, Taste

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

● Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

Photograph: Lam’s Cha-siu, Tai Po (Audrey Heijns)

From A Sip of Tea by Ye Si, translated by Audrey Heijns (2)

Ye Si Cover Image 1_21 MAR 2020

46, Taste

The taste of coffee has gone bland. In the past one spoon of powder was enough for one cup of coffee. Now with one and a half spoon the coffee is still weak. Has the quality deteriorated? Or am I losing my sense of my taste?

*   *   *

The taste of coffee has gone bland. The taste of films is getting salty. The words in the newspaper are getting sour. People’s talk is getting spicy.

*   *   *

As time goes by it’s getting difficult to trust your own taste buds. Have you changed or has the flavour of things changed? In the restaurant, someone is madly putting salt on everything, someone else pours a thick layer of ketchup on his steak. Take a bite and you can’t tell whether you are eating vegetables or meat, if it’s carnivorous or vegetarian.

Note: In Cantonese 鹹 hàahm or “salty” can also mean “pornographic; lecherous”.

 

46 味道

 咖啡的味道淡了。以前一匙的咖啡粉便夠味道,現在一匙半還是淡淡的。是不是咖啡粉的質素差了?還是我的口味變了?

咖啡的味道淡了。電影的味道越來越鹹了。報刊的文字越來越酸。人的說話越來越辣。

日子久了,你越來越不相信你的味蕾。是你變了,還是事物的味道變了?在餐室裡,一個人拼命灑鹽,一個人在牛排上倒下厚厚的番茄醬。嚼一口,你分不出是菜還是肉、是葷是素。

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Other poems from this series:

21, Cold after the rain

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Ye Si, pen name of Leung Ping Kwan (1949-2013), is a celebrated Hong Kong poet, essayist, fiction writer and photographer. He has published many volumes of poetry, essays and stories, including: Paper Cuts (1982), City at the End of Time (1992), Foodscape (1997), Travelling with a Bitter Melon (2002), Postcards from Prague (2000) and Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart (2009). He was Chair Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Centre for Humanities Research at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Audrey Heijns, based in Hong Kong, is working at Shenzhen University. Her translations of Chinese literature have been published in literary magazines, including Het Trage Vuur, Twee Ronde, KortVerhaal, Terras, Renditions, Exchanges and Poetry International.

《新心界》: 第四章

2018-12-02 Sai Kung Cat & Shrine 2

•  「黐線亦都係一門藝術」

又係一個禮拜日嘅早上。陳之一對住浴室裏面嘅全身鏡,喺度罵緊自己赤裸裸嘅身影:

「馬騮乾!邊個生得你咁肉酸呀?!你睇,瘦子嘅兩條手臂,兩條腿!排骨仔嘅胸部,完全冇哩氣力,冚唪唥都係肋骨,連一啲肌肉都冇,你覺唔覺得羞愧!你睇你個噼噼真係好肉酸!邊個會鐘意你個瘦蜢蜢嘅籮柚?唔使問阿貴:冇人會鐘意㗎啦。至於你嗰隻賓舟仔!哇,肯定係全世界上最冇用嘅𨳊!真係太攪笑啦!荒唐嘅膝頭哥!悖謬嘅外小腿!離譜嘅髖骨!奀挑鬼命相!你乞人憎!乞人憎!乞人憎!」

其實,旁聽者(如果有旁聽者嘅話)好難判斷陳之一係唾罵自己欠佳嘅體格定係練習佢早已學識有關人體部位嘅廣東話詞彙。

咒飽罵醉之後,陳之一著返嗮啲衫褲,佢嘅情緒先至好翻少少。今日佢已經揸定主意去西貢,去出名嘅「西貢咖啡餅店」食早餐。不過出門嗰陣時,佢企住腳步,回頭望一望自己已經住咗好多年嘅住所。因為好快就過年,陳之一呢排好認真咁收納屋企,將佢所有物品都整理得有條有理。有一位英國學者,中文名叫莫華德,喺五十年代嚟到香港,特登研究疍家人嘅生活習俗。佢寫過一篇文章專門討論過年對於香港人精神層面上嘅意義,留咗好深刻嘅印象俾外國男人,莫華德篇文提出:過年嘅基調係復興。舊年一過,所有衰氣同埋惡運會隨而散去。新年嘅降臨使人有機會由零開始、重新出發。在社會層面上,新年意味著同家人團聚,消解糾紛,恢復和諧等等;於個人和生意上,過年時會消災去病、付清債款,處理好仲未攪掂嘅事等等。正因如此,陳之一近排好勤力咁進行大掃除,盡量將唔需要嘅嘢全部抌出去。結果,屋內顯得特別空蕩蕩,除咗最為基本嘅傢俬,日用品,同埋有關香港、廣東話等書藉之外,幾乎都冇其他物品。其實,陳之一為此心裏感到格外自豪。

陳之一沿著城門河,行向沙田巴士站時,抬頭見到一隻黑色嘅麻鷹,喺烏雲密佈嘅上空中,一圈又一圈咁悠閑地盤旋。佢想起上次喺索罟灣,見到在高空中飛翔嘅海鷹,令佢聯想到無論哪一種生物,總會對某人某物進行永久嘅追尋。到咗車站,因為時間實在太早,排隊去西貢嘅乘客都唔算特別多,預計巴士再過十分鐘會到站。陳之一因為喺呢個巴士站等過好多次巴士去唔同嘅地方,而每次等車都會帶嚟各種印象、回憶俾佢。用咁多石屎興建嘅建築物雖然係大自然嘅天敵(呢度真係寸草不生),週圍亦充滿濃烈嘅電油味,甚至令人想像到地下監獄嘅模樣,但係佢一啲都唔太介意:認為車站係探索新界嘅旅遊中樞。

陳之一細細個時好容易暈車浪,但自從搬到香港安頓之後就冇呢個問題,佢甚至可以坐雙層巴士嘅上層座位,盡情飽覽週圍嘅景色。經過馬鞍山之後,佢會陶醉於往西貢方向嘅一系列地方名,例如泥涌、輋下、馬牯纜、大洞、瓦窰頭、西俓、企嶺下新圍、企嶺下老圍、水浪窩、澳頭、黃竹灣、麥邊、大環。而每逢到站,佢都會細細聲唸出嚟,就好似唸咒語般,親自體驗一下每個地名嘅特點。好彩,四圍嘅乘客因為專心玩手機、睇報紙、同朋友傾計,好少會注意到呢個外國「摺友」嘅古怪行為。對於陳之一嚟講,呢個就係佢搭車去西貢時消磨時間嘅心得!

到達嘅時候,陳之一感到肚餓,即刻由巴士總站快步行到位於海傍廣場嘅西貢咖啡餅店,略為心急咁叫咗一壺英式紅茶及鮮奶,一個菠蘿包,同兩個葡撻。跟住佢喺出面揾到一張金屬製嘅櫈坐低,一面呷茶,一面食茶點。首先,陳之一專登聞聞菠蘿包散發出嘅誘人香氣,跟住欣賞菠蘿皮特有嘅鬆脆,最後先至慢慢品嘗嗰種又煙韌又軟糯嘅麵包。至於蛋撻,其香脆嘅撻皮帶有一股濃郁嘅牛油香氣,而且冇被蛋漿浸腍,所以食起嚟零舍脆卜卜,真係好好味。唔使十分鐘,菠蘿包同埋葡撻食到連碎屑都冇,令到四圍紮紮跳嘅麻雀甚感不滿。

因為時間仲係好早,麻雀嘅數量仲多過俾錢嘅顧客,令到成間餅店嘅氣氛尤爲舒服。食完甜點,陳之一頗滿意咁嘆茶,又隨便睇睇四圍環境:見到沙嘴街公園仔嘅狗仔;天上見到被帶有濃烈鹹水味嘅海風吹住嘅雲朵;附近一樖被風搖動得十分優美嘅榕樹。禮拜日特有嘅安寧開始滲入佢心情嘅時候,手機突然發出嘟嘟聲:係阿綠發出嘅一件電郵。阿綠離開香港以來,陳之一一直未有收到佢嘅任何消息,於是即刻打開信箱,充滿好奇心咁慢慢讀讀呢封信嘅內容:

阿一:

尋日我終於離開咗墨爾本啦,搭火車去睇吓你熱情推介嘅加士呡鄉下小鎮。其實,墨市嘅夏天真係好難受,難得可以用個半鐘坐吓有冷氣嘅火車,真係好舒服,另外作為香港人嘅我,好珍惜冇電視廣告嘅長途旅程!

你呢個故鄉實在太過枯乾啦。離開墨爾本郊區之後,窗外嘅風景變得越嚟越乾,冇乜水份。大自然界嘅顏色,逐啲逐啲咁縮小成乾噌噌又單調嘅淡啡色,冇乜水潤綠色——即阿綠嘅髪色!令我諗到香港啲寺廟成日掛住「風調雨順」四個字,暗示香港人祈求合適嘅風雨。但澳洲如此欠缺降雨,澳洲人唔係應該更瘋狂咁祈求更多嘅雨水!將來全球嘅氣候如果真係變得過熱,墨爾本想必最快面臨毀滅。

另外,我又好難想像墨爾本市同廣東之間原來如此親密過!喺加士呡嗰間小型博物館裏面,我見到資料介紹話喺淘金時代,呢度居然曾經有五間廣東式嘅廟宇。而加士呡中又有一個類似唐人街嘅地方,被當時白種人叫做“小廣東”。展覽品之中,有一塊相當優秀嘅木製牌匾,版匾油成金色,寫上「恩覃海外」四個黑色大字,右邊刻上紅色日期(“同治癸酉歲孟夏吉旦立”),即係一八七四年!諗到一百多年前,如果我喺呢度經過,係可以遇到自己嘅同胞,令到感到歷史可以幾咁微妙,幾咁巧合!不過,真係好難過,除咗博物館裏面寥寥無幾嘅展覽品之外,嗰陣時嘅文物遺產,已經蕩然無存,呢種無情嘅破壞真係令我好心痛。

不過,開心嘅係,你推薦嗰間小型意大利咖啡室到而家都仲喺度,其實我好難想像,喺澳洲鄉下嘅小鎮裏面,可以揾到咁有歐洲風味嘅地方,好難得呀!我喺意大利留學嗰陣時,遇到唔少呢類細細哋嘅食肆,特別鐘意喺呢啲地方觀察當地嘅日常生活同習慣。我同嗰間咖啡室嘅老細提到你,佢起初好似唔知我講邊個,好彩最後都記得你呢位高高瘦瘦,識中文嘅舊熟客仔。我估,佢生意做得唔錯,你日後有機會返嚟,應該仲有機會喺度嘆返杯咖啡。

其實,我真係頂唔順你故鄉呢種熱辣辣又乾燥到死嘅天氣,攪到我好掛住香港而家嘅冬天,尤其係過年前後嘅寒冷氣溫。好彩,再過多兩日就返嚟。如果你得閒,我想安排一次晚飯,同你同阿奇聚一聚,好唔好?

祝出入平安!

阿綠

2018-10-04 Yan Taan Hoi Ngoih_CROPPED

讀完呢封電郵之後,陳之一覺得好滿意:阿綠鐘意佢所推薦嘅地方,認為呢啲地方都有吸引力。不過,阿綠嘅字裏行間有一種若隱若現嘅憂慮感俾佢,但係佢根本唔知究竟係乜嘢?

為咗打發呢股憂慮感,陳之一決定離開餅店,稍為心急咁行去宜春街上裝修得好精緻嘅天后廟。自從喺索罟灣留低封信以來,佢開始感到一種零舍奇怪嘅感覺。佢自覺就算再寫信俾父親都會變成浪費,換句話,寫信嘅需要已經告一段落。不過,咁樣係咪暗示佢冇機會揾到阿爸嘅?天后廟嘅前院喺用石片舖好,陳之一到達時注意到一個服裝樸素嘅老伯,呢位阿伯行過主廟門口嗰一刻,就停一停緩慢咁合什作禮,向入面嘅女神表示敬畏。陳之一覺得呢種從容嘅拜神態度好得意,能夠同人生嘅其他活動融為一體。寺廟裏面暗淡嘅光線同外面嘅光明構成強勁嘅對比,而且呢一種與眾不同嘅幽暗環境,能夠安慰陳之一心裏約憂約慮嘅情緒。等到內心嘅混亂平靜落嚟,佢就開始向天后祈福:「天后娘娘護我身,日月星辰顯光華。掃盡一切苦厄,消千災解萬難。智慧明淨,心神安寧。去來自在任逍遙,無有恐怖也無愁」。念完經,陳之一就慢慢行到前面嘅一張香案度攞一對「問杯」,打算向天后請教。

陳之一向天后問咗同一個問題三次,佢問天后應唔應該再繼續寫信揾父親,問杯每次嘅答案居然都係「否」,令到佢覺得好不可思議。其實陳之一好難接受咁肯定嘅回答,亦都無法避免自己下定論:難道父親已經離世?天后元君嘅三次答案仲會唔會有其他解釋?嗰一刻外國男人感到好困擾,但係陳之一仍然向天后娘娘表示感激,然後走出廟外曬普通日光。

行到街尾時,陳之一過馬路向左走,然後一直沿住西貢公路,經過各種各樣嘅店舖。冇耐,佢就遇到路旁邊嘅一座極細嘅「土地廟仔」,廟仔內擺放著五至七位神像,包括三位觀音小雕像同埋兩隻陶瓷大笨象,大笨象突然變成觀音專用嘅寵物咁。諗到呢一點,陳之一突然瞥見到一隻貓仔,既怕羞又充滿好奇心,從廟仔後面咁望住澳洲男人。貓仔見到呢個消瘦嘅怪人,知道對自己冇乜威脅,就滿不在乎咁跳去廟仔頂上,喺太陽下認真舐吓自己對前爪。

去西貢嘅時候,陳之一一般鐘意一個人行到市區東北邊徑棚下附近一條山澗畔上,坐低聽聽大自然特有嘅靜謐。不過,今日佢一反常態,決定去一趟北港,經過澳朗村隔離嘅濾水廠,轉入北港路。雖然北港遠離海岸,但係呢度都有一間天后廟,其實由於一次零舍巧合嘅機遇,呢間天后廟正正係陳之一一生中第一次去到嘅天后廟。不過,由於對於父親嘅種種憂慮,佢再唔想去嗰度拜神,而一直沿住馬路到一個名叫狐狸頭嘅偏僻角落,狐狸頭亦都有一條山澗,水中仲有唔少一直享受水流溫柔摩擦嘅大石,每一嚿都被磨到閃炩炩,部分表面舖住一層翠綠色嘅苔蘚。路上車輛、途人唔多,以便陳之一喺水石之間欣賞大地轉瞬即逝嘅各種遐想。

* * *

舊年變得越來越沈重,新年嘅降臨令到大家覺得越來越興奮:世上所有嘅生物將會獲得一個重新開始嘅機會。雖然氣溫已經轉涼,見到太陽嘅時刻並唔算太多,但係除咗生活最艱苦嘅市民,多數人都會感到某種美妙嘅內在溫暖,令到乏味嘅生活靜靜地增加趣味。到處可見過年嘅跡象:最為搶眼嘅紅色突然重返人間,以揮春、利市封、年貨等嘅形式驅走香港嘅其他顏色。與此同時,艷紅嘅歸來又意味著鮮花嘅爆發,而呢一座城市,喺習慣於運用石屎、金錢、瀝青、法律、電力、鋼鐵、玻璃、汽油等彰顯自己嘅優勢,而家開始受到呢啲成千上萬嘅芬芳花瓣嘅溫柔攻勢,大自然好似係想透過隱藏於人類嘅內心深處:對於美麗嘅極度追求,將堅硬無比嘅都市逐啲逐啲咁變軟、變柔、變嫩。現時得到人間注視嘅係桃花,水仙、菊花、劍蘭、蘭花。突然間,人生嘅單調、千篇一律而又枯燥嘅生活節奏受到花海一浪接一浪嘅淹蓋,因此人心深處嘅種種洩氣、沮喪、挫敗感隨之變得不再重要。

適逢呢種特殊時刻,阿綠嘅飯廳,飯枱坐著三個人同埋一隻貓:即頭髮早就染回綠色嘅阿綠,陳之一,阿奇同埋蛾鬼。阿綠呢次煮嘅晚飯相當簡單:為咗迎合外國朋友口味,特登為大家煮意大利粉同埋一個西湯——翠玉瓜湯,而因爲想補足吓過年嘅濃烈氣氛,所以佢又整咗蘿蔔糕同埋另外一啲過年菜。兩個男人因為好少下廚煮嘢食,就特別欣賞呢次「阿綠優惠」,覺得格外興奮。至於蛾鬼,因為阿綠特登買咗蝦仁俾佢食,就感到非常之滿意,甚至暫時放棄佢平時最鐘意整蠱阿奇嘅念頭。

晚飯之後,佢哋跟住一面飲酒,一面隨便傾計。阿綠去墨市時,偶然機會下聽過一次澳洲土著嘅音樂表演,所以佢哋講開有關音樂嘅話題。阿奇一直都有練習彈吉他,而為咗證明呢一點就請阿綠同陳之一睇吓佢對手嘅手指甲:左手嘅指甲都一律修得好短,而右手嘅情況啱啱相反,故意隻隻手指甲都得登留長小小,而且磨得好光滑,務求減少接觸到啲吉他線,減少摩擦。陳之一覺得好驚訝同有趣,佢從來都冇留意過呢啲事情!大家因而放聲大笑。跟住,陳之一用神神祕祕嘅口吻提出「香港擁有兩種靈異音樂」。

「咩嘢兩種音樂?係咪又同我哋拋書包?」阿綠好似有少少懷疑咁追問。

「唔係呀!」陳之一連忙回答一聲。「等我嚟解釋吓先。呢件事真係幾神秘。我第一次嚟到香港住嘅鄉村,叫樟樹灘,係中文大學附近嘅。嗰陣時,因為仲未適應香港嘅生活同埋天氣,心情都係麻麻哋,你知我份人特別緊張,特別敏感。尤其係夜晚,我覺得好難受,睡房張床太短,根本唔啱我瞓,攪到我要瞓梳化。另外,我亦冇開冷氣嘅習慣,間屋零舍翳焗。我記得有一晚,好似係深夜,我突然間由夢中驚醒起嚟,耳邊響著一種好神秘嘅旋律,好獨特,令到我全神貫注咁聽。咦,呢種音樂究竟係邊度傳嚟㗎?我無論點樣努力,都無法確定音樂嘅淶源。係咪一種超越人間嘅音樂,大自然特有嘅一種微妙音樂?不過,最奇怪嘅係,我最後開始覺得音樂係由自己內心中所產生嘅,其實有一段時間我好難判斷出邊度係內心,邊度係外邊世界,真係分唔清楚!然後,因為身心特別攰,所以就慢慢咁瞓著返。」

陳之一話口未完,隔離單位突然傳嚟一段粵劇歌聲,呢把尖厲嘅聲音好容易令人聯想到淒慘嘅鬼叫聲,因此大家都忍唔住同時笑一笑。不幸,正正喺呢一刻,蛾鬼忽然一鼓作氣咁由地下跳到枱面上,因為嚟得太突然,呢三個人都被嚇嚫,三人瞬間都以為真係有隻幽靈係度顯靈咁。因為嚇一嚇,陳之一唔小心將阿綠嗰隻空酒杯撞倒,由枱上面跌落嚟。好彩,阿奇嘅反應能力零舍快,喺半空中及時接住隻杯,唔係嘅話,隻杯一定會落地開花,富貴榮華。

阿奇以一種既責備又溫柔嘅口氣輕聲責罵貓貓一番:「曵鬼!呢世界  ⋯  最曵  ⋯  最鬼  ⋯   一隻貓!」同時,陳之一讚呢位紐西蘭朋友嘅本能反應真係好快,想必佢童年玩棒球一定玩得好精彩,反應速度簡直去到爐火純青嘅程度。

阿綠嘅眼睛突然亮起嚟,好似靈機一動咁。「我哋不如試吓請杯仙,好唔好?」

佢攞住阿奇啱啱救返嗰隻酒杯,倒轉咁放喺枱面,然後起身行去廚房,跟住左手攞住一樽辣椒醬,右手攞住一樽鹽行返飯廳,擺放喺枱上面。

「好啦!左邊嘅鹽就代表“係”,而右邊嘅辣椒醬就等如“否”。大家用一隻食指(左右手都無所謂)輕輕咁放喺個酒杯底上。然後,我哋就可以問問題,當然問題只係能用“係”或者“否”回答嘅。記住千祈唔好用力推喐個杯,只要耐心咁先,嗰杯會自動喐㗎!如果答案係好清晰嘅話,佢就會喐向樽鹽或者辣椒醬嘅方向,相反,情況唔係好肯定嘅話,佢通常會不斷亂打圈,但係假如佢都唔想回答,就可能喐都唔喐。好啦!大家得未?我哋坐近啲,大家都可以掂到個杯底。」

跟住阿奇同陳之一就企起身將櫈拉近啲,然後按照指示伸出食指放喺個酒杯圓形底部之上。

「哦,太光啦,等我點枝蠟燭先啦!」

阿綠又行去廚房,攞住枝點好嘅蠟燭返嚟,跟住就熄嗮屋企裏面所有電燈。

正在此刻,阿奇忽然話俾大家知,佢有問題想問「神」。

「好呀!你問問題嘅時候,我同阿一一齊幫你問。大家記住集中精神,唔係嘅話效果就一定唔夠好。」

「嗰個人鐘唔鐘意我?」阿奇立即對住個酒杯大聲提問。阿綠同埋陳之一就跟著低聲幫佢不停咁重復呢個問題。不過,其實佢哋兩個都唔知阿奇嗰個「佢」究竟係指邊個!

一開頭,個杯喺枱面中間,喐都唔喐,但係經過大約一分鐘嘅反覆提問之後,三個人嘅指尖度突然感到一陣震蕩,稍後隻杯就開始向樽鹽嗰度慢慢滑過去,阿奇臉上開始露出笑意,不過就快去到嗰刻,酒杯就鬼使神差咁改變方向,緩慢地滑返去枱中間。阿奇嘅表情隨著發生轉變,而等到酒杯接近辣椒醬時,佢顯得好唔開心,「哎吔!」傷心一聲脫口而出。不過,個杯仲未去到辣椒醬度又改變方向,轉頭滑返中間位置,然後嘎然停住。

「嘩,酒杯  ⋯ 真係喐動!」阿奇驚喜咁話。「不過  ⋯  我攪唔清楚  ⋯  嗰個人鐘意  ⋯  唔鐘意我?  ⋯ 好唔清楚!」

「或者佢到而家仲未揸定主意,又或者可能連你自己都未攪清楚自己想點?」

「我條心  …  我肯定知道!」阿奇果斷咁回答。

「一定啦!好啦,阿一,輪到你問啦!」阿綠即刻轉開話題,好想為感到尷尬嘅阿奇盡快解圍。

陳之一即刻搖搖頭,話自己仲未諗到恰當嘅問題,叫阿綠有問題就問先啦。佢講呢番說話時,阿綠注意到佢神經有少少緊張,仲用左手輕輕拍一拍佢腰邊嘅褲袋。其實,陳之一早就諗到想問嘅問題,但係估到阿綠一定想問清楚有關舉辦母親展覽嘅事。

事實如陳之一所料。阿綠此刻轉身面對酒杯細聲提問:「媽咪嘅展覽有冇辦法攪得成?」

個杯立即開始移動,速度好穩定,唔使幾秒,毫無猶豫就去到樽鹽度。

阿奇無法掩飾佢十分驚訝嘅心情:「嘩,好快!… 個杯一定鐘意你! … 樽鹽就係話 … 一定可以攪展覽啦!」

此刻,陳之一突然將張櫈往後移,就企咗起身,喺褲袋入面攞出一個鮮紅色嘅利是出嚟。

「阿綠!想俾一樣嘢你。哦 …… 恭喜發財!」

阿綠以為佢只不過係玩遊戲,冇接到陳之一手上嘅禮物。

「阿綠,俾你!」陳之一呢刻以零舍懇求嘅口氣吩咐。

接過嗰封鮮紅色嘅利是之後,阿綠終於明白陳之一想點,佢馬上打開,抽出入面嘅一張紙,係一張支票,上面寫嘅數目令阿綠瞬間感到休克,簡直冇法相信自己雙眼,驚訝到講不出聲。

「阿綠,我一路都對藝術有興趣,於是好想支持 …… 」

「你呀?」阿綠仲未恢復正常,仍有困難咁一字一字咁講。「你 … 藝術 … 點會產生興趣?」

陳之一即刻回答話:「黐線亦都係一門藝術!」

「乜話?」阿綠顯得困惑,阿奇亦摸不著頭腦。

陳之一好小心咬字,再重復頭先講過嘅嗰句話:「慈善亦都係一門藝術。」

阿綠一聽到就坐低,忍唔住落淚哭起嚟,然後又企起身去廚房攞一樽酒同三隻洗乾淨嘅酒杯,跟著就酌酒,請大家為友誼同埋藝術飲一杯。三個人都不由自主咁齊聲叫「飲勝!」

經過一段沉默之後,阿綠將樽酒同自己嘅酒杯擱置喺一邊,又一次將一隻手指放喺張餐臺中央嘅酒杯底上。

「好呀!不如我哋再嚟問問杯仙啦!香港嘅前途會點樣?」

「香港 … 前途 … 點樣?」阿奇好集中精神咁重復咗一次。

最初,個杯未有任何反應,但係經過相當長嘅時間之後,佢就喐起嚟,以極度緩慢嘅速度打一次圈。喺三個人不斷詢問之下,杯子又打一次圈,嗰圈比第一次大啲,喐動嘅速度又有明顯嘅增加。此後,嗰個杯好似行星咁進入軌道開始不斷咁打圈,而打圈嘅動作非常之順利,在場嘅三個人因此而十分驚訝,好似受到類似催眠般嘅效果,再無法離開枱邊,只能望住個杯所作出嘅優秀動作,聽聽玻璃杯口喺滑過餐枱木面時所發出令人難受嘅摩擦聲。大家都感到手臂攰嘅時候,無法再忍受酒杯無休止嘅打圈動作,個酒杯忽然往枱上嗰樽鹽飛過去,再向枱邊滑過去,然後跳到樽鹽外邊嘅空間之中。呢次,無論阿奇接波嘅技巧訓練得如何熟練,冇人可以阻止佢跌喺堅硬嘅木地板上,被打爛成好多碎片。

以鉛筆寫作:杜杜嘅《晚霞》/ Written in Pencil: Toto’s “Sunset Glow”

Evette KWOK_Sunset Three

I first came across the work of Hong Kong writer 杜杜 Toto in 2002, when I bought his collection of mainly short texts entitled 《住家風景》or Domestic Scenery. His touch is very light, almost sketchy, as if he wrote everything in pencil, but there are unexpected depths in his work, inspired to a large degree by his religious orientation. If you can read Chinese, try and find a copy of 《住家風景》. If you don’t, then here’s a brief sample of his writing just to give you some idea of his quiet powers.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

《晚霞》

望出去是海。麻雀在晚霞的金黃裏飛着吱喳着。碼頭前是匆忙的行人。有巴士聲,有電視機聲。妻子和兒子臥在床上。 妻子說着故事哄兒子睡覺。我一下子就感應到一切都和我毫無相干。我只是活在這世界上,無端地在看晚霞消失。

寂寞是唯一永遠存在的事物。我原以為寂寞遠離我去,隨著我逝去的青春歲月。那些枯燥苦悶而無可如何的日子,我以為都成為過去了。我已經忘了。結婚多年,只試過有一次夢見自己走在幽暗的長走廊,碰不着一個朋友,然後一身冷汗地醒來。

如今我望着晚霞消失。我只是活在這世界上。人生不過如此。誰得意了?

我原也是個傷感多情的人。自少如此,到如今。人是不會改變的。人只是裝了個面具,嘻哈地過日子。

寂寞是我最好的朋友。我不在害怕。

寂寞,你好?

…………………………………………………………………………………………..

“Sunset Glow”

Looking out, I have a view of the sea. In the gold of the sunset glow, sparrows fly about twittering. People scurry around at the entrance to the ferry pier. The noise of buses, and the noise of television sets. My wife is lying on the bed with our son, telling him a story to make him fall asleep. All of a sudden, my response to all this is that it has nothing whatever to do with me. I live on this Earth and nowhere else, watching for no reason the glow of sunset fade away.

Loneliness is the only thing that lasts forever. I was under the impression that, once the years of my youth were over, loneliness had left me for good. Those dreary, depressing days that I could do nothing to change were now, I thought, behind me. I had already forgotten them. In many years of marriage, only once have I had the experience of dreaming that I was walking down a long, gloomy corridor without bumping into a single friend — after the dream, I woke up in a cold sweat.

And now here I am, watching the sunset glow fade. I live on this Earth and nowhere else. That’s just the way it is. No one’s special!

I used to be someone who lived mainly through their feelings. I was like this when I was young, and I still am. People can’t change. We all just wear masks, fake-laughing our way through our lives.

Loneliness is our best friend. I no longer have anything to fear.

So, how are you, Loneliness?

Photograph by Evette Kwok, 2019