Discover more from The Matterhorn: truth in fiction
A Hong Kong Story
Table of Contents: serialized chapters & accompanying Truth in Fiction podcast episodes
The Matterhorn: truth in fiction
how to layer stories with ideas, culture, places, and texts
podcast and original fiction from author and academic Dr. Kathleen Waller
Tuesday: learn about layers of fictions & how I write
Thursday: get creative with 5-minute ‘Let’s Do This’ versions of the podcast
Saturday: read a new chapter of A Hong Kong Story
A Hong Kong Story
Original fiction by Kathleen Waller ⬩ jump to chapters
A juxtaposition of Ivy’s solitary navigation with Hong Kong's journey in the 2010's. A story about divergence, culture, and love. What do you do when the future’s suddenly unclear?
⬩ preview ⬩
She speaks directly and consciously to the unknown in her mind: Let’s take the tram. Would that make you happy? Yes, that would make me very happy. Then let’s take the tram.
She used to ride the tram from Quarry Bay to the West end of the island just to escape, just to listen to music and look out the window. Her phone hidden from view and on airplane mode. This time, she remembers talking with Yacine for hours that became non-hours and staying awake at night to think about what her life had become or mourning her loss.
That double-deckered box of transportation. It is old and slow and unairconditioned. She likes it because it is slow. Because it slows down the pace of life. Because there is nowhere you have to be but there. Because the wind in your hair is worth a bit of sweat on your thighs. Because the stairs are spiral. Because the drivers are human. Because the stops are frequent. Because they float through the city like ghosts, repeating their routes incessantly even in occupation, SARS, protest.
It moves farther and farther west, fixed to its route, uninterrupted by the traffic, the embouteillages, of Post-Modernity (something unrecognisable to most visitors, a 3-D movement of people and machines that is mainly hyper-organised but sometimes crashes down on itself). They would take her all the way to Kennedy Town, then maybe she would continue up Victoria Road by the open water views and trash collection site, then all the way to the top of Mount Davis.
This era took those tracks and that space for cars to move single file into a mess of buses and taxis that heat the concrete around it, steaming out from exhaust pipes to became part of the haze and the mist and enter our lungs. A few bicycles and trash collectors or cardboard pushers - the intouchables of Hong Kong - persist and survive, emerging between big yellow buses and fumes like lone survivors of the apocalypse. And the trams survive, too. They transport the poor and the romantic to exactly where they want to be. They have their own space on the road; no one can throw them off course or threaten them with blaring horns. They are free. Slow and free dinosaurs of the cosmopolitan city.
Though dressed up with flashy advertisements, their interiors are wooden and quaint, quietly unassuming. On the outside, people are pinned and glued in fashionable poses, airbrushed to move the city’s money around. On the inside, three-dimensional riders look out. We look out at things we haven’t noticed before. Tourists and filmmakers bring their cameras. Regular Hongkongers document their experience wistfully - a remembrance of time past, an acknowledgement of time present.
To take the tram from one end of the island to the other, that is the ultimate freedom. To allow yourself this time just to notice. Notice yourself and those around you. Who’s commuting? Who’s sightseeing? Who’s feeling pensive or stressed? Notice your sweat on the wooden chair. Notice the way it feels to hold the metal pole, reminding you of being a kid. It was so exciting to take the train and stand up, to surf through the tunnels of the city. You can do it now. You can glide on through and feel the undulations of the road on your feet as you balance from toe to heel.
Ivy wanted it to last and last. This journey, it wasn’t about getting things done.
We ride together and it doesn’t matter that we won’t be together tomorrow.
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