There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I’m falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
Oh, so this is what she means
– Paul Simon, Graceland.
It is an interstitial moment — the space between London and…London…and I am on the ground in a former British colony. I am in between colonies. I am in one where they don’t print the Queen’s face on the currency — and I’ve never sorted out whether the ones who DO put her on their bills do it out of respect, or requirement, or a malingering, aspirational Britishness.
I’ve never found Hong Kong to be very British, come to think of it, despite its expats, and its system of laws, and its other best attempts. Maybe that’s the point.
I have been in Hong Kong since Tuesday night, and I am leaving today — heading to Singapore for a weekend with a friend. The week has been alternately productive and frustrating, and the events of today are no exception.
I finish meetings and calls and expect to leave, but then I am not done. I go for a walk. It occurs to me that I should reach out to a friend I’ve not yet seen.
I send a message saying I am nearby, and unexpectedly have time, are you available?
My friend is free, and we meet. He is dressed for work, and I am dressed for travel. Which is to say, he is wearing a tie, and I am wearing those jeans that women pay a lot of money for someone else to rip up. I have on a white button-up from crewcuts, and the previously-mentioned jaguar-print loafers. My hair is loose and somewhat wild. When it is wild, the white streaks are not as obvious.
We go for coffee.
He has coffee and I have tea, and we talk about where we are and what we’re doing and the change that is coming upon us both.
Things are always changing. We speak in present tenses, but there is quite a lot that I do not say.
There is always a lot that I do not say.
I am so full of words and so empty of feelings that even in the present tense, I do not want to look anyone in the eyes. We are in a former British colony, and I am en route to another — before I go to Britain proper — but there’s a part of me that feels like I am in Graceland:
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow
There’s something so serious about looking someone directly in the eyes, you know? It’s like staring into the sun. You can feel it in the back of your retinas and in the pit of your stomach, like you’re not supposed to be doing it, but you have to try it every once in a while to see if it ever feels any different.
But it never does. It always induces the same thrill; can always cause the same blindness.
We finish our drinks, and our time has expired. My car is coming to collect me to take me to the airport for a flight to Singapore, and he’s got an afternoon meeting. He walks me back to my hotel lobby where they direct me to the front drive, and he sees me off.
We’ve done this drill many times before — hotels and airports; airports and hotels. It has all been coincidental; a life on travel. We kiss goodbye on the cheek, my hand on his shoulder; close enough so that our noses just barely touch as we move from cheek to cheek.
This always makes me laugh: the people with whom I am willing to be close enough to touch noses.
I climb into the car and the bellman thinks I am going to tip him again, but I have done so several times already today.
And I am off; I am leaving Hong Kong.