Shame on You

March 14, 2017
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It was no surprise that Hong Kong steams up to 95 degrees in the summer, but that day’s thunderstorm made it worse. Hong Kong’s weather was always so unpredictable. Like usual, I commuted back to my home 25 mins away from school by subway. It was a boring routine, and I was grumpy since I didn’t bring an umbrella, but that thought escaped my head quickly. So, I sat in my seat in a subway car, indulged in a daily dose of video game funny moments and fails compilation on YouTube. I was never a good gamer, but  I enjoy watching other people play games. There was a certain level of satisfaction that differed from playing it myself. Also, seeing people trip and break some part of their body always made my day. Then, like any other day, I arrived at Mong Kok station and got off the train. I was so familiar with the daily commute route that I could get to school and back blind-folded. But I had not been so familiar with this place. I was a kid from mainland China, Hong Kong was obviously the more international place to be  so my family and I moved there. Hong Kong was a hard place to blend into, you worship the rich and spit at the poor. Wealth was all that mattered, wealth meant respect and convenience. I was fully aware of this common trend in the big cities when I first moved there. I got off my phone and hopped onto the escalator and hopped off naturally 40 seconds after. I ascended along the stair case from the underground station, pensive about my upcoming SSAT exam and reluctant to memorize the vocab. Then, Mong Kok came into my sight. Something I didn’t like about Hong Kong was the fact that the rich and the poor lived in close proximity to one another. I complained to my mom, more times than I can  count, about having to pass the Mong Kok meat market and the ghetto to get to my apartment. The vendors had their freshly cut pig brains, lungs, hearts, and kidneys hanging down rusty iron hooks in the scorching heat. Groups of punks and beggars sat by the curb, some smoked others slept. I casted at the floor a hollow glance and felt the stairs get slipperier. The rain was pouring outside with deafening thunders. I just wanted to go home and lie in my bed and forget about the 20 essays I needed to write for American High School. There were people’s unintentional sighs of relief because they found a shelter. People came rushing into the station and sticking their wet umbrellas into a plastic leak-proof bag. Others had damp newspaper all over their hair, for some reason they thought that was a good idea. I mocked at them for being so miserable but then realized I was soon to be miserable. Standing by the eave, I tightened my school bag straps while planning out my optimal route. It turned out dashing through rain was the most efficient plan. I took a deep breath and began sprinting so that I could cross the road before the traffic light turned red. I stuck exactly to the plan until a cluster of shelter-seeking soaked people cut me off. When I got to the intersection, the light was stinging red. Standing by the road fence under rain, I groaned. The scorching heat and humidity combined into steam, and I felt like a dumpling in a steamer.

The man standing next to me threw me a smile, creepy almost. I gazed askance at him. The flip-flops on his feet didn’t look right: one was navy blue the other black. He wore a pair of khaki shorts that had two huge pockets on each leg. It was clear that the pockets were almost worn out from daily use. The soaked T-shirt smelled like sweat and rain and fish. I then looked at the umbrella he was holding, but didn’t dare to look at his face. Bad guys always kill when their faces were exposed to the victim. The umbrella was the only thing odd: it looked brand new. It was a collapsible umbrella with an auto-open button. Disturbed by his pungent and fishy body odor, I made a subtle grunt. Almost immediately he tried to move away from me, his footing looked embarrassed. Quick small steps made it more obvious. Pleased with the rather rare chance of having some considerable space and better air among the crowd, I looked up and stared at the red traffic light, anxious to get home and out of this steaming pot like everyone else. Every sound of thunder shook my guts. I was also quite soaked, the mercilessly warm rain kept piercing my skin and the thunders knocked on my soul. 

I was desperate to get home. Stumping my feet onto the ground, I prepared like how Olympians do for their final dash, but the heat was unbearable. I distracted myself by staring at the red light until the man abruptly moved closer to me again. It looked like he tried to swing his umbrella at me. Out of fear, I turned to him and stared into his eyes. He was a mid-aged man, one or two inches shorter than I. His head was almost bald with a few poor strands lying on top helplessly. He mumbled something. Still not familiar with Cantonese, I didn’t understand a single word he said. I thought he asked for money or food. And he moved closer, so I instinctively backed off and casted him a suspicious glance. From the corner of my eye I saw the same stinging red, and I found myself trapped among the crowd. Panicking, I pushed people and attempted to make my way out. I heard people cursing at me, after all it is an anxious city. Then he caught my left hand and squeezed tight. He said something again. The light was still red. I immediately shook his hand off. I tried to look at him in the eyes, tried to understand what he wanted. He seemed confused, almost hurt by my rejection . At that instant, the light turned green, I walked fast without looking back, and he followed. His hand with the umbrella reached out to me and struggled to keep up with me. From the corner of my eye, I could see him smiling like my grandpa. Troubled by his action, I walked even faster to almost a slow jog. I tried to understand what he said, went through all the words I knew to make sense of it. We crossed the road and headed into the pork market. Shortly after, he fell behind panting but was still smiling. He tried to catch up so I walked even faster.

“Hey kid, it’s raining outside. Take my umbrella, I just bought it!” I realized that was what he said. I turned around flurried and lost him in the crowd.

On my way back, I did not run. I was scared to turn away another good person in my life. I could hear people on the street by the way they look at me “Shame on you, kid. Shame on you”. This man came into my dreams frequently, every time I faced him with guilt but he just smiled. I wished he cursed at me or told me how terrible I was. But he never did.

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