Saturday, June 09, 2012

You can't go back

I felt gloomy when I arrived in Tin Hau, and the despond shifted a little, but not too much, by the time I woke up. Coming back to Hong Kong, I was struck by how muggy the air is. This is retribution for all the sneers I made at first time visitors to Singapore, startled by the heat and humidity. It turns out that I'm just as bad at adjusting, but I hadn't realised I'd have to go through it myself.

The real reason for my distress was that Hong Kong was still in existence, and people behaved just as they had before I left. There wasn't a firework display to welcome me back. There weren't crowds of people, weeping joyous tears now that the months they'd had to feel my absence were over. There wasn't even a small sign at the airport with a few half-deflated balloons hanging from it, saying how pleased everyone was that I'd returned.

It's almost as if I was insignificant, just one person amongst millions. Nobody wants to have that suggested to them.

Some things change while you're away, and mostly, things remain as they were. The pet shop in Tin Hau has closed, and is just an absence in the street, a missing tooth in the grimace that leers out at the passing traffic. The MTR is just the same as it ever was, gleaming efficiency hardly disrupted by humanity. Perhaps I'm less tolerant and noticing it more, but in both Singapore and Hong Kong there are more people who get as far as the gates before remembering they need to swipe their card to get through, and then stand there like confused cattle, blocking the way for people who know where they are going and know what they are doing.

I think I must be growing less tolerant.

The weather hasn't changed, or so I assume. I've had ten minutes outside this morning, the rest of it spent in air conditioned malls or on air conditioned trains, or lying on my back in a dentist's chair while my teeth were cleaned, polished, then finally drilled. The drilling was the worst: my dentist did it without anaesthetic, which spared me a numb mouth at the expense of ten minutes of grinding terror - at least I've now been reminded what an anxiety attack is like.

And so it goes. To be positive, life may have gone on without me, but at least life goes on


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