Down on his luck, a lonely Hong Kong doorman sees his colleague’s optimism as the ultimate insult.
Wah Ye Gau had had a bad week, a bad couple of years in fact, but he hadn’t expected it to end this way. He didn’t know why he did what he did. Perhaps his name compelled him to. After all, Gau meant dog in Cantonese. His parents, superstitious watercress farmers, had worshipped green skinned, four-faced gods. Afraid these celestials would steal their only son, they named Gau after an animal, believing this would fool those gods into assuming their child a village mongrel, and thus ignore him.
Gau’s colleague and neighbour Fu was now in triage. Seated on a blue plastic chair – part of a three-seater waiting room bench – in Wong Tai Sin Hospital, the anxiety Gau’s face could not express egressed through his maniacal scratching at a piece of scotch tape that sealed a crack in the seat. His dull, droopy eyes and thin, straight lips would not divulge the contents of his mind or heart. He took out his mobile phone and dialed 999. Being arrested would mean losing his job, but at least a jail cell might keep him safe from the loan sharks. Gau tasted iron as his tongue ran over a particle lodged between his incisors. He stopped scratching the tape and started picking at his teeth with the long nail on his little finger instead.
A story about the difference between being Chinese and Ethnic Chinese.
At the China Tang restaurant in Hong Kong’s central business district, Tong Hwee Peng and Stephanie Kuok sat at an elegantly set table inside one of the private dining rooms. Hwee Peng had flown in from Singapore yesterday afternoon. She was the first to arrive, and had ordered a bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Rosé, their favourite. Stephie had landed on a flight from Kuala Lumpur a few hours ago. With her suitcase in tow, she showed up 15 minutes after Hwee Peng. She hugged her friend, proclaimed she was “starving,” and with her chopsticks, started picking away at the steamed peanuts in the condiment dish near the edge of the marble Lazy Susan.
It was time for Kenny’s lunch break. His bony buttocks, which had been parked in a cheap IKEA swivel chair since 8:35am, felt numb. His eyes ached, and when he closed them, he could still see the bright light of his computer screen emanating from the back of his eyelids. The photo of his wife and two young children, thumbtacked to a corkboard in front of him, was lopsided, so he straightened it. He dislodged himself from his cubicle and made his way out of the building.