Kai Shan in Wan Chau Village. Love in the time of resistance. A fictional story by Michael Leung. 元朗橫洲村髻山。愛在動盪不安的季節。梁志剛在地短篇小說。

Kai Shan 髻山 

A fictional story by Michael Leung
Content warning

***feature image: View from Kai Shan 髻山, Wang Chau Village 橫洲村, 27th June 2017. Photo by Mireille***

 

For over a year Chung was looking for a place where he could write in solitude, without the intrusive sounds of the city: the red mini van’s impatient horn; the drunk man shouting at his partner in the dead of the night; and the banging of the gate downstairs whose steel dampener had been detached and probably sold at Mrs. Chan’s recycling shop nearby.

After looking at seven houses Chung finally found a place, a neglected squatter’s house nestled at the bottom of Kai Shan in Yuen Long. [1] The house had peeling concrete walls and a rusted corrugated metal roof, and no air-conditioning—only a precariously-tied dusty fan in the middle of the room, the only room. Beside the house was a garden, around 500 square feet, already in rows but home to many weeds. On closer inspection, when the owner smoked a rolled cigarette by the red gate, Chung recognised some plant species: Bitter leaf (南非葉), Fish leaf (魚腥草), Longevity spinach (冬冬草), Cat’s whiskers (貓鬚草), Dragon’s tongue (龍脷葉) and Tradescantia spathacea (蚌花). He even spotted a healthy tobacco plant and a jackfruit tree at the back of the house, fruiting on a couple of branches. 

The plants confirmed his decision to purchase the modest squatter house and the garden that “came” with it. The following day, he met the owner, who has the same surname, in a nearby cha chaan teng and paid him in cash inside a yellow Liber Research Community tote bag, and signed a dog-eared contract that stated the ownership of the house that was built on private land. Chung was the third person to own the house. He isn’t rich, but listened to his supervisor’s advice in becoming wealthy through the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme, which he started two years ago.

The next day, Chung quickly moved his whole library to the new house and patched the broken windows with some patterned acrylic plastic off-cuts he had collected over the years. He sealed the pieces to the outside with transparent silicone rubber and after lunch, he started to plan where to arrange his desk and bookshelves. The wooden bookshelves (rosewood planks in the house) would make use of the current L-shaped brackets already installed on one side of the wall, and continue around all the three other walls of the 200-square foot house. One shelf angled at around three degrees so that the perimeter of books connected. With all the books on the shelf, the angle wasn’t that visible. His trapezium-shaped and plastic-laminate wooden table was in the corner of the house, at the lowest part of the bookshelf, beside the larger of the two windows that faced the garden and red gate, and welcomed the afternoon sun.

Starting in February, Chung would begin his disciplined routine: breakfast outdoors with two cups of black coffee heated by a rocket stove he made in 2013; reading books that he would underline and make notes in, with a blue biro; in the company of a black cat that was probably wild; urinate on the soil not too near to the plants; compost the previous few day’s food scraps and faeces from a self-made dry toilet; harvest some parts of his lunch and repeat the morning until sundown. He only used the computer when it was too dark to read and illuminated the whole house with a LED lamp with a flexible neck, that plugged into his new second-hand laptop (it worked perfectly except for the stiff right-shift key which he began to get used to). 

Before bed he wiped his body with a warm flannel, starting with the least dirty parts (feet last). He urinated outside whilst standing in the front door, and washed his hands in the soapy blue bucket of water. The tap outside the house was from a natural spring but ran weaker at night. During the day it took over five minutes to fill a five-litre bottle. The whole of February passed like this, until he started reading Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees.

When reading about the many relations in the book, he often found himself quite lonely. Understandably, he saw no one on weekdays, and only the black cat. He had his smartphone but it was always on silent mode and remained face down on the bedside table for most part of the day and night — sometimes even under the covers on his single mattress that lay on the floor. At night he would think about those he often saw in the city and admired their determination and critiques of everyday life — especially Charlotte and Natalie. Chung spent a lot of time buried in books. His writing came naturally and he had a few friends that he would exchange topics and texts with, but he wanted more…

The garden was in full swing in spring, and at the beginning of April he decided to also spend weekends at the house, which came back to life after some noticeable roof repairs and two coats of paint. Each wall, both inside and outside, had a different hue, the inside in water-based and the outside in enamel paint. He remembered where this idea came from—when he visited a design shop on the Staalstraat in Amsterdam back in 2005. Literally every surface in the building was painted in a different colour. He painted with a wide paintbrush in the company of Peacock Royal butterflies (雙尾灰蝶) and the black cat.

The third Saturday was particularly slow for Chung. Pouring his second cup of coffee he heard distant voices from a group of people up on the mountain. It looked like a tour group of some kind, with one person louder than the rest. They must have had one of those grey handheld amplifiers with a wired headset microphone. Drinking his coffee and looking up, it seemed like the tour guide was pointing at his house and the group of 10 to 15 people then turned their gazes in his direction. Chung waved, an amicable raised palm in the air but without the excitement of a dog’s wagging tail. Everyone waved back. The cat didn’t notice.

Whilst cooking lunch on the outdoor stove, someone in the direction of the gate broke the silence and spoke in English, Hello, I saw you from the mountain, I’m Mireille. Hi, I’m Chung, and she’s a cat that visits me everyday. Sorry to interrupt, you look like you’re cooking. Yeah, it’s just a soup… Would you like some? Dank je, I mean, mm goi. You’re welcome. I have some bread in my bag. Perfect.

Mireille and Chung spoke for hours about plants, philosophy and planetary struggles. Mireille shared the repression of squatters in the Netherlands and Chung people’s negative attitudes towards squatting in Hong Kong, as well as the history of squatter villages such as Pok Fu Lam village and the Shek Kip Mei squatter houses that burnt down in 1953, leaving 53,000 people homeless. They spoke until the first night star was visible, probably Arcturus. 

It became late, and Mireille candidly asked, Would you be comfortable if I stayed a bit longer? Chung stuttered a reply of some sort that must have sounded like a yes and Mireille stamped off her slightly stained sneakers and kicked them together by the front door. She had those finger socks on. Chung had never worn them before and thought how uncomfortable they must be to widen the gap between your toes. He said this to her, and she laughed, before putting her warm toes over his bare feet. The sheep’s wool warmed his 11 toes. She kissed his left cheek in a friendly way, which surprised Chung, but he then remembered that Europeans often expressed physical affection. When Mireille saw that he was ok with this she ran her fingers through his uncombed black hair. The cat was outside the house, probably on the doorstep patiently looking at the front door.

Mireille asked if she was being too forward and Chung said, Not at all. My hair’s a bit greasy though… He was often awkward like this, which led to him being misunderstood at times. She stepped back and started to scan the bookshelf with the portable LED lamp, accumulating a stack of 10 books. It seemed like she was in a library, holding the tall stack now with two hands, the light now clipped onto a Robin Kimmerer book. When she returned to the start, she placed them next to Chung’s computer and said that she’d like to check them out please, the light illuminating the stack of books. Chung jokes, and asks her for a library card. Mireille bent over him and let her brown hair drop onto his face. He smiled. And she kissed him on the lips and made a digital beep sound, and then kissed him again, this time for longer. Their mouths tasted of potato, carrot and papaya soup, with a faint smell of Chinese almonds.

Due to the small size of the house, it took only a few steps until they were both on the bed, the sponge mattress adorned with organic cotton. It felt odd for Chung to be in bed fully clothed and so he started undressing himself. Mireille stopped him, she wanted to do this. A moment later he was completely naked. She stood up and undressed, leaving only her sky blue finger socks on.

Mireille ducked and sat on the bed facing him, their heads holding the sheets up like tent poles. Chung’s sex was hard and he was unsure if she was ok without using a condom. He wanted to tell her that he didn’t have any, but then felt something warm grip his sex. It was her toes, with her finger socks! The ten digits moved up and down slowly, and their lips kissed intermittently. With his eyes closed, he thought how flexible she must’ve been to do this. Mireille had never done this to anyone before but enjoyed it, wrapping her long nimble toes around him. With her arms she walked forward slightly, and guided herself onto his sex with a second attempt. She placed him into her body and they both released faint sounds from their mouths.

Mireille bent her elbows under his armpits and wrapped her fingers over both his shoulders. Chung crouched his head trying to kiss her breasts and nipples but he failed. Still inside the tent that they were both keeping up, Mireille asked Chung if he was ok with this and he said yes. She started slow, knowing that he was very sensitive. She made small jerks rubbing her sex firmly against his. The thrusts became more prolonged and Mireille felt the mushroom part of his sex stroke the inside of her body. Their bodies became hot and she rode him until all four corners of the white mattress cover came off. From the top view they looked like an egg with two yolks. She had already come but only rested for several seconds before riding him again, this time with more speed. 

Chung whispered in her right ear that he was close to coming. She told him to wait until the last possible second. He pulled his body back and Mireille shuffled back onto the now exposed mattress and ended how she began, with her fingers socks. As she pulled down, she twisted his sex and it burnt slightly. By now he had already released several times and kept going as she continued. His come was all over their thighs and now running down her socks, forming clouds on the sky blue wool. She leapt forward, pushed him onto the pillow and kissed him. They hugged and their thighs started to adhere together, only to be detached in the morning. 

Although Mireille was only in Hong Kong for part of the term, they were happy to have met each other at the bottom of Kai Shan. In the coming weeks, they started their own routine of working, cooking and making love. This continued to the day she left Hong Kong to finish the final year of her PhD in Amsterdam.

When arriving at Schiphol Airport she checked her phone and received a message from Chung saying that she was lucky that she chose a morning flight. By midday, Hong Kong International Airport was completely occupied and 160 flights were cancelled. Mireille wished that her flight was delayed so that they could spend more time together. 

That evening Chung was on his computer all night reconnecting to the news that he stopped following at the beginning of the year. Tucked in at the bottom of Kai Shan, he had missed everything that had happened in the past few months. At 11pm, he packed a rucksack and left his small house to his old walk-up flat in Mong Kok, to where he still had keys and several boxes of his belongings—mostly memories and old mixtapes. He was still paying some rent and had a chance to give it in person to Maggie, his flatmate who worked at a radical bookshop nearby. They drank mint tea as Maggie explained the social movement in great detail. 

At around 2am, they left the apartment to see what was happening nearby on Nathan Road. Chung messaged Mireille on Signal, and she told him to be careful (unlike how they were those nights in bed). He smiled before he and Maggie arrived at Nathan Road to a crowd of people, enacting their freedom to dream their own dreams —individually and collectively.

 

17th February 2020, the Pyrenees

* Mireille returned the following year. Her doctorate thesis included the contested Wang Chau Village development plan. What better place to write it than in the greenbelt village itself, sharing that small intimate house with Chung and the nameless black cat.

 

A piece of agricultural land in Wang Chau Village acquired and hoarded by New World Development Company Limited. A weathered banner testament to the villagers’ long resistance, 3rd May 2017. Photo by Mireille.

 

————

Against adversity and over four years later, Wang Chau villagers continue to resist displacement, the destruction of a greenbelt and an inequitable government development plan. They make time to share their village and produce, at the 第四屆再見橫洲大樹菠蘿節2020 The 4th Annual Wang Chau Jackfruit Festival 2020 on Saturday 11th July, 2-7pm.

Facebook Event: www.tinyurl.com/Jackfruit2020

Facebook: 橫洲綠化帶發展關注組 WangChauGreen

 

Notes

[1] A squatter house is a self-built small house with concrete walls, wood and a corrugated steel roof built on private or official land (government-registered). They are often-seen in the New Territories and in old squatter villages. More information: https://radicalhk.com/2016/11/16/squatter