In the winning story, reprinted here, a woman hiking with her husband in the Hong Kong countryside reflects on her troublesby Emily Ruth Ford / February 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
Across the night harbour, Hong Kong glimmers. The boat carves foam as it pulls away, juddering across the waves under a starless sky. Lana reaches down over the side, feels her hand drag in the spume, watches the Disneyland skyline recede in the distance. Winking glass shards, metallic boxes piled up like a child’s playset. The Bank of China tower slants jaggedly upwards. Bad feng shui, the South China Morning Post said when it was built. Thin top like a screwdriver drilling out wealth. The HSBC building cowers next to it, glowering recipient of a downflow of bad qi. One window in there is her office. Welcome to Hong Kong, Ms Zhang, we’re glad to have you.
Where they are going, high in the New Territories, it is different. The other bankers rarely make it that far, up there near the Chinese border, the tourists, never. Water slaps against the sides. Forty minutes pass; land looms into view. The boatman cuts the engine. He steps out into the sea, hauls them up onto the beach.
Adam tosses a fifty at him. You took a long route around.
Ng gau chin, the boatman says to Lana. Not enough money.
She shrugs at his glaring face. I don’t speak Cantonese.
The boatman shakes his head, but he doesn’t complain.
They pitch their tent in a half-moon of sand and fuel their bodies for the ascent: crab claws cooked on a paraffin stove, stolen sachets of chilli flakes. She licks Adam’s fingers clean. Guilt coils in her stomach: 300 calories, 400? She strips and dances naked on the footprintless white; throws her yoga-sleek body in cartwheels under the almost-full moon, an imperfect circle. Wonders if he is watching; thinks: here is a place for ritual. At Cambridge she studied Classics, Bacchus and Dionysus, Latin tracts and Greek tragedies. Now she studies money, its flows and currents, its corporate gods. Monday to Friday, seven ‘til seven, legs stiffening to torpor under her desk. At night she maps the trails as if cramming for exams.
Hiking is their thing. First it was his thing but now it is her thing, too. They target mountains like big game trophies: Sunset Peak, Lantau, Tai Mo Shan. They return on the last ferry soaked in sweat, peel off heavy boots and collapse into bed in their Sai Ying Pun studio, where the estate agent got them a great deal. Hong Kongers don’t want to live here, they think the coffin shops bring bad luck. But Sai Ying Pun very popular with foreigners. They unclench red feet and lie sweating under the air con. Breathe out as it sucks the moisture from their bodies, issuing crisp, artificial dryness in return.