I walked alone yesterday. I walked for a good three hours.
I had time to kill before meeting up with friends at the Marco Polo to watch the New Year’s fireworks display on the harbor, so I decided to let my feet take me wherever they wanted. Maybe something would come to me as I stumbled my way around a city I hadn’t been to since I was five.
I turned a corner because of the bright lights in my periphery. I crossed a street because I felt like walking into a crush of people going the opposite way. I went down a path simply because it was dark and dodgy and downhill.
I walked through a small food and flower market, but only for the flowers. They were bright and colorful, but their perfume was mixed with the stink of the nearby raw seafood. It was interesting, to say the least.
I saw the only homeless man I’d seen thus far in this trip to Hong Kong. He was staring into shop windows, wearing a couple of winter coats over a skirt that ran all the way down to his bare feet. He seemed warm enough despite the cold pavement.
I came upon a giant wireframe polar bear with a red gem for a heart peeking through the outline of its being. The art studio that built it wrote that it was a statement on how climate change was affecting the life of the iconic Christmas creature. Standing on a platform to make a pledge for a greener future made the scarlet heart glow. There was a standee nearby to mark the “best place for taking its picture.” The studio that built it calls itself “Fake.”
I met eyes with a tough-looking woman who shaved a line down her right eyebrow. A man who appeared to be her boyfriend appeared to be ignoring her as they made their way through the crowds.
I met eyes with a baby and made faces to make it giggle. A short, rotund Indian man tapped it on the arm and made silly noises. It smiled.
I listened to people argue and connect in languages I didn’t understand. I heard other Filipinos making plans for the night’s festivities in Tagalog.
I still don’t know if any part of my walk made sense in the grand scheme of things. Should I even try to make sense of life as it happens?
No one on the streets here stops. They all just keep moving from Point A to Point B, go about their business, then briskly move on to Point C. Simple. Efficient.
At the tail-end of my walk, I started looking for dinner. Hardly anyone I saw while peeking into restaurant windows was chatting. They walked in, had their meals, and walked out. Simple. Efficient.
Everything changed an hour before midnight. I met up with my friends and while we made our way through the densely packed army of sightseers gathering on the streets of Kowloon, I couldn’t help but notice that the city seemed less cramped despite the massive upsurge of people outdoors.
We watched the brilliant fireworks light up the new year’s first sky at the harbor. We watched a handful of people dance the night away to a hotel band. We grabbed a few bottles, walked towards the sea, and sat side by side on the railings that kept us from falling into the water. We talked and ate egg tarts and held on to a clock made of chocolate. We went back to our respective accommodations at around 330am. We hung out for a good 5 hours.
If there’s anything this past year has taught me, it’s that life is simpler and yet more exciting when you just keep moving. Life is happier, though, during the times you stop to take it all in – the strange and familiar faces that surround you, the somewhat comforting chill of the rail you’re sitting on, the scents hanging in the air, the vodka that runs through your lips when you’re not talking or laughing or doing both.
It’s all too easy and too tempting to stop and settle forever. Nothing new will ever happen, though, if you don’t keep walking. You’ve got to do both.
What matters most in life, I think, is who you’re walking and stopping with.
Happy New Year, everyone. May your journeys and destinations have the right people in them, even when you’re alone.