Coffee in the morning.
I was still asleep when I felt something repetitively pressing against my lower belly. I opened my sleepy eyes to find out that it was the slightly autistic cat doing his morning purr-massage. James was already in the kitchen (or rather 4 feet away) making breakfast (or rather coffee).
- Milk? Sugar?
- Milk, no sugar, thank you.
He passed me a mug full of aromatic liquid. The cat was still purring somewhere around me and everything seemed lovely. I felt safe, I felt happy, I felt alive.
It was just about time to move to my Airbnb and to be honest with you… I really didn’t want to. Very. Much. No.
Maybe this “travelling alone and then finally having a high-end company” was the case, or maybe this man just simply enchanted me. Probably both. I wanted to be around him, to stay a bit longer but, oh well, life is life. I finished the coffee, packed my stuff, said thank you and left.
I really wasn’t expecting him to want to see me again on this day. He gave me so much of his time and attention, that I felt like I didn’t deserve(?!) more. But as soon as I had my Airbnb sorted I got a message from him: “Hey, what’s your plan for today?” I squeaked a little and almost jumped.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been texting someone for ages and then you finally met them? You’re in the same city and you feel super uncomfortable and awkward about the whole thing? “Should I text him as much as I used to?” “Should I meet him instead of texting now that we are living on the opposite sides of the road?” “Would it be weird if…?” “Would I?” “Should I?” That was me and all of my insecurities going through the roof. So even though I was DYING to see James, I replied: “Oh, I’ve got some stuff to do, will be busy all day”.
Understand a girl.
So I was walking aimlessly around Tsim Sha Tsui texting him all the time and getting texts back instead of arranging any kind of a meeting. Once again: try to understand a girl.
Hours were passing by. In my head the, plan of a lonely evening with not having anyone to talk to, was slowly becoming a reality.
Fortunately, James was not only charming, but also a very persistent type of a guy, so after a while, he figured out that I couldn’t be THAT busy all day long and I’d find some time for a can of diet coke and a cigar in Kowloon park at 10 pm. Of course I would! Was I super fussed about the cigar? I hate cigars, but the “trying to mould in” and “trying to impress” race went on.
Despite late hours the whole park seemed to be immersed in a hot and humid cloud. “Try not to sweat, try not to sweat” – I continued on repeating under my breath as if that mantra could stop the waterfalls from under my armpits.
James was already waiting for me on one of the benches: white shirt, black trousers, Prada shoes. As if this whole mad heat didn’t affect him at all.
- Hey, sit down, how was your day, what did you do?
- Amm…good thanks. Loads of things! – I explained enthusiastically, because how could I admit that I didn’t do much? That I was just silly and trying to avoid meeting him even though I really wanted to? It definitely wasn’t normal.
Now when I look at it I notice a very strange pattern. Let me explain.
James was very charming but also a very difficult conversational partner. Difficult and also very demanding. Many times when the conversation died and I (obviously) started feeling uncomfortable, he would just give me a cheeky smile and say “Ask me anything”.
And I don’t know why I was always twisting and turning and bending over backwards to find the most interesting topic. To amaze him. Why did I even care?
Then, usually, after an hour or two when I was simply exhausted by this constant try to be smart an awesome I’d make up an excuse to leave. And then, almost the moment I was turning around I was already starting to regret it and promising to myself that I’m gonna see him again soon and that next time I’d make it better.
Anyways, this first park meeting wasn’t that bad. The pattern intensified later. Later in time when I was more dependent and desperately not willing to leave.
On this first park meeting we talked about those weeks we spent calling each other every day, about Taiwan, our jobs, my deep love for Hong Kong and, of course, my Chinese visa. James was very helpful, he showed me precisely where I needed to go, told me what kind of documents I was gonna need and how to avoid wasting the whole day in the visa office. I didn’t really have much time. It was Monday already and if I wanted to leave by Sunday…well I had to hurry up.
The plan was that if I could go to the Visa Office early on Wednesday with all the documents printed, I could possibly get my visa on Friday. Brilliant. James offered to meet me at his the following day (Tuesday), so that I could use his printer. My genial plan not to see him every single day while in Hong Kong was kinda failing but he persuaded me that this is the only way to have my visa done. And he was right.
(Sharing with you all those details I just want to show you that I was really running out of time and my Hong Kong visit was supposed to be very brief.)
Tuesday came and with all my cancellable bookings saved on a pen drive (you need to pretend you’ve got a flight and basically your whole trip planned, booked and paid for when you apply for a Chinese visa) I was outside James’s door.
- Hey, come in. – he opened the door smiling.
I walked in and sat on a little sofa facing the disproportionately massive telly. Gotta love HK.
I was already starting to like this tiny apartment and the slightly autistic cat. It might’ve been small but you could also call it cosy. Perfect for one person, in a perfect location.
- Here’s everything. – I handed my pen drive to James.
He stuck it into his computer, selected all the files and started printing. Visa form, one flight reservation, another one, hotel and hostel bookings – there was a lot of it. So I was sat on the sofa with James next to me listening to the calming buzz coming from the printer when his voice broke the silence:
Why are you actually going to China if you love Hong Kong so much?
- Why? – I asked back surprised – Probably because I’ve never been there before and I can’t afford to stay in Hong Kong any longer. Also, my Airbnb expires on Sunday and I can’t extend it. Finding anything else at a reasonable price right now is next to impossible.
- I see…What if you had a place to stay?
- Excuse me? What do you mean?
- Just hypothetically, if you had a place to stay, could you ever consider living in Hong Kong?
- Of course! This city is a dream.
- Then move in.
I wasn’t ready for this. Maybe reading it now you can kinda see it coming but I couldn’t.
- James, I’m afraid I don’t understand. – I uttered with a shaky voice.
- Move in. I’ll empty one of the drawers for you. Stop jumping from place to place as you did for 2 years. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe you found a place that’s good for you. You can stay for 3-4 weeks, completely for free. Let’s try to organise your life in HK, deal?
I couldn’t understand what was happening, I started crying. After all those years of dealing with stuff and being so self-sufficient suddenly there was someone who was so simply…good to me. And it blew my mind.
- But… but why are you doing that for me?
- Because you are my dearest friend and I want to help you. – murmured James.
- This is insane but ok…let’s try – I sobbed back – thank you.
And just like that a crazy rollercoaster began and believe me – I had no idea what I was doing.