© Text selections copyright Wayne Miller

©  Photos and  paintings copyright Wayne Miller

Hong Kong, late afternoon, with faint sounds coming from the street below. The telephone rang just as he was leaving the hotel room. He stood by the door for a moment, then turned, crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed. He lifted the receiver: A woman spoke for another woman who spoke only Chinese.

In the elevator’s slow ascension he looked at unfamiliar things; the floor designations, the Chinese writing, the faces around him.

Under the glare of an incandescent bulb,

under the glare of Asian eyes, a toothless

mouth formed soundless words above a hand offering Jack Daniels.

Swallowing anger, swallowing pride, he said yes to the Chinese police. Yes, the woman belonged to him.

During the slow ascension Lily Cheung changed her mind. “No,” she said, “He beats women, he was told to leave Hong Kong.”

Total darkness, and the engine accelerating, and the dog eyes of people just before they jump. And the beams of the headlights, like blind arms pushing people aside and into the darkness, leaving the street empty except for the glowing embers of a dying fire.

And when night fell upon the floating slums and upon people who had been denied even a foothold on the earth, it brought the softening of voices, the smell of incense, and a return to the bar in Kowloon.

The Ascension of Lily Cheung

Hong Kong, October 1969

                      The Ascension of Lily Cheung