Christmas in bed
Sai Kung’s a nice little town, with its promenade and piers, the seafood restaurants, the classy boutiques. The big banyan. When the wind comes up from the south, which it does from May to September – not at this time of the year – the whole place smells of fish. In a good way, I mean. Fresh, like. The bay’s full of green islands and there are tall hills behind. The sampans go put-putting across Port Shelter to Sharp Island, carrying clusters of day-trippers to the beach. It’s really very scenic, like Sydney or Vancouver or Monaco or somewhere. Yachts and stuff. Like something you’d see in a movie. You ought to visit it some time.
I live in a seafront apartment there, with my mate Ray. He’s a part-time lecturer and a full-time dipsomaniac. He’s got two states: he’s either pissed or he’s hungover. I worry about him, actually.
We’ve got a real bachelor pad thing going on. The girls, the babes, they love it. We’ve got a bar table by the window. That view is worth ten million bucks. They sit there, you know, dangling one leg over the other, sipping their drinks. So sophisticated. We’ve got Martini in the cabinet. We even had Campari once. It stood there for months.
Me, I’m a Eurasian Honky. You should see my skin. Like cafe au lait. It lustres. Us Eurasians, we’re the beautiful people. Dark brown eyes, dark brown hair. Have a look and tell me you don’t fancy me. Women are always coming on to me. And the odd fella. I’ve started fending most of them off, the women that is, and all of the guys (I don’t swing that way, myself). I mean, you’ve got to be choosy, haven’t you? Still, it’s always flattering. Gives you a warm glow all over. I’m so grateful to these people.
I work in The Carvery. We sell New Zealand lamb, Australian beef, British pork. German sausages. All quality stuff, and we charge the punters through the nose for it. We do cheeses as well. French, Dutch, English. And Christmas turkeys of course. We’re on Wan King Path. Seriously. It’s two minute’s walk from the apartment. You’ll see me in there most days, unless I’m out making a delivery. The loaded expats (nearly all our customers are loaded expats) like having the service. They don’t live in the town, naturally. They’re in the posh housing up and down the coast. We’ve got a van. The meat wagon, I call it, although Joel – my boss – doesn’t like me doing that. Says it sounds like I’m driving an ambulance.
I think I’m in an ambulance right now, actually. I’m wondering, as I look up at the ceiling with my head clamped in something, if they’re taking me to the hospital I was born in twenty-five years ago. The Queen Elizabeth, in Kowloon. At least, I assume that’s where I’m going. To a hospital, I mean. I’m obviously lying down, for one thing. I hope we get there soon, wherever it is, because I can’t say I’m enjoying this ride very much. Don’t get me wrong: it’s very snug. But I’m feeling distinctly unwell. It seems that I’ve been drinking. The ceiling drifts from top left to bottom right without actually going anywhere. And there’s a bit of lurching and lunging, from time to time. I’m hoping I don’t throw up, because I’m strapped down good and proper on this contraption.
Something else. My back feels funny, and my right shoulder. I don’t know what’s going on with my legs.
I think there might be … yes, there’s definitely somebody else in here with me. He leans over and says something warm and comforting. I return his gaze. “Are you Santa, then?” I ask him. “Where are the reindeer taking us?” He’s Chinese, dressed in white. My eyes swivel when his face recedes. I think he’s sitting close by. It’s bright in here, but the windows are black. It feels like night. I close my eyes again. There’s nothing else to be done, really.
We had a party at our place, earlier this evening. I remember, now. Christmas Eve. And Joel sacked me this morning. I remember that, too. Didn’t like the way I’ve been sleeping with his wife. Told me not to bother turning up after Christmas. And I’d come in special to work Christmas Eve for him, too. There’s gratitude for you. The party was a bit mad, I guess.
My mind slowly fades out.
So anyway, it is a hospital. It was an ambulance. And now I find myself stuck in this bed, surrounded by other crocked blokes in other beds, coming out of the worst hangover ever. Boy, do I feel rough. I’m encased in plaster; can’t really move. I can’t even flirt with the nurses. They just frown or make like they’re busy when I give them the come-on. In fact I’ve stopped trying. It’s cold in here. No festive decorations. No one wants to be here today.
Guess who’s just walked in, though? Ray. I’m so relieved to see him. He looks even paler than normal. “Jesus!” he says, “They went to work on you. How many broken bones?”
“You haven’t shaved,” I tell him. “It’s Christmas morning and you haven’t shaved.” Then, suddenly, tears squeeze out. “Why am I here?”
“You tried to do a Father Christmas and climbed out of the window. It’s lucky we’re on the second floor. You hit the restaurant awning below and rolled off it. Flattened an empty table and ended up on the concrete next to the lobsters and shellfish.”
I give a sobbing laugh but his face is pinched. It strikes me that he really cares.
“Sorry. My life’s a mess, you know.”
“I know. Are you gonna sort it out?” I nod. He grins and gives my limp hand a gentle fist-bump.
“Good. Merry Christmas, mate.”