To Home, With Love by Yoyo Chan
On 28th September 2014, the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement broke out in Hong Kong. Former Tumbleweed Yoyo Chan’s friends have been camping on the streets and braving themselves against tear gas, pepper spray and police batons for the last two months. This piece is based on a telephone conversation between Yoyo and a friend in Hong Kong during Yoyo’s stay at Shakespeare and Company.
He smashed your router, ripped your bank card and flushed your keys. “You are not my son if you walk out this door.” You turned around and saw her sunk in a silent sob. You drew your sword from the stand and slammed the door. Days have gone and they haven’t called. “I am now as homeless as you are,” you chuckled to me.
I left home in search of another one. You left home so as to recover one. I feasted on baguette and cheese by the Seine. You wrapped your face in clingfilm, guarding the harbour’s barricade. I struggled with a pen. You fiddled with bamboo poles to build a bulwark. I savoured the soft warm bed with the bookshop cat. You planted yourself to the ground where countless tires had left their marks. I woke up and read the first draft of history. You toiled to rewrite the story of the city. I cheered for the spraying champagne. You exposed yourself to peppery rain. I was watched over by writers and spirits of characters. You were locked behind bars, segregated from others.
“Were you afraid?” I asked, shamelessly. “They marched towards us in full gear with the orange banner. I was shivering until I saw the reflection of my unshaven chin next to a wrinkled face in the approaching concave plastic.” Gas flared. Batons lashed. First he was on his knees and then his forehead hit the floor. “Blood streamed down his silver brows,” you said in a voice I had never heard before, “he was seventy-four.” He didn’t stand with the students on June Fourth, so he did this time, after twenty-five years. “They dragged him away and broke our line. So many of them. So many of them. They were faceless. They were voiceless. Their arms rose and fell and rose and fell.” I heard you gasping for air. “I have not seen him since then.” “Go to my parents,” I said. “No.” Pierced my ear like thunderclap. “I am not a quitter.”
You are not. I am. Your crooked umbrella may not keep your feet dry and may not stop peppery slime hitting your eyes—yet it is holding up the falling sky. Ahead of you is an endless, windowless corridor. Watching it open up and shut you in, I hide under the shadow of Notre-Dame, praying, perhaps, one day, we will see eggs topple the giant wall and hear mushrooms knock on the door.
Yoyo Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong. Two years ago, she left for Scotland and has now been on the road for eight months after quitting university. Yoyo lived at Shakespeare and Company from 17 August to 11 November 2014.