Today I am twenty-two and am on my way to New York Fashion Week. It could be an excuse for me to belt out the chorus to that infamous Taylor Swift song, but right now I’m in no position to celebrate. I could’ve been celebrating in New York as I touched down on American soil, but instead I am celebrating my birthday on a bench in Hong Kong International Airport. All a part of the journey, right? It is raining in Hong Kong. Water is pelting down on the wings of planes as they take off to 20,000 feet above the land. I could’ve been up there too, if I had not missed my plane. Yes, I missed my plane to New York. It was worth it though to get that shot of the bunny-man staring out the window.
Even the best of us have flaws. Luckily, I’m the worst and my flaw of tardiness has been with me since my primary school teacher threatened to expel me if I continued being late for school. As mechanical as I am becoming in my daily routine of work, university, social life, networking, traveling, editing and trying to make something creative and meaningful to offer the world, I still run into a number of daily fuck-ups. Usually it’s nothing too big, sleeping in for thirty minutes and missing the first hour of my class has become almost commonplace in my schedule (reminder to self to schedule all my appointments an hour earlier), but today was an exceptional fuck-up.
But even though I am stuck here it has been a great day. For starters, Hong Kong International Airport is the most delicious airport I have ever been stuck in… I know that sounds sad, but I was once stuck in Malaysia International Airport for 16 hours and ate a three course degustation of Popeyes, McDonalds and Burger King throughout the day. Not good for the soul.
I also had a conversation with a 56 year-old Indonesian man from Canada. I shared a table with him at the start of my time here in Hong Kong. We were eating our breakfasts in the morning’s silence. The rain had not yet hit the ceiling and groggy Westerners found themselves at the closest McDonalds before considering the range of dim sum, congee and wonton noodle soup that was being offerred. He left, only for a second, and before I looked up from my computer screen all the chairs around the table we were sitting at had disappeared.
I knew this airport was scarce for chairs, but I didn’t realise how desperate people were for a quick sit. He came back with a under-cooked hashbrown and coffee. “All the chairs are gone,” he said, scratching his head. I laughed and made some remark about how the people here are like pigeons. He turned around to go look for a chair, but before he could take a step away from the table, a cleaner came with a chair in hand for him. He sat down and asked where I was travelling to. “New York.” “Jakarta,” he replied. I asked him his name. “Buddy.” “Christopher.”
As we worked our way through small talk about Canada, Australia, food connecting the world together, multiculturalism and why shit iPhone photography is better than good photography sometimes, I raised the question. “Why are you headed to Jakarta?” Buddy paused for a minute. “To visit my mum and dad,” he said as a smile cracked around the corners of his lips. I was happy to see someone at his age still making the effort to fly across the country to see his parents. “You must be excited to be going back to your hometown,” I replied. Then I saw something in him break. A small quiver in his shoulders before they slumped and he put down his hashbrown. “I wish it was a joyous trip,” he said, “you see… my mother just passed away.”
I asked him about his mother. She was a large personality, glistening with gold, always feeding her children because she believed that they had to be healthy for their futures. A little strict at times to which he didn’t really understand in his youth, but all of those moments grew with him in his future. He was in his late-twenties when he left for Canada where he got married and started a family. His mother was happy that she supported his future. Then he realised he was dragging on and out of courtesy made an excuse for his emotions and put up his guard again – it was painful to watch. “I mean I’m 56 and it’s only expected when your parents get so old,” he said. I tried to connect with him again by telling him about my father who also was his age and lost his mother recently. He chuckled. “I guess it’s a part of growing up,” he said as he stared down into his coffee. “You can never really prepare yourself though or even prepare for how you will react to it all, ” I replied.
He smiled at me. “You know the thing that I’m worried about most though? My father.” I gave him a nod to tell him that I understood his pain. “My mother and father loved each other so much and usually when two people love each other so much they… I’m afraid…” his words began breaking into couplets so I finished his sentence for him. “You’re afraid he’ll follow her.” He nodded. “It’s so surreal… I just found out last night, booked some last-minute tickets and now I am in Hong Kong! I didn’t even have time to pack my socks!” We shared laughter. “I forgot to pack my socks too!” I replied. I told him to really treasure whatever time he had with his father then we parted ways.
I chuckled. Last-minute. That’s always been me. Yesterday I decided to leave Sydney at 9:55 PM to fly to New York. I managed to book plane tickets and a hotel, finish a product shoot in the city, pack, drive back to my home in peak hour traffic and get my parents to give me a lift to the airport 2 hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. As I get older I know I can’t keep rushing my way through life, sometimes I will have to slow down and not leave things to the last minute.
But until then, here’s to Twenty-Two – a big thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. Much love from Seakyu.
WORDS – CHRISTOPHER QUYEN
PHOTOGRAPHY – CHRISTOPHER QUYEN