Generally speaking, the Chinese are small people. During the rainy season the streets were packed. We were all shuffling cattle, and the locals carried black umbrellas that spun and threatened to poke me (a tall American girl) in the eye. I became very adept at batting them away as they spun towards my face, and most of the time, the people never noticed that I had sent it into a tailspin. On one such rainy afternoon, I decided that rather than battling the hoards, I would jump in a cab. I uttered the address and we were off, flying down Argyle Street, until we were caught at one of the famous six-street intersections. Stuck for ten minutes amidst the umbrella brigade.
The remnants of England’s rule trickled across Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne Avenues in the fashion district, but a fierce and prideful return to the tradition of Mainland China was on the rise. Thus, while most everyone in the center of Hong Kong was bilingual, there were many areas of the city that refused to translate or speak a word of English. Sometimes I would find myself stepping into bitter territory. I had grown to hold reverence for the culture, the history and the oddities of which I was still acclimating myself.
Staring out of the cab window, I noticed a tall figure floating over the passing umbrellas in the street. The man was bald, wearing long flowing garments that were reminiscent of the Kung Fu master in my father’s favorite television show. He was austere, careful, and powerful. His eyes pierced through the crowd, creating a wake of umbrellas before him. He was Moses perhaps, or Buddha incarnate. I imagined him meditating, eyes penetrating the temple and beyond the hundreds of followers who sat before him. He knew the secrets of life through his intense connection with the spiritual realm. He walked down the street with this intrinsic knowing. I never met his eyes; I felt too lowly to connect with such an obvious grand master.
The stoplight turned green and the taxi turned right, so I was able to grasp one last glimpse of the holy man. I crooked my head to the right to view his profile walking away from me. I noticed his hand near his face. As if some granule of prophecy was lodged between his cranial and nasal cavities, the holy man’s entire right index finger, to the knuckle, was completely swallowed within his nostril.
The holiest of holies parting the Black Sea, a mass of umbrellas amongst the Buddhist people of Hong Kong. “The secret of life,” I heard reverberate in my mind, “lies within the nose.” Boogers hold the simple truth: that which does not belong, is highly evident and although consecrated, must be plucked. And with that, I plucked this man, who did not belong amongst the back masses on Argyle Street, for a story.