TITLE: BOUNDARY STREET
I just moved to Hong Kong and have locked myself out of my dorm room. When I look for someone to help me get into my room, I meet a guy from central China. We'll marry six months later.
I tried the doorknob but it only jiggled. Crap. Na Wei must have returned and locked it from the inside. I banged on the door several times, but all I could hear were crickets chirping outside the screened hall window.
Great. My key and wallet were inside my dorm room. Where would I go if I couldn't get into my room? I didn't know many people on campus, at least not well enough to sleep on their floor.
Maybe I could stay at Jean's apartment. Only minutes ago I'd been talking with her on the hall phone. She too had just moved to Hong Kong and her place was a forty-minute bus ride north. Yes, I was wearing typical Hong Kong indoor attire--rubber slippers, an oversized t-shirt, and thigh-high gym shorts--but this was no time for propriety. Still, though, I realized it was a moot point: I didn't even have the fifty cents for bus fare.
I looked at my watch. Eleven o'clock. This meant my roommate Na Wei wouldn't return until the next morning. She spent most nights with her boyfriend, a gaunt engineering student from Fujian province, and never came back to our room this late. It was pointless to think about locating her. Even if I'd known how to find her, it would be awkward barging in on them this late.
Then I remembered: the guard at the reception desk downstairs kept spare keys.
As the elevator doors opened on the ground floor, my stomach dropped; the guard's desk stood unoccupied except for a tattered white sign. I wiped away the beads of sweat on my forehead. The building had no air-conditioning, so the late summer heat, combined with my fear of being locked out all night, gave my face an unfortunate sheen. I longed for a warm shower in my mildew-ridden bathroom.
I walked over to the desk, and tried to decipher the eight Chinese characters on the sign. I could read "if," "need," "something," and "return," but didn't understand the one character which described when the guard would return. If you need something, blank blank return blank.