Angeline wakes up on a blustery spring morning and, thereafter, discovers herself sitting by the kitchen table eating a banana. More precisely: Angeline jolts awake, rolls out of bed in one practiced movement so as to not wake the man she calls her fuck buddy, pulls on said man’s (Marco’s) shirt, goes out her distressingly unlocked bedroom door and toward the living room/kitchen, upon which she encounters herself stoically peeling a banana. The banana in question is ripe and would have made for a good breakfast. Angeline, in fact, knows that it is a good breakfast because, if she focuses, she can feel herself munching on the soft, sweet pulp, funneling it down her throat. She is standing in front of her unlocked bedroom door, agog, across from someone who looks exactly like her, who is eating the fruit in an oversized Mickey Mouse t-shirt. The other Angeline does not seem to notice her, or rather has cultivated a preternatural concentration on the act of consuming this one (1) banana in lieu of acknowledging the fact that there are now two (2) Angelines. Finishing her breakfast, she goes over to the garbage can and neatly deposits the peel inside. Angeline, who can feel her bare feet moving across the cold tiles, as well as the slight pressure of the ball of her right foot on the plastic step of the garbage can, while simultaneously rooted outside her tiny bedroom, lets out a small shriek.
Wah, scream mut scream ah you, so early in the morning.
Of course Queenie Tsui is already awake. Generally an unobtrusive roommate, Queenie Tsui (always first and last name, sometimes QT) wakes up at 6 every morning to work out. You should come look at this, Angeline manages to stammer, and as QT comes out of her bedroom, grumbling the entire way, the other Angeline has begun to wash her hands, the both of them wincing at the abjectly cold tap water. Angeline keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop, for her doppelganger to prove to be some sort of hallucination, but she is still standing over here, not by the kitchen sink. She can feel her hands scrubbing at her nailbeds.
Queenie. Do you not see her? Also Marco佢聽得明廣東話㗎.
The other Angeline finishes washing up and walks past QT to the bathroom. In the background is the voice of the TVB broadcaster emanating from the TV set, discussing a protest march that had wound its way to the Legislative Council the day before. Queenie Tsui looks more confused than impatient, a marked difference from her usual demeanor, and this too throws Angeline off guard, such that she feels compelled to drop the subject.
The next day, Angeline wakes up to an additional Angeline holding a broom and sweeping the floor before work, which maybe she should appreciate, but frankly she is freaking out, and wants both of the fake Angelines to get the fuck out of her house, or at least to not have to feel what her doppelgangers feel, all of the little flexes in her muscles that comprise any gesture or movement. The other Angeline (who knows which one came first) is sitting at her laptop, scrolling through some sort of news site. Neither of these Angelines seems content to participate in her preferred morning activity: hate-reading her Facebook timeline for banal relationship updates and lengthy screeds from secondary school classmates. And the doppelgangers, she notices, never do the same thing at the same time. They don’t copy her, either. Nor do they do anything out of the ordinary, anything she couldn’t plausibly be doing at that very moment. From the sofa, she watches one rummage through the cupboard, pushing aside tins of luncheon meat and dace in black bean sauce for a pack of Oreos, happily chomping down on the stale biscuits in front of the TV. The other takes an excessively long hot shower, such that by the time Queenie Tsui comes back home from work, the water boiler still hasn’t recovered.
By the third extra Angeline, she decides to just try and ignore her selves, all of which follow her to work. None of her students mentions anything. The doppelgangers are standing in the back of the classroom as if assessing Angeline’s ability to teach these kids how to continue their ascent through the upper-middle class by way of the reading comprehension portion of the SAT. Vocabulary sheets and reading exercises are stacked up around her laptop. Surely, Angeline thinks, one of her new selves could help with grading. But two Angelines sit useless in the back of the class, one staring out the window, the other scrolling on the original Angeline’s phone. The third seems to have decided to shelter in the ladies’ bathroom, judging from the sensation of her bare ass on a toilet seat.
On the MTR to work, one of the Angelines straight up sits in an auntie’s lap, another pushes away an uncle to lean against a handrail, and no one even seems to notice.
This is getting ridiculous.
It’s public exam season, and quite a few of Angeline’s students, particularly those with conditional offers from universities in Hong Kong or the U.K., are milling about the test prep center. Angeline hands out practice tests wordlessly, then sits down for four hours and five minutes alternately zoning out and watching cable TV on the classroom computer with the sound off. Her students will most likely take the SATs at their international schools or inside one of the big convention center halls; either way they need to acclimate to the quiet. Most of her kids will do okay in the States. If they’re smart, they’ll study Econ or STEM, land tech or finance jobs at firms willing to sponsor H-1B visas, and not end up like Angeline, who had the temerity to go to a liberal arts college and get a degree in “Interdisciplinary Studies,” because she hadn’t developed enough of an interest in anything to scrape together an actual major. Though she supposes that’s why Marco, who will probably go home to San Diego in a few years, likes her: her noncommittal nature is an asset for “keeping things light.” The other Angelines seem to be as listless as she feels, keeping mostly to themselves, never making any noise.
On TV back at home, newscasters are discussing the extradition bill at length. Arbitrary detentions. Forced confessions. Stock footage of Chief Executive Carrie Lam walking out of the government headquarters, again and again, commentators debating her assertions that the extradition bill would not affect Hong Kong’s various freedoms. A lawyer poses the rhetorical question: why does the government trust mainland courts to adjudicate all criminal cases but not economic offenses, for which locals can’t be extradited to China? Angeline hasn’t really thought about any of this. Her classmates, judging by the steady stream of Facebook posts, have very strong feelings about the bill. Many make oblique comments about how the pan-dem bloc is useless, how Edward Leung had been completely vindicated. She’d like to have a real conversation about any of this with her old classmates, maybe over lunch one day. She still doesn’t know what Umbrella was like for them. By the time she submitted her Common App, the police had already cleared the students off the highway, and those of her classmates who’d protested had refused to discuss their experiences in detail.
At night, Angeline crawls into her bed. The doppelgangers have taken to curling up on the fake wool rugs all around the bed frame, since she pushes them out whenever they try to sleep next to her. They fall asleep immediately, leaving Angeline alone in her body. It’s been less than a year since she moved back, and still she’s not used to it — the relative lack of white people, the atmospheric pressure that comes with the spring storms. Angeline sits back up, looks down at her slumbering selves. Surely she can’t write admissions essays forever.
Today, in the classroom, as she tries to ignore six of her doppelgangers, one of whom she knows without looking is rapping rhythmically on the windowsill, fingers getting dusty, while her students wait for her to finish her sentence, Angeline feels herself reaching into her pocket and pulling out her wallet, and it is when a plasticky banknote and several coins pass from her hand into someone else’s that she really starts to panic. How the fuck did Angeline Number ?? buy something? A few minutes later, the pleasurable sensation of a waffle, slathered in peanut butter and condensed milk, arrives on her tongue. Everything is unbelievable. She cannot believe one of her selves had the gall to skip out on work and get a waffle at 5:30 in the afternoon.
She turns, and it’s this tenth grader at German Swiss whose parents paid tens of thousands of dollars upfront for the entire package — SAT tutoring, individual I.B. subject tutoring, admissions counseling, the works. She’s a nice enough girl, though Angeline can’t say the same for her parents. Sorry, Angeline says, I was distracted by the protest banners outside.
Angeline wants to launch into a definition, but before she can answer, she can feel the cold plastic of the mouse in her right hand; one of her doppelgangers has begun to search for news articles about the bill on the computer. Another of her students (I.B. stream at St. Paul’sl Co-Ed) pipes up:
My dad says it’s just so wife-beaters and murderers finally get sent back to China for trial.
Aren’t we already in China? a student asks. A duplicate yawns and lies down on the floor. Another doppelganger who isn’t in the classroom is now stroking some sort of velvet pelt somewhere, and for a brief second Angeline wants to yell that it isn’t fair her multiple selves spend her money but none of them pay the fucking rent, and in the resulting weird silence on her part (not taking control of the classroom), another kid raises her hand and interjects,
I don’t trust the Mainland government to just get wife-beaters and murderers arrested. I think it’s just that they want to arrest people who criticize their policies.
Angeline looks at the kid carefully. Kay is one of the rare DSE students enrolled at the test prep center who will need a scholarship if she’s going to attend a U.S. college. Kay takes great pains to affect the vaguely North American accent the international and private school kids acquire from their cosmopolitan banker/civil servant parents, every word carefully articulated and picked from an arsenal of SAT vocabulary lists and Friends reruns. In this way she reminds Angeline dimly of herself before she left for college. She wonders if Kay understands what she’s signing up for.
No one responds to Kay; the children are made obviously nervous by the seeming inability of their teacher to say anything at all, let alone discipline them for speaking out of turn. Angeline forces herself to say, okay, that’s enough, class, let’s just go over other words on your list. A small crowd of Angelines, she notices, are now huddled over the computer, intently reading.
The 7 o’clock news keeps replaying scenes of the scuffle in the Legislative Council — a lawmaker in a gray shirt (the only one to vote against a minimum wage in the city) clutching another in a perverse bear hug, pulling him down, the pan-democrats encircling the newly sworn-in pro-establishment committee chairman. The pan-dems have been filibustering the proposed law for months. Did you see it? Marco gleefully texts her. Now that’s something you don’t see in the U.S. of A. Though I’d like to see some senators duke it out, personally speaking.
Instead of texting him back, she looks at her hand, raises it. A couple of moments later she feels another Angeline’s hand going back down to rest on her thigh, feels her hand cradling her face, her fingers touching the edge of the chair, her knees crossing and uncrossing at the same time. A cause, then effects rippling out simultaneously, the same movement unfolding in different directions.
Excuse me, Angeline begins to say to the Angeline who is rummaging through the cupboard for something, possibly a snack (why do all of these Angelines like to eat so much?), feeling rather foolish for even trying, but why are you here?
No response. Queenie Tsui, who still doesn’t seem to see the various Angelines lounging and puttering around their shared 500 sq. ft. apartment, yells from her room that her boss is letting her work from home until the big company meeting tonight. Instead of yelling back at QT that she’s speaking to someone else, Angeline gives up and goes to lie in her bed.
Perhaps Angeline could find it phenomenologically interesting to experience an increasing number of possible sensations. Not exactly. Consider ten sentences, overlapping:
This is the closest analogy for Angeline’s current experience — coexistent details vying for her attention, impossible to filter for importance or meaning.
She sits, and lies down, and sits. She also does what feels like a bajillion other things. She counts: she is eighteen people. Somewhere in the background Queenie Tsui yells at her to turn off the TV, please.
Angeline. Angeline. 點呀你. Why you don’t talk anymore!
I think I’m going crazy. [pause] I feel like it.
[sighs] Watching this much TV is not good for you. If they pass the law, they pass it. Why worry. You have no say anyway.
[almost to self] 我忙到七彩, 真係唔可以分身.
咪係. Politics, it’s so funny.
All morning Angeline has felt herself lie down on cold tiles, legs aching from prolonged standing, extremely sleep-deprived, but it is not until she leaves home that she sees five of her duplicates, some standing, some lying woefully outside her apartment, having come home after Angeline and Queenie Tsui had already locked the front door. All are bleary-eyed and miserable. In a way, she feels sorry for them, really. There’s only so much they can do before they run up against the boundaries of her existence.
At work is when her duplicates do less. When Angeline actually concentrates on talking to her kids, it’s almost as if she’s herself again, just the one consciousness. The other Angelines like lingering by the windows. Sometimes she looks over at her selves peering out, wondering what they see.
Marco bypasses texting her and actually calls, asking if she wants to see him. She does not. But struck by the fear that one or seven of her doppelgangers might sleep with him instead, she changes her mind. When he comes over, she can feel him kiss her, but she’s too preoccupied by all the other Angelines to really focus on what’s happening. One strokes his cheek, another pulls at his shoulder, and another wraps her arms around his waist. It paralyzes her, watching her nakedness assume so many forms, so many positions. One of her duplicates is drinking a cocktail somewhere, and she feels increasingly tipsy as she watches all of the doppelgangers throw themselves at Marco with varying degrees of desire. Damn, you’re all over me, he whispers into her ear. It is the closest he comes to acknowledging the twenty other Angelines in the room. All the while she is barely touching him. Marco, she begins, now completely unenthused, what do you think about the extradition bill.
I’ll be out of here before it gets really bad. You should get out too, babe.
Marco moves to keep making out with her, but some of her doppelgangers start getting dressed. One strides toward the bedroom door. Another looks visibly disgusted. Yet another presses her lips to his neck, apparently unperturbed. By the time he goes down on her all she can really feel is a deep sense of mortification, watching yet another Angeline stare at Marco’s naked back before heading out herself.
Some of the doppelgangers leave evidence of their days on the tiny wooden desk in the corner of her bedroom — crumpled receipts from chain restaurants, a pair of sturdy plastic gloves for handling Dettol, a leaflet from a localist group about the impending passage of the bill. Angeline sifts through all the stuff. What would it take to be the kind of Angeline who sanitizes the bathroom, or interacts with the representative of a random org on the street? she thinks. Ten of the duplicates are sleeping next to one another on the now-padded kitchen floor, all packed together so tightly their limbs are splayed on top of others’ chests, legs. In the remaining space Angeline slots herself, on the ground like everyone else. Meshed in between all these selves, Angeline falls asleep.
On the front page of Ming Pao is a petition to halt the extradition bill signed by teachers, students, parents, and alumni of over 150 secondary schools. Today marks the 30th anniversary of the protests of Tiananmen Square. Passing her on the MTR on the way home is a black-clad teenager holding up a printed placard with a young man on a bike. The video of the same young man replays on her TV that night: long before the tanks arrive, long before the army comes in with their guns, there is simply a boy with a thin red headband who bikes to Tiananmen Square, and when the British reporter asks him why, he says cheerfully,
I think this is [gestures to his chest with élan] my duty.
Angeline mulls over those words, wondering if anything has ever had a claim over her in that way. All of the Angelines shift uneasily.
Proctoring another interminable SAT, Angeline sits in front of the computer and plays Solitaire. It’s nice, the haptic feedback of the computer mouse, even as her butt is starting to hurt from all the Angelines sitting on the classroom floor. A couple of them are staring outside. Something’s up, she realizes; they’re not moving at all. She walks over to the window. Hundreds of people in suits and barrister gowns are marching down the highway, halting traffic. No banners or signs: they walk down the thoroughfare in relative quiet. Later that night the news runs footage of the march, lawyers on their way to the government headquarters to demand the retraction of the bill. We have to protect due process, a woman says on the screen, it is disappointing that the government refuses to listen to the legal sector. The Civil Human Rights Front is organizing another public protest for the weekend. Why not, thinks Angeline, might as well. Angeline emails her boss, saying she’ll be out on Sunday for family business.
The subway cars are already filling up when Angeline gets on. She catches the eye of a girl a little older than herself, who smiles briefly before looking back down at her phone. More than half of the people in her car are sporting white shirts, herself included, though a couple of the Angelines, it would seem, have chosen to wear regular, unaccented outfits. It really isn’t all that deep, she thinks, just because people follow dress codes doesn’t mean that the veil has been parted for once and the mystery of how things are ordered in this world is undone. But there’s a peculiar kind of serendipity to it. Like something is lurking in the periphery of her vision. Like when her science teacher in primary school dyed some cells with iodine, and all of the students watched them wriggle and proliferate in the Petri dish.
It does not escape her notice that the Angelines who aren’t wearing white head off in the direction of the shopping malls on Causeway Bay, walking up Jardine’s Crescent and into Hysan mall and farther down, disappearing in the Sunday crowds of tourists and shoppers and soon-to-be protesters. Loudspeakers direct her and the swarm of white shirts towards the park proper, but it’s already packed. People with black banners are off in the distance on Hennessy Road. She can hear the echo of a megaphone in the distance. Policemen in floppy berets grip metal barricades in the middle of the road, but pedestrians are everywhere, trying to join the demonstration. Angeline looks around, eager to see a familiar face, but so far, no one she recognizes from her secondary school is in her vicinity. She wants to bump into them here, she realizes, old friends she no longer talks to, like Yuki and Thomas, who stood in front of their classroom as fourteen, fifteen year olds, giving a presentation against the proposed Moral and National Education curriculum. So many students in her year had boycotted class in protest, the assembly hall filling with children whose names she no longer remembers doing their homework in silence, supervised by their proud teachers. She wonders if they’re all already in Victoria Park. A couple of men (legislators, or activists?) stand on top of chairs, yelling into a megaphone asking people to wait to join the march, begging for their patience and understanding, but someone starts chanting,
More and more people begin to shout in unison, until the chant mutates:
The muscles in Angeline’s cheek strain, and she allows herself a timid 開路. Every time she repeats the phrase, she finds a bit more courage, allows herself to get louder. Her doppelgangers follow suit, their mouths articulating the words but with no discernible sound. Heat steams upwards from the concrete road, bringing the damp scent of asphalt in summer. It’s familiar, almost comforting. An older uncle with a bright red NO EXTRADITION TO CHINA sign douses a handkerchief with water, and drapes it on the back of his neck. An auntie Angeline’s mom’s age, with varicose veins all down her legs, brays from the sidewalk: water for those who need it! Somewhere, an Angeline is passing a lukewarm coin over in exchange for a slippery cup, and water sloshes against the thin plastic in her palm. Angeline watches a boy, probably around the same age as the kids she tutors, awkwardly offer a family of three his umbrella. The toddler kicks her feet and coos at the boy from her father’s chest; the mother gratefully declines, instead pulling out bucket hats from her backpack, a denim one for herself, and a pink floppy one for her kid. The boy nods at them, his face beet-red, and shuffles back to his snickering friends, all wielding umbrellas and backpacks themselves. The crowds in front of them shout,
The march keeps lurching forward, and soon a palpable uncertainty sets in about why they’re not moving any faster. Instead of shouting, the teenagers have pulled out their phones to scroll through LIHKG. She’s at a loss, really, feeling equally like a poseur and a coward. Who are they chanting for? Would Carrie Lam watch drone footage of the procession and be moved to call off the bill? They’ve stopped yet again. The front of the march is probably in a bottleneck closer to Wan Chai, the older uncle says loudly, slurping from his water bottle. 開路啦, 屌! All the thirty-or-unders within earshot, including Angeline, grin at the uncle’s choice of profanity, though the parents of the toddler smile uneasily, glancing at their child, who is busy fidgeting with a loose strap on the Baby Björn. Angeline can feel her feet moving. There is a distinct possibility one of her doppelgangers has decided to turn back and join the shopping Angelines with their iced coffees, and for a brief moment she considers doing so, too. Shame rolls down her spine, oily and slick.
There is a set of physical laws that govern how chants move from one section of a protest to another. Angeline can hear the faintest call for all the lanes to be opened rippling from farther back in the procession. She turns around, steps onto a traffic island laden with ferns. All she can see is an undulating mass of people in white shirts stretching for half a mile, she would hazard, waiting to be let in all the way back in Victoria Park. For the first time it hits her that a lot more people have turned up for this protest than she would have guessed, and she almost slaps her forehead at her silliness: she’s here too, isn’t she? Even as she can distantly feel her hands flipping through a book, touching someone’s shoulder, holding onto a water bottle, holding a stack of papers, she’s the one who’s decided to come.
開路! 開路! 開路! 開路! 開路! 開路!
Something palpably shifts and Angeline has no idea what is happening, but there are cheers echoing towards the front, and the news comes rumbling by word of mouth: the westbound lane is now open. Traffic has been blocked off. Almost immediately the teenagers launch themselves across the road, past the palm trees on the median strip, and when Angeline looks back, she can see some sort of effigy coming past Sogo, the figure held up high by a teeming mass of people in white shirts. Someone is thumping a drum, and this time the call of the megaphone galvanizes them all:
The entirety of Hennessy Road is now occupied by thousands of strangers Angeline will never meet, both lanes overflowing with people speaking the same words, willing the same reality into existence. She feels strangely vivified, watching the uncle, the parents, all these random people do their versions of the things she’s doing. All of the other Angelines now have fallen in step, marching beside her, for once following her lead. Signs on both sides of Hennessy Road extend outwards from the buildings, advertising debt settlement companies, cram schools, pharmacies, hourly motels, pawn shops. Angeline looks up to see if there are curious residents peering from their windows. An older woman on the first floor punches a fist into the air — not in anger, Angeline realizes after a beat, but as a gesture of solidarity, or agreement at least. The woman’s mouth approximates a smile before her lips move, but the roar of the streets make it impossible to know what it is that she’s saying.
For the first time in months Angeline feels a little less split. A disparate unity within herself.
The Angelines gather in front of the TV as clips from the chief executive’s press conference play across different news channels:
We are taking very serious actions against those breaches of the law, because Hong Kong is a very lawful society. While we respect and uphold the freedoms of expression, we also expect every citizen to obey the law.
These words in the clipped British Hong Kong accent — we also expect every citizen to obey the law — piss her off. More than a million people protested, the news reports, but the bill will move ahead anyway. Queenie Tsui shakes her head on her way out to work. Of course they won’t listen, she says, even with all those people coming out. What can you do?
There’s going to be a general strike, Angeline ventures. Multiple duplicates fidget with objects they have found around the house. QT lets out a hollow laugh.
You think that can deter Carrie Lam, 係咪純得𠶜乜都唔識? You know, I was like you once. Look where it got us.
Wednesday is Angeline’s day off, which makes her feel like she’s gotten off easy with the whole general strike thing. Riding the MTR, she sees plenty of office workers in their unseasonable suits. Today is the second reading of the extradition bill; there are posts on LIHKG about blocking legislators from their council meeting to delay the bill’s passing even for a day or two. Another post calls for people to gather in Tamar Park in black clothing and with umbrellas. Angeline decides to join. Briefly she wonders if she’s making the wrong choice, but as she begins to walk out of the station, a spiky-haired teenager with a black face mask yells at people to join the occupation. The occupation? Angeline clutches her umbrella tighter as she and her crowd of doppelgangers hurry over glossy marble floors and footbridges suspended across highways, that crucial link for Admiralty’s many, many malls and office complexes, and when she comes almost running across the one last footbridge that would get her to the government headquarters, her breath gets knocked out of her. Standing in the middle of the highway are thousands and thousands of people in black t-shirts, so many people crowded in they’re right up against the median strip. Many have masks on to shield their identities. None of the Angelines have undertaken this level of protest prep. Masked people her age stand on top of the median barriers, and the streets swell with the scattered cries —
More and more strangers walk up and chat with the protesters on the median strip, or pull themselves up and over to join the occupation. Small teams are passing more metal barricades over the concrete, and it is not until later that Angeline realizes what those barricades are for: to shield the protestors from riot police. Young men and women in first-aid vests pass along helmets, saran wrap, umbrellas. Lines of protestors with their umbrellas out push up against the barricades and the cordon of riot police. The cops start aiming gray canisters at the faces of the protestors. The protestors in the front begin to pick up whatever they can find, launching bottles, debris, plastic signs, umbrellas straight at the police officers. The kids call out numbers signaling when to push forward, when to press back.
撤回! 撤回! 撤回! 撤回! 撤回!
Angeline has no idea how she can be useful besides chanting or perhaps passing along umbrellas. In the distance she hears screams, a gunshot. The people around her, including the Angelines, look as confused and worried as she is. They’re not on the front lines, not exactly yet. There are more bangs, more screaming for people to make way. She feels herself running, dodging, falling. She has no plans to go anywhere herself; she will stay away from the overpass where the protestors are attempting to advance. If the Angelines follow her lead, she hopes, perhaps none of them will get hurt. Moving past her are injured teenagers and college-aged kids with exposed patches of reddened skin. Volunteer paramedics hoist them over to the lobby of an office building, and she wonders if that’s what she can do, maybe, escort the injured to safety. Or maybe she could go back and purchase bottled waters. Another bang, people start screaming to move move move move — a metal canister lands on the pavement about a hundred feet away and erupts. Smoke starts swirling towards her, and when her eyes and legs start to burn and her lungs get scorched with something thick, dense smoke, vinegary and almost viscous, she understands: this is tear gas. She’s choking, her chest is seized up, it burns. The tin drum of her heart echoes louder than the screams of the people around her. There are so many things she does not understand. She is not told where to go but she knows she’s running along with all these strangers, through the tears she can see policemen advancing with their full-sized body shields towards anyone who’s not a cop, batons outstretched in a vise grip — did these cops not know how ridiculous they look with their helmets and bulletproof vests and light blue short-sleeved shirts? — and this mistimed sartorial judgement is exactly when Angeline fucks up. Across the portico of the Legislative Council building is a footbridge up to Tamar Park, and somehow she convinces herself that if she makes it past the masses of police surrounding the entire government complex and into the public park, she will at least have breathing space to consider her next steps. Fresh air. So she leaves her shoal of protestors trying to make it back toward the center of the highway and books it down Tim Mei Avenue. Reporters in their high-vis PRESS vests follow her movements with their cameras. In the distance, the faint flashbang of another tear gas canister. Her chest is so tight, she cannot stop moving now. Broken umbrellas and overturned traffic cones are strewn everywhere, and the steel barricades the police had used to seal off the building are scattered across the avenue. As she runs, snot cascading down her nose, a couple of cops yell in her direction and begin to give chase. She dodges a hard hat, slips on something she can’t see, trips, and falls flat on her stomach. Somewhere another Angeline keeps running; the hardness of concrete seeps through her sneakers. Coughing, she sits up. Her palms are dotted red and pink with ripped flesh. What comes first aren’t stern words or handcuffs slapped across her wrist, but a sharp pain right across her left shoulder blade, then again that thud, then again, only this time there is another burst of pain on her thigh, now one across her back, her eyes are welling up, the baton swings back and erupts on her shoulder, her forearm, she curls up in the fetal position, a glass shield slams into the entire right side of her body, over and over, she braces herself, stop, pressure searing across every newly formed welt, every time there is a thud a boot right in front of her face lifts slightly above the ground, her bones are on the verge of breaking, extending over her is the shadows of policemen, the loud crack of batons, please. 求求你.
Tomorrow Angeline will no longer have any doppelgangers. Videos of the police shooting tear gas into the crowd and beating protestors will play continuously across household TV screens, and millions of black-clad civilians will spill onto the main thoroughfares as if rivers of black blood were gushing out of Hong Kong Island’s arteries. For now she looks up at the small crowd of cops surrounding her body, some with gas masks slung around their necks, and as a couple of them grab her wrists and ankles and begin to lug her to the side of the road, she looks through a visor and sees a pair of brown eyes, a nose, a perfectly nondescript mouth. In aggregate she could not say what the cop looked like. Rage has deformed his human face.
Rosemarie Ho is a writer and critic from Hong Kong.