Hot date in Hong Kong
Yesterday was desk cleaning day. I found a letter from a pivotal time in my young life. “To walk down a street in Hong Kong is to walk around the world. At night Hong Kong burst into life much in the manner a silk worm frees itself from the captivating cocoon.”
I was a young Ensign and away from home for the first time. Hong Kong was a British Crown Colony. The Union Jack flew atop of all the buildings. Across the Bay was Mainland China, locked in secrecy.
As if written into a Hollywood script, I chanced to meet a lovely young English girl. She and a dozen other hostesses were passing out brochures and maps on the wharf where we had disembarked. I listened to her lilting accent and a boldness welled up in me.
“Would you have dinner with me?”
Casanova I’m not and my words surprised me as much as her. She explained that the hostesses weren’t allowed to go out with military personnel. As I was about to walk away she capitulated.
“Alright, but you have to meet my parents first.”
My self-esteem soared I was the only military man on the wharf who had a date with a hostess!
Barbara’s folks lived in a modest flat a block from the waterfront.
Her dad was a member of the Foreign Service and it didn’t hurt when I said I was from Hollywood.
“I would be pleased if Barbara could be home by 11,” her dad hinted firmly, and with that we floated out the door.
We dined at the elegant American Club overlooking the shimmering lights of the Hong Kong Harbor. I took full command and ordered a full course dinner. We danced on the tiny dance floor and when the evening was over, stood at attention as the orchestra played “God Save The Queen.”
For two solid days Barbara showed me Hong Kong. The crowded back alleys, the rickshaw drivers dodging the Roll-Royces, the guards wearing turbans at the doorway of the London-Shanghai Bank and best of all, the ferry boat ride to Kowloon. I bought a Swiss watch, a set of Waterford crystal, and 2 custom made suits.
Our next night out, we climbed aboard a wala wala (tiny boat) and a girl on the bow and on the stern culled us to a floating restaurant. Later, in the black of night we slipped stealthily through a web of moored junks where families lived their entire lives, rarely coming on land.
In the span of two days, Barbara and I discovered the quiet side of each other. No desperate love affair, just an abiding closeness.
The following day my ship sailed for the Philippines. That night I went to the solitude of the Gunnery Office, put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and wrote; “To walk down a Street in Hong Kong is to walk around the world…” Adieux, Barbara.
Ron Walker can be reached at email@example.com