• James Tam

Dreams of Utopia

Updated: Aug 17


as anthologised in...

South China Morning Post Book Review

(Warning: Adult content. Children might find it unsuitable in any case.)

鏈接到中文版:夢遺烏托邦

UP until a few months ago, Cupid Kim’s life had been awesome — simply, constantly, awesome. It still is, supposedly, but with a radically different spirit underneath.


He has a successful legal practice, a beautiful and popular wife, and the special attention of none other than God Himself. None of that changed when he met Mei, his dream lover. But his passion for her turned obsessive almost right after their first encounter. He dreams of her all day — sweet dreams which he doesn’t dare enter before dark. He closes his eyes at work to indulge in the bewitching aroma of her skin and her breath, the titillating brush of her hair, the sweetness of her honey lips, and the soul shattering resonance of her magnetic voice. He often squirms and wiggles to her rhythm, forgetting that he is lying back in his office chair, daydreaming.


Their affair seems too good to be true, but far too unsettling if not. At one point, it spooked him. He felt he had lost grip of reality — a reality he doesn’t like anyway, but was afraid of losing nonetheless. He questioned her presence, their relationship, and his own sanity. All those doubts nearly drove him to suicide. He finally saved himself from the crisis by concluding that real lunatics never suspect their own sanity. His worries were therefore an objective indication that nothing was wrong with him. The victory didn’t come easy though. It had been a monumental battle of the mind, a battle which he fought and won heroically all by himself, as usual, for he never divulges personal problems to anyone. To the world, including himself, particularly himself, Cupid Kim is confident, successful, and happy — always happy. ‘All because of God. He’s been extra good to me,’ he claims with due humility, giving credit where it’s due, hoping to receive bonus rewards from the Divine for that.

An awesome life is generally expensive. Cupid’s financed by his legal practice. Though tiny and uneventful, it’s hugely profitable, specialising in real estate conveyance chores. Conveyance is easy money in a city where everyone is looking for a relatively cheap lawyer to handle the paperwork of buying and selling and buying and selling and… A junior overworked clerk — nominal intelligence preferable but not essential — handles 99.99% of the work, which is 99.99% identical for 99.99% of the cases. When done, he’d respectfully guide Cupid to squiggle ceremonially next to penciled crosses on template documents, sealed at the left upper corner with red wax, in front of a client whom Cupid usually hasn’t met until that climatic moment. After recapping his golden Mont Blanc, he’d stand up, hand outstretched, a big grin on his face to congratulate his client: ‘Well done. Very good buy. Awesome.’


The monotonous nature of his daily work hasn’t dampened Cupid’s professional pride and enthusiasm. He has never admitted to himself that his job is excruciatingly boring. It delights him when strangers at cocktail parties enquire his profession in small talks.


‘I’m a lawyer,’ he’d inform with palpable pride.


The most common response is a desultory ‘Is that right? Interesting.’

‘You’ve said it! I love law, to be honest. Every job’s a new challenge. Every client’s different. It also pays the bills you know, and my boat at the Marina Club, haha, just kidding.’


He also likes to remind his church friends how hugely exciting and critically important his job is. ‘The legal profession has never been more exciting and critical in Hong Kong. Without the rule of law, the communists will ruin this place before you can count to three. Say goodbye to freedom. Tell you the truth, I often feel the burden of defending not just the law, but also Hong Kong’s core values.’


‘Thank you, Lawyer Kim! We’re lucky to have you,’ his fellow sheep would tell him, without sarcasm.

In Hong Kong, money is the yardstick of success. But wealth, like social justice, is mere abstraction unless duly displayed. Cupid has purchased many of the overpriced indicators: a Mercedes, a luxury flat in a pauper-free area, and a yacht christened Justice 17. Sixteen other Justices have been taken by other yacht-owning lawyers. Unfortunately, he can’t swim, and is prone to seasickness. His wife Maggie finds the darkening effects of sunshine disturbing. Justice 17 therefore spends more than three hundred sixty days per year docked at the Yacht Club, swaying in the breeze, wallowing indolently, gently banging and nudging against its assigned quay, being used by pigeons and gulls as a resting perch and public convenience.


Maggie is further proof of Cupid’s awesome life. Appearing anorexic, she’s fashionably boney by Hong Kong standard, with inquisitive features encased in silky smooth skin. Cupid’s proud rather than resentful of the fact that she’s a good one-and-a-half inches taller. He even encourages her to wear high heels when she occasionally accompanies him to real estate functions. Besides looking outstanding as a social exhibit, she’s also a known photographer and popular columnist, with more than ten thousand Facebook fans. Her morning coffees receive an average of three hundred likes before lunchtime.


Maggie and Cupid get along remarkably well despite having nothing in common, a mystery neither of them wants to register. Perhaps mutual exclusiveness has given them a spacious relationship. Perhaps keeping the traditional taboos of religion, sex and politics off the dining table and beyond — due to disinterest rather than tactful considerations — is conducive to dispassionate harmony. In any event, they never argue.


They don’t discuss religion — oh no, never — even though Cupid’s a devout Christian.


Cupid’s relationship with God bypasses the Bible. Once thoroughly indifferent to all things religious, he was sucked into attending a congregation meeting by a useful government contact. When the preacher Rev. Lee was telling a story about Jesus, he suddenly passed out, as if struck by lightning. Someone saw signs of epilepsy. Someone else called an ambulance while Cupid frothed at the mouth, eyes rolled back. Before the ambulance arrived, he had recovered, and claimed he saw Jesus emerging from a golden light.

‘That’s right! That’s Him!’ Rev. Lee confirmed. ‘Jesus is light!’


Cupid became an instant believer. He doesn’t need other proof of what Christ embodies. Reading the Bible would be superfluous.


Rev. Lee who has become his shepherd by default remains deeply impressed by the unique experience: ‘There are two types of believers,’ he likes to point Cupid out to the congregation every now and then. Everyone would turn to look. ‘The first kind study the scriptures, and come to realise God’s greatness. That’s wonderful. The second type, like Cupid, hear the name of the Lord and — wham! — fall to their knees. They don’t need the Bible, to have witnessed a miracle or been lifted out of distress by God. They’re rare, but especially blessed,’ Rev. Lee pauses to give the audience time to absorb the significance of this message. ‘Their faith is more precious because they never subject God’s words to human interpretation and silly questions stemming from human arrogance and lack of faith. They don’t have that dark shadow of doubt which clouds many of our hearts. They have no doubts whatsoever.’


Ah Lay Lo Ah! Ah Lay Lo Ah!’ The flock hallelujah in Cantonese. Even those who have heard the story multiple times are shocked and awed once again. The first time Cupid was put under the spotlight without warning, he blushed. These days he has a speech ready — a well-oiled testimony which enhances his reputation as a living miracle of faith, a testimony which improves with time. He’s a hero, particularly to the women, he believes. The thought pleases him.


Maggie, on the other hand, is an impassive atheist. Unlike most infidels, however, she’s not gung-ho about God’s non-existence, and does not mind her husband’s religiosity, provided that he keeps God out of their shared home. ‘True, they don’t make any sense. But who does these days? Religionists are more simplistic and predictable than most in their nonsense, that’s all,’ she once justified her tolerance of Cupid’s faith to a friend, a fundamentalist atheist.

They also never — nearly never! — talk politics. Politics tend to be more tangibly explosive than soul saving, plus Cupid is wholeheartedly uninterested. But there’s an exception to everything. The one time which they did exchange political views, they realised without surprise that they were from different universes.

During Occupy Central, Rev. Lee made it clear that the consequence of resisting Democracy is high temperature hell fire. Cupid was puzzled by the connection but, as usual, did not interrupt his faith by questioning. Meanwhile, the same recurring reports were occupying the TV screen round the clock, inciting Cupid to become an instant hardcore democrat. Images of geographically misplaced protesters occupying Central in Wanchai galvanised him the way Jesus’ name once did. He could sense a sequel to his personal miracle coming.


‘Just give us Democracy!’ His sudden outburst at the television astonished and amused Maggie.

‘What do they mean by democracy though?’ she couldn’t resist asking, mildly disoriented by her husband’s uncanny passion. They rarely engage in a serious conversation. ‘The US, UK, Japan, India, Iraq, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines are all democracies with fundamentally different politics.’


‘What do you mean? True democracy means voting. Voting by everyone — everyone! — period.’ Cupid underscored his newfound political passion with a finger pointing at the ceiling.


‘Everyone? Even babies?’ Maggie smiled, large eyes widened briefly, then quickly added: ‘Just kidding. I suppose you’ve got a point there. Oh well…’ She was ready to change topic. The brief exchange already felt exhausting and mildly irritating.


But Cupid’s passion had been ignited, sizzling vigorously. ‘What could be wrong with people voting for their leaders?’ he asked rhetorically, then added venomously: ‘Communist fascists!’


Maggie wasn’t sure if ‘communist fascists’ was Cupid’s oxymoron, irony, or ignorance, but did not clarify. ‘Don’t they all say they listen to the people, and promise to deliver absolutely whatever if voted in? Doesn’t that make them confessed followers rather than leaders?’ She teased lightly instead. ‘Or liars?’

‘Would you prefer a dictator then?’ Cupid had never talked to Maggie like this, and was kind of hesitantly proud of himself.


‘Leaders not chosen by voting are not necessarily dictators. And many elected politicos are worse than dictators, certainly more corrupt.’


‘Now,’ Cupid exclaimed wisely, then offered the quote he heard from Rev. Lee. ‘Winson Churchill said democracy may be terrible, but it’s the least worse system we’ve tried.’


‘Winston.’

‘Pardon?’

‘Never mind. Anyway, he borrowed that soundbite from an unacknowledged professor.’


‘What do you mean?’


‘Never mind.’

Again, Maggie wanted to drop the topic, but couldn’t help herself adding one last remark due to a vague interest in feminism, something that she had researched and written about. ‘If I remember correctly, women were granted suffrage in the UK in 1928. Churchill had only a decade or two to observe true democracy when he made that un-English overstatement. Also, according to this logic, we would still be staying in the least worse cave our ancestors discovered millennia ago, grinding the least worse stone axe.’


‘You’ve lost me,’ Cupid said, sincerely. He then caught a glimpse of Maggie’s intimidating beauty, irradiated by the TV screen, and felt rightly intimidated, deflated. He slid closer to her on the sofa, grinning expansively. ‘My gorgeous wife is always right!’ he baby-talked.


Maggie stared at the tiresome images on TV, and smiled absentmindedly without spreading wrinkles. She patted Cupid’s head gently, the way she does after they have had sex.

Sex is their third taboo — absolutely never! It’s a secret Cupid shares with Maggie, though for different reasons. To Maggie, it’s in fact the main reason why their marriage is tolerably symbiotic. Having a husband is socially convenient for a beautiful woman like her. But she has never liked sex. She finds it revolting.

‘Uh, maybe you like women better?’ her best friend Winnie once suggested after Maggie’s confession over a happy-hour drink at the Marina Club.


‘No I don’t! I find sex of whatever orientation disgusting. I’ve always been this way but didn’t want to admit it when younger, not even to myself. Now I think it’s only biological. I told you before that my monthly cycle is irregularly biannual. Maybe I was born asexual.’


‘What a pity.’


‘Why, are you gay? I thought you’re a purebred heterosexual slut.’


‘Fuck off!’ Winnie frisbeed her coaster at Maggie. Maggie caught it and screamed: ‘Look! I caught it!’ then replaced it under Winnie’s beer.


‘Have you seen a doctor for that?’


‘Why? It doesn’t bother me. Not everyone has to find sex interesting.’

‘What about Cupid? Does it bother him?’


‘Hmm. Probably not.’ Maggie said in a hushed voice. ‘I’ll tell you something if you promise to keep it a secret forever and ever.’


‘Sure! Of course, of course. Tell!’

Cupid’s obsession with sex is something he doesn’t realise himself, or manifest.


Maggie had not allowed him the liberty of more than superficial kisses when they were kind of going out in secondary school. Then she went to university in New Zealand while he stayed in Hong Kong. They communicated regularly at low frequency, with stock tenderness, which kept their special relationship in perfunctory suspension. After graduation, she returned to Hong Kong. To everyone’s surprise, they continued their ‘love affair’ through iPhone emojis and Friday night dinners. Similarly, a few kisses and desperate hugs from him were all he was allowed. Then they got married.


Perhaps his desire for her had been penned up unhealthily long, and ended up in some form of clinical anxiety. Even after all these years, he still approaches Maggie like a Parkinson patient trying to serve scalding hot soup in a paper bowl, filled to the rim. Nine out of ten times, he’d spill it before reaching the dining table. On the tenth, he’d be relatively more successful, and splashes it on the table instead. Maybe his kidneys need tuning up with acupuncture needles, or strengthening with exotic tonics? God knows. He had thought of seeking medical advice. But discussing this with a stranger, or someone familiar, is out of the question. Besides, one never knows, the doctor might tell his wife who happens to be the sister of his legal clerk or a church friend. Mortifying possibilities abound.

After giving a sexual blitzkrieg everything he has, Cupid would bury his head between Maggie’s silky breasts, breathing heavily like a wounded soldier. She’d pat him on the head gently, nearly lovingly, before getting up to rinse off his spillage. On returning, she’d be fully dressed in pyjamas, smelling like jasmine. She’d spread a dry towel over her side of the bed, then turn the light out. ‘Night night!’ A sharp audio kiss follows, tweeting through dampened darkness.


‘Night night!’ Cupid smacks one back, then closes his eyes. He would then stare blankly inside his lids for a long time, body stiff, fists clenched.


With time, somewhat prematurely for a middle-aged couple, their sex life dwindles to a contrived trickle. Naturally, they are childless.

By keeping religion, politics and sex out of their relationship, Maggie and Cupid look poised to live on reasonably happily together ever after, if not for Mei.

_____

Mei first appeared to Cupid shortly after his political arousal. Protesters were still occupying Central in Wanchai. Their first night was Cupid’s most unforgettable experience ever.


They walk barefoot on a beach, skinny-dip under a full moon, then make love on soft smooth sand. He feels peace, not nervousness or humiliation. Mei’s husky voice is sweet and sexy, and her breath warm and rousing, but he can’t recall a word she’s said. Maybe she speaks a foreign tongue? He doesn’t mind or care. There’s more than just content in her speech, much more. She looks Asian, European, African, Indian, Arabic, all at once. After Cupid has climaxed, virile like never before, she purrs into his ear, this time in Cantonese: ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’ He understands, and nods eagerly.


‘Yes,’ Cupid murmurs dreamily into the pillow. It smells like laundry freshener. ‘Yes, please, yes.’


There’s a big wet sticky spot in his pyjama pants. The disappointment nearly makes him weep. Once again, he’s been humiliated by sex. Maggie has already left for morning yoga an hour ago. He hurries to the bathroom, shoves his soiled pyjamas to the bottom of the laundry basket for their maid to take care of, and takes a long hot shower.

‘You didn’t think you’d see me again did you? No faith.’ She says, moist lips vibrating against his nipple.


Maggie’s woken by Cupid’s kicking and twitching. She turns her bedside light on, and sees him giggling blearily but heartily, with a happy face she’s not seen before. All these years. She feels a rush of tenderness for the man she has known from childhood, the man who evidently loves her dearly, the man who remains a stranger to her, and perhaps to himself as well. She takes a deep breath, turns the light off, and hears him making a strange sucking noise, as if drinking from a dog bowl.


Cupid and Mei are sharing a bottle of wine. The table is covered with fancy looking dishes. He knows nothing about wine, and tells Mei, then feels strangely good about being so frank. He’s stopped saying to be honest at the beginning of a sentence.


‘This is good,’ he exclaims. He doesn’t like alcohol but what he has just swallowed tastes great.


‘All my wine’s great. Every single bottle. Every single drop.’


‘I don’t normally drink alcohol.’


‘You should. Even Jesus turned water into wine.’


‘Seriously? Did he? Do you also believe in Jesus?’


‘Of course. I love Jesus. He’s my light, my love, my lord, just like you.’


‘I’ll get drunk,’ Cupid protests as she feeds him another warm mouthful from her sweet oral cavity.


‘No you won’t. Mmm. Never…’ she moans huskily, as Cupid struggles to swallow.

Night after night, while Maggie sleeps on the far side of their giant bed, under her own duvet, Cupid and Mei fool around behind her back. They go shopping, snorkelling, skydiving, fox hunting in the forest, playing with tiger cubs in safaris. They’re usually stark naked, like Adam and Eve before the apple scandal. Whenever and wherever he has the desire, they’d make love. As they indulge, the rest of the world discreetly fades away. To be suitably dressed for these nocturnal adventures, Cupid starts wearing two pairs of briefs under his pyjama trousers.

They’re on a park bench. He’s lying down, head resting on her lap. She strokes his hair with long slippery fingers, like women in old movies do.


‘You have to be really smart to be a lawyer, right?’


‘Not quite, nearly anyone could get a law degree these days. Plus after years of not doing any real work, I can hardly spell my own name.’


‘You should do more. You can do more.’


‘What else should I do?’

‘Join the revolution. Fight for democracy. Be a hero. Dream the impossible dream, fight the impossible fight. You can be Hong Kong’s Napoleon. They’ll put you on the cover of Time.’


‘Cover of Time Magazine?’


‘Aha. Cupid Kim — Conscience of Hong Kong!’


Cupid feels his penis hardening. Mei laughs: ‘Look at him!’


‘Was Napoleon a democrat?’


‘I don’t know, my hero. Google later after I’m gone. I need you for something else now.’


Her wet lips cruises all over him. He closes his eyes, which are already closed, moving rapidly under the lids.

In the morning, he woke with a perverse grin. Dried saliva streaks radiated from his lips like glacial deposits. As he tug his pyjamas to lessen the familiar stickiness between his legs, a worrying thought struck him out of the blue. ‘Oh God,’ he murmured. ‘What if I’ve gone nuts?’


He was enjoying a steady, happy, and super sexy relationship. He had found someone to share everything with, honestly. For once, he was totally relaxed about his mind, heart, and penis. It felt freakishly liberating. But it was all a dream, not real. The only thing real was his spilled semen, night after night. He had been getting dizzy spells in the office. Was it due to too much sex and outdoor activities in his sleep? He day-dreamt about Mei, which gave him an erection even when signing title deeds. But he dared not nap in the office in case he saw her, and ended up soiling his designer suits. He could not text or call her. Having no access to his dream lover was a torture. What about his daily dirty underwear? Had the maid or Maggie noticed but kept quiet? All of a sudden, he was troubled by all sorts of concerns. ‘Do I have some kind of mental disorder?’ he wondered. ‘Should I see a doctor?’ But making bizarre confessions to a shrink seemed utterly crazy. More crucially, the thought of being cured of Mei was unthinkable.

He thought of his old pal from university Tsui Mian, a psychologist. After graduation, he had stayed on for one graduate degree after another, writing and rewriting papers on dreams. He was now a senior professor, an authority on a topic nobody cares about. But they had not been in touch for a long time. Cupid needed some kind of an excuse. ‘Hey, Old Tsui! It’s me, Cupid…Haha, not bad, quite awesome actually, all these years…A major client wants to open a Dream Centre, looking for consultants…Of course I thought of you right away, who else? Can’t reveal client details at this stage though, sorry…Got time for dim sum?’

Tsui was still a nerd in Cupid’s eyes. After ten minutes of perfunctory exchanges, mostly fictional on Cupid’s part, he asked, by the way, very casually: ‘Oh, since you’re a dream specialist. Do you think serialised dreams are possible? Just curious.’


‘You mean connected dreams, night after night?’

‘That’s right. Like, if I meet you in tonight’s dream, and make an appointment for tomorrow, we’ll actually meet next night as agreed. Possible?’


The topic was right up Tsui’s alley — a blind and foggy one to Cupid. He became more confused after a fifteen-minute lecture from Tsui. In short, the professor said serial dreams are a kind of dream. And dreams are a form of subjective experience. ‘Wow, really?’ Even Cupid was sarcastic.

‘Our daily thoughts and memories and fantasies and so on leave imprints on the cerebral cortex like seeds. At night, some sprout, and become dreams. Serialised dreams are extremely rare though, and are probably a form of self-hypnosis, or an interactive connectivity between our conscious and subconscious to satisfy desires which cannot be fulfilled in the daytime. If this expression is structured into our memory, dreams can become serialised, using our daytime logic.’


‘Oh…’ Cupid was so hopelessly lost he didn’t bother to seek clarification. He decided to guide Professor Tsui to the right verdict instead. ‘What you’re saying is that continuous or not, dreams are dreams, got nothing to do with reality, but not necessarily mental illness, right?’


But professors are not easy to guide. ‘It depends on your definition of reality. And mental illness is a statistical deviation. If everyone eats dog shit, for example, and you don’t, then you may be suspected of mental illness.’


Cupid gave up. ‘Haha, you’re a real intellectual now, Tsui, too much for me. Want dessert?’


‘They have really good steamed custard here. Want one?’


Cupid tried once more after placing order for two custards. ‘Anyway, can I confirm that dreams are not reality. We don’t need definition for that, do we?’


‘It depends.’


‘Depends? Again? On what?’


‘One might say continuity is in fact a key distinction between daytime reality and dreams. Once your nighttime dreams are connected by dependable continuity, you can have jobs and daily chores and a family life in your dreams, weekend activities with friends, and so on. Then there’s very little difference between dreams and reality.


Cupid smiled, exasperated. ‘Eh, can you repeat it a few more times in human terms.’


Tsui took a sip of tea first. ‘Have you heard of Zhuangzi’s Butterfly?’


‘Sounds familiar. Who sings it?’

‘It’s an old story, not a song.’


‘Oh, I’ve got it mixed up then. No, never heard of it.’


‘Zhuangzi dreamed that he was a butterfly. When he woke, he wondered whether he was Zhuangzi who had just dreamt that he was a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming of being Zhuangzi.’


‘Really? What a stupid question.’


‘The custards are here!’

_____

‘Are you real?’ he asks Mei.

‘Is this not real?’ She closes his mouth with a big warm kiss. It tastes sweet and smooth, distinctly like steamed custard.


‘But… you’re only a dream…’ he says, breathless, recovering from the kiss.


She turns away, sobbing silently.


‘Come on. I’m just becoming a little worried, so I tell you. I thought we share everything.’

‘I don’t want you to worry. I’ll stay away.’


‘I didn’t mean it that way. Don’t!’

_____

His daytime dizziness has worsened to a point he sometimes feels seasick when leaning back on his giant leather chair, feet dangling six inches from the floor. Evidently, sex is not the cause, for he hasn’t had any for three weeks now. He has lost appetite, and hardly eats. Without the non-fattening exquisite cuisines by Mei, everything in reality tastes like high-cholesterol wax. He goes to the bar alone for the first time ever, orders a glass of wine, followed by another, and another. Even the most expensive vintage tastes awful. The bar air is sour. He throws up in the toilet after three glasses, Italian pure silk tie dipped into the toile bowl.


He doesn’t want to go home. After work, he loiters in the Occupy Central site to watch protesters sing, play mahjong, chant slogans or disappear inside the tents in pairs. He’s made the acquaintance of a young man called Ah Bew, who finds him impressive. ‘You’re a lawyer? Cool! We need people like you. You know our core values! We people thank you for your support!’ When talking with Ah Bew, he feels needed, respected, even admired. He make him forget his pain for an hour or two.


‘Got to go home now, Ah Bew. Whatsapp me if them fascist commie cops don’t behave.’

‘Yes, Mr. Lawyer! They wouldn’t dare though!’


As soon as he turns away from Ah Bew, reality would be upon him like a secret police who has been waiting for him to finish saying goodbye. Immediately, he’d be administered a shot of mind-numbing drug, and taken away zombielike to his home.


He wishes everything would disappear, like in Mei’s world — one which he once shared — leaving him alone for a good cry. If reality wouldn’t let go, perhaps he could remove himself from it instead? Death suddenly seems defiant and liberating, not scary and saddening. He wonders what God has intended for him. Whatever it is, he prays for mitigation, and a second chance with Mei. But he no longer has the energy or conviction to focus on a heartfelt solicitation. He now realises that real and sincere prayers take faith and willpower, and he lacks both.

_____

‘Excuse me. Have you seen Mei?’ He asks the man in white shirt, pink tie, and blue silk housecoat. A huge rainbow-dyed mohawk waves like a peacock on his head. ‘Yup. Sure,’ he points to the distance. ‘There she is.’


Cupid follows his finger to the window, knowing in his wounded gut that this is his only chance to find Mei. But it’s pitch dark outside. Abruptly, numerous floodlights come on all at once, making metallic bang bang noises, startling him. An empty beach is illuminated from all directions. It’s surrounded by tall chicken wire fences, so tall that they reach into the clouds. There’s not a single soul in sight.


‘Where? The beach?’ Cupid asks anxiously.


‘There! Right there! You fucking heard me! Are you stupid or what? Right there!’ The man screams, face turning crimson red. He’s fuming, murderously so. Cupid is scared and confused. He wants to cry. This is far too much. A squadron of Agent Smiths appear behind the mohawk man, cracking knuckles, smirking.

‘I told you! There! There! There! Fucking there! Why do you keep asking?’ Mohawk has completely lost it now. ‘Playing some cheeky game with me huh? Asshole. You ask too many stupid questions. Why why why all fucking day. You get on my nerves you know, little man.’ His face is covered with saliva foam. Only his angry blue eyes show.


The Agent Smiths break into a synchronised guffaw, louder and louder, becoming deafening.


Cupid opens his eyes abruptly, not sure where he is for a second. His underwear is wet, this time from cold sweat.

_____

‘Do you know how much I missed you? I nearly killed myself.’


‘Still doubt me now?’


‘Never again. Life’s worse than death without you.’


‘All you get from the other life are miseries, and you call it reality. I offer you peace and pleasure, yet you think I’m not real.’ Mei is losing her voice, starting to cry.

‘I’m sorry. It’ll never happen again.’ Cupid hugs her tighter, double closes his eyes.


‘You know why the name of Christ struck you like lightning? You are blessed. Very special. Only rare individuals can see the other half of life. Most people see only one side of the coin, and call that reality. But a complete life has two sides. This is Heaven. When the sun comes up, you return to Hell. That’s why…’


‘Shhhh…I don’t need more explanation. I just want to kiss you.’

_____

‘Are you really joining the revolution?’


‘Should I?’ Cupid nearly opens his eyes for real.


‘Of course. It’s God’s will that you should do something big over there. Democracy is a meaningful cause. The Bible is full of it. Do something about it, my hero. You’ll be on the cover of Time Magazine.’


‘I’ll do it for you.’


Instead of replying, she mounts him, expertly slipping his soul inside herself. ‘Do it like this…’

_____

Cupid and Maggie normally spend Chinese New Year in Singapore with her sister. This year, Cupid asks to be excused, claiming too much work before year-end. Maggie is happy for the opportunity to be alone with her sister.


His real reason is a text message from Ah Bew a few days before:


Mr. Lawyer. There’ll be action on New Year’s Day. We need you.

What action?

Will tell you over a drink.

OK. When? Where? I don’t drink alcohol.


‘Enough of only bullshit and no action.’ Ah Bew says behind sunglasses in a dim pub in Wanchai. ‘We’re planning a milestone campaign on Chinese New Year’s Day. ‘A real one this time. All action, no bullshit. Washington said revolution is no dinner party, and political power comes from the gun barrel, didn’t he? Are you with us or not, Mr. Lawyer. Ready for action?’


Cupid smiles, then takes a sip of lime soda. ‘But you need to organise properly. To get people together, equip them, and so on. Logistics, you know the word? Takes money and experience, kiddo.’


‘Leave that to us. We have top class sponsors,’ Ah Bew leans forward and whispers.

‘Who?’


‘Can’t tell you yet,’ he smiles smugly and sits back. Since his photo appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, brandishing a yellow umbrella, Ah Bew has become too cocky for Cupid’s taste.

‘Well, Ah Bew, I’m doing this because of my idealistic character. I want to fight for democracy and social justice. I want to help you people build Utopia. Believe me, it takes vision and courage. I have both, plus knowledge of the law, and money. Bew, you’re a great guy, but if you want me in, I must be fully in, we have to be partners. To be honest, I’m too experienced to be a foot soldier. I’m a famous lawyer in this town. Think about it, huh?’ Cupid sits back to let Ah Bew think about it. Meanwhile, he feels like Washington, much taller than Napoleon. He can tell Ah Bew’s over-confidence is crumbling as a result of his powerful speech. Ha, just like that. Isn’t that awesome, huh?


‘Well, I’ll see what I can arrange,’ Ah Bew says after a minute, struggling to maintain his composure.


‘Up to you. A lawyer comes in handy in civil disobedience you know.’


‘Revolution,’ Ah Bew corrects him.


‘Yes, revolution,’ Cupid says. His annoyance at Ah Bew has grown substantially in the past hour, becoming a despise, even hatred. But he’s not letting it show.


‘I’ll see if M would agree to meet you,’ says Bew in a final tone. ‘You speak English, right? You’re a lawyer.’


‘Of course I do. Much better than you lah!’ Cupid feigns lightheartedness. ‘Did you say M?’


Ah Bew does not reply. He smiles with deliberate ambiguity, and raises his glass: ‘To the revolution!’


Cupid raises his lime soda halfway. ‘Don’t watch too many movies, Bew.’

_____

Cupid shifts before the wall mirror, looking for a better angle of himself, preferably one which is revolutionary with an epic feel. He has a vague image of Napoleon in mind, but… instead of tight riding breeches, he’s wearing brand new military fatigues six inches too long, bunching up stiffly above his sneakers. That just won’t do. He normally prefers his pants on the short side to enhance visual proportion projected by his five-foot-three-and-one-quarter-inch statue. But the salesgirl recommended him to wear it long. Had she not been so pretty, he’d definitely not have listened to someone with half a dozen nose-rings dangling from the face, looking like an unused key-pouch. He pouts, turns sideways, and sees himself moulting, or melting, ruefully. Nobody changes the world looking like this. Fatigues are for young thugs like Ah Bew, not a middle-aged, handsome, athletic, well-dressed, lawyer. Too late. All too late. There’s no time to shop for another pair. Alas, he sighs, then takes a surgical mask from the shopping bag to try on.


Instantly, he sees a different person in the mirror.


‘Hmm,’ he gives an audible hum of approval as he presses its wired rim to fit his face. Amazing, he thinks. The small square of fabric is even more psychologically transforming than the horsehair wigs judges and barristers wear in court. He now looks properly dressed for revolution, ready to change the world incognito. He gives a sardonic grin, aptly hidden, forcing a puff of warm air through the gap around the nose bridge, steaming up his designer glasses. Maggie would be dumbfounded if she saw this. Mei would be proud. He feels blood rushing through his system.


‘Happy New Year!’ He toasts his rebellious reflection, raising an imaginary glass of lime soda.


- End -


#HongKong #ShortStories #Dreams of Utopia


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