“To the Caulfield Express” by Holden Liang Qichao

train ridePhoto by Holden.

I sat on the upper deck of a dust-coated bus,
heading towards the incandescence of the city’s neon heart.
The first time I saw this bus, ‘city boat’ was its badge,
dangled by a faded lanyard.
Maybe this was why I sat up high.
So I wouldn’t drown too soon by the boiling tar
gushing out of my fingertips, from digging
for clues of you.

You see, I lost the locket with engravings of a guiding star.
You had sealed it in my palm. “Follow it,
let’s rendezvous somewhere afar.”
I was distraught for weeks on end, malfunctioning.
Riding on this dust-coated bus, I swore,
if I lost you to the falling night, I would go on that journey,
with the solitary company of my myopia.
An eternity later, the boat dropped its anchor with a thud.
“Whew!” cried my hypochondriac heart.

The nanosecond my feet hit solid ground,
I began fervently, searching for you.
In the park where a sacrificial boombox played, somewhere around
a middle-aged couple’s third pirouette.
So mesmerized I thought, I could watch forever
against the ticking tocking of my mortal parts.
But how could you be hiding here, among life?
“Hell is other people.” I remembered once you quoted.
So I moved on, on and on.

Finally, on the bank of a sweaty river
I let up, panting. Doused with soapy defeat.
A homeless fellow snailed by,
spread out a weary quilt, like a sushi roll.
We each monopolized a bench, our private enclosures
amidst a city that doesn’t see us, doesn’t want us.
I witnessed him tuck himself in, with the kind of ease and nonchalance
that made me smile.
Then mouthed “sleep tight.”

Armored with my favorite striped shirt, short sleeved, I drifted
in and out of the realm of limbo.
When the chills of dawn sucker-punched my gut, I careened my head.
That spectral figure was nowhere to be found.
The end of an almost friendship, of almost belonging.
Isn’t it peculiar? I came all the way looking for you.
But instead, found myself growing up, missing a shoe.

:::::

holdenHolden Liang Qichao is a PhD student at the Department of English Language and Literature. [Click here to read all pieces by Holden.]

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