"Speak Now or China Will Come for You At Night," said, my Russian Mechanic #occupyhk #umhk #umbrellamovement
Awaiting a Democratic Hong Kong.
I drove to the garage because my oil needed changing. The moment I got out of the car, my Armenian mechanic shouted at me, "Are you Chinese?"
"I am from Hong Kong" I said, slightly defensively. "I need an oil change."
I looked passed him, to his garage, hoping he had time. It was empty.
"Oh, trouble there," he said, "I see police put tear gas." He had been waiting to talk about this.
"Yes, but they stopped that. The protests are still going on. It's been six weeks already. It's still there."
"You think it's good or no?" He walked up to me and looked into my eyes, searching.
"Yes, I think it's good. I am not sure if camping out is the right thing or not, I don't know. It's good. I am glad the people are speaking out, especially the young people."
He took another step, and used the back of his hand, hit my shoulder as if he wanted even more of my attention. He looked behind him and the around us, checking if someone's listening.
He leaned and said quietly, "You know, I am from Russia. There you can't speak, nothing... not a word." He held up both his hands, and pointed at his forehead with his index fingers.
"No think! You can't even think the wrong thing. Even that, you get in trouble," he began to get louder.
"You say the wrong thing, you are in trouble. One day, you wake up and the neighbour's house is empty." He swept his arms around to the direction of his garage -a stand in for the place he was remembering. I looked and wondered how far his real neighbour's house was.
"Completely. Like no one ever lived there. But you don't ask where they went. If you ask, then you go to the same place. They come for you at night."
I took a small step backwards, because he had moved so close, right up to my face, his eyes huge. The pupils themselves felt like a small attack, not at me, but at the past. In it, a mixture of anger, distress, and brokenness.
I never thought about where he came from much. Only that in Los Angeles, there are a lot of Armenians from Russia, many jewish, that came on asylum of some sort. I thought of him as a young man, living under this kind of repression.
He saw my face, probably looking a little afraid, both of him, and the horror of the country he lived in. He softened.
Stepping back, he relaxed a little. He wiped his hands on his crisp striped mechanic shirt with "Victor," on the lapel.
"The young people in Hong Kong, they must speak now. In 20 years, no more. China will come for you in the night. Take you away, and no one knows where you are."
I looked down, mulling on the future he painted for my city.
His phone rang. He waved at me, and I walked away leaving the keys in the ignition.