My pre-teen bedroom was a wonder to behold. The purple crayon piggy bank with the years of savings and detailed plans to run away and work at Disneyland. The posters from teen magazines (mostly of JTT) and Hot Topic. Glitter in all forms. I can remember dressers I was allowed to paint, the candlesticks that nearly burned the house down, the Adidas pull-off trainers. The bookshelves – the pleasure of lining them with the classics – Boxcar children, Hatchet, Shabanu, Babysitters’ Club, Anne of Green Gables.
It smelled like Bath & Body Works and looked like a Delia’s catalog mated with a Wet Seal. She sounded like Sarah McLachlan singing over a modem dialing up at 2.3 MBPS from the kitchen to connect to my AIM address so I could share personal details with absolute strangers.
It was glorious.
One book series I had inherited from my mom – Nancy Drew. Numbered, yellow spines, blonde bangs and a flashlight and a complicated romance. I was so in. Who didn’t want to be a teenage detective? Maybe those feelings were still lingering (twenty something years later) when I woke up to an ABSOLUTE CRIME on my patio, here in Hong Kong 2021.
I give you: The Case of the Shattered Glass Ceiling.
*cue MUSIC! Intense MUSIC!*
I watched some documentary about social media that asked – what kind of person are you – the kind that checks their phone before they get up and pee in the morning, or the kind that checks it while they pee? (I might be paraphrasing) but I am the person who first slaps at their phone three times (I’ve built in snooze alarms just for this) and then checks their phone while practically dancing horizontally before getting up to go pee in the morning.
On the morning of Wednesday, October the 6th, I didn’t have a lot of notifications to get rid of, because I’d been up most of the night. I was texting my friend about an event we were going to later, and how I was tired from being awake since about 3am but I didn’t know why I’d been awake. I padded over to my curtains to draw them back and gave a full on gasp. I had meant to pull my laundry in, but I couldn’t even open my door. A panel of the glass ceiling that partially covers my patio had completely shattered all over it. It was a pretty dramatic sight.
I quickly took some video and texted my landlord, having no idea what to do. He asked me to look for suspicious objects, but it was totally unsafe to even open the door. I had to get to work, but he said we’d call the police in the afternoon and file a report.
Sounds dramatic, but okay. (omg i love it)
All day I was wondering what the what it could be. I lived next to a truly disturbed person for a year. Lots of drugs, late nights of karaoke, screamings, throwing beer bottles, banging on walls and doors. I confronted him several times about it, the police were involved, legal charges pressed, he wrote me a note saying I should kill myself, until finally he was forced to move out. I couldn’t help wondering if he was somehow involved? And that felt quite scary.
So I had a nice anxious day of waiting, and then raced home to meet my landlord and the security guard. They both gasped at the scene, which made me feel better about my reaction, and then immediately called the police. Then we waited, and two guys I definitely weighed more than came to save the day. They shoved open the door and looked for clues, interviewed me, went around to all the neighbors, and were very sweet in general. Hong Kong is super safe, and I got the feeling I was the only thing that had happened all day.
They asked if I had good relationships with my landlord, my neighbors, if I could provide alibis for my whereabouts, etc.
We found a few things on the patio that I could say for sure weren’t mine – a round white object, some pink crystals, but I live on the bottom of a 20-floor apartment, and things often fall from the sky. They are just usually laundry clips and napkins and don’t shatter roofs.
After a bit, they decided to call CID for a more in-depth investigation and photos. So we waited. Now, I live in a small studio, so it all got a bit awkward just standing around, especially when I had to use the bathroom, and there was all the shuffling in and out of shoes, and the staring at my very Western style house, but these things happen.
When CID showed up, they took more pictures, sifted through the patio some more, put the pieces together, and figured it out! An expensive jar of face cream had fallen from somewhere and must have landed just right to shatter my ceiling. We looked it up on the internet and found the retail value, and decided we were looking for a clueless neighbor with great skin who lived a few floors above.
OR WAS IT MY CRAZY EX NEIGHBOR, THROWING LADIES’ CREAM AT MY HOUSE IN AN ATTEMPT TO DEFLECT THE TRAIL OF EVIDENCE?!
Actually, in any case, it’s weird. Windows don’t just open readily here, and if they do, it’s to laundry wires, and there’s usually a couple of air con units in the way of something just dropping straight down.
The cops said I had to come to the station to make a statement, which was a big whoa. I had an event to go to, so I packed a bag and peed and then off we went. I climbed into a car with three men, no English, and went to I didn’t know where, and I just really hoped they were actually police.
When we got there, I was led down a few halls to a room with some old computers. This always boggles my mind about Hong Kong – it’s supposed to be this financial hub and secure and forward-thinking, but has the most ancient technology.
My detective opened an older casefile, deleted the particulars, and then asked me to type my own statement, as that would be quicker and easier than getting a translator. So I wrote in all my information, a few paragraphs of things I thought were important, and just kind of giggled the whole time.
In the end, they checked it, apologized that their English wasn’t that great, which I said was totally okay, as we weren’t in England or anything, and then I asked them to print me a copy of the statement as a souvenir! So now I have that to . . . eventually throw away one day. I guess it’s just nice to know that despite all my general mischief, it took 37 years to have to go to a station and make a statement.
The other day, someone came by and made a bigger mess of the glass ceiling in the name of cleaning it up and measuring for a replacement, but we’ll see. He broke most of the glass out of the roof, but left me to clean it up. I hauled it all into my trash can and then weighed it, learning it was over 40 pounds of glass, which actually makes me furious. I’m in the process of drafting a “WANTED” poster on Canva, but am pretty sure we’ll never catch this monster with just great, amazing, smooth skin.
But life goes on, as it always does. I walked from the police station to an 80s dance fundraiser for women in Afghanistan at a gay bar. The day after, I learned about a million special needs that made me scared to ever have children, and then led a staff band playing pop sing-a-longs for a teacher development day.
That night I played three hours of volleyball as the only person who spoke English, and then went to a hippie island and got to be auntie Rachie to my faves. We spoke to fish and made messes and stayed up too late solving the problems of the world. Then I nerded out with fellow aficionados at a Harry Potter pub quiz, spent two typhoons at a hotel, dressed in a dirndl for a fake-tober fest, and now here I sit, a studio full of plants and ideas and pumpkin-scented things, ready for and yet dreading a return to work. To life.
These last few years have made it hard to count on anything, plan on anything. Today on my hike I just kept thinking “I’m so damn glad my legs work so I could get up here and see things” even though I have hiked that path at least 50 times before.
Sometimes I feel far behind in the imaginary race we’re running with the false mile-markers, but I’ve got a lot. I’ve got so much. So many stories, and so much fun. So we keep going on, solving the cases, living through the raised eyebrows that turn into funny memories, together. Together.