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The Last Window at the Kowloon Walled City

On the onset of destruction often appears love

By Syed Arabi KhaliquePublished 7 months ago 8 min read
The reimagined Kowloon Walled City


Teresa slept on the bed, looking through the window in front of her. A hazy sky enveloped the Kowloon Walled City as the aftermath of a violent thunderstorm. Matching the mood, her headphones were blasting "Cuts you up" by Peter Murphy.

She was in John's room and that often was the case. There were not in a relationship yet Teresa hung out in John's room.

Well, it started really when it was found that John Lee had a nice selection of albums. Teresa, being the music lover that she was, talked her way into his room and started listening to his collection. And ever since her mother left her, that increased evermore.

Do not think, however, that she came in empty handed. John was a good man but not an idiot. Teresa would bring in her remaining handmade sweets, whatever was left over from her days work.


Many might not know Kowloon Walled City and its singularity, so its better to describe it now, then the story can unfold clearer as folks have an idea of the backdrop.

It was a giant conglomerate of buildings in Hong Kong, which joined together forming a structural city. At it's height around 50'000 people lived in it, even though it only spanned over 6 acres. The city had everything inside its walls, shops, clothing store, restaurant, clinics, schools too. Whatever you could find on the outside world could also be found inside. The intense density of people led to more crimes and poorer facilities. The halls, or streets, were dirty and unkempt, but through that folks still found a way to live.

More details could be added for the city, as it is a fascinating read, but that is for another day. Now the spotlight is Teresa and her friend John.


John was an unlicensed dentist, who worked on the lower floors. He worked cheap and quick, but not lacking quality, which enabled him to gather enough money buy the expensive sound system he had. Also the selection of music he boasted of. Some may say he was a bit shady as a character but the man had taste.

John and Teresa barely knew each other, up until the day his father ran away from the city with Teresa's mum. They both ran because they loved each other, and also both owed money. The debt transferred to their children, John and Teresa. He took up dentistry to pay for it, she started making and selling sweet delicacies.

Neither talked to each other really, but there was an unspoken bond. She would come into his room at twilight every day, dropping her box of sweets at his table and then laid on his bed, listening to songs. Her favorite artist was Whitney Houston, who she adored to the heavens, especially after she watched the 1992 movie "Bodyguard". To her eyes, never had a woman exuded such grace and elegance before, and Teresa often imagined herself in attires of the movie, dancing with a faceless soulmate on the film's soundtrack.

John would come in, lay down on the floor reading marvel comics and eating the sweets brought the girl. And such was the routine of their daily life until the summer of 1993.


The notice came from Hong Kong Government, the residents of the Kowloon Walled City were told vacate the the premises. The decision to demolish the site came in the mid-80s but it took some years for the details and the cost to be added up. The residents were be given money, so they can move to another place. A date was given and everyone had to leave by that date.

Teresa didn't have much, so she packed quick and easy and went to John's room. There she sat, listening to Peter Murphy, as she waited for him. They both were supposed to leave at 2pm together on that day and head for Shanghai.

Teresa waited and waited, until it was almost 3 pm and John was nowhere to be seen. Figuring she couldn't wait any longer, and feeling a rush of hot blood, she walked out. In the hallway, Lily Anne could be seen with her three kids, taking their stuff and walking down. Lily saw her and waved.

"Hey Terry, I though you were supposed to leave at 2." said Lily.

"I was, but John was to accompany me and he is not here yet." answered Teresa.

Maybe it was Lily's past which made her more worried than she was ought to be. Lily's husband had left her and the kids four years prior, ever since then she had to fight everyday to feed her kids.

"That is bad, real bad. John is never late for anything. You sure you guys were supposed to leave at 2? If so, I hope he is ok. Wait, do you know where he is? Did he say if he was going to be somewhere else?" asked Lily, in one breath.

Seeing Lily that worried made her laugh. Than she remembered the somber reason why she was and proceeded to hug her, taking Lily by surprise.

" You are the sister I never had. Thank you so much for worrying for me, and for all the times you invited me in your house for tea. I would have been a loner if it wasn't for you and the kids." said Teresa.

Lily smiled a warm smile. " I invited you because of the sweets you brought in." she said, laughing.

But tear got into her eyes, then she held Teresa's face and said

" You wouldn't have been a loner. A sweet girl like you will always have people around, and who said you can only be sisters through blood?. I am your sister, and if that John doesn't come today as he is to, you come down where I am going. It is in the countryside, but there will be plenty of space."

After she said that, she kissed Teresa's forehead and moved away, which enabled the kids to jump in on their adopted aunt. Tearing them off, Lily waved off to her and then started walking down, away of to the outside world.


Teresa walked to the bus stop where they were supposed to be at 2 pm, it was 5 pm almost and she stood alone in that bus stop. On the corner, however, she could see man with a backpack walking to her. A tall, thin man, with long, dangly arms and glasses. It was her friend Mutahar, the Indian who lived on the floor beneath and was a frequent customer of hers. He was a talkative guy, who through sheer force became friends with Teresa and John.

It happened one day, when she closed the shop early. John had bought the Tears for Fears album for her birthday, and she had to listen to it all night. Mutahar, who couldn't live without the sweets, simply walked up to John's quarters and knocked. At first they were wary of him, but soon his charm and wit got hold of them. By the end he would be playing cards with them on every other nights, bringing tapes of different movies, famously the Robocop, which they watched religiously every Friday.

That Mutahar was standing across her, with a questioning glance.

"Why are you still here? And where is John?" asked he.

She replied the same, didn't know where he was and had waited.

Mutahar was visibly angry but then it subsided.

" Don't worry, he will be here. John is a good man, not the sort to break words. Plus he loves you, so that action doesn't even make sense." said Mutahar.

Teresa blushed in embarrassment.

"what do you mean?" asked she.

He gave a shrug. " Look, Everyone in the damn town knows about you two love birds, well apart from you two. Its really obvious, in fact me and Lily were talking about you guys were yesterday. I assured her that John ain't gonna abandon her, and if you two got married, I would drive her to the wedding."

That came as a surprise to her. The thought had entered her mind many times, but she never took John's liking to her as being anything more.

Mutahar saw the confusion in Teresa's face.

"Terry, look here. If for some reason John doesn't show up by 6, you come by the Perry Train station. My train leaves at 7, so I will be there. I know you guys had planned to go to Shanghai together, but if the man ain't here for that, what can you do, right?" said he.

She nodded.

"Ok Terry, Hopefully this is the last time we are meeting, for now of course, since I am planning to visit you guys next year. I hope John comes and you both get on that bus. But if not, I will be by station. See ya friend." and with that he embraced her, and in a brotherly fashion messed up her hair. A smile and he walked off.


Teresa stood there, waiting for John Lee. The bus is to come at 6:05 and its almost 6. The sun is going down, one side of the sky is an orange and blue hue, the other side is blue and purple, but the rays of summer sunshine is still bright. She didn't understand why she was waiting. Was it for love or was it fear? It might be that the fear of the unknown stopped her from venturing across the street to the station.

Just as she decided to walk to the station, she saw someone walking from the distance of the City. It was John, and soon as she saw him, the song " The highest heights" by the Lovebugs began to play in her headphones. At that moment Teresa knew she was in love.

John walked up to her, and it seemed like the same realization it him, as they both embraced each other against the bright twilight sky.


About the Creator

Syed Arabi Khalique

I am a guy from Jersey who is trying to put down in words what nightmares afflict him, hoping that will somewhat sweeten the deadly ordeal.

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