There’s Nothing You Can Do

It’s cold outside. It rained earlier. A small shower that soaks through everything that you wear. It’s classic English weather, or so I’ve been told.

I’ve been here since the end of September, but it doesn’t feel like I am here at all. My mind’s not in it, I tell myself, so it doesn’t feel like I’m anywhere. I spent most of my time on my phone, on Twitter, just scrolling and reading and commenting. Sometimes I feel like I never left home at all.

It’s hard to focus on anything when your mind’s not in it. I can’t tell you what happened in England, or to me directly, throughout these three months, but I can tell you exactly what happened in Hong Kong.

I sit on the couch in the living room, not at all understanding what my housemates are talking about. I scroll through Twitter. There are pictures and photos and tweets about police brutality case after police brutality case.

I shut my eyes and lock my phone.

A few nights ago, I dreamed about being in the middle of a human stampede. I tripped and fell and then people ran on top of me. I woke up with my throat tight and my mouth dry. I hadn’t felt right since.

There were more cases than just that. I stopped everything that I was doing every time I hear something that sounds anything like a gunshot or a teargas cannon. Or if I see, out of the corner of my eye, flashing lights.

Even the sight of the local police make me stop.

But nothing can hurt me. I am sitting in the living room, on a comfortable couch, shivering in the cold November air. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my housemate playing one of his racing games, laughing at himself for spinning out.

He asks me if I want to watch something together. “Maybe Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” he says. He puts down his controller.

I shrug and tell him I don’t mind. I’m okay with doing whatever he wants to do. He puts on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

I don’t pay attention to the show. It reminds me too much of home. Then again, almost everything reminds me of home. The cops on the show make me think about how I wish the cops in Hong Kong would act the same way, rather than what they are now.

A surge of emotion rushes over me and my vision blurs. I blink away the tears before anyone can see and pretend to yawn.

Being far away from home is painful, I know this very well for the past two years. Every time I have to get on the plane to fly away from home and to the UK, I cry. This time, there’s something different about it.

I found purpose over the summer. I found meaning. Then I was snatched away prematurely and now I just feel useless. I felt useless when I watched people march, I felt useless when I live-streamed the standoffs. I felt useless when the kid got shot, point-blank, in the stomach.

It’s like watching a close friend of yours fighting with another person, but you are outside the house and unable to move. No matter what you say, your friend can’t hear you. You knock on the door but they are shouting too loudly to hear it. You knock on the window but they can’t hear that, either. All you can do is stand and watch and you can’t do anything.

There’s nothing you can do. Nothing. All you can do is feel helpless and sad and you curl up into a ball and stare at nothing.

It feels wrong to be here, I think. It just feels wrong. I am in England, safe and sound, just cold from the winter winds. Back at home, my friends and family and people who love the same things as me, are fighting for their lives. They could be dying and getting hurt while I sit comfortably, away from harm, sipping coffee in England.

I could have done something but I didn’t. I’m letting others fight for me. I’m letting others get hurt for something that I also want.

So I go on Twitter and tweet. I watch the news and retweet information. I translate articles and other first-hand experiences. I want to feel like I’m doing something. Anything.

But I just feel cold. It’s cold.

It’s December, my housemate says. Of course it’s cold, she says.

I thought it was still November, I say.

You’ve been eating your advent calendar for a few days now, she says. How can you not know it’s December? she asks.

I don’t say anything to her. I don’t want to say anything to her. I just nod because I can’t believe it’s already December. How can it already be December?

But it is December, and I am still cold.

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