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Friday, November 20, 2009

a missing screw


An old man just fixed the door to the tissue culture room. The giant button that slides the door open was missing a screw. So the button, strangely, kept tilting.

This old fella saw me & got excited. He spoke to me in English:

"My name is Yoshiharu. I'm a maintenance man."

He bowed & we shook hands. It was an international moment.

He then started speaking to sensei in Japanese: "I used to work at Expo 2005. I was in charge of all the air conditioners. Every night I partied with the foreign people. I can't believe they drank vodka straight out of the bottle."

Sensei was translating but I could understand every word. This guy was real. The language he spoke was simple & to the point. And he gestured like he had latin blood.

"I had many girlfriends, black, white, yellow (Sensei lies & translates girlfriends as friends). All the gaijin had a Japanese girl."

Yep, that's what we do. Gaijin & the J-girl. Oh yeah. More on this topic another time.

. . .

So I want to write about the last two days. It has nothing to do with anything. But it might have something to do with me.

(The lunch lady just came & delivered a bento ("the boxed lunch"). I used to order them but don't anymore. There's an older lady that usually comes & she always smiles at me. She asked the secretary about me, "who is that foreign guy, why is he sitting there?" I thought that was funny so I started talking to her. She's always speaking quickly, passionately, so I can't quite catch what she says. I do grin & nod a lot. This makes us both happy.)

Anyway, my head has been pretty messed up recently. After I moved out to the inaka ("the sticks"), well close enough, & stopped dating that cool local chick who spoke clear English (she was just a station away), all I do is sit in my place & drink. I used to go to the gym a lot. But now I'm tired & just like relaxing at home. It's my escape. But I realized two days ago that I've gone completely insane.

It started with a dream, actually a nightmare then a dream. The first woke me up at 2am in shock, you know how terrible dreams are? And the second was the most amazing dream I've ever had. It was visual, exciting, an adventure through time & space. I wanted to make a movie out of it, but unfortunately I had to wake up & go to work. I forgot most of it.

I do realize that I'm living in a dream. It has been a nightmare & an improbable adventure, something like a film projector rolling a fairy tale behind my eyes, obscuring what's really in front of me. (This is going nowhere.)

But even a drunken begger on horseback goes somewhere, right?*

. . .

So yesterday I walked to the supermarket during lunch. The whole army of housewives were out, picking through the vegetable sales rack, admiring tomotoes, collecting tempura for dinnertime. And there was me. I got some tuna for my diet. Some tomotoes & saba ("the mackerel", so delicious here). Then I saw some pizza & grabbed two slices. Oh well. I can always eat healthy tomorrow.

On the way back I kept thinking about things. All the crap I've done, the jobs I've had, the places I've lived, all of it amounting to nothing, really. All those old goals, & girlfriends, the transitions, the new paths & "fresh starts" - all of it just nothing. Where is/are it/they/that/those that I really wanted?

But suddenly I realized that it all led me to the place where I was walking. I was walking down a street lined by vegetable gardens. The day was sunny. I could smell manure, but only briefly. It was perfect.

(I walked to the grocery store during lunch. That was all. And I really didn't want to be anywhere else. Really. Not wrapped-up in some woman's candle-lit bedroom. Not behind the wheel of that black Mustang rolling through the desert at a hundred. Not in Jack London square watching the fog fall into the bay, me making friends with those damned pigeons. No, not anywhere else but there, walking my manure-scented lane.)

Now tell me I'm crazy, that I'm missing a screw.

*Thomas Wolfe, from You Can't Go Home Again.

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