“You look kinda gay wearing that.”
That’s the sum total of everything she has to say when I show up here and meet her and look at her and attempt to tell her everything that I ever wanted her to know.
I “attempted”, apparently.
And why is it, really, that a man can’t wear colorful clothing? Particularly when it’s May but feels like late July and the heat permeates everything; the heat is omnipresent; the heat is like god.
“You look kind of gay wearing that.” She says. Again.
“Just…drive?” I barely mumble.
Tokyo is so hot I pack extra T-shirts in my bag before I leave every morning but up here, just over an hour away by bullet train straight into the abyss, it’s like autumn in New York and I shiver and stare out the window into the blackness of Shizuoka prefecture.
This place is a wasteland.
It’s covered in contrivance but it’s all really just a wasteland. I can’t believe people live here. They wake up, they have coffee, they shit before going to work and then they die. People actually live here and it blows my mind.
She pulls out of Mishima station, turns right onto a dark road and the little car accelerates.I sigh sort of loudly and she reaches over with her left hand and turns up the radio. The J-pop voices croon out of the speakers, my nightmares all realities, and I can only blink dully when the obligatory English lyric in the song is eked out by a tiny tin-like boy-band voice, “Girl, you’re fucking perfect…”
I reach over with my right hand and snap the radio dial off.
“Spare me.” I mutter into the window.
“Nante?” What did you say? She asks in an overly healthy and unaffected voice. Her voice matches the late night contrivance of the surroundings we now rocket past in this desperate little vehicle.
“Nothing. Nandemonai.” I sigh again and run a hand through my hair. “Riku ha? Mo netta?” How is Riku? He’s sleeping already? I ask.
She doesn’t answer me but keeps her hands on the steering wheel, “Ten and Two” and we cruise through the Mishima darkness and I shiver because it’s become really cold even though Tokyo is so warm right now I’m forced to wear colorful clothing. Everyone in Tokyo is wearing shorts. Everyone in Tokyo is going to festivals. Everyone in Tokyo.
The car turns right on to a large, well-lit and absolutely empty, black top highway. We pass a large, well-lit McDonald’s and I look inside as we drive by and it’s nearly empty, abandoned, but there is a young couple sitting by the window in a booth and they are laughing. The guy turns and somehow manages to look right at me as we drive by. He’s still grinning and looks right at me so I turn and look straight ahead at the deserted highway.
I try to think of something, anything to say that might be appropriate but nothing comes to mind so I ask again, in Japanese, “Is Riku sleeping already?”
She focuses intensely on the deserted highway, too big and overly developed for an area that has the pulse of a ninety year old waiting to die in a cancer ward, and then finally after what seems to be a frozen millennium says, ” He should be in bed.”
Then we turn left onto the little street that drops down a hill, passes a lonely 7/11 and then we turn left again and go through a tunnel which is lit with big purple lights and then we turn right onto the winding little mountain road, the only honest road I’ve seen here, that leads up to her families house.
It bends and curves and snakes and whips past dozens of little homes. Some are old and some are new. Some are shuttered up and some are not but everyone has their lights out. Some have little gardens or tiny rice paddies. Some are more western and some have the construction style particular to rural Japan. Some seem warm and some seem empty. We then turn left onto the final stretch of dark road climbing the little mountain up to her place. A place I have been to many, many times.
It’s particularly dark and in the little car now, I’m freezing. I can see my breath come out of my mouth in little faint plumes of smoke and I glance at her and her face is set and she’s so small, almost child like, and I look left out the window and can see a half-moon over the valley; it’s a clear, straight, tired and cold night here and in the middle of the valley is half a bridge that they are building but I can’t imagine to where because the entire place is completely and utterly empty.
It’s completely devoid of life. They are building a massive cement bridge to nowhere.
We finally pull up in front of her house and after she shuts off the engine and pulls the keys out of the ignition we get out of the car and I notice again, as always, that she is tiny; the top of her head coming to, maybe, my lower chest and I am flooded, nearly overwhelmed by an immense wave of melancholy and regret before I breath out into the night, noticing the freshness of the air here:
“Just, spare me, man.” No one replies.
It takes about an hour for us to talk to her parents, who are un-animated, almost mechanical in their disdain for first me but also, clearly for her, and then sign and stamp our divorce documents. I leave the house as soon as possible and wait outside in the cold and dark and emptiness for a taxi I call with my mobile. I don’t get to see my son.
I stay at a business hotel near the station and have two canned chu-hi’s before dropping into a sweaty and restless sleep on a hard bed in front of a huge window that overlooks the depressing town of Mishima.
The next morning at six-twenty I am standing on the platform waiting for the shinkansen and I’m holding a coffee I bought at the hotel from a girl and her name was “Sayuri” and I read it aloud from her name tag while she made my coffee and she had said “Oh, your Japanese is good.” And I just told her I like her name. And now I look across Mishima from the open air platform and see Mount Fuji sitting there; massive and alarmingly abrupt, covered in snow, it’s backdrop a relentlessly light blue sky that stretches to forever.
I sip the coffee Sayuri made me and the train slowly pulls up so I wait for the doors to open and I board.
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