I touch down here, rush upstairs to departures, stuff my bag into a storage locker, go to the lower level, take the keisei skyliner to ueno, take the tokyo metro to shibuya, walk around. the city.
the streets are: full of people walking home, groups of friends saying goodbye on a tuesday night. I feel very lonely, a salmon swimming upstream, wading in the opposite direction. around the station there are: people smoking, beautiful bikes with colnago frames locked up with pencil-thin wire locks, buildings with giant displays, japanese kids my age walking around, twenty-four hours fast food restaurants, cabs not instantly recognizable (to me) as cabs, yakitori joints. amidst this all the sky is dark and the lit buildings are carving a negative space out of the sky. everyone crosses this intersection at the same time, floods these streets. I get a sense of incredible inclusiveness around this all, and a corresponding exclusiveness on my part, and I feel very much like a single cell unit drifting around these flows, looking at things. this is what happens in a complex city with high buildings (like new york), perhaps, in a city with recognizable traits of infrastructure (like seoul), with familiar strains of cultural expression: ad formats, speech intonations, some of these things like Korea but not quite at all.
in the morning, I leave my dark little internet-cafe cubicle, the sounds of a pachinko-slot machine ringing in my ears. go out walking in the early morning air, take the first subway train going east out of shibuya along with everyone else, also bleary-eyed, also with disheveled hair. on the way to tsukiji fish market I take a shortcut, get lost on purpose, find myself on purpose. by the time I walk to the fish market it is 5:30 am, gazed past cities of styrofoam boxes, fish still wriggling on ice, tuna auctions, auctioned tuna being sliced with bandsaws, rivulets of blood streaming between cobblestones, into drains.
sushi dai has a line as always, but I only wait for about half an hour. finally I step in and sit alone, next to the other fifteen people there, and the same three sushi chefs are there, as they were last year, and the year before that, and probably the years before that. I order omakase, and with my pace, listening to my tongue, I place each piece in my mouth and chew slowly and deliberately. I am glad; I know I am blessed.
after that I step out and wander around ginza, its shops all closed and still sleeping, department stores with their eyelids shut. it is barely 7am. I take the subway to ueno, and at the last moment I divert my footsteps into vacant market alleyways and end up near a tiny temple. maps everywhere say that there's a lake here, but when I lift my eyes all I can see are rows and rows of green growing from out of the lake; a school of sluggish, sleepy koi, and a temple over there, over there. some people practicing, stretching, talking.
on the train back to the airport, I nearly fall asleep. I wake up, we're there. the airport dance: I take the elevator upstairs, walk to the lockers, open the locker, get my bag, walk to a line, stand in a line, check my bag, stand in a line for security, go through security without taking off my shoes, stand in a line, go through customs, walk to my gate, buy something with the rest of my yen. at the last moment I decide to take a shower, though. it's been thirteen hours since I first landed in narita, and I slide a 500 yen coin onto the counter with a smile and I am shown a tiny room with a plastic shower, and in the shower I feel hot water run down my hair and onto my back and think about the anti-displacement that is soon to come, the sense of having-always-been-here that will no doubt flood back in. 'as if it were all a dream.'
and I worry about that, not about being-back-here itself (not at all) but about the-feeling-that-I-was-always-back-here, I think about what happens when I lose some sort of sense of movement, I think about not always being conscious of my body, I think about not always thinking about where I am going, I think about always being comfortable in my skin, I think about the days and months and years slipping by until I am then-looking-back-to-now, and I think about this (while biting my lip). but but but but it's a thought that's also a comfort because I also think that to think about this, actively, is to ward these things away. and so as long as I am thinking about the possibility of not thinking about these things I am okay, kept buoyant, floating on clouds, air, wings, the angle of attack, the bernoulli principle, the idea of the bernoulli principle, the airplane's trust in that the turbine's forward thrust will result in a corresponding lift (if I do this then you will do that, yes?), and I think that's actually quite beautiful, wonderful, the way more things should be, could be.
there was this moment on the train from irkutsk to ulaanbataar when I was so very happy, so very ecstatic and happy. the windows were down and in the dusky distance you could see faraway clouds raining on faraway mountains, and the sun was setting behind that, and the sky was clear and everything in the air was so fresh, with vague whiffs of engine smoke drifting in almost like stray strains of perfume, but the air itself smelled like green, green grass and the trees were waving by, everything blurred sideways like a gerhard richter painting. I was alone that night in a cabin all by myself, and I closed the door and turned off the light and opened my window and felt the wind brush in as I went to sleep. once in a while opposing trains would pass our train, which meant that suddenly the ongoing rhythm of the train would be broken by this thunderous cataclysmic roar, lights and sound and fury, and the cabin would light up in a scattered strobing mix of shadows and glints-off-of-metal, and the sound and light of it would be so so visceral, piercing my eyelids even when my eyes were closed. and then everything would be over, as soon as it had started.
and then if you went out into the dark hallway because you couldn't sleep, everyone else was also there, leaning out of the window, gazing into the distance, quieted into contemplation by the rocking motion of the train and the sudden change of landscape and the expanse of sky and the enormity of all the clouds. watching the sun set. I was so very content, so very content and happy just to be there, to be there and going somewhere. I would have been content had the train broken down and stopped; I would have been content had we been going faster. I was just content to be there, moving.
I haven't and hadn't had that in a bit, such fully-fledged contentedness, such warmth, and now it is no longer available right now except as an abstract memory, it is not possible right now, having come back. all I can do is to think about it and to smile and to swallow hard and to try to forget it, until the next time I am able to travel like that, to take that same trip again, hopefully, sometime in the future. right now all I can do is to look out the window for the curve in the bend coming ahead and have my hair whipped around in the wind. so that is what I will do.
thirty minutes away from jay eff kay, thirty minutes away from a home. here's to hoping that the routines don't just fall into place but that they drop down, slightly mis-aligned, de-calibrated, un-synchronized, making something anew, maybe maybe maybe hopefully.