A Journey, Outward and Inward at the Same Time.

We had run off into a thick forest together, you and I.

We had lost the tracks of others, delved into the greenery, feet-first. Hand in hand, we walked and talked. Following nothing but the shadows of our hearts. The moon rose and watched us from overhead, just a sliver shy of being full. We’d occasionally glance up and glimpse through the mottled branches, the stars of reality. We’d whistle the same song at the same time, melody and harmony.

As we sank deeper, a cold fog gathered around our ankles, drawing us closer together. Fingers interwoven, we moved step for step and breath for breath. Two knit-together souls against the world.

Then, a clearing came. The near-full moon lit the grass in between our toes. It made the shadows recede into the path from which we’d come and the one by which we planned to go. Everything within reach was a silver-bathed glow.

We turned, after such a long time and looked each other in the eye. Had the color of them changed? We shook our heads. No, we were still the same. Two moon-bathed souls against the world.

Against?

Overhead, thick white clouds began to roll in. Shadows like arms reached for us. We tried to pretend it wasn’t happening; tried to chase the light. First here, then there. Hopping around from one place to another. The wind picked up, dry and bitter. We only picked up the pace, like if we found the right place to hold each other, the increasing chill would fade.

But, soon, it became clear we could not escape. So, we stood shoulder to shoulder and braced. Looking out at the growing dark, we tried to imagine a map of where we could go from here. But, we both had to admit, standing there shivering in the wind — nothing came to mind.

Our fingers slowly loosened, tired of an ineffectual grip. What were we clinging to? Something that, in the coming through the forest, had had its use. Now? It was just a remnant of a thing we had needed before. Our arms dropped to our sides. Our legs carried us in circles around each other. You watched the ground; I, the sky. And we acted like that was enough. And it was — for the time.

Then, the sun crested the horizon. For a moment, it blinded us. But we blinked the pain away until we got used to the light of day. The morning sun scattered bars of yellow light across the place we were in now. Not just a clearing, but a low hill top. Down below was the meandering places from which we’d come. The well-trod road was full of turns and twists, but we had not kept to it. We’d cut our own way through the roughest land.

As the morning wore on, the warmth the night had sapped out of us slowly returned to our bones. Then, as the sun climbed toward noon, we knew it was time to go. I reached first for your hand, but you did not reach back.

“We need others,” you whispered and I imagined I knew what you meant.

There was an obvious break in the trees up ahead. You nudged me. I nodded, and off we went. Not hand in hand. Not step for step or breath for breath. But that was alright. We had changed, grown. We could walk on our own. So, like this, side by side with an undefined space between us — we walked.

The path sank down for a long grade before we had any hint it’d come back up again. But, it did. And the sun was warm on our backs. A breeze, cool without being too strong, urged us on. I looked now into the matrices of branches. What I had thought was nothing but a wall of green turned out to be a series of homes to other things. I pointed each new life out. Some even briefly alighting on my hand. My shoulder. My arm.

“Ah, see all the life we’re surrounded by?” I called and looked to you. But you were still staring at the ground.

There was the cawing of a crow and we both looked up. A white bird with black beak and black legs filled our view. It dropped from a tree, swooping low and cutting a line across our sight like a knife. As quick as it had come, it arched back up and disappeared.

“Did you see that?” I asked, looking for the bird instead of you.

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t know crows could be white.”

“Me neither.”

The bird, swallowed by the forest, did not come again.

Silence took its place between us as we kept moving. A while longer and we didn’t so much find another clearing as make one. The climb was too steep. Out of breath, we moved some sticks and leaves. Soon, a resting place was cobbled together from our joint effort. We sat down in the same exhausted moment — not shoulder to shoulder, but not face to face either.

Long slow breaths were a long time in coming, and neither of us said a word. Eventually, I got up and stretched — feeling rested. “We best be going.” It came out low and quiet, in the form of a question.

“You go on ahead,” you said and didn’t move.

I waited a while, thinking you only needed time. Nothing changed. When I was sure you weren’t planning on getting up any time soon, I said, “Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

So I left. Sank back into the greenery alone. From time to time, I’d whistle the same tune. Sometimes, I’d even call out. All so you’d know exactly where I’d gone. And, after a long while, when the sun was low and the evening cool, you did come. Came up by my side by a different route.

“I’m here,” you said and I assumed we’d go along from there together. I was glad you’d come your own way, and glad we’d found each other again.

But, the shadows grew long and the road I had chosen stretched only upward before us. You clearly trudged along, dragging feet, making a cloud of dust. Eventually, my eyes burned from it and I had to stop. You stopped half a step behind.

I turned and we faced each other full. The first time since setting out. Your face and stance were different and strange. I wondered if I, in your view, was the same. I couldn’t bring myself to ask. The words were stuck in my throat, my tongue a cork.

“I can’t…” you started and didn’t finish the sentence.

“I’ll wait,” I said and went to drop into a squat. In a moment, I thought, I’ll make another clearing for us. We could both use the rest.

“No, don’t.”

I stood back up, dropping the bundle of leaves I’d already picked up. “But…” I didn’t finish that sentence either. And not because I thought you knew the end of it. But quite the opposite. Because I guessed you never would. “I’ll go.” I hung my head and looked down at the ground. I couldn’t help but notice how even it was brimming with life.

“Yeah,” you said and sat down where I had thought to stop.

I moved away, looking out at the places I could go. I quickly decided to stick to the same road. It was clearly cut and, in the back of my heart, I knew you could find me if you looked. I didn’t call out, thought. Every sound I thought to make died in the nest of my chest. There was nothing I could say. Occasionally, I’d hear sounds from behind and look over my shoulder. Was it you?

No, never.

Just other things, other being moving around me. A world brimming with life, but nothing in the orange glow at the end of the day alighted on my hand, shoulder, arm. Nothing touched me at all. But in the warm and quiet air, butterflies, moths, bees, and wasps all hummed in patterns above my head.

The orange light became a blue-grey, marking the dying of the day. Scattered clouds overhead began to brighten in the light of the rising full moon. It’s glow washed out most of the stars. I made new designs in my mind from the ones I could still make out.

Then, a loud sound.

A deer? You, a long time in coming?

I turned and looked back. The road I was on had risen so much I could see the whole way we had taken. The landscape was a map of us, spread out before me. Our feet had padded their way through the middle of a wide, rolling valley. I could see the first path, the clearing we had found, the one we’d made, and the place we’d stopped and parted ways. A plotting of our whole story, lit by the moon’s rising.

And not too far from the last place we’d stopped, I could see you crashing through the over-growth to make your way back to the start. The sound I had heard was your departing.

I watched for a while, to see if you’d come out at the same clearing as before. Hoping that if you did, it’d mean something. That you’d turn and hurry along to catch up to me. That in the echo of the wind’s howl, I’d hear you calling my name. Telling me to wait. Saying you’d made a mistake.

But in reality, by the time you came to rest, I couldn’t see you anymore. Only knew it by the pause in the echos of your sound. And knew you’d picked up again by the return of them. The sound of you kept moving further away, getting smaller. I can only guess since you’ve found your own road, you will also find a new clearing to settle in.

I don’t know where that path leads or how long you’ll rest along it when you do. I don’t know by which way, high or low, you will choose go. I only know that in a little while, where you are will be imperceptible. And the sound of your going back, inaudible from where I am.

As Vonnegut said until the last — So it goes.

旅人

[Journeyer]

Originally I had created this word: 出かけている行人. でも (However), ぱわぁ先輩 said this implies something of an alien. An outsider. Not necessary human. This is found in older texts. No longer common. How do I find words that fit the spirit of what I am getting at? Strange…

The funniest and most awkward thing these days is when people (both native speakers and non-) translate things I already know. I understand them better in 日本語 than in 英語 but how does one go about explaining this without seeming rude?

That is the constant catch.

I want to ask for a moment to decide. How do I say that without seeming rude?
I need to know what to do with my trash. How do I ask that without seeming rude?
I’m trying to find a certain kind of device. Will this one work for what I need? How do I do this without being rude?

The weight of “being an American” has shifted. To being a “Western” to being a “non-native speaker”. To being, simply, an outlier.

But the outlier is most amiable when it can gauge the current culture and slip in effervescently. The outlier’s art is to disappear the ugly differences between us and polish the beautiful ones. Not erase both our faces, but clean us up. Wipe away the frown lines and replace them with a mild smile. To add comfort where there was fear. To replace anxiety with peace. To bring momentary insights that will be pondered once the outlier has gone.

The outlier only lives for these momentary changes. These gentle transformations that take place between the willing. In the dimness of a room where things are less defined by rigid lines and no-one feels the need to turn the light on. The mellow subtly of the grey places.

When the wind blows, the outlier goes. Leaves to find another place to momentarily call home. A people to, for a while, momentarily call ones own.

But where does the exhausted outlier go? Is there any resting place? A haven to feel is one’s own?

No.

But stops along the road rejuvenate the spirit, allow it to carry on, ney? Friends along the often travelled roads you go in life are the way points by which you feel safe. The havens of others who make their roots deep. But you are a leaf in the wind. Bones transformed, evolved into feathers that catch the up-drafts of air. Those who have the skill of flight should not stay bound to the ground too long. The legs are weaker than the wings and your strength is in the way you are borne from one place to another.

Do not dawdle, wade in shallow water, or sit by the wayside too long. You will only catch the cold of fear, stagnant emotions that settle in inactive blood.

The color of regret is red.

I invested all I had in a single breath. What could I do when it didn’t blow the fire out? I know, full blown, what the failure of a life feels like.

I wonder which is harder: forgiving others or yourself?

I find the latter simply impossible. If I were you, I’d want to send me off too. So when it comes to flaccid passes and ineffectual glances, I get it. If there’s anything to look at, it’s the intrigue of a life in ruins. A steady 10-year long delusion that ended in an epic destruction. Towers fell and stones crumbled and sand turned our eyes to glass.

Did you ever notice “our” is just “your” without the why?

How simply we reduce to madness. To nothing. To ghosts. Who, in this modernity, believes in us?

There I go again. Splitting myself into pieces so I don’t have to be alone. A practice at least 20 years old. I turned the ugliness into art for others’ fascination. Maybe partly as a safeguard. So when I went stark mad, no-one would know.

It’s happening, I’m sure. The particles are breaking apart. My seams are threadbare and old. My bones are strained from the lack of muscle in my legs.

But. I have to carry on.

So, I continue with stars dancing around my eyes. Lightheaded, I sway from side to side. Miss the corner, cut it short. It’s like I’m four years old all over again. My head splits open along the same old seam. Like a zipper popping its streamlined design. Crimson rushes, gushes out, gets in my hair, my eyes. If you look close enough through the meaty mess, I think you can see the pearly white of my skull.

I stagger and fall over, reduced to hands and knees. I flounder, covered in my mistakes, misgivings. I lick my lips and am bit by the salty metallic taste of my own insides.

Still, I can’t stop. Nowhere safe to rest. I force myself back up. The fat in my underarms jiggle like jelly. Loose skin already striped with lines of age, sightly bluish grey.

I guess it’s better there’s no-one to see this pathetic show. This is how the end-game looks, huh? It came on sooner than I thought. Oh well. We had some fun before now, right?

It’s a vague and distant comfort if the answer is: yes. They were good times and we almost changed the world. You changed me – that’s for sure. I only fucked it up.

I know.

I’d say “I’m sorry” but it doesn’t count.

Too late.

Maybe in the next life, some part of me will come back and get it right. Maybe in another universe, I already did. If so, I can’t wait to hear the story. How good it felt to have given everything and gotten love back.

Somewhere it happens, right?

I hope.

休みの日 [Holiday]

I am in a bad way.

My confidence level is zero. I have dragged myself around familiar spots all day and there is no relief. I wander unfamiliar streets in the cool breeze – no change. I break through my barriers and speak in unfamiliar words, giving life back to trapped tadpoles, giving boxes to unknown strangers. And yet? No light breaks on the darkness of my mood. No warmth in the frozen land of my heart.

Listen to the wind for maybe it has something new to say?

I tilt my ear in the direction of a gust and, looking up, see the moon is not quite full. “Not yet,” something seems to say. Not yet.

I am uncertain how much longer I can wait for change. I think this life might break me up into dust before I can glow all the way through. A trapped fire in a hearth that’s been closed against a horrid storm. There may not be enough fuel to make the water resting on top boil. No tea for two, three, four. No steaming food for you. Only wasted energy and a mess.

I have the same problems in Nihongo, but I articulate them like a bratty child. Here is a sample:

毎日私は長い時間日本語で考える。日本語の文章はとても難しいから。でも、毎日、同じ文を作って、同じ言葉を使って、同じ気持ちを持っといる。新しい言葉は早く忘れるから。新しい文章も。たくさん勉強しても、少し覚える。書き方はだんだん上手になるけど、話し方がせんせん違うよ。どうやって話し方が上手になる?

いつも俺は頑張っても、分からない。

たぶん日本語の本を読んで、毎日会話を聞いく。それから、上手になると思う。ても、チアンスは。。。ないと思う。

残念だ。しょうがない。

It is no longer fun or interesting. I think my heart is going to explode. I can’t breathe. I can’t move. Someone reach out a hand…god, please. I am going to drown.

So this is what “homesick” is? Welp, I have no medicine against it. Is it lethal, do you think?

へっ!何?もちろん?!(-_-)/~~~あああ。。。しょうがないよ。

今日の終わりごろ

[Today’s end]

My head is full of thoughts, questions, things I am sure and not sure of at the same time.

Everything today is in 英語。

Moments of 日本語 are the same as moments of 緑 (greenery). From the train, it speeds by in a vague green-colored blur. My eyes catch on a glint – the silver lining of rusted tracks. A smear of white inside bars of dried-blood red.

The window is covered in stickers and fingerprints of strangers. Millions of hands have been here, sweating, touching, reaching. The oil from my skin spreads across layers of patterns as I lean, waiting for my station to come.

There, I will do the same things I do every day. Revisiting the same places, seeing the same faces. In a sea of 130 million ants, I get to know the look of the ones in my borough, even though we have nothing to do with each other. I wonder how that affects our consciousness. I have no good gauge to judge such things.

In a room with people I live amongst, we get close enough to almost touch. I wonder if the space between us vibrates your stings like it does mine. I stir and shift. For half a drunken second, our eyes meet without reason. Is this the beginning or the end of something? Or is it just another random moment in a meaningless string of many?

I wake and think of those I used to touch. The ones who knew (know?) me most. The ones who don’t say phrases like, “You have to admit that men and women are different.” The ones who kept me when I had lost my way. The ones I long to have back again.

But stars in lanterns, as we know, eventually burn out. And stars aren’t made of hardwood, so the ash they leave behind is useless to us. Only a memento of the light we used to know.

Nothing more doing.

I find myself missing that light in this long dark night. Craving the warmth of it as we laid, elbow to elbow on our backs, staring up at the splatter of stars making the arms of our galaxy. Did we know, at the time, our lines were separating?

I wish these silver lined tracks ran in circles back to you. I wish they could tie my multifarious sides into one thing. One life.

But I know they lead into the heart of a place you have never been and will not go. So, I go alone and hope to find others with a similar heart.

How does it look? Well, for one: the stranger I hoped to know got up mid-conversation and walked out. So, it doesn’t look too good ney?

I am, on my back, splayed out as if the world delivered me a hard hit. Straight to the face. And bloodied, I sit down in the grass. Look up. There is no-one to talk to but the stars.

Do you think they can make out a call for help?

No, probably not.

電車を乗るとき、いい気持だと思う。

[The time I ride the train gives a good feeling, I think]

An urban heart brought me without strings to the city of cities. The glowing, polluted and beautiful metropolis where two sides of everything crash, headlong, into one another. I have been tailored over 31 years to enjoy being caught in the middle.

Love grows like a bud, understanding forcing its way up through the mud of contextless confusion. I feel I am approaching everything. Riding hands free on the express train toward the heart of myself. Pink, white, green tips of branches from long-standing trees reach out to me. Under their trunks are the roots of history, sentience, memory. Each sentinel is a story waiting to be told.

The patterns of words become maps on my tongue. I can read and write before I speak, and this does not feel backwards. The lines of graphite and ink on white are a comfort to me. I see design and repetition in the numbers of stroke order. In the sharp edges buildings and flashing lights make. The curves of shadows around the bend of a wall against the river. I see kanji everywhere and I understand it on an intuitive level better than these intangible roman letters.

Every morning is a half hour commute.
The tracks of the train are well planned and get me where I’m headed fast. Though I have an innate sense that I will have to find a new home to do the work I want. But like the avenues of blossom-dusted trees, I am rooted here. Rooted to the times I have passed through. To faces I have touched. To names I recall. There is no need to set fire to any them. If I should, on what strength will I weather the storms of this world?

Each seed cast from my hand is a place I will come again. A semi-nomad has many homes and I was born from a motion-born blood. The energy of the air stimulates my cells to change. I am a creature of imagination, full of potential not yet realized. The set-up is still in progress. I am still riding, legs strained, keeping balance, waiting for my station to come.

寂しいとき、どうしたの?

[What to do in loneliness.]

I watch the train driver lean out the window as we pass the station, hand on the emergency break. There are blue lights that you can stand in at the ends of stations, almost ultraviolet in their subtle comfort. When we pass the platform, the conductor closes the window and removes the key that would allow the train to stop suddenly. When we come to the next station, even ones we glance through on the express, the conductor has been trained to lean out and watch the tracks.

The light, I noticed, is sometimes switched on for rainy days, too. Such a subtle and quiet prevention plan. One, I assume, most people don’t even know exists.

I stand in the blue light every time I wait at the station when the sun has gone down. I find the coming home alone is the hardest. I think my ears must still unconsciously listen for you at the door, in the other room. I think my mind is waiting for your coming in. My heart trying to justify in terms of logic and reason why it hasn’t happened yet.

It is a mean, hard-pressed, and lasting habit with barbs hooked into every late-night though, every half-woken moment, every sudden start from a nightmare or a dream. I had not even known it needed breaking until just yesterday.

But, how does one leave off a thing never consciously done?

Perhaps, by consciously doing something else. A behavioural cut-up until the torn-up, shorn-off feelings fade. Until habits do not directly contradict reality.

How long is that? Three days? Weeks? Years? A lifetime?

Do I have enough time left alive to place anything in the hole of you?

It’s worth a try.

Maybe I should make myself a blue, almost ultraviolet light and lay in it at night.