For Old’s Sake Sake
“Ah, what is the life of a human being–a drop of dew, a flash of lightning? This is so sad, so sad. What can I say?” –Akutagawa (translated from the Japanese)
On this day last year, I boarded a non-stop Tokyo to Newark flight. Halfway through the flight I woke up having dreamed I kept stepping into temples with the wrong foot first. After going to brush my teeth in the tiny airplane bathroom, I read the book I had found at the airport–an English translation of a Japanese writer–and then slept again, dreamlessly.
This is what I love about keeping notebooks–the tedium, the chicken feet, the Yeats, all scribbled and starred and squared. I am between notebooks right now. This afternoon, going to buy non-monied paper at Kate’s Paperie, I tried to purchase a new one, but they were out. [To the effect of tedium I’ll jot down what struck me today: the bricklayers next door, the holes in my walls, the song the homeless man whistles outside my window at this very moment, the way my students looked at me blankly when I asked what poetry is.]
It was yesterday of last year, however, that had me digging through my notebooks: our last night in Tokyo. I was in Japan with Thorn (my ex-stepfather, dear friend & travelling partner–don’t ask! I don’t know how I ended up with this life!), and we were on our way to eat dinner at a Tepenyaki steak house. There, they would throw live shrimp onto the hot plate, watch them jump and sizzle, chop their heads off and then place them on our plates. But it was the getting to the restaurant that struck me most.
The impeccable halls with their impeccable lighting: the walk to the elevator was magic. Violin music poured from room 427. Truly, it poured from the room. I wanted to knock on the door, to walk in, lay my head on the clean, square pillow and fall asleep listening to those songs.
I was just from the shower and feeling far from home but feeling good and tall in heels and satisfied but hungry and suddenly filled with music I’d never heard before. In the elevator stood a girl-woman in striped knee socks, near fifty, but giggling wildly and sucking a lollipop, her teeth red with its juice. I stared too long at her, smiled, nodded. When the doors opened we were at the rooftop restaurant and shooting straight out from the center of Tokyo was a rainbow.
The trip had been long, squatting over holes in China, feeling disoriented in an almost blinding way, comforted only by nightly phone calls to Cody and poems Andrea was writing in Europe and sending to my email. But that night, one year ago last night was perfect. And it was the disembodied music I loved the most–something so right in knowing that behind the locked doors strings gave way to a bow.