Professional Boredom

I have not flown in the Toyota Pavilion even once today, and on top of that, there is no easy way for me to log in, so I am sitting here in silence, darkness, and stillness.

My room at the apartments is an utter shithole, and I need to clean it.  I would also like to see this Czech music festival at the Expo, so I was thinking of taking the bus home after “work” (assuming that the winch system gets up and running again), cleaning my room, and then taking the 7:00 bus to come back and see the festival.

Making Things Complicated

The sleeping bag is damp.

I have been lying on it non-stop for three hours, and didn’t even notice it until now, shifting positions.

It is in one of these rare moments when the wind dies down and the surf drops to absolute silence… the gulls all around stop screeching as if collectively looking over their shoulders at the ocean, as I have.

Behind us, I hear our kite drop to the ground.

And the whole scene comes back to life again, birds, waves, and wind.

We have downed two bottles of wine, grilled eel, and a block of parmesan cheese.

This is the way I like to travel, with no itinerary, but rather a guiding desire – today’s is to see the sand dunes south of Hamamatsu.

And see them we have, for hours now.  It is a strand of beach, whipped up into hills of sand by the incessant action of the wind, one kilometer deep by 8 kilometers long.

The sun is sinking in the west, and I am cradling this adorable woman’s head to my chest, and she coos to me slightly drunkenly in her ever so slight accent:

“Let’s go back to the hotel room and fuck like crazy.”

It is good to be in love, it is good to have a girlfriend.  It is good to have a person who challenges you and who adores you, and who you challenge and adore right back.  It is good to be in synch with someone, psychologically, intellectually, sexually.

But these needs never seem to be met by one person, and this woman is not my girlfriend.

“I can’t do that,” I reply.  “you know that.”

“Then let’s go to an izakaya and drink some more and then go back to the hotel room and fuck like crazy.”

I am being good, and I laugh off her advances.

She has known from day one, well two, that I have a girlfriend, and that I am not interested in another.

But the important things are not what is going on between us, it is the feel of the wind on my feet and the smell of the sand.

I remove my arm from under her head, lolling it to one side as I rise and walk to our kite and coax it back up to the sky while she sits up behind me and lights a cigarette.

It is not quite dark enough to be called dark, but the wind has changed directions and flavors.

Can this be considered cheating in mind?

To have someone with whom I can speak in all the ways that I wish I could speak to my girlfriend, to do all those kooky things that she would never even consider trying, laughing off as immature or self-indulgent on my part?

Like staring at a hermit crab that we have just fished out of the harbor for half an hour to see how long it will take him to get up the courage to peek out of his shell at us.

Rescuing a long dead sea cucumber from a rocky grave.

Talking with a restaurant owner about his pet rabbits, long deceased, but whose amazing feats, like navigating flights of stairs in order to defecate into a little box, are forever memorialized in his memory.

“There are people for whom the details are important, and people for whom the big things are important,” I say.

“I am a details person,” she says, without hesitation.

“How so?”

Now, she hesitates, a little – “Well, what did you mean by what you said?”

“I don’t know, really.  But you seem to.”

We are silent for a while.  Pigeons are wrestling each other with their beaks.  I wonder what they are doing.

“They are kissing,” she says, and takes their picture.  Then she takes a picture of a landmark hotel.  Behind her, one of the pigeons is squashing the other under his feet.  talons, even.  She is oblivious, and by the time she turns around, they are circling around each other, disheveled.

The night before, we had been lying on the beach.  Today, we are returning back to our respective homes, where we will sleep and prepare for another day of work at the expo.

After saying goodbye, I search for a local-looking restaurant to get dinner.  I enter, and can immediately tell that as a foreigner and non-local, I am not very welcome.

“We only have curry left,” says the owner.  He is drunk and lisping, and the locals he is drinking with are eyeing me suspiciously.

“Curry will be fine,” I reply, and sit down at a corner table away from the unruly gang to watch the baseball on TV.

The curry is served up without fanfare, and I thank the owner.

As I am just about finished, his wife, the chef, emerges from the kitchen with a green chili on a small plate with a dollop of miso sauce on the side.

“Can you eat this?” she asks me.

“Of course.”

“It is spicy.”

“I know.”

I dip it in the sauce and eat it while she watches me suspiciously.

“Do you need water?”

“No, it was delicious.”

She shrugs and disappears to the other side of the room.  I hear her telling the rough-looking gang of regulars that I had eaten it.  She come back with a plate full, and drops it next to me.

“Go ahead.”

“Thanks,” I reply, and keep on eating the chilis.  One of the regulars sidles up to me and delivers the regular speech.”

“Where ya from ya look a little Asian I can tell by the nose you don’t look Japanese you could eat those things, thought maybe you were Indonesian could tell by the nose people with a triangle nose they can eat spicy food, me also, I’m not all Japanese 800 years ago my family came from Mongolia, but here in Japan I need to keep that a secret.”

I nod and smile in all the right places.  He is drunk.  The woman appears to have lost interest, and after telling me that chilis are too spicy for her, she retreats to the kitchen.

“What are you wearing under your pants?” he asks me.

“Underwear.  Shorts.”

He looks around furtively.  “You know Japanese underwear?”

“No,” I say.

“Well, there are no women around, so…”

He undoes his belt and drops his pants enough to show me the rag-style underwear that many older people in Japan still wear.  Younger too, for all I know.  Then he does his pants up again.

I swallow my bite of curry rice.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“Of course not,” I reply.  It was interesting to see.

The cook comes out again, and joins us.”

“I showed him my underwear,” said the local.

“Bullshit,” she replies.

“Yes, I did.  didn’t I?”

This is getting weird, but I respond, “Yes, he did.  It was interesting.”

“I’m worried he thinks I am some sort of pervert,” says the man.

“Not at all,” I say, and am thankful when the conversation turns to another topic, what I am doing in Japan.

“Show us,” the cook demands, when she learns that i am an acrobat.  I can tell she doesn’t believe me.  She is trying to get a rise out of me, but I don’t know why.  I stand up and get ready to to a backflip as she calls out to the whole restaurant that I am supposed to be some kind of acrobat, and now I’m going to prove it.

I do a backflip, like a trained monkey, bow low, and retreat to my corner booth to finish the last bites of my meal.  I gather my belongings, and graciously accept the presents that the customers of the bar offer me for providing a little entertainment tonight.

Before I go to the register to pay, as i am putting on my jacket, the old woman implores me to stay in japan.

“Please stay and live here,” she says.

“Of course,” I reply.

“Of course.”

And it is time for me to go home, now.

The night before, we went to an izakaya.  Three or so, to be specific, and ate and drank until we could eat and drink no more.

I love that she can speak Japanese better than I can, but that when it comes to the street, I still have an advantage.

We are mistaken for every dark nationality under the sun, except for Black and Asian.  Indian, Spanish, Mexican…

An odd pair.

We fill up on food long before we feel the effects of the alcohol, so we head back to the hotel, picking up some strong Japanese fruit liquor along the way.

We turn on NHK, the Japanese public television station, which is showing the X-Games.  stunt BMX.

“Did you ever do that?” she asks me.

“God no.  It’s crazy.”

“You have done a lot of crazy things,” she says.

The lights are off now, and the alcohol has worn off.  the television channel is changing as I drift between sleep and consciousness.  It settles on a Japanese show in which a nerdy looking scientist recites facts about the surface of various objects in the solar system before naming them and showing satellite images of them.  The antagonists of this science program are two women who squeal orgasmicly at the information.

Surface temperature of 270 degrees Celcius…90 times the atmospheric pressure of Earth… atmosphere made up principally of carbon dioxide…

“Venus,” I mutter. “Gold planet,” I repeat, in Japanese, eyes closed.  The bed feels nice.

“Gold planet” confirms the scientist.

Squeal!

Brightest object in the blah blah blah tidal forces of blah blah no cratering blah blah

“Europa, moon of Jupiter.” the pillow is soft.

“Europa”

Squeal!

“How do you know all this?” she asks.

“Used to be my job.  I was a…” fuck it.

“A what?”

“let’s go to bed.”

She knows that I am not just an acrobat, but she can only suspect.  I don’t talk like how she imagines an acrobat would talk.  I don’t ask acrobat questions.

She comes to bed.  It is not the first time that we have fallen asleep next to each other, but it is the first time that she is breathing this way.

“I have the power, actually,” she says, “I can kiss you, but you can not kiss me.”

I don’t answer, but she moves close to me.  She can tell that I find her attractive.

The next thing I know, I am no longer being good.  There is kissing, and the breathing intensifies and I am flooded with images of my girlfriend.

She undoes her kimono.

I feel her hand on me.  I can feel where this is going.  Warm.  A summer night.

“No,” I say.

She doesn’t stop.

“No,” I repeat, more firmly.  “We need to stop.”

And she listens.  Falling to the side of me.  Breathing changing again.

Like a hubcap coming off a moving car.

“What are you thinking about?” she asks.

“If we do this, it can never be undone.”

And then she is on top of me again.  I want to resist, but that enveloping pressure so familiar and yet as unique as a fingerprint, lulls my protests.

And it is over.

“How do you feel?” she asks?

“Very guilty.”

“Nothing good at all?” she says, after a pause.

I say nothing.

“I raped you,” she says, “and now you hate me.”

I don’t hate her, and I tell her that.  I don’t even know if I was raped.

I never said yes, but I didn’t fight back, and when I let myself go, I enjoyed it, but immediately after, all the reality came flooding back, and I was back there again.

A dog.

I still love my girlfriend, and this woman knows that.

I can not sleep with this woman again, and she knows that too.

Though there are times when I am filled with a type of affection for her that I wish that I could feel for my girlfriend, I do not think that this woman could ever be my girlfriend.

And I will lie to my girlfriend about her.

And I continue to descend ever deeper into a complexity that I could have never imagined before I left the “right life” to find something else.

I feel so much more, for myself, and for others, than I ever did before.

And I am so much worse, and yet so much better that I ever was before.

In the morning, she asks me again how I am.

I smile at her, and say “you know.”  And then pull her to me.  When she can’t see me anymore, I stop smiling.  My hand is on her thigh, and I embrace her from behind.

She is beautiful, even with my eyes closed, but she is not my girlfriend, and never will be.

“You make things too complicated for yourself,” she says.

And suddenly,

Without a doubt,

I know that she is right.

 

Free Woman

I don’t know why writing always has this feel for me.  Like I am chasing after a huge mass rolling downhill, faster and faster.  In a way it is exciting; trying to catch these words and ideas before they escape me.  I look at the errors i make in my writing, and they often give me clues as to the way I think.  Lots of replacements of homonyms – I am thinking more in sounds than in concepts when it comes to formulating an idea.  But it is at the same time a little intimidating, I often find myself not wanting to sit down and write simply because I am made uneasy by this feeling of losing ideas that would otherwise slip into the passe all by themselves.

I feel like I am chasing these things away rather than letting them diffuse away at their own rate.  The smaller, less important images first, and the larger, headier, more involved notions later by a standard principle of a random walk.

Like perfume in a crowded room.

She looks up at the concrete over our heads and sighs.  she tells me that she is a free woman now, that it is over.  On her birthday, she adds.

“Was he nice about it?” I ask.  “Did he aim for your birthday?”

“I just feel bad because I should have done it earlier.  He was expecting.”

She looks so good tonight in her solemnly festive black dress that spills so nicely over her classy fishnet stockings bound by the straps of her delicate but just-a-little-threatening high heeled-dancing shoes.

Later in the night, after everyone has left, we will remain there, dancing in her room as the sun comes up, cheek to cheek.  Her, free, and me, not, but at the moment there is only this dance.  I can smell her.

She tells me she is drunk… I can feel the heat of the party still radiating off of her body, and I believe her.  “One more song,” she says, for the fifth time maybe, and I am glad she is insisting, or I would have already gone to bed and missed these moments.

And it all comes down to these moments, doesn’t it?

At the risk of feeling like a spectator at the aquarium that is my life, I feel this odd distance that allows me to see the larger patterns at work here.

The rocking back and forth of a van full of Lithuanians chanting a national hymn called “3 million,” and understanding the emotion in the words enough to claim to be fluent in this language.

They are my friends in a way that I can not often be with native English speakers.  We hide behind the language, the cleverness therein, and forget that what it can be about is this.

The steam of alcohol on your breath and a crooked smile that accompanies a situation that would never come to pass in more lucid times.

But i can look around the room that is before me, seeing the image that unfolds, and understand that this is one of the moments that truly belongs in my life.  there is a blanket of sadness, a fleeting quality.

We know that we are living in a paradise and that it will end so quickly.

This is my seventh paradise, maybe, and I am worried that I will soon run out.

Japanese laisser-faire to middle school rebel to high school dropout to MIT kung-fu Obi-Wan to circus school debasement and squalor to the high-stakes gambling and image pawning of show-production to this odd mix of international politics and romance… wabisabi.

The further I go through my life the more willing I am to stare at nothing and see something.  I don’t know if I am deceiving myself, or if I am more in tune to the subtleties in shading of a white wall.

A wall of cricket-chirps and frog-cricking in a rice paddy.

A fucking rice paddy.

To be in Japan, again, finally, even, and in the end, it seems like another step, nothing mystical at all, but rather an inevitability.  One drunken step after another, one friend met and departed.

I love these people, the ones dancing in front of me.

She will accuse me later of having given in to my supposedly long-abandoned habit of showing off.

“I like to live my everyday life so that a person watching me will not know that i am an acrobat,” I said, proudly.  like I this makes me a fucking prince.

But these women are showing off too, and I would be callous not to appreciate it in good fun.  I am jealous of the way that they can move, and the way that they are hanging from the rafters in the ceiling.  There are moments of real poetry in what they are doing.  A duet of sexy pole dancing that has an added element of something lost.

The stage is perhaps wasted on performers.  I would so much rather paint these spaces with the people that I really love.  Like the people that I am at this party with.

The Japanese boyfriend feels a little out of place, but he is here all the same, and talking, too, god bless him.

The little dramas and the comedies that are intertwining and playing out on this wine-spattered tapestry.

We are representing a whole country here.

I know every word that is passing from one mouth into the ears of the other.  they are singing about me, but I do not know the specifics.

I understood a lot, here, with these people who have not forgotten how to live, as I had.

I remembered a good part of it, and I discovered things that I had never known.

I learned how to dance for myself, and how to dance for an audience.  I learned how to dance with a partner.

I learned how to hold a woman closely, to press her close to me and breathe the same air as her; to strip everything away from the experience except for our emotions.

Before I would have fucked it up with a stupid comment, or tried to rationalize it away for myself, and in doing so, lost out on the deluge of colors that I am only now starting to appreciate as another side of life.

It is like seeing an abstract painting after a lifetime of hating this pretentious shit, and all of a sudden, having it come together and touch me in a way that is so real and incommunicable.

Perhaps I was hooked on my own insistance that that which is not communicable is not real, and therefore indescribable emotions are a reflection of a weakness in the communicator rather than another class of life experiences altogether.  One that you need to plunge into completely in order to fully experience.  No tethers, no ties, no safety lines.

The only one you are cheating is yourself, here.  And you will know if you are cheating.  and if you are trying to hide the fact that you are cheating from yourself.  And if you are trying to hide the fact that you’re hiding the fact that you are cheating from yourself…

When you really go skinny dipping for real, without trying to hide anything, that is when you are skinny dipping.  Not when you are telling yourself “it is OK, I am with friends,” or “at least this is a quiet part of the lake” or “in my g-string is basically naked.”  when you are just naked and wet and don’t give a fuck, that is when you are maybe about to understand some modern art.  or a haiku.  or fucking Chopin, for Christ’s sake!

I am getting a private chair-dance from four beautiful Lithuanian women at once, and not thinking about anything other than how beautiful they are.

Later on, sure, I am examining the fuck out of the situation, but at the time, I was able to just be there, like eyes stuck in a brain.

Her fishnet stockings are torn.

The shoes are untied now, and thrown up against the door.  Eviscerated.

Hair salon style mussed and the dress is crumpled in a corner somewhere.

The sun spills over the mountains onto the balcony where a smoldering cigar teeters on the edge of a tin ashtray.

Mist churns, rolling off the treetops into the valleys.  it is just starting to boil away in the pale blue of the Japanese morning.

This is a horizontal light.

 

 

 

 

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Rhythm of Hatred

Learned and so numb, enough to come into my room.

A speaker is like a pillow that can shake your sensibilities away.

Trying to get away from the idea that I can ever reproduce a moment.

A cigar smoke tendril floating to become a microscopic film of dust.

Light can fill you up.

A word can empty you.

Hair of deepest black.

I feel like I can only know myself as a reflection in the souls of the people I have ever known.

Time means less to me than the ticking and clicking of amis as they pass into the past.

It is like a life of goodbyes, with no certain future.

She responds with shock and dismay to a pantomimed suicide.

“Never that,” she says, “never that.”

Or, perhaps, all too often.

There is a comedy in seeing the ignorance that surrounds me without considering that ignorance that must emanate from myself.

putrescence.

I want to believe that I can live the rest of my life surrounded by these good people.

To let myself and my desires float away.

Not to change the world.

Not to find love.

Not to look a child of mine in the eyes.

To be truly able to fill myself with a landscape at dawn.

Mist rolling off a mountain.

Standing still in a hot summer rain fully clothed, eyes closed and soaked, but happy.

I fear that I have nothing left to say, that all this is echoes of a passionate past.

That I am jaded to the core.

All this is madness, I think, and I can not see myself holding it together indefinitely.

But I will sit here and count in order to find an order.

To feel a logic.

Waiting here, and nothing comes.

Nothing comes.

Nothing.

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Muse

Mutherfucker time to plug in to the old flow.  get those juices flowin’ and don’t stop till I find myself crammed up against the side of a bent up rusty drainpipe somewhere south of the Louisiana turnpike.

Maybe in the end we don’t ever travel so far as we feel.

Fingers stroking lightly over the keys, the questions living under my eyelids, unable to see anything except  for the words that are not even on the paper yet.  Nonexistant.  presoit.

He tells me it is a pleasure, and honor.  we talk briefly about the Bulgarian writer and what he says:

A man is most himself when he travels.  A liar is a even more of a liar when he travels, but a good man is always good.  “My English is not so good,” he tells me.

I tell him that I understood perfectly.  I understood before he even opened his mouth, but I did not have the luxury of knowing that someone else said these things in this way earlier.  Now I can rest in it like a little idea bed, a conceptual cupola.

I see it as a naked Tinkerbell dancing in a dewy ivy leaf, flirting with the camera lens like a faerie fucking Marilyn Monroe.

We head to the Red Cross pavilion.  “It is hard to see,” he agrees, “but people need to think of such things.”

“I wanted to get a Red Cross watch,” I tell him.  “I’ll go with.”

So we walk to the pavilion under the same umbrella, in that uncomfortable way where you feel like the person holding the umbrella is trying to force you out from under it because of how close they are trying to walk next to you, so you walk in a zig-zag like some sort of passive-aggressive pushmepullyou until you arrive at the Red Cross pavilion where there is a 25-minute wait and you decide that after all, 25 minutes is still a pretty long period of time to buy a watch, much less save the world.

So we head back to Bulgaria to drink wine.

I want to believe that I am in Bulgaria, nestled in snugly next to the Black Sea like an arm under a pillow, smiling at the ceiling in some dream soaked in the snoring self-consciousness that is personal resentment.

I want to feel the history that is seeping through the cobblestones that the uneven cafe table that I am sitting at rocks gently back and forth to the rhythm of my involvement in my conversation.

Thunk.  Chink.  Ca-chunk.  Scrch.  Whunt.

I feel the wine on my lips and the slow path it blazes to my stomach.

I am hearing their words, “the presents are not important, what is important, what is important is the friendship.  In our lives, the most important thing is our relationships.”

They are piling wine and yogurt and cookies on me.  At first, it was “only honey and yogurt.  no wine.”  the tell me this proudly, mis-remembering that I do not drink.  It is clear that I do in short time, and they make up for there blunder of familiarity by stocking my bag to the top with cold bottles of white wine.  The condensation is already starting to soak through the bag and I hope it will get to my house without dissolving, because, god help me, it is OK wine.

“Every time I look at this pin,” Nic tells me in earnestness, “i will remember our friendship.  We are like best friends.”

There is no irony here, there is not drama, there is no jadedness.  we are indeed like best friends.

I am embarrassed by my presents.  Three metal pins in the shape of music-playing robots.

My friends have given me a traditional Bulgarian perfume container, a CD of their traditional dance show, cookies and wine and yogurt to eat, and more than I can comfortably carry to take home.

“It doesn’t play music, smell good, or taste good.”  I say.  It is a pin.

“Is it ‘pins’ or ‘pin?'” asks Bobi, through Georg.

“It is pin.” I say.  “One pin, two pins.”

“Pins,” repeats Georg.

“Pins,” repeats Bobi.

When people do not speak the same language and yet are still able to be like best friends, there is an acceptance that we are going to sound mentally retarded to each other.  The trick in these situations is to assume that the natural state of interpersonal relationships is fundamentally retarded, mentally.

Later, Georg will take the Bavarian to see the Bulgarian dance show, “too many Germans come to visit Bulgaria.”  I know that he means to say “very many,” he has made this error consistently in the two months that he and I have made semblant the state of “best friends,” but she is shocked.

Georg doesn’t like Germans?  He wishes that they would stay in Germany where they belong — those fucking fascist Nazi history-rewriting pig-dogs?

Oh, wait.

He means “very,” I say, embarrassed to correct my best friend in front of him.

His English is no better than mine in terms of how well he can express what he means.

He says “too” and means “very”.

I say “we need to figure out a way to somehow share each others interests at a level more sympathetic and commensurate with each others’ experience in that interest,” when I mean to say “I feel alone.”

I write an essay, and mean “I feel surrounded by compassionate people.”

I feel so sure that what I am about to say will flawlessly convey what I am feeling.  I trust in communication as much as the next guy, but there is a level of honesty that is abandoned the second that I stop feeling and start reacting.

The Bulgarian writer, as Georg explains to me later, was killed by the communists in a political revolution in Bulgaria in the nineteen twenties.

He had written a story about a typical Bulgarian man, one that was scathing in its apparent honesty, and was so well communicated, so transparently transferred from this artists heart to page, that the fears of the ruling class were reflected in its unpolished clarity.

The pebble, still wet,

jumps from my hand to the pond.

the stars disappear.

And another intellectual’s brains are spilled like canned beef stew exploding languidly over the starched institutional sheets of a freshly-made bed.

Life is slower in Bulgaria.

The lamb is cooked for hours outdoors over a fire.  You tap the bone on your plate, and the meat slides off.

This tasted heavenly in my mouth.

My friends, Bobi and Nic, do the second-to-last show of their time at the Expo.  It is the last time I will see them in japan and i see and feel that they are doing this show for me, and it is true, we are like best friends.

———————————

I go to the Lithuanian pavilion.  hundreds of kilometers north of Bulgaria, bordering another sea.

My friend The Political Scientist is famous there, and her Japanese puts mine to shame.

Seeing her there with her radiant smile, I realize that no one would ever know that she is shy, or afraid to dance swing just because she doesn’t know how.

They would never know that her mother is not used to her or that her father is in Austria – maybe – or that she put flowers on the grave of her grandmother’s twentieth dead chicken.

They would simply see her and say ‘what a friendly and secure woman representing her country with poise and charm.  And what a nice linen suit.”

But I know she uncovered the elusive bol weevil and braved the firestorm that is Cody.

And i am still impressed by her poise.

—————————–

I am typing vertically and furiously on a computer that doesn’t see how my questions are exactly the sorts of questions that it would dream of if a computer could dream.

“He is getting smarter,” The Political Scientist says, “every day he learns.”