Monday, July 2, 2007

Japan Story of the Day: i hate milk

I put a great amount of care into not being found out. I mean, I am found out from the beginning with dirty-brown hair, conspicuous blue eyes and one-hundred eighty two centimeters. But I labor to have the casual observer glance and say, "My he is refined in spite of himself. In spite of this avalanche of arm hair and that rounded head." I will pay $150 for a commuter ticket when paying each time at the machine with loose change would cost me maybe half so that people won't think, "Look at that foreigner, I wonder if he knows where he is going?" I stand up on the train when they announce my station in Japanese. I scoff at the English announcement or pretend not to hear it. I never get up and run to the yellow line with false hope when the out of service train rolls through. I laugh at those who expend their energy on such folly. I settle back in my chair and wait to feel some subconscious congratulations emanating from my fellow commuters. Today I began putting my book back in my bag when they announced we would soon be stopping at Juso. I didn't run through the station because I knew it was the local that I wanted, not the rapid. I didn't get in line because the semi-express would come first. When I did board the local, I knew that even though I had gotten in through the left doors I would be exiting in one stop from the right. I think there must be a design school in Mikuni because girls with cropped and dyed blonde hair and wearing unusual clothes while carrying portfolio tubes stream from the train as I get off. I easily walk to the escalator, letting all of them flow in front of me and wondering if they notice just how much I belong in their world. I walk slowly down the escalator with the crowd thinking about how, from Osaka down, we walk on a different side than those heathens in Tokyo. I reach the end of the escalator and take out my wallet to produce my computer pass that emphatically, quietly proves that I do this every day. That I am nothing out of the ordinary. That I belong. The change purse on my wallett comes apart at the edge. I hadn't been buying single tickets lately so I haven't used much loose change. It all spills down the escalator accumulating where the steps submerge, fold, then repeat. I keep walking as there is a press of people behind me and it would be unseemly to dive on the ground for money. My commuter pass, flimsy recycled plastic, is stuck in my wallet behind my bank card as the humidity has clung to it. A nervous, tall man hands me some of my change. He mumbles something in English but I don't catch it. I am out of the flow now. I have to wait to get through a ticket gate. I stand to the side and try to dart into openings. It wasn't until after lunch that I realized that my fly was down.

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attempting to silence the voices in my head.