– untitled 13

And so, what is the tale that we tell ourselves when the end of our lives come together? The snapshots that people talk of, I think exist, are real; miniature haiku, as if haiku could be shorter than thought separated into three lines; the scrapping of leaves cast from trees blowing along a path, the sunlit dew-drops of morning on a flower.

I lent her a pen, the girl on the bus. The bus came so rarely and we were both a long way from home. At the time, we were the only two, the other passengers having got off at the stop just prior. That was where she had boarded, at a popular tourist point. She leant towards the driver and asked what one would do in the case of lost property, forgotten things. I sat directly behind the driver, and she sat across the aisle from me. He directed her towards the phone number on a sign that ran along the inside of the bus, just to her left. She said she understood and sat, contained and upright, stared ahead as if the matter had all been taken care of. Her anxiety was subtle, concern accenting her face every now and then like the sun weaving through the greenery outside. So I offered her my pen.

The road through the Oirase Gorge towards Lake Towada twists and turns with  the stream on the right, and waterfalls and beech trees either side. The ‘se’ of Oirase means rapids, and the water was alive with them.

I had forgotten to cap the pen. In fact, it is the one I am using now and it is fluffy and pilled with misuse. Ink can seem to pill.  I guess the liquid picks up dust and fluff. It stained my fingers black and I apologised for handing it to her  in such bad condition. She said not to worry and thank you very much. She wrote down the number, having some paper buried in her handbag somewhere, and she returned the pen and I continued transferring photos to disk on my camera phone.

Her friends joined her at a stop further up and a young couple flagged down the bus a few minutes from an official stop, apologising and thanking as they boarded. She was happy to see her friends. I guessed she had realised her loss after disembarkation at the popular tourist spot where the previous passengers had just recently got off. She probably planned with her friends to wait for the next bus while they did part of the walk that ran along side the stream and to catch up with them later. It must have been frustrating, and lonely too, considering the paucity of buses, though maybe she was lucky enough to be there at one of the times of day when one ran every hour, or even more lucky, at the one time of the day when there were two within the hour. Despite this scarcity, the buses ran on time, so a pre-appointment was possible and apparent.

Still within the gorge, the girl and her friends rang the bell and were dropped off, probably staying at one of the onsens along the path. Caught up with my new technology, I forgot to acknowledge her acknowledgement of thanks.

As the bus pulled away I woke up from my distractedness and looked out the window hoping to see her. I was sitting on the seats furthest from the edge of the road, on the righthand side. She was – hair pulled back, face pinched with worry, but reassured to be in the company of her friends – looking straight at me.

She gave me a solemn pale-faced bow, and I did the gaijin equivalent in return, or a nod, as I was sitting – then the bus pulled away, the stream continued, and I think I might see her, I think she might be present,  in a final smudging of pink and white, like Ezra Pound’s petals on the bough, when it comes time for the last few seconds of my memory and experience to softly billow past.

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2 Comments on “– untitled 13”

  1. somebody somewhere Says:

    Beautiful river photos, well realised wriitng. Really felt like I could see her. Isn’t it amazing the effect someone can have, just by paying attention. Thanks for the post.

  2. lizardrinking Says:

    I think you don’t get to know the Japanese until you pay attention. So much communication is ‘heart-to-heart’, inshin-denshin where you’re meant to feel out what the other person is thinking. That girl probably would not have asked anyone, except maybe her friends, for a pen, because it’s really the other person’s duty to sense her feelings, dilemma. To our way of thinking, it is very frustrating, and I am too aware when I go back home. But, when I am back home, it also seems that no-one is aware of others. The pursuit of pleasure for the individual comes at the expense of the communal.

    What I meant to work into the post, and I still might, is that my students so often don’t have a pen but don’t ask their friends. Their friends are meant to sense that they are pen-less, I think… but being teenagers, or just out of their teens, they never do… I might put some pens on jars on the desks so that that little social hurdle is overcome.


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