Thursday, June 6, 2013

Under the Shinjuku Summer Sun

I remember the day when I left the country in search of the home where my heart is. Standing at the platform, I watched the train leave Sendagaya Station until it was nothing more than a silver dot in the distance. From that point on, I was a stranger again in an unfamiliar city, taking my chances with only this nostalgia to guide my way.

It was not what I was expecting about that part of Tokyo. All the while I thought the train station barely had enough elbow room for commuters to stand their ground as they wager against the perils, the unguarded moments, of forced intimacy, and the transitory nature of life in that corner of an equally transitory city. But by the time I stepped out of the train, I was proven wrong. Walking beyond the yellow line on the floor, I joined the few people making their way towards the platform exit. The flight of steps led into a small underground chamber where panaflex signboards line the white walls. In that stretch of closed space under the fluorescent light, the clatter of our footsteps echoed like truncheons pummeling every bone in the human body. Or at least that was how they sounded to my ears. I turned left and saw the row of turnstiles a few steps ahead. In lieu of the voice from the public address system, I heard the sound of passing cars.

I waited at a nearby coffee shop — Beck’s Coffee Shop. If you’ve been to Shinjuku before via Sendagaya, you will easily find it at the east side of the station. For two hundred and ten yen, I tried to enjoy a cup of their signature brew, the taste of which I can no longer remember. Perhaps I was too busy minding the taste of anxiety in my throat at the time.

A little after one o’clock, she finally arrived. By then, I could taste nothing. My mouth must have voluntarily numbed itself.

It was like first year college all over again, as if God plucked her fresh from my memory so that I saw what I badly needed to see. She was lovely, her beauty undiminished by a decade, not even a day. Judging by the way she dressed herself, she’s still the girl whose skintight jeans give her curves the justice they deserve, whose blouse dignify the arc sloping from the side of her chest to her hips. If looking at her is a crime, I should have died by way of capital punishment then and there. She pulled up a chair and sat next to me, as if it was the most natural gesture one should anticipate from someone who, after a long time of absence, is never required to explain herself.

“What brings you all the way to Tokyo?” That was how she began — with a question, like an inquisitor that demands the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from a pathological liar, though I was not one.

“I’ve heard that you have stolen a thousand hearts and that you have no intention of returning them to their owners,” I said. “I’m here for what I believe is mine.”

“Your heart?”

“No,” I smiled, “yours.” It was the truth.

Looking back, my audacity to tell her once and for all what I was hoping to tell her all along was the biggest risk I ever took. I was not prepared to travel back home by plane with a heart thrice heavier than when it first reached Japan. Wherever you go, airports have limits for the weight of excess baggage. When I said it, her face was blank I was almost tempted to etch my own smile onto her lips just to give her some semblance of life. It was clear; she was not ready for this day.

I asked her what her plan was for the afternoon. Without hesitating for a moment of thought, she said she’s supposed to take a walk until sundown at the Shinjuku Gyoen Garden with someone, a man she said she has grown into liking for the last several years she has lived in Japan. I looked at her, and for a minute I was speechless, almost shaking my head in disbelief. I cast my eyes on the floor, trying to understand how and why she would not even bother to spend the rest of her day with someone who just travelled a thousand miles in pursuit of her. I found myself yet again in the face of uncertainty. I felt my heart implode and shrink into the size of a congenital wart. But then she extended her hand to me, and she said:

“So, will you hold this while you and I stroll until sundown?”

“Touché,” I quipped. My worst fear subsided. I held her hand and we stood. It was a short walk to the Shinjuku garden, and by nightfall I have finally known the taste of summer from her lips.

It was there in the garden, surrounded by cherry trees, cypresses, and Himalayan cedars under the Shinjuku summer sun, more than ten years after, that I finally understood. That’s another story, but let me just put it this way: I was searching yet I was the one found.

This song practically nails what I am yet to say.


kae said...

im still trying to find the WORD to describe the fecundity of your writing. perhaps that's the word-- fecund.
that song. nobody said it was eaaaasy.
and the video.. if we could just work out the kinks of General Relativity and invent a time machine..

SPLICE said...

Fecundity/fecund. A new word for me ;)

It's my desire --- to go back to the start and never return today. If I could, I would skip the here and now.