Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Sleepy Street

Dark; illumintaed by the Hotel Venus Love Hotel across the road; I step out into the early evening of Hongo, where the night is so still and thick that you can hear the scratching footsteps of the late-shift working business men and women scuffling from the station. The amber hue of everything is almost romantic, but under the arches of the train track viaducts it truly is the sleepy suburb area of Nagoya that I was promised. When it is sleepy, I mean seedy, which is what I was shirtfronted with when the glass bottle fracturing and shattering on ashfelt chimed and echoed in the adjacent street to where I was seated at work, pavement based by a gutter on my laptop. The nights nor anything have ever felt cautious or dangerous in Japan. But evident everywhere, there is something sinister going on, always.

The man; stranger, in slightly tattered cargo shorts and a dusty polo t-shirt, maybe a little off middle-aged approached me, perhaps just for unfortunately making coincidental eye contact with him. He walked, and kept walking, with that slow, confident, dark and moving with the darkness of the night steadiness. Speaking something I could not understand, his word for it's pronunciation and likely unfamiliarity was of alarm. I begun the scenario creating and playing out of what to do and where to go and what to say, where the blurs of such a pace of thought disable you and disarm you from any action.

Sitting a little more upright, and closening my laptop to my chest instinctively I softly, unconfidently uttered back my standard cowardess of only speaking English. The man was almost evily joyed as he replied that he speaks a little English, with need of gesturing in a pinch of his fingers the minute amount he knew. His words still speeding past my interpretation, I heard him say Dangerous! And repeat the Japanese word he was trying to tell me meant dangerous. Explaining to me, in a tone that spoke enough danger itself, he remarked of the dangerous area I was in and that I should be somewhere safe. Hoping my playing dumb would increase any charm I had for this intruder to my protected and safe and easy-going knowledge of Japan I repeated what he said trying to show I understood but was all unaware prior.

When he'd ranted for long enough that I'd caught up to my action plans I closed the lid of my laptop and maintaining eye contact slipped it into my sachel bag and gestured that I would get up and go somewhere 'safer'. He was nodding and saying something in agreement along with noting to me that there are no police in this area, as though a justification for the harm he about to approach me with. I stood gathering myself and my standing and collected a packet of cigarettes next to me and he put out his hand to offer me a shake. I shook, nervously, his hand and nodded in acknowledgment and he noticed my putting my ofcigarette soft pack into my pocket. Having let go my hand he stuttered and asked for a smoke with gestures easy enough to understand that universal request.

As if paying my way out of an unwelcome outcome I surely gave him the smoke he wanted though I'd normally have been uninclined. He insisted on shaking my hand again and I obliged, nothing else to do and took a second before turning to make sure he would turn too. Walking our separate ways I braced myself for that ready rear infliction of anything, even his look. And I glanced once more behind me as I took to a few doors down to try and settle. Then every sound in the amber-lit, seedy, sleeping train station street sounded like his approach or bottle breaking or husky alarming voice. I walked and kept walking, until the sound of the street became softer and the lights turned less amber than flurescent and I stepped into the first corner bar to order a beer.

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