Saturday, May 17, 2008


A few days ago, while wandering around the Nihonbashi section of central Tokyo looking for the one and only Western Union outlet in a city of fifteen million people, I almost bumped into somebody. A young lady. Late twenties, early thirties. Dressed in conservative business attire, like everybody else. I was walking towards her, and she wasn't looking ahead. Her face seemed serious. She was thinking about something, obviously. I could see that she was headed straight for me, and I managed to manouever myself out her way just before she slammed into my chest. At the last moment I saw her snap out of her own thoughts. She realized she was walking. She realized that she had almost collided with a stranger. In that moment, I saw her thoughts shift.

What had she been thinking about so intently?

Perhaps she had decided, at that very moment, to break up with her boyfriend. Or else she was worried about her senile grandmother, lost in dementia. Or perhaps the bathtub in her apartment needed cleaning. Or a superior at work had just chewed her out, and she was going to drown her secretarial sorrows in Starbucks.

She had been thinking something, and I had inadvertently, accidentally jarred her out of her own thoughts. Her almost-collision with me had managed to slide one of her elusive introspections into a different direction, perhaps never to return.

If she hadn't have almost run into me, would she have continued along that same erratic train of thought? Who is to say? How can we know? Would a decision have been made that had now not been made because I had inadvertently caused her mind to change course and ground itself on alternate bearings?

Impossible to guess.

And you, gentle reader, as you read these words, are drifting from one thought to the next. Perhaps I have startled you out of a previous moment of bliss. Or managed to take your brain out of its daily crevice and onto a new ledge. Something important may have been on your mind, and because you flipped to my site, that thought has now been lost, never to return, stuck in the mud of your memory.

I would apologize, but I cannot.

These random twists and intersecting thoughts are the fragile, undefinable price we pay for the company of others. Helplessly losing our way and finding our path at one and the same time.