Friday, April 15, 2011


The other day on the bus to Kikuna I saw a girl mouth along to a voice that was fake. A recorded message, feminine and polite, always lets you know to a tee what next stop lies ahead. You can remember its tone and its words after a few round-trip rides. The girl's friend was sitting beside me. Standing, rocking slightly from side to side in that nonchalant way that young people do simply because they are young, this girl matched her lips' motion to each word that she heard. It wasn't exactly unconscious, this action, because she started to smile just a bit as she performed her small act. She and her friend then started to talk all about what all teenage girls talk about. I'm not exactly sure what those topics might be even back home, in Canada, let alone here, in Yokohama. Yet I might have a clue. So I tell myself.

When I was their age, I took the bus just like them. The Niagara Street bus. I caught another bus first, at the Geneva Street stop, and then I transferred again at a point I forget. Or did I? Did I take just the one? Forgetting my hometown's bus schedule does feel just a bit like betrayal. ("I'm sorry, St.Catharines! You still own most of my heart! But the bus lines do blur after sixteen long years away!") The important memories do tint, though the details might fade.

One morning my friend and I sat on the bus as it did its stop-and-start shuffle. We looked across the aisle at an old man who had seen better days. One assumes. He did not look like he was seeing many good days just now. My buddy looked at me and said: "That'll be me and you some day, Scott." (Or did I say it to him?) We both laughed. I even remember the point on our route where this conversation took place. Just past the mall down the street from our school 'Laura Secord'. We both laughed. Knowing it was true, that we, too, would one day be that old. Knowing, as well, that that day would not come for a good many years. Still. It was nervous laughter. Sometimes at fourteen you can surprise even yourself with a hint of a truth that you secretly suspect most adults might already know.

I think about that offhand, off-the-cuff comment two, three times a year. As I age. I thought it about the other day, three thousand and more miles away from those streets that did give me my start. Watching a Japanese girl talking to her friend on a bus as they came home from school. She wore a dark blue jacket and skirt. A brown bag with a musical note stiched right into its corner sat there at her feet like a dumb patient pet. She listened to an adult's voice on a speaker, and mockingly mouthed what it said. Then she returned to her conversation, to her adolescent concerns, in a language that bops to its own special beat. I couldn't understand everything she said. Perhaps she muttered to her friend about the old foreign man that sat right there before her. Just another day on the bus. I wondered if she and her pal might for some reason remember that ride, twenty long years from now. As they age.