Monday, October 24, 2011


First was the young man sprawled out face-up on the sidewalk. Staring at the stars, if he had been awake. Almost like an accident-victim, his contorted shape skewed in the pose of a man falling through air. Arms windmilling in vain, even more pathetic because his limp and spare parts were aligned on concrete. A late night, last night. More than enough to drink for one man. Best to rest on the ground by the side of the river. One can do that here, without fear of harassment from police or pickpockets. Just let them lay.

Next is the white-haired middle-aged man in a shirt the same shade, seated snug in his van, his trumpet stuck to his lips like a candy so sweet he can't bear to let go lest the sweetness dissolve in cotton-candy thin vapors. I can hear the music, his music, even through the shut door. He's not very good, is what I think. Ashamed at the thought. Who am I to judge? I played that same trumpet in high school a few decades ago. Whoop-de-do. Was even worse than him. Never once got up before sunrise to practice, let alone in a truck. There is something quite sad about soft music trapped in a car. On the road, in motion, the radio's frantic mad blare -- that's one thing. Live music practiced before work, by a man in his van. Windows rolled up. Wife at home, sleeping snug. Sneaking in a few beats before breakfast, and the lengthy train trudge into work. That's something else.

Finally: the old man strolling backwards, his strong arms rising up and then down as his path meandered behind him. What did he hope to find, walking this way? Was he trying to reverse the years in some awkward form of retreat?? Always looking ahead, but each step, receding. I've never tried it. Walking backwards for more than ten steps at a time. Takes a certain kind of confidence. Knowing that you won't be tripped up by the path that waits past your own sight. He's rewinding himself, is what I thought. Somewhere, miles away, if I just watched his slow shuffle, I'd see him gradually become forty years old, and then twenty, and then five.

They seemed almost placed there. Plucked for my own amusement and awe. I had a mad thought, as I slowly jogged past them. One of those thoughts that one has when sleep is still a cousin to dreams. I would pull the young sleeping drunk man up by his arms and slap him awake. The middle-aged musician, I might knock on the window and bond with, sharing stories of trumpets and spit-valves only waiting to be emptied. The old man walking backwards, I'd join for a small chat as we both briskly walked back to where we both started out. The four of us, together. I'd convince them to join me. We could escape this whole world before the sun even knew what was up. Go on the road. Put together some sort of a show. People would pay a few thousand yen to arise before dawn just to watch us meander around endless wide sprawls of river. I'm not sure what they might get out of it. Maybe what I did. Bemusement. An odd intrigue. Even some kind of small, morning joy.