“The End”, a poem by a younger me.

Night Driving (by Mullenkedheim)

T H E  E N D

The car grips the road a little tighter.
It’s probably just my hands on the steering wheel,
Squeezing harder as my mind races.
You’re here.
Your arm not seven inches from mine
But between us, a gulf of uncertainty:
a gulf so wide and so deep, to tread into it
would mean disaster.

We’re alike, you and I.
Brothers? No, more than that, if you can imagine.
You speak, distracting me from my thoughts
but it’s a pleasant distraction.  Your voice
washing over me like brown silk in the wind,
moving to my ears and enveloping my mind.
I hang on your words, basking in your essence.  Afraid to let go
and lose this moment forever.

It’s a cool, clear August evening.
The stars look down on us as we speed
through the countryside.
I have so much to tell you,
but I can never seem to do it.
Your eyes, your smile.
If I told you… would you ever
smile at me again?

The car rolls to a stop, and I turn to face you.
It’s time I told you.
You have to know.
Stuttering, I search for the words.  I pause.
Your hair is wild, untamed: free
like the wild bronco running on the plain.
Your eyes hold mine: big, brown, like the moist earth
that gives you life.

You place a hand on mine.
That doesn’t help…
I look down, and suddenly the words arrive,
pouring from my mouth like so many atom bombs.
Looking up, I meet your gaze.  Fear.  Sadness.  I know you see these things in my eyes.
Why won’t you respond?  Smile.  Say you understand, that it’s alright.
You turn away.  I crumble.

August 9, 2000

Continue reading “The End”, a poem by a younger me.

Umbrella Culture


When I first arrived in Japan, way back in the day, I bought an umbrella, because the rain was, you know, pretty strong at times.  One evening, I went out to the bar, and took my umbrella as it was raining.  When I went to leave, my umbrella was nowhere to be found. Someone else had taken mine.  At the time, it bothered me a little bit, and I stewed about it as I walked home in the rain.

I bought another umbrella. This time, instead of a 1500yen umbrella, this was just a 1000yen affair, simpler, less flashy. Not one of those horrible compact umbrellas, mind you; this was a full-length, non-collapsible deal.  I used it to get to work for a while, went out to pubs a couple times, etc.  One rainy day, I had to attend a meeting at an office a half hour’s drive away.  I had been there before, and knew that parking was often quite dodgy, and I usually ended up parked far away from the office itself. So I brought my umbrella, and was glad of it when the rain got stronger and I parked even further than expected from the office.  I put my umbrella in the rack near the door, and attended my meeting.  When it had finished, and I was on my way out the door, I was dismayed to find that, again, my umbrella had been taken by another.  “You can’t just take other people’s things, it’s not right!” I moaned as I trudged through the downpour, soaked to the bone.

I bought a third umbrella. This time, a 300yen clear umbrella of the type convenience stores keep in their back rooms until an unexpected rainshower sends pedestrians scrambling for some sort of cover. This, too, was eventually nicked.

And that’s when I decided that I shall never buy another umbrella so long as I live in Japan.

It would seem to me that people are pretty fast and loose with umbrellas; that umbrellas are viewed as a sort of public property.  It’s like the penny jar at your corner store: have a brolly, leave a brolly; need a brolly, take a brolly.  It’s worked well for me these last few years.  One particularly rainy day, I took the cheapest, oldest looking umbrella from the “umbrellas of unknown provenance” bucket at my work, and used it.  A few weeks later, left it at the door of a shop while I perused their wares, came back to find it missing, took the cheapest, oldest looking one in the bucket and continued on my way.

I never take patterned ones, or ones that appear to be of particularly high quality workmanship; some people seem to think of umbrellas as fashion accessories, and may also have more dollars than sense (as it were), and spend big on a bumbershoot.  I don’t want to deprive them of their designer item (though I do often wish there were a way to make it so they’d never have purchased it in the first place), and so I always look for the cheapest one.

I really do think that some things ought to be public property, at least to a degree.  Umbrellas ought to be free for the taking, so long as you share alike; there ought to be public bicycles (though this would require a system different from the umbrella method I’ve described, what with bicycles actually being rather pricy); there ought to be community vegetable gardens where, provided you work a portion and share your produce, you can have some of other peoples’ harvest.

I’m sure this all makes me some sort of thieving commie pinko, but you know what?  I don’t much care.  Why is everyone so hung up on themselves and their own stuff?  Why can’t you share? Why don’t you open your curtains and let the sun in and see what your neighbours are up to? Why don’t you (gasp) say hello to your neighbours and help them out if you can?

My, my, I wish I knew.