This is quite different from my doll talk.
This is the sort of writing I haven’t done in a while. I don’t really have a different place to put these three pieces. They are still a bit rough. I present them here together because right now they feel like different angles on where I am right now.
Now, I’ll get out of my way.
It is now evening.
I am standing in the kitchen in my bra and skirt when something in the conversation we’re having pulls me backward. An echo in my mind has been released. I recognize it. The what the when and the why it’s here. I’m about to dismiss it when the commotion starts.
I feel the claws catch at me. I turn my gaze inward. It is all there: the ears, the waistcoat, the anxiety and the inability to slow down.
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear….” the creature cries as it skitters about.
I shift my stance as if to sidestep what is happening. I want to stay talking. I want to examine these feelings rising in me. I like the path I’m on. This is NOT the time.
“My fur and whiskers! “ it shrieks as it throws its weight against the inside of my skull. “My teeth and bones!” it wails.
My chin lifts slightly as I feel it pulling my wiring from within. There is a moment of stillness. Then the thing starts to furiously dig. I feel the hole open simultaneously within me and beneath my feet.
My mouth floods with saliva.
I close my eyes and swallow.
I am small now. I am within. I stand next to the burrow and watch as small clumps are tossed out. The beast pokes his head out for a second and frantically gestures for me to follow. I step forward and he plunges back in.
I stand on the edge looking down into the darkness, watching his tail get swallowed by the shadows as he runs.
“no.” I whisper.
I step back. Once more I swallow. I telescope up and into my full body. I open my eyes.
My companion sees none of this. It’s a blink. It’s a pause that can be explained away by thinking. I sometimes think before I speak.
I am back. All the emotions are back. I continue to listen and respond.
It is now morning.
I am naked.
Both of my hands are held within his. Sweat shapes itself, where his legs press against the backs of mine, until rivulets cascade down the curve behind my knees.
There is the faintest thumping in my mind, deep from within. I carefully slide my top knee forward until my foot escapes the edge of the covers. We both shift slightly and then relax once more. The cooler air allows me to fall back asleep. It is a quality of sleep I rarely taste.
It is now night and far away.
I awake alone.
The tunnel in my mind is narrower. I can feel a shift and fall as the creature within breathes. As I try to re-enter sleep it awakens. I lay quietly with my eyes closed. I try not to move.
It is scratching now. I stand up and step towards my computer to write.
I turn on a few lights and wander my apartment instead. I put things away until I am tired once more. The movement at the back of my throat calms. I return to bed and close my eyes.
It is now.
I am sitting in an oversized shirt and boxers on my balcony. A cool breeze crosses my throat. I look across the table at the sitting rodent. The waistcoat it wears is threadbare and the watch fob dangles sadly.
I take a long draw from my cigarette. This is how I know I’m in a dream. I do not smoke.
It speaks in a low voice.
“You didn’t follow me.”
It looks back at me, waiting. I sigh and continue.
“I know where that tunnel goes. I know who is down there and what happened. I even know why, in the kitchen, I remembered it.”
We sit longer, staring at each other. I lose again.
“You can’t make me!” I yell like a petulant child.
The creature’s eyes don’t blink. More silence. I am determined not to speak. I lean in until we are nose to nose. All I see is the red of its eyes.
The red darkens and separates. I can make out shadows and lights flittering beneath the surface. I see a familiar face. There’s a cinema beyond those eyes. I see myself on the screen.
I pull back abruptly.
I bring the cigarette up to my lips and then stop. I lower it back down to a heavy ashtray, the likes of which I haven’t seen since I was a child, and methodically grind it out as I gather my words.
I lean back in my chair.
“I know where that tunnel goes. I know when. I know how far back. Now, if I follow you and go down that tunnel it’s going to be a tight fit…the first time. The next time maybe I’ll have to crawl. Subsequent visits I’ll crouch, my feet and back pushing against the walls and packing them down tighter until I can walk upright.
Maybe it’ll open so wide that sometimes, unwillingly, I just slide in again.
And for what?
To go to events that have already shaped me? That I’ve had years to ruminate on?
I have learned what I will learn.
The critter tilts its head and smiles. I think it’s a smile. The deep voice comes again, seductive this time, “How do you know that you’ve learned all you can learn? There’s so much I can show you. “
A ragged paw stretches towards me.
I keep pushing back into the chair, feeling it hold me up, as I speak. I drop my voice low and smooth it until it matches the creature’s “ You’ve got me there. I can’t know for sure..” and then I smile.
I break eye contact as I stand up. I turn and open the door to my bedroom. I leave the creature behind me to the darkness.
I wake now to the future.
When Kansas Isn’t Enough
I’m sure it happens to everyone. It’s that return after a vacation. You’re home and where you’ve been begins to roll away. It starts imperceptibly and then picks up a speed you never anticipated. It is only a speck now.
Maybe a tan whispers where you went. It will fade. Perhaps there’s a few trinkets you’ve bought that, when they catch your eye, cause you to smile. Yet it’s hard to retain the sense of where you were when you’re surrounded by the walls you call yours and must wake up to the job that expects you.
Each morning you awake to your dreams skittering away. If you’re lucky, or unlucky, they leave behind moments and images for you to muse on. Often there is no evidence.
The memories of where you traveled start to share the impermanence of your nightly dream lands. Echos torn at the edges. Even that which was so vivid it seemed to shape who you’d be… recedes.
This is what happens when I leave my homeland and return to the country I’ve lived in for two decades. Where I was tries to fold in on itself and neatly close, leaving only the smallest perceptible seam. After a while I have to search carefully to feel where it is.
It is August, 2022.
Come with me. I’ve returned. Sit behind my eyes. Watch what now unfolds.
I open my eyes to the same familiar ceiling. There is a tightness in my chest I haven’t felt for weeks. I sit bolt upright and reached out madly as what happened, where I was, starts drawing shut. The aperture shrinks. The colors seem to make themselves smaller.
I look around. My same walls hold me. The objects of my life here surround me. I know my days will open and close predictably.
Something has changed.
Where I am is not enough. I want to fight. I want to grab on an excitement, a possibility. I want to wrestle like the small beast I know I can be. I want to fling this fragile body wildly until I can be held and comfortable.
I sweat and fumble for my phone, hitting the passcode when it doesn’t recognize my face without my glasses , and open the photos.
It comes back in brilliantly saturated shards. Full color.
“… and you were there. But you couldn’t have been, could you?”
Like the movie adaptation. You were there with that familiar face and yet transformed. I saw you differently. You saw me, The adventure was new.
I grew up with the books so let me explain what happens after the movie credits role. Dorothy doesn’t stay put. Kansas isn’t the end. it’s where she grew up but it turned sepia and dusty.
Dorothy returns to Oz over and over again. She eventually makes sure that she can bring her Uncle Henry and Auntie Em with her to Oz. It is then that she is home.
You don’t find yourself in Oz when you are content in your life. That’s not how it’s works. That’s never where the story starts.
You are full of fear for your little dog. Your house is ripped from the ground with you in it. You cry and fall to the floor. You land in Oz.
The earth cracks open and you plummet until Oz catches you.
You fall overboard from a roiling sea and Oz fills your lungs.
You nearly die crossing the dessert but you are now in Oz.
You grow lost, your clothing in tatters, surrounded by unmarked paths until you are in Oz.
This is how so many of the characters come to Oz.
Even the film knew this. The crew must go deep into the essence of Oz, the Emerald heart of the land, because they are each missing something essential: Courage. Brains. Heart. Home.
It is August, 2022.
Stay with me. I’ve returned. Sit within my heart. Hear what now moves through me.
It is a knowing. It’s the hint of where to land. It’s a center. It is the oxygen promised if I can break the surface. It is water. It is a path.
Like Dorothy, I have returned but I am not yet home.
I stood there, in Sumida Aquarium, watching the jellyfish expanding and contracting. Such delicate seeming forms propelling themselves through the blue-blackness.
I had my headphones in. The children who were running about, because school was not yet in session, fell away under the soundscape. Just me and the pulsating creatures. Expanding. Contracting.
I watched absurdly buoyant penguins push against the water to dive deep, only to relax and pop back up to the surface. I stuck my head through little portals designed so I could see underwater scenes from new angles. Fish swam by, not comprehending me. I stayed isolated in my music. I was alone with my creatures.
I took videos and sent them off across the ocean.
Sitting on a small ottoman in a mirrored hall, watching jellyfish, when my phone vibrated with a text.
“we should get together” I replied “ to catch up.”
“I would love to!”
I couldn’t write that we had to have a serious talk and then keep him in limbo. I can’t stand when people do that to me. I can’t stay in that space of not knowing what will be revealed. It makes me itch. my body shifts uncomfortably as my mind endlessly flows through tunnels of horrors.
I couldn’t say nothing and agree to meet up and then kick him with the news. I couldn’t see his face if I pulled back the moment before he hugged me.
“I’m planning on leaving Japan.”
I typed it.
Confirmed I was serious.
I’ve grown as much I can here, I typed. For years I’ve been comfortable at times but not happy. Not in the ways I could be.
We met at our usual cafe outside of Ginza. It’s close to his work and across from a restaurant I used to dance in.
I’ve cried in that cafe before.
It’s not our only cafe but it’s the most constant. For 18 years we’ve used it to catch up, to sign papers, to go elsewhere from and to have the kind of “serious talks” I hated being kept in suspense about.
We found a table outside and I let it out.
I can never fully be me.
In this country.
Not being who I am.
Where I’m at.
And this time it wasn’t me who teared up.
We talked about us. How all this would mean yet another shift in our friendship, which had once been a relationship.
We talked about my remaining time, how days somewhere transform when you know they are finite.
We started to talk about my future and everything I don’t know about it but am excited to learn.
2 thoughts on “The Tunnel, When Kansas Isn’t Enough, and The Aquarium”
Wow. Here’s my face, as per usual: 😮 !!!
Not down the rabbit hole, but along the yellow brick road. Good choice.