MIDWAY : Unfulfilled desires

While in Tokyo, I used to walk down to the harbor from my place in Minato-ku. There was a particularly nice place near the harbour, which had a garden on top of a concrete floor. But all I could hear were pleasant moans, coming from behind the bushes. I wished I were one of them. But I was alone, and I couldn’t stay there. So I used to amble along.

One day I crossed a road, and peeked inside a restaurant — there were huge cauldrons with steaming noodles. A strong whiff of seafood attacked my nostrils. On the sidewalk, vendors were selling seafood. I would rather eat at a KFC — coleslaw and two pieces of fried chicken. Sometimes, I would go to MacDonalds. In these places, I would see beautiful girls, speckled and short hairs. They wore western clothes and smoked white-coloured lights. Every hour, I would see sweepers cleaning off the cigarette stubs on the pavement.

But the stubs refused to go away. They would remain there always freshly thrown, for in the mid-90s, the lights signalled the peak of Japanese economy.

I used to step off the train at Onarimon. Onarimon was a long tunnel of passages, bland and white, with streaks of blue and red. The lines took me out to the street after winding underground for what seemed like miles. That was Onarimon, half a block from my place that took me to the workplace in central Tokyo. From the window up in the eighth floor, I could see the Palace grounds, and the Imperial hotel — a rectangular concrete block that would be painted with colourful lights in the evening. It came to life from that

place, so different from the picture in my imagination — the postcard that my father had brought home almost 15 years before. And it was one moment that tied me to my father.

I can still hear the female voice. It was not the voice of a faceless female. It was the voice of a girl, a voice that crystallised and represented so many other girls I saw in Tokyo and other parts of Japan.

They coloured their hair, they smoked lights, and threw the white butts in the pavement. They hid among the bushes in the evenings, oozing out juicy romance. They were the fruits of modernity, the unfulfilled desires of our dreams.