A Brisk Pace

The following story is a true tale of one man’s immobilized mobility among the crowded streets of Japan. Readers of Island Notes are encouraged to submit a suitable ending with which to bring closure to this account of one bewildered gaijin:


Oh Shit!…7:34… you have got to GO! …if you don’t leave the apartment now, coupled with a brisk pace, you’ll be late! you know that…

All right…it’s out the door, down the steps…You know the routine…check the watch…
No worries. 7:35… you’re right on time… Now, for one of those tangerines you cleverly tucked into your suitcoat pocket… These things peel like a dream…nice day too…crisp. Walkin’ to work…ya…I gotta job…

Whoa…check it out! The garbage spot…well, not exactly MY designated garbage spot…but hey, this one is on the way to the train station…
Nothin’ for you, today…little garbage spot…Wednesday…a day of rest from the garbage phenomenon…need that day just to plan for all the other weekdays…anyway, no garbage means no fear of those little old ladies who seem to police the garbage spot for rule breakers like me. Not sure if they know I don’t belong at this drop bin…fuck it, I’ll just be ready with that story if they accost me:

“Hey, I don’t know”… “I thought this was correct spot”…
“It’s mistake?”… “Next time, I bring other place”…

Shit… sounds pretty rough, but what do you expect if’n you decide to learn the language at 30 years of age? but not today, little old garbage checker ladies… It’s a beautiful clear December morning…and I’m going for that second tangerine in my pocket. Would’ve been nice to have had breakfast but I’m feeling pretty damn good…Lucky just to be able to blast out of my apartment. Just on time…

…ya, just on time…Here comes that same stoic-looking guy on his bike again. Christ, he’s at the same part of the little hill going up past the neighborhood shrine. Are we regular or what? I’m kind of glad that we seem to have an understanding that we really don’t need to acknowledge each other…I mean, where do you draw the line? “Sorry…I only say hi to people who cross my path at the same time at the same place…”
Nah, we’re doing just fine…he and I. Still, it’s pretty friggen’ weird how my ambulation to the train station has become so…regular…like here… walking through this little park…I swear I’m at the same spot walking across this sandlot, give or take 20 feet, everyday when that clock up their plays those chimes…7:45. See? There they go again… bim, bee, bong bong. Bong, bee, bim bong…

…yep, you are not so radical there Dare…

…dude, you’re wearing black wool pants, a suitcoat and a necktie… and those…

No way…

…you’re fuckin’ KIDDING me…
…nope.
Get a load of that…This is one for the books…

check it out…
Apparently, in your darkened entryway, you managed to slip on two entirely different shoes…
…this changes everything.

Go back home? …you can’t go back home.
How amazing is it, that you’ve done fifteen of the twenty minute walk, oblivious to the absolute fact that you, my wool-panted friend, are wearing two most assuredly different colored sneakers…to use that term lightly.

wow.
unreal…
I can’t turn back…today is a day that I walk to the station, ride the train and walk amongst my students from the station to school…

It’s fucking novel, that’s what it is! ‘course, it’s some other things too…can’t help but be reminded of those far away, long ago dreams of inadvertently coming to school wearing nothing but those piss-stained undies with the stretched out leg holes…That was actually worse than now, except I never actually DID that…
I suppose I could have mistakenly slipped on some red pointy-toed pumps in my dark entryway…that would maybe be more embarrassing. Yet I DID mistakenly don one white shoe …and one tan shoe..well, no… taupe actually. Don’t look the same for sure.

Yes, it’s a go…and all you can really do is… Shit!..What WILL I do..?

LIMP! That’s it! I’ll LIMP! …surely my limping in two different shoes will…I mean, it’s an…orthopedic…
…no. It’s a… prosthetic…a FAKE FOOT!! …ya..so, you see, having my foot severed…they, uh,…well, now I… don’t wear…matching…

that ain’t it. ain’t gonna work...
All you’re gonna do is call more attention to the fact that you are wearing two entirely unrelated shoes and let’s not forget the necktie and wool business pants…not that you’d actually feel less awkward in more casual clothes… and two unrelated shoes.

Anyway, bad idea about the limp, forget limp…but perhaps I can tell someone who might inquire that I work for a shoe company…so…naturally, I’d want to wear …two…different …shoes…just…to…

that’s dumb too. Who do I say I work for? …the right Rocksport company? or the good folks at New Balance on my left..? It’s a dilemma…my very own shoe dilemma…
New Balance … that’s rich.

Can everybody see my shoes?! What about those school kids in uniforms standing there waiting for the bus…can they see that today, I prefer to wear non-matching shoes?
shit…how do you say “nonmatching shoes” in Japanese? …just in case they are talking about me, I’ll know…
…I think I can say, “There are different shoes” or maybe, “My shoes don’t really relate well.” ya…that’s pretty good…at least they’ll know I’m in on the little joke…maybe.

“Are you surprised?”

Sure! I’ll share my surprise with others!

Dang. It’s hard to know what kind of attitude I should assume in these shoes…I’m not gonna get all pissed off…that would just be too weird… gotta give that some thought…

Being a foot taller than everyone and white isn’t going to help out my dilemma as I enter the station… I’ll be looking for clumps of people to hangout amongst…

How many people in this country of 130 million are actually wearing the wrong shoes today?
dozens?
hundreds?
…six maybe?
Am I the ONLY ONE IN JAPAN who left his house at a brisk pace in two different shoes?

(…to be continued… and hopefully completed…by one lucky winner of the Island Notes ‘How does it end?’ contest!)

portlandmCourtney Carroll: Downtown Portland

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