In the mornings I dream well (short story)

She told me to give her a call if I’m ever back in town. My chest tightened as I read those words on the postcard that arrived a month late. Standing in front of the mailbox, the bagels I held under my arm were the only things keeping me warm on this cold morning. I rubbed the card with my thumbs and closed my eyes.

It was a humid summer the last time I was in town, filled with loving strolls around the local neighborhood and plenty of close, warm conversations over beer and half-assed cocktails at night. I had no clue, I had absolutely no game. But she was accepting and let me hang out during those countless nights that seemed to drag on and on until the morning creeped out, bashful of its tremendous radiance. She loved the croissants at this local bakery near Asagaya station. On weekends, we’d meet at the station around noon and eat those croissants. We didn’t talk all that much. She’d take forever eating those croissants. She wasn’t a nibbler, in fact she took huge bites. But her bites were well calculated, and she was skillful at finding the right angle in which she’d leave the least amount of flakes and crumbs that would otherwise sprinkle all over her clothes and our table. She took her time and savored them. In between those big, lovely bites, she’d mention something that happened at work or what she made for dinner the other night. The only input I had was about my comics I’ve been sketching out.

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The Last Lover – Can Xue

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I scanned through some reviews about Can Xue’s The Last Lover prior to reading it… and the general consensus was that it’s a wildly strange novel that for some, is unbelievably difficult to follow. I think just given those reviews alone, I was willing to try it. It’s funny to me when readers are so demanding of a writer’s work to be something that it’s not. At best, those that impose their own biases in narrative flow and generic storytelling are reaffirming a dogmatic principle of mainstream writing that needs to be “understandable” and “clear in its narrative”.

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Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (a book review)

product_9782070394869_195x320Unbelievable warmth. I was flushed with how much warmth I felt after finishing Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. It was overflowing to the brim; maybe my bowl wasn’t big enough for the amount of care I ended up receiving. I read this a couple of years ago, but it didn’t hit me so hard and straight into my mushy heart as much as it has right now. This book is the kind of book that gives you faith in writing.

The story begins with Mikage that had just lost her grandmother, leaving her an orphan. With nowhere else to go, she receives an invitation by a fellow university classmate, Yuichi, to stay at his place. There she meets Yuichi’s transgender mother, Eriko. Mikage goes through her loss of a family member (in her own way), embracing the grief and loneliness that raptured her everyday. And yet Yoshimoto’s writing never lets Mikage fall apart into helpless little crumbs. There’s so much warmth and strength in her writing, that even when Mikage seems to hit rock bottom, when she had, she undeniably accepts it as a part of life. It gives you so much hope in this world that it brought me to tears many times reading:

“As we decided where to meet, I looked up at the window. The sky outside was a dull gray. Waves of clouds were being pushed around by the wind with amazing force. In this world there is no place for sadness. No place; not one.” 

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youth and affairs

 

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Robert Rauschenberg’s Rebus (1955)

We stumbled, tripped as we kept chuckling for no particular reason. We played my records. I played the Queer’s Beat Off. I poured shochu for us and brought some chocolates and rice crackers. He played with my bass for a bit. Steak Bomb played at 45 rpm, and in this distorted frame, we were melting. They were pleasant screams that drowned us for quite some time. Rushed and anxiety-ridden, we dropped out of this raging fluxus. That was our first time.

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an entry from one of my sporadic notebooks in July

I visited Nikko with a friend yesterday. We went up to a farm. As we took the bus back down the mountain, I just stared at the trees lined up one after another on both sides of the road. They were whooshing past me. It felt like they came to say good bye. As I stared on in silence (and my friend passed out with her mouth wide open), I thought how nice it would be to die this way. How nice would it be to have my friends and family in the car, the top open, and me gazing up, seeing the leaves and branches rushing past, feeling my mother’s thumb rubbing my forehead back and forth. 

Holding my sister’s hand, feeling a kiss on the cheek from my love (whoever that may be) and then slowly closing my eyes. 

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To Mothers

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荒木の作品 (Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki) 

Dispatching lone smoke signals from my little room upstairs in California.

In one single swing, beheaded was the maiden in the red felt pen. Some guy punched her arm and ran away. Why me? She wondered. The water drifted thoughts along with debris from overworked lizards. She asked the concrete floor why she had to give herself to nearly everyone that passes her way.

Feeling torn, worn out with countless ins and outs in the bedroom, how can she stand up again the next day to meet the sun that blazes on through the blinds? It showers inevitably onto her face – the warmth makes her feel sick.

Love is force fed to the point that she can’t handle it anymore. Love that’s sad and lonely, a kind of love where you can’t do anything. Mom grips these small slices of time and compartmentalizes them, preserves them into flux boxes. Love is filling every categorical rim. Will you be ok mom? It’s a kind of love that’s slipping as time tells us it’s time things change.

Yasujiro Ozu, must we let time carry us through?

Akira Kurosawa, come with me and we’ll fight against it! 

Muffled as she sinks below the covers, there’s rustling as the futon rumbles. Whoa, she’s wrestling with the caress of the polyester sheets! How brave! More rustling, more wrestling, but pretty soon… she gives in.

Mom, you are so brave.

To collect and calculate her strength is to stare a raging bull right in the eye. How did you take care of us all these years? How can I ever surmount this preposterous love to some stranger the way you’ve given so much love to my little sister and I?

Mom, I’ll take care of you. Where would you like to go?

Kobo Abe, I don’t want to squirm around in the sand anymore. It’s uncomfortable and I can’t get rid of the sand. The shore isn’t even that far away from the dunes! You lied, I’ve been to Tottori to see it for myself. 

A slap in the face. Don’t say such things! Some things just are the way they are. I drink in her wisdom and I drown myself deep into submission. Every sound that encompassed the shack amped itself up, demanding its presence.

To that I raise my cigarette.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On leaving

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hiking in Nikko

The first month of 2017 is nearing its end, and as frantic and unsure of what’s waiting for me by August, I am coming to terms with leaving.

Lately, I’ve been reading constantly. Feeling time slip, worried I’ll run out of time to finish all of the books I’ve accumulated since moving to Tokyo, I’ve been walking around with a book in hand everywhere I go. In the past couple of months, I’ve managed to finish some really wonderful reads (and re-reads). As scrambled and unrelated my selections may be, here it is :

‘Before and After Superflat’ – Adrien Favell

‘Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law’ – Zakia Salime

‘The Face of Another’ – Kobo Abe

‘Illness as Metaphor’ and ‘AIDS and Its Metaphor’ – Susan Sontag

‘The Hatred of Poetry’ – Ben Lerner

‘A Climate: A Philosophical Study’ – Watsuji Tetsuro

‘The Life of the Mind’ – Hannah Arendt [currently reading]

“Styles of Radical Will’ – Susan Sontag [currently reading]

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The Face of Another – Kobo Abe [another book review]

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 ‘The Face of Another’ – 1966 film adaptation by Hiroshi Teshigahara 

“For me, whatever you may say, you are the most important “other person.” No, I do not mean it in a negative sense. I mean that the one who must first restore the roadway, the one whose name I had to write on the first letter, was first on my list of “others.” Under any circumstances, I simply did not want to lose you. To lose you would be symbolic of losing the world.” – Kobo Abe

Kobo Abe once again pulls us into a collective exile, rot with disillusionment of the autonomous ‘self’ faced with the gaze and judgment of the ‘other’. The Face of Another is a compilation of three notebooks providing detailed accounts of a man’s reasonings and actions toward constructing an artificial mask to cover his disfigured face after a laboratory accident. The notebooks were written to his wife as a confession of his endeavor in seducing her with his artificial mask. The three notebooks: The Black notebook, The White notebook, and The Grey notebook, are the entry points into the narrative. I was immediately burdened with a secret, a taboo perhaps, as I contextually framed my reading as that of the wife holding these notebooks to witness the truth of her husband’s frequented ‘business trips’ for the first time.

The notebooks digress and intensify in sporadic lengths and spasms like that of a personal diary in which a lingering thought, a subconscious dilemma, the existential ignition of meta-awareness in writing, pours itself onto paper without restraint. Through this, I’ve yet again encountered beautiful and striking snippets of Kobo Abe’s proses.

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Planet of Snails and a World of Pixels

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Soon-Ha helping Young-Chan touch a raindrop

I wish this place vanishes and people can see more of what’s happening right in front of them. I wish people wouldn’t care so much, I wish I didn’t have to feel anxiety and diminishing self worth based on the self-promotion of others’ lives through shares, posts, and likes.

I think this new open space in the digital age opens luscious fields for dialogue, understanding, and community. But then there’s lies and ruthless manipulation of technology to serve individual interests. Even global issues, humanitarian emergencies, and down right sensibilities are professed as a cloak under a self-righteous dogma. A need to portray yourself as a fucking credible, but also better, human being than the other.

We have our heads afloat, we basically sever them ourselves as we get caught up in portraying that alternate self, on this alternate medium, in an alternate world that can never fully embody a corporeal version of its ‘being’ out here in our breathing world.

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Coward Being


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Cicadas have an emotion-intense, time sensitive life. Nearly, if not completely, most of their life is devoted to searching for their mate. In comparison, I was ashamed of my lethargic self, for not acting immediately, for not pursuing that person I’ve wanted to be so close to. I stopped myself in fear of the consequences that would follow if I were to go through with it. I feared disgracing the expected.

You can hear the cicadas screaming, echoing in mass numbers as each individual scream intensifies into a pulsating sea of crashes and recessions. It’s too overwhelming when logistically thinking of the number of cicadas actually surrounding the trees I pass by. As summer nears its end, they’re expelling all they’ve got within that cruel space of time before they fall onto the ground and turn chalk white.

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