Trip number three to Immigration was today. I passed through Kani with little digression or annoyance. If not for the sudden swelling of memories of annoyances past, I might not have even noticed where I was.
I suppose it’s not all Kani’s fault that it’s terrible. Surely there’s something in the water flowing there from somewhere upstream. It’s just that, nothing good will ever happen in Kani. Kani is the kind of place you’ve got to escape for good things to start happening. In a word, it’s boring. On the train, a man chugs from a thermos of coffee. We pass through Kani moments later and I notice he’s asleep. He’s bored. In Kani, everyone is bored. When I worked there, I was bored. It did have three semi-nice places: a bakery by the station, a Denny’s restaurant, and a Book-Off. Every town in Japanese history has managed to have at least one Book-Off, but the one in Kani reeks suspiciously of excrement and coincidentally doesn’t have a bathroom. I don’t know about the people of Kani, but I’ve learned my math, and I know when two and two make poo in my used bookstore.
Further disturbing: the bakery and the Denny’s restaurant are dead now. Denny’s was replaced by a 7-11, the bakery by an enormous, square block of void. Hello, I’m Kani. Perhaps you’ve heard of me in your nightmares.
In Kani, which is boring, people’s minds grow numb and rot. The kids run wild, either because they’ve gone feral, or because they’re trying to fight the numbness, trying to push back the great shadow of mundanity before it swallows their souls, but by high school, they’ll all be teenagers with far more slack in their jaws than there are dreams in their hearts.
“Uhhh, whaddayawanna doodaday?” the Japanese equivalent of Butthead will ask his friend, futilely.
“Ah’unno. We could grow out our neo-mullets even more and pretend it’s awesome.”
As they bake in the Kani sun, letting their mullets go, an elderly man lurches by. He is senile, with rotten teeth to complement his festering, unused brain. Sad as hell, he has turned to Christianity, brought to him by the Brazilians who inhabit this town in impressive numbers, and are the only ones who seem to be able to suck any life juice out of the damn place. He clutches his free Portuguese Bible, all that still sustains him. He can’t read a word of it.
A victim of circumstance, I, too, arrive in Kani, having traveled from lands distant and populous. Relatively speaking, Barack Obama is my best friend, and I’ve had sexual intercourse with Cameron Diaz. I look only vaguely like John Lennon, but if you squint your eyes a little bit, I am him and I will sing to you from beyond the grave. I will save you from the mundane hell of Kani with my melodic tales of travel and fill you with the long lost emotions of hope and pride by continually professing my love for Yoko Ono, who, relatively speaking, is you. Simply by being unfamiliar, I am the most interesting thing that’s happened all year to the pack of teenagers on my left. My white face is a blank screen upon which they may project whatever they wish. I am a spectacle to be gazed at. I am what they’ve only seen on TV or, if you’ll allow me–I am TV. Coming from a land where the act of staring frequently leads to gunfights and Indian women occasionally give birth to Chinese babies who later become American hip-hop artists, the position I find myself in is unnerving. But they are just teenagers. It isn’t until I realize that the reaction of the eighty-year-old man to my right is exactly the same that I start to get depressed. Upset. Sandwiched by the bookends of an entire life lived, it dawns on me that in a lifetime spent in Kani, perhaps the most noteworthy thing that has ever happened, ever will happen, is the presence of a mild-mannered white man who, in his free time, writes about grammar. This bears meditation upon.
With little recourse (I am unmistakably white, or else just as much a spectacle with a paper bag over my head), I can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by my “popularity”, if you can call being the equivalent of an infomercial when the TV remote is lost a form of popularity. I’m all there is to see, it being Kani, so all eyes are on me. But it’s tiresome being made a spectacle. These people only see me, like TV, as an escape from the reality of Kani, and they make no attempt to see the reality of me–that I’m just a regular human not entirely different from themselves. That they don’t really have to communicate with me through chopped up squawks of funny-talk; I can understand real words, too. That I’m just not a damned morning person.
The escape train out of Kani only comes once an hour, so you better be sure you’re not cooped up in the stuffy old, poopy old Book-Off when the time comes. The locals will try to follow you, sit next to you, coddle you. You must hiss at them, so that there is no mistaking your intentions to flee. You must hiss desperately at the lurching Kaniites.