This is what I enjoy about the cloud novel. I am free to circle around themes, repeat in ways that reveal more about... myself? My love of jazz, of the slight differences between gigs?
Welcome then, gentle reader––Arisugawa Park 1.29 - "Uneventful Circuit" (Revised 9/27) is at hand.
Shuffling in and out of shadows and light, Hayao became the archetypal night wanderer. With shambolic purpose he stayed to the darker sides of the street, checking for anything unusual. Nothing… halfway through his circuit, he was quite sure that there were no police beyond the usual beat-variety canvassing the area. Yet he kept on, with the willful observation of one who has seen the case trey get there on the river once too often. It was a little odd he thought, this inactivity, considering the high profile nature of the love hotel murder––then again, not. If the matter went high enough––as he suspected it did, from Jiro’s hair trigger requisition of his services, the police would be more than discreet.
The course ending on its expected tail, Hayao stopped and lit a cigarette, just outside of the circle of street lamp light. Not, pointedly, across from Watanabe––though its specific gravity attracted. The gaggle of passersby were drunk and boisterously male, the witching hour had begun. Then it was quiet for a full measure and he became aware of sharp eyes at street corners, paintbrush soft rhythms amidst alleyways and darkened building fronts. Those sounds of withheld presence––probably no one he knew… yet, considering who knew him, better not make himself known. Hayao needed to decide a course of action soon––stay here long enough, even on an empty Sunday night, and he would be recognized. Memories went long and deep, particularly among those for whom keeping tabs mattered.
Hayao knew the tells of being watched intimately–– he had been under close surveillance for years following the incident––curiosity from unnamed parties, he supposed, as to where his tracks led. By the time he had been let off the leash, the perpetrators had had time to bury their own tracks, exfoliate. And he had willfully let the tracks fade, aware that any move he made beyond well-defined circuits was payable in blood. This was really where his appreciation of Noh had developed, he thought––the art of finding creative impulse in the minutest spaces, devoid of outward tells.
It was certain that whoever had played him was more clever by far. The tree he had shaken had retained its form, though losing a few branches––his efforts in no way made up for the sacrifice of the departed. Soon he would lack access to the even the faintest pulse of police activity, chances of having patience rewarded in revelation obliterated. This was the meaning of vivid dreams of bones on bleached rock––spent force reveries.
Hayao stubbed cigarette under foot, his second deliberate breaking of cultivated habit that day. This time it was not for Jiro’s benefit, but for his own, immersed in a part he had trained for his entire life. Glancing at himself in the mirror to catch his profile off guard, a rookie detective wondering if he could play the part. By the time the part suited him he no longer cared about anything but the groove and where it led him. That was how it should be… life was not a rehearsal for something out of reach. Every moment was now.
Hayao straightened, ready to leave, then stopped––still not convinced of where to go. He lit another cigarette, staying out a beat longer than those trained in surveilling would expect, making sure that even in the shadows no one was searching for Eve or––vivid intuition now counseled––observing him. But there was still nothing as the nicotine seeped in with warming embrace. Even here, now, the image of a forgotten coastline stood vivid––a dream hearkening to a conviction, deep in his nuclear-era DNA, that the best places to be found were strictly forgotten.
If forgotten places were the best from which to observe, the price of his persistence was non-negotiable. Hayao had lost those who mattered most through intentional separation––a protecting of Naomi and his son, a hiding of those spaces into which sunlight never intruded. Loss of intimacy was the price of a unwillingness to drop the war that Leonard Cohen sang eloquently of, bound by a refusal to pull loved ones further. Hayao blinked and looked around. Closest––by intention or design––was Bar Milwaukee. Down a narrow flight of stairs and thousands of miles away, intimations of home.
Only later, once basic needs were met, came a terrible sense of collective guilt––the only kind that really existed in Japan––that Niigata had not been hit by the atom bomb. It had taken Hayao many years of navigating the system to realize that the true architects of World War II––as with wars beyond––were not representative Japanese, but nationless actors who took advantage of specific cultural tendencies and conditions. In the case of the Japanese it was their reprisal-cautioned conditioning to accept collective beliefs. Their source of strength and their undoing in a bomb-guided world in which geographic concentrations of population did matter.
Not hubris, this collective belief that past success predicated further gains, that the earth had no limits. More like insanity––as he saw it, attrition was not only measurable in human lives. The war had been no less than part of a capital-tied campaign that engendered, if it was indeed too late to halt human-caused global warming, the demise of the earth.
What was startling was that through it all, social cohesion had not fractured––Japan had not split in two, as younger Korea did. Call it handed-down rules from the era of the warring states––the shared convictions of survivors.
Which begged the question––what were concepts guilt and responsibility in a world defined as much by an off-the-rail system as humans? Did guilt preclude knowledge? As his mother told it, they had not known except in retrospect, had not realized that there was worse than the carpet bombs that blew up indiscriminately. In Niigata word had somehow got out––though there was no precedent and no one could exactly say what an atom bomb was. The citizenry had been evacuated, with typical order amidst chaos. Someone knew something, there were negotiations happening. The war could not long continue.
There were those who openly muttered that certainly the Emperor must now be speaking with America’s demigods, wielding the representative power that he held, even in this industrialized era. Some went so far as to say that it was better if their homes were totally destroyed. They might lose their homes but the battle would be resolved and the ghosts would no longer continue to be manufactured. As it turned out, Japan had insufficient understanding of the intent of those whom they were pointedly not negotiating with. Adhering to the feints of containment-focused Go, they failed to realize the Americans were playing no limit hold-em, with a made hand.
The real tragedy was not that Niigata had been bombed, that had been expected and prepared for. Hayao would have gladly sacrificed his city to save the lives of so many others. The tragedy was that the vengeance-minded foe had gone for the safer, yet infinitely more cruel, option of destroying a city still densely populated and––insanely––on a sea plain, where the radioactivity was not contained by forces other than the limits of the coastline, horizon. And in relentless continuation, Japan had replicated this phenomenon in its own now deeply off-limits containment zone, Fukushima. Maybe there was another meaning to bleached bone on a remote coast––even there, the absence of life could not be ignored. Even there he would not let himself go, he would pin himself into the crevices, tie into the rock and feed off of the tidal pattern of waves, alternately wetting and drying him."