Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Shuten Zushi Eki. 終点逗子駅

A silent whir from the hidden electric motors and the once packed commuter train ground to a halt with a static filled gasp.

A moment of silence save for the crumpling of a SOGO or Seiyu department store bag pressed to the chest of a sleeping woman or the stifled cough from the salaryman teetering on drunkenness and sleep in an adjacent seat. The air thick with the smell of fermented body odor, humidity, soju aftertaste, beer farts and perfume hung heavily at nose level as the diminished population awaited for permission to exit. As to savor those last moments of sitting on the heated cloth seats, no one moved save for the few who enjoyed the favor bestowed upon them by Kwannon Buddha of a seat for the whole clattering commute home, shaking to life their extremities. Exhausted passengers recalled the previous hour standing in the dizzying claustrophobia, compressed tighter and tighter with each Tokyo stop, the car turning into a human sardine can as the windows were covered with new layers of condensation from the combined sum of humans added, each with a resigned look pasted to their collective faces as a new wave of bodies pressed through the opening.

A farmer's daughter from Amori prefecture struggled to breathe as she attempted to rise above the heavy atmosphere, standing on her toes, stretching for those few molecules of fresh air that lingered in the upper reaches above the sea of commuters after every stop.

Scratching his head instinctively, as a small mammal cleaning itself in the forest, a balding ojiisan grunted silently, his soju breath bouncing off the crumpled pulp copy of a late edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun raised to his eyes while not releasing a death's grip on his battered leather folio. Under his breath, he mumbled incoherencies to pass those miserable moments standing in the packed throng.

As a cow mindlessly chews his cud, the high school student chomped down on an flavorless wad of gum, staring from one end of the car to the other, hoping to find a girl to focus and allow his sophomoric mind to wander from the car and into her bed. Buzzing in his ears were the newest and hottest rap song from the US, the words a jumbled mystery other than "fuck." His marks from the cram school English class reflected that inability to decipher that code pumping into his ears. The university was not a major concern, his futball skills were more than enough to get him past those pesky academics concerned with intelligence and the ability to solve pointlessly long calculus equations.

The gaijin grumbled silently as he looked forward to a long trip home standing in the midst of another crowded mode of public transportation and folded his dog eared Murakami novel to another page, praying that the doors would remain closed for just one more moment. A beer and bugolgi fart brewed in his lower intestine, and while he would normally let loose the methane weapon of mass destruction, he held back the bomb with the concern of collateral damage weighing on his mind.

Overhead, the tiny voice of the conductor piped through the speakers, the amplified words bounced noiselessly through the commuter cars. A tiny voice boosted electronically and yet a mind or two recalled a skinny and timid kid with large rimmed glasses that appeared too large for the kid's head, complete with an awkward gait that matched the silliness of those glasses. It was almost a dead ringer some thought, except the voice drifted from the lips of a tall, yet silent man ready for the shift to end and to go home. A late obento on the walk home awaited him on the way back to his apartment.

A cheery pulsating sound announced the doors opening, followed by the sluggish sound of the doors sliding open. Those doors always sounded sluggish in comparison to the efficient and cold sounds of the Tokyo Metro or Yamanote Line. Everything always felt a bit slower in the country as compared to the skyscraper packed urban sprawl of the Tokyo Metropolitan area. The blast of fresh air attempted to displaced the thick smog of the rush hour atmosphere.

Booming down from the corrugated roof, the strong voice of the station conductor reminded everyone which trains were coming that they could transfer to from the Shonan-Shinjuku line and other miscellaneous errata that few of the foreigners understood as they stumbled up the stairs towards the stations exits.

Save for a few interspersed animated or dull conversations, the perpetrators either chatty school girls in skirts sifting a scare few inches below the waist or boorish Americans, the station was silent for the sound of heels coldly clacking across the asphalt pavement. Conservative minds trudging slowly over the raised yellow guide for the blind, a braille pathway, instantly assumed that the girl's parents were paying too much yen for a mediocre education: one that would not even promise admission into a second rate university, as the correlation between the skirts length is directly related to the quality of the school.

The sound reverberated under the corrugated roof of the platform, up the stairs and past the beeping turnstiles that notified money removed from SUICA cards. A low rumbling as the various feet marched across the overpass to the Kaigan exit caused a weary station conductor standing idly, waiting for the last train to Chiba to depart, to stare up to the sky, his mind muddied with exhaustion. Flashing brightly, the neon lights of the pachinko parlor adjacent to the stadium framed his head, an indication of his next stop.

Only one sound pervaded across the local station...

The clicking of tired feet.

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