Thursday, November 01, 2007

I’ve forgotten more than you know: the end of home and the beginning of Tokyo - October 17

Planes would be the perfect setting for limbo. I’m on one again, this time headed for Tokyo. I went home for the semester break and spent most of it with Emily in East Lansing. Actually, most of the time I wasn’t with her because she was either studying or in class. It wasn’t very fortuitous that she had a midterm on my departure date, so I extended my ticket two more days so that we could spend a little bit of time together when she wouldn’t be so stressed. It wasn’t meant to be, though, as she had another test to prepare for, and as they usually tend to do in law school, the professors just piled on more work. Last night I decided to go to Red Robin (the casual dining restaurant best known for its gourmet burgers and bottomless steak fries) because I had a free burger coupon to use that my aunt got me for my birthday by signing up for their online burger club or something. Emily was busy stressing, which in turn was stressing me out considering it was my last night and all, so I grabbed my book and set off for Red Robin by myself around 9:15pm in pursuit of a burger, cherry coke, bottomless fries, and some good ole’ peppy Americana atmosphere. Sporting the same dirty sweatpants I’d worn to the gym several hours earlier, I hopped into the borrowed Lexus from dad and made off into the night with my trusty mapquest directions. The trip should’ve only taken 15 minutes, but the directions weren’t as trusty as I’d hoped, and when faced with either getting onto N. Creyts Rd. to make a right onto S. Creyts, or to just get off at S. Creyts, it gets a little hairy, and the next thing I knew I was lost. It was a challenge working up the motivation to go to Red Robin in the first place since it’s a lonely experience eating out by yourself, it wasn’t exactly around the block, and most of all, I’m lazy, which is ironically what prompted the decision in the first place since it seemed like an easier alternative to cooking for myself. The trip wasn’t 15 minutes at all, and as the clock clicked towards 10, Red Robin’s bedtime, I started to get nervous I wouldn’t make it and that all would be in vain. Somehow I wound up in the boonies, doubled back to civilization, but accidentally turned the wrong way onto a poorly labeled Saginaw Rd, and when unbeknownst to me I was a mere one block away, I called up the restaurant to check my coordinates. By this time it was 9:46pm, and to my devastation, a callow male voice on the other end of the line informed me they’d already broken down the kitchen since nobody had been in the restaurant for the previous half hour. It didn’t help matters that my gas needle was now resting on empty, gas for under 3 bucks a gallon is impossible to find in Lansing, and I was too cheap to eat anywhere else.
Back on the plane, I attempt to doze off, but my body and mind are periodically overcome with sensations of acute awareness that I could die at any moment. This plane is but a man-made creation and therefore fallible like man himself. My sense of smell becomes strikingly clear, there’s a tingling in the bridge; my ears get lighter and capture sounds ordinarily beyond the sensory, and my heart rises a few millimeters in my chest. What kind of life would mine turn out to be if it were to end now? How would I stack up? Clamoring through the clouds as close to heaven as I’m ever gonna get in this material body of mine, my thoughts at times transcend a capacity for words, hovering around abstract unfathomables like the infinite - too great for my humble brain – before plunging back down into the reality of the paltry; things like Red Robin, gas prices, and 8 more hours to go on this stinkin’ plane.
I’m sitting next to a married couple in their mid-70’s also from Michigan, but the western part of the state. Sure enough, they’re conservative, Catholic, and somehow I’ve got them convinced I’m a good Christian boy – maybe it was my innocent question about the saint who stands guard at the gates of heaven (I knew it was Nicholas, I just couldn’t remember at the time). The man pats my leg whenever I say something that amuses him so, or maybe it’s when he thinks of something funny to tell me. At 76, he still works part-time as a dentist and doesn’t look as old as a 76 year old would through my eyes just a few years ago. Funny how as my parents age – they’re only in their very early 60’s – it makes older people not seem so old anymore. The man’s wife refers to her profession as “executive homemaker”. At some point she says to me, “And I’ll tell you what I say to my grandsons, I say, ‘I’ve forgotten more than you know.’” Then her husband chimes in, “I don’t think that’s the case with this boy, he seems like a rather intelligent young man.” Maybe a bit of an overstatement, but he’s probably right in this instance.
At some point after the hours have already been melding together for quite some time, I start to crack. My grip on reality loosens to the point of severe discomfort. Unable to sleep, my mind starts obsessively swirling in thoughts of death and other such unappetizing topics: the fear of never truly being happy, the inevitability of aging, and how anything with an end can be viewed as short when stacked up against eternity. Still, why does the slow motion button for life always get pushed during the most undesirable moments while something like ejaculating lasts only for a few fleeting seconds.
The plane eventually touches down, but not before the cabin crew serves us a final meal of what seems like reheated sausage egg mcmuffins from McDonalds. I’m not sure why they’re serving breakfast at 4 in the afternoon, and my internal clock gets all the more confused after I deplane, make it through customs in a snap, and step out into the afternoon light which gives off an early morning feel by the way the sun is oddly hanging in the sky. It gets dark soon afterwards as I ride the airport limousine bus to the Shinjuku Hilton where I rendezvous with Rino and Alexis. Rino treats us to a nice dinner before we set off for her parents’ apartment (or more like 3 apartments joined together) in Chiba near Disneyland.

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