The Shrines of Japan

Tokyo at night


There is a shrine in Japan dedicated to the souls of broken air conditioners. There is another shrine in which one contemplates computer operating systems that no one uses anymore. There is a small shrine for grains of rice that remain uneaten and stuck to the bottoms of bowls. There is a shrine for the kernels of corn that have made it intact through the human digestive tract and aspire to be corn plants again. There is a shrine to lost pins. There is a shrine to the books I have read but not properly remembered. There is a shrine to the translucent worms that scud across my eyelids when I shut them against the sun. There is a shrine to all the baby canaries who died inside their eggs, their precious daylight hours just a rumor passed through calcium pores. There is a shrine to anaerobic bacteria and a shrine to spoiled meat. There is a shrine to gravity and another to the refutation of gravity. It is after all just a theory . . . .

He shrimps forward, trying to grab a bite from his sandwich. But hell, he’s driving and already holding the phone in his other hand. He works for an advertising agency with only one client – a video cooking school, somewhere down in Florida but now he’s brooding along a strip mall service road somewhere in the Midwest, watching ice pellets ricochet off his windscreen. “Oh yeah, “ he says, “they finally found the body of the pilot. When the doctor took him out… “ The conversation trails off from here.

On the other end of the phone, the squealing of steel against steel, the humming of electric motors:
“I’m here in New York. I won’t be back in Iowa for a while…”  The guy stretches out ‘Iowa’, savoring the chewy hiatus of its vowels.  From somewhere on the platform a crazy man starts screaming  – “IF YOU’RE UGLY, TAKE THE ‘L’ TRAIN!”  People look away. Something thrashes under some fast food wrappers afloat on the narrow concrete ditch next to the subway’s third rail. A one-eyed, shoe stretcher-like head breaks through the water’s oily surface then disappears again before anybody notices. The train arrives. I black out in my armchair, thousands of miles away from these people.

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