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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Love, Loop, Technocity

     “Please state your reason for visiting,” the metal man next to the airport entrance door said and I looked deep into its red recording-camera eyes.
     “Visit due to business.”
     “Failed to confirm,” it said. “Please repeat.”
     I sighed and looked around. There were as many as 20 entrances into the airport connected by the transparent tube extended from the walls of each Airtrain.
     “Common buddy,” screamed a European guy behind me. “Give the robo his info.”
     “Busi-ness,” I told the metal man.
     “Please slide your business visa.”
     I did what the robot asked me to do and the entrance door swung right open. As soon as I stepped in, the door shut tight behind me. I followed the long, white, and brightly-lighted corridor until I reached the heart of the airport.
     It was busy, as always. There were loud noises of babies crying and adults arguing. I never liked Technocity’s airport.
     It was too human.
     Along the corridor leading towards the exit were geishas singing and dancing. As modern as Japan was, it still retained a lot of its unique culture.
     I wish I was Japanese.
     I rushed out of the automatic door and I had forgotten that it was already 1:00am. It was dark but in the distance, I could see numerous flickering neon signs and lights emitting from the city.
     Technocity International Airport was located on the highlands and the only way to get in or out was via the light-speed cannon-trains.
     A booming voice of a young Japanese lady speaking politely in Japanese suddenly filtered the early morning air and I could see people rushing towards the train station opposite to the airport. When the Japanese announcement stopped, it was followed by a sad, heavy Japanese-accented English translation of the same message, “Please wait at the train station for the next canon-train that will arrive in 5 minutes!”
     I walked slowly into the train station and lined up in front of the ticket booth. They all spoke Japanese so I couldn’t get myself into any conversation.
     With the ticket finally in my hand and the train finally arriving, I went in and rushed to get my favorite spot next to the oval window located in the middle left hand side of the train and closed my eyes to pass the seconds of light speed travel it provided. When I looked at the back of my eyelids, I could only see Keiko.
     “First stop, Kuririn Mall!” A young lady translated when the train suddenly stopped for the first time. I stood up and walked out of the train. The building was entirely made out of strong, thick fiberglass and the walls were transparent. The floors were layered with dark green marbles designed in a weird criss-cross diamond pattern. The weirdest looking construction in the history of mankind, for sure, and I haven’t even mention the spiraling snail design of its architecture.
     The world no longer applied the 12-hour mentality and I was one of the more realistic modern guys who believed in the change. Everything went 24 hours, the fact that the labor industry had increased dramatically with the discovery of atomic materials in Uranus. Thus, not all of the shops in the mall were closed. Shops like the one Keiko owned were still glittering with energetic presentations and services.
     When I arrived at Keiko’s store, I saw that it was closed. The stylish neon light that spelled Keiko’s Electronics, surprisingly in English, was off.
     I scratched my head in disbelief. I didn’t call to inform Keiko that I would come tonight. I thought that it would be a nice surprise.
     “I guess it’s the hotel for me,” I whispered to myself.

*****

     “What is my business here?” I asked myself when the first sense of consciousness came to me the next day.
     I looked around. The automatic window already pulled the curtains to the sides and from where I was, I could see a great, overwhelming view of the entire city. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the city, in exception to the fact that most Japanese had forgotten it used to be called Yokohama, was the cannon-train system that was fully implemented within the city’s design. Here and there one could see loops and large track tubes used by these trains with their uniquely varied as well as intoxicating twist configurations. They wrapped around from building to building with mind-boggling grace.
     The five-star hotel that I was residing in, Japanese Legacy, was the best hotel in town. An accommodation provided by the university I worked for.
     In two days, I was supposed to present a speech called “The Japanese Influence and America” to a group of undergraduates at the Technocity Super University of Knowledge. As always, they would send a speaker to Japan a couple of days prior to the actual day of the presentation. They obviously wanted me to mix business with pleasure.
     “Where are you Keiko?”
     I walked into the bathroom, and took a nice, long bath. I had always sweated heavily since early childhood and I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t take at least a bath twice a day. I didn’t take one before going to sleep and maybe I should call myself lucky that Keiko wasn’t at her store the night before.
     When I was done, I put on my T-shirt and shorts on and went out of the hotel room. The Japanese looked at me with strange expressions but I ignored them the best that I could. I took a cannon-train to the mall and to my shock, Keiko’s store was closed again.
     I began to panic and tried knocking on the door.
     Nobody answered, of course, and again, the early Japanese birds looked at me like they were looking at an old sushi left on the floor. I used a public phone nearby and I almost had a heart attack when the screen showed me that the number I have entered was invalid. Keiko obviously changed her phone number.
     But why?
     I called for a cab. From the accessible menu in front of me, I programmed the cab to take me to Cataphloric Park, or at least that was its English name. Most of the buildings on my way there were either white or gray. Most western critics bitched about Technocity being the dullest and tasteless town in the world.
     They were just jealous that they could never fathom such artistic aesthetics.
     The artificial park was encased with a gigantic semi-spherical net and in it, lavished and resided a deep green forest. There were set pathways shielded by laser emissions to ensure that the wild animals that roamed almost everywhere in the park would attack no visitors.
     I sat on a stump under a rose umbrella and stayed there for almost half an hour. My eyes were searching for Keiko, though my brain knew that my chances were thin and that I was a confused mess. Keiko and I didn’t spend too much time at the park, but I was desperate and the park was the favorite spot for the locales. It was the only artificial green park in Japan.
     “Mr. Peterson!” A voice called out.
     I looked to my left and saw a twenty-something Japanese woman in a kimono running gently towards me. I failed to recognize her until she was standing right in front of me.
     “Miyaki!”
     “What are you doing here in Japan?” She asked.
     “You know why I am here, Miyaki…”
      “But this is early,” she said as she sat on the stump next to mine. “You are here for her?”
     “Yes.”
     Miyaki looked a little uncomfortable, I was not sure if this was caused by the eerie look of the other park visitors or because of the sad news she was about to share with me.
     “Mr. Peterson…”
     “Please, just call me Frank.”
     “Frank… She is married now.”
     “What?” For a moment, the intricately colorful designs on Miyaki’s kimono became gray and my head spun. I felt a terrible headache and tears accumulated in the corners of my eyes.
     “Frank…” I looked at Miyaki and I could see that she was concerned. I was in need of a shoulder to cry on and went for hers.
     “Frank… Let’s go.”
     I looked up and saw people crowding around us. I ignored their evil eyes and walked slowly with Miyaki leading the way.

*****

     “Did the miso soup help?” Miyaki asked.
     “Yes, but I think some sake will do me good.”
     She smiled and shook her head.
     “You live alone here, Miyaki?”
     “Yes.” She said as she took the small bowl gently from my hand and walked it towards the kitchen sink. “I am very much comfortable living alone.”
     “I guess Keiko didn’t…”
     “Frank…”
     Miyaki looked hurt and I knew that I was in the wrong. I should never burden others with my sufferings.
     “Sorry… I really don’t want you to get too involved with my problem.”
     “No Frank… It’s just that, I feel for your pain,” she said, looking at me straight in the eyes before quickly turning her head away.
     “Thank you, Miyaki.”
     Miyaki informed me that after I left four months ago, Keiko came to her to ask for her advice about the relationship I had with her. Miyaki said that she was always optimistic about Keiko and I, but Keiko told her that she was finally through.
     “She couldn’t deal with the short visits, she said. She also couldn’t deal with the almost annual rate of waiting. She hated Japan and she hated the world. She kept mentioning that she lives in an unforgiving era of humankind… That she should live thousands of thousands of years ago when people are free to live anywhere they want and marry anyone they want…”
     “It’s a cruel world, Miyaki…” I said and buried my face in my crossed arms on the table.
     Miyaki left me to cry undisturbed and when I was done, she handed me a handkerchief.
     “Who is it, Miyaki…”
     “It’s Hayabusa…”
     “The guy has been all over her since the first time I saw her…” How could I be so stupid. It was just too obvious.
     “Yes…”
     “And I bet that’s why her store is closed down?”
     “She hasn’t been working on her store lately. Hayabusa is paying the rent for her and because of the money he has, she works only about three days a week sometimes…”
     “Take me to her, please.” Since the 4-year period I had known Keiko, she was very secretive about her real home address. We would spend our nights in the hotel assigned for me and she would bring her clothes with her for the romancing period. I always appreciated the fact that she brought her glow in the dark mini-bikinis along with her every time we met…
      She probably had been living with the guy all this time…
     “Today?”
     "Yes.”
     “Can’t we just stay home and drink some sake?”
     “Thanks for the concern, Miyaki. I am fine.”

*****

     Miyaki owned a traditional Japanese house, unexpectedly located just across the street from the park. I came to know her two years ago during my visit to Sega-Land located in downtown Technocity. Miyaki was Keiko’s best friend. Initially, I was surprised that Keiko would try to squeeze in another person during the vital, precious little moments that we had for each other. I was even in the verge of anger when it happened but I soon realize how respectful Miyaki was to our relationship. Every time we went out to a public setting from then on, we would invite Miyaki to join us. Having Miyaki in our relationship actually made the relationship felt more complete, the fact that she knew we were in love with each other. It felt good to have at least one person recognizing the love that we had, living in this cold world at the epitome of human’s evolutionary existence.
     While Keiko was a completely modern, rebellious Japanese woman, complete with tight satin futuro-dress and pants as well as multicolored streaks of a long hair, Miyaki was very conservative. When Keiko announced to me that she had already informed Miyaki of our relationship, I was bitter. I thought that Miyaki would always be moody and negative around us, but I was proven wrong. She was also disappointed with how the world had evolved.
     “Let us give her a call before we stop by,” Miyaki suggested.
     I agreed.
     I sat on the little pillow on the floor while Miyaki Japanese-talk her way on the phone with Keiko. I missed her voice, and I felt a little warmth in my heart listening to Keiko’s now foreign voice. I thought that it was wise for Miyaki to switch off the phone’s monitor. The conversation seemed calm but maybe I was just being too hopeful.
     Miyaki finally switched off the phone. “Let’s go. Both of them are waiting for us.”
     “I see…”
     Miyaki switched on the phone again, this time with the monitor on, and called a service cab to take us to Keiko’s. After about two minutes, the robot cab came preprogrammed and we were off to meet my lover. She was still my lover, even though she was married. I began to doubt though that she would see me as hers anymore.
     It was starting to get dark and the neon lights of Technocity pulsed and sparked on every building we passed. On the large billboard of the Yamamashite Theater was a poster for a movie entitled in Kanji. The poster was rather attractive. It showed a picture of a man standing on top of a wrecked boat, using a harpoon as a crutch, watching an orange sun setting in the horizon. I asked Miyaki to translate the title for me.
     “It’s called The Depth of Death. It’s another boring monster from outer space movie, I think…”
     The cab stopped in front of a large mansion located just on the outskirts of the city. I stepped out of the cab and analyzed the architecture of my lover’s living space. It looked like a miniature version of an ancient Japanese castle with its elongated rooftop arches. The traditional slide doors were there, but I bet with a millionaire like Hayabusa Sakanagi living in it, there must be high end security devices installed all over the damn place. We walked towards the gate and Miyaki used the telephone next to it to announce our arrival. I could see a towel-wrapped-around-the-waist Hayabusa on the monitor. He looked a little confused, or maybe I should speculate that he looked rather tensed and irritated. It was not a good sign. But then I heard a voice in the background, Keiko’s voice, that seemed to be telling Hayabusa something.
     “They will have the maids fetch us in,” Miyaki explained and switched off the telephone. “Keiko-san forgot that we were coming. She hasn’t informed her husband… He was a little unhappy, but he is okay now.”
     The maids came quickly. They entered the appropriate codes needed to open the gate and we stepped in. They led us into the mansion, and I was surprised that the inner part of the mansion was very modern in comparison to its outer presentation. From laser doors to transparent, fish-filled aquarium walls, the mansion was the embodiment of a perfect, though typical, modern living of the rich and famous. The wondrous expense spent on the mansion must be monumental. I wasn’t too surprised. Hayabusa was a celebrated bachelor in town, the son of the mayor, and owned a large robotics company.
     Well, he was not a bachelor anymore, to my shock.
     Hayabusa looked like an average Japanese guy. What was it that Keiko saw in this guy? He owned a better-built body, for sure. He owned a large amount of money, for sure. But Keiko loved me and told me I was her one and only.
     “Please sit,” the maid said. I jumped a little. I was expecting some undecipherable Japanese statements to be slapped against my limited multi-linguistic ability.
     I thanked them and I sat next to Miyaki. The maids left and then came back to serve us sake.
     “Please drink while we call for the master and the madam of the house,” the other maid said and gently slid out of the room.
     “This is the first time I get to see the inside of this house,” Miyaki said.
     “Oh?”
     “After she got married, it seems as if she doesn’t really want to speak to me.”
     “Really?”
     “And the truth is… I really do not wish to communicate with her anymore…”
     “And why is that?”
     “I guess we both feel guilty about the situation,” she gave me a sour smile. “I guess we felt powerless too.”
     As soon as Miyaki finished with her comments, Hayabusa came into the room. Keiko crept slowly behind him. They sat on the other opposite sides of the dining table.
     Hayabusa and Keiko were both wearing formal western clothing, a trademark of the bourgeoisie that survived the many rough cultural transitions.
     “Thank you for visiting, Mr. Peterson,” Hayabusa stood for a while and gave me a handshake.
     “Please, Sir. Call me Frank.”
     “Frank,” he said. “You have gained such popularity here in Technocity.”
     “Well, thank you, Sir.”
     “The students like your speeches very much.”
     “I guess the interest in the English language is still fairly strong in Japan… Even after the revolution 30 years ago.”
     “I think you are a little obsessed about the history of this country. You see, history never matters anymore here. It’s the present and future that we always need to focus on – and oh! Please accept my apologies… I forgot to introduce you to my wife. Her name is Keiko,” he beckoned Keiko to stand up and she gave me a respectful bow.
     I took Keiko by her right palm and brought it up to my lips. I gave it a quick, silent kiss.
     “I was informed of your history in relation to my wife,” Hayabusa said suddenly. He gave me a quirky smile.
     “I bet…” We both sat down and the maids came in with more sake.
     “Keiko is pregnant, she will not be joining us for long. She had a long day.” Hayabusa said.
     Miyaki said something enthusiastic to Keiko in Japanese. Probably congratulating her.
     “That’s good news. Congratulations, Mr. Sakanagi.”

*****

     “I am sorry,” Miyaki said to me in the front lobby of Japanese Legacy.
     “Hey, things happen. Thanks for your help today.”
     I walked Miyaki back towards the cab. She punched the buttons in the cab to program it and then closed her eyes as the cab sped away. I watched the cab until it disappeared out of my sight. Before it did, I could have sworn that I saw Miyaki turned and waved at me. I lifted my right hand to wave and there I was, standing still and alone with a heart that was fully broken into pieces.
     Keiko uttered a not single word when I was there. When she did look at me once or twice, I felt the anguish of her soul but at the same time, I also sensed the betrayal of her heart.
     When I got back into my room, I took a shower and sat on my bed to watch the television.
     I muted the volume after a while. I couldn’t find any English channels. I stared at the different people projected on the screen. Just normal people striving their best to entertain and inform.
     Tomorrow I will go back to the park. The next day, the speech.
     Then, back to Canada.

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