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Unsuitable for five or six blocks 

Only light moves fast enough for me.

Poetry | Zuihitsu
April 15, 2022

This piece is part of the 随筆 | Zuihitsu notebook, which features original art by Satsuki Shibuya.

Cigarettes in the desert. I remember when I was road tripping with a guy who was trying to quit, but the stress of driving through Wyoming had unsettled his biorhythms and the cravings came back full force. We stopped in a gas station, and I went off to pee. When I came back, he was tapping out a cigarette and I had to grab him to keep him from smoking near the pumps. In the middle of the desert, which was redder than it should be, he made me stop the car and he walked all around it on the empty highway, smoking like an incantation. At least he wasn’t peeing like an incantation.

Zuihitsu are essentially incantations to the moments. Often the lost ones. The ones we imagine now are fighting with the ones we remember. 

Only light moves fast enough for me. Sound meanwhile is too slow, waves of sound puffing like a train in the distance. It is best if windows are flashing by, while you stand squarely on the station platform. Or if on the train, limbs pass in a green and brown blur, forest held back by square panes of glass and speed. Inside black tunnels is best of all—scary, but with stairstep lights that pace the yards into relief that we are not lost, that the train knows where it is going. 

In the workplace we spend a lot of time playing with makeup. Showing face. Now that we are all at home, everything formal falls off. Just not where the camera will see. The prettiest lights remain.

At home I scoop the guacamole with abandon, salt it even more than anyone else but me would want, but in public I watch carefully. I use the square end of my chopsticks when I reach into the common serving plate, a from-home trick people still ask me about. The pointy ends are for myself.

“Because you wouldn’t put your face in the spaghetti, would you?” 

I shrug like doesn’t everyone get raised the Japanese way? It’s even worse for rice questions. Just tell them about the suitable rice cookers. Don’t tell my grandma about the cigarettes.