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Location: Berkeley, California, United States

Not unkind

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Miniest Skirt (third part)

As Mayama sensei explained the day's assignment, Mitomu faded off as usual. There times when he would listen with such clarity that he felt as if his teacher were speaking to him directly, no other student present in the room. However, often the teacher's voice would dissolve as well, leaving Mitomu to float on by himself, suspended on a cloud of weightless figures, dreams, and abstractions. Sometimes it was the dirty golden side of the hills across the river, which one could see from the classroom, to which Mitomu floated. He could imagine what was out there, past the city--maybe some wild animals, the cold wind, a few pieces of trash, silence. This didn't ever deter him from idealizing though. From his seat in the classroom, anything distant resembled that which he wanted. The hills, the sky, the isolation from the school grounds, the city, the people. He would usually come back to class right when it was time to work on their calligraphy.

Today's characters were reasonably simple. As he wrote them out, slowly, coaxing each line to move out of the brush and not from his unsteady fingers, Mitomu appeared to forget his prior thoughts. He even was pleased with something that he was making. A very strange and honorable feeling. When finished the words dried on the thin paper, the ink puddles hardening like a face ossified by Medussa's glare. "行雲流水," "A cloud moving through the sky, a river flowing over land."

"Wow! Mitomu, you're a natural! How do you make your characters look so beautiful and effortless?" It wasn't the voice of Mayama sensei that spoke but a girl's voice. Aya was the cutest girl in the class, but also one of the shiest. She was friendly with everyone, but never outgoing. She paid attention in class, but never asked questions. Boys paid attention to her secretly, but never asked her out. She was also known among the boys in their surrepetitious lunchtime discussions as the girl with the miniest skirt.

"Huh...uh it's not all that good, is it? I just wrote this now. It's nothing compared to Mayama sensei's calligraphy. "
Mitomu was always nervous. In this rare moment of conversation with Aya, his anxiety gripped him stiffly, he too turned to stone.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Miniest Skirt (second part)

Towards the end of April, Mitomu had already befriended a few of the more outgoing boys in 1-F class. Kenta, a talented, but sensitive and jejune comedian of many moods, was the first friend Mitomu had. There is something about this first contact that one must remember--as if all the stories that one has read about the immemorial adventures of childhood cronies is an inevitable fact of life, in any place or time. Mitomu was surprised to befriend Kenta. He felt as if the most random occurence such as being assigned neighboring desks for the first month of school was evidence that they were connected by some relation of another world. In the first few weeks of Mitomu and Kenta's freshman year, there was that selfless bliss coursing through these endless hours--an uncalculated, unexamined, once in a lifetime shower of light and beauty that unmixed, youthful devotion sheds like petals from a mature bud.

"Kenta, did you get what Mr. Kimura was saying today about biishiki?"
"No, man. I can't follow his class at all. It's as if he wants us all to become bushi and live in a past that is dead."
Mitomu ignored Kenta's comments, "It had to do with being conscious of the beautiful--that it is satisfying, upon the moment one has attained happiness, to celebrate its passing away? He called it "emotional aestheticism" didn't he? To live a brief, intense life of beauty and then disappear--like the cherry blossoms."
"Well shit Mito--"

The chime rang signaling the end of lunch. The next class was calligraphy, upstairs on the third floor. It was an elective class that Mitomu had chosen out of his muted attraction to things that seemed old and elegant. He didn't read manga and or play video games like Kenta or his other friends. But during this period, Kenta went off to music class while Mitomu climbed the stairs to the ink-smelling classroom.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Miniest Skirt (opening)

On the first day of school, Mitomu stands alone outside the main gate. Momotani High's opening ceremony is going to start in twenty minutes, but Mitomu's mother has insisted that he catch the early train so as not to be late on this, the first day of his new life. The campus is silent. A lukewarm wind whistles through the wide-eyed cherry blossoms, making a barely audible pitter-patter above the empty parking lot. In twenty mintues, all of Mitomu's future classmates will assemble in the gym and, in the same manner as his junior high school (elementary school before that), undergo the same laborious and meaningless ritual of commencement that has been led at schools for perhaps as long as the cherry blossoms have bloomed. Two boys turn the corner around the gate. One talks to the other with a self-conscious smile on his face, as if it were any other day other than the first. Mitomu doesn't move and tries to blend in with the bushes he is standing next to.

"You are an idiot, Takeru! What the hell are you talking about!?"
"Well, I dunno. You saw them too!"
"I never said that! You're such a liar!"

The conversation goes on even as they pass Mitomu and enter the gym. What a strange conversation! Why do kids always elaborate a very small occurence, making it sound as if it is some hot topic of debate that others are intrigued about? Is it a precocious budding of an adult's worst 'sixth sense,' that is, a pubescent vanity that masks itself early on as sheer curiosity and engaged wonder about something that concerns everyone? No. At the end of the conversation, the Takerus will always assert their incredible fantasies and there will be someone there to believe him, or at least pretend to. This saddens Mitomu. Already he has begun to judge his world, has extracted the paradoxes from the pure truth. He sighs and walks toward the gym, a few small whitish pink petals falling soundlessly onto his uniform and the dry pavement of the parking lot.

"...This year all of you will enter a new part of your life. It is the budding stage, when, like the cherry blossoms you see today around the school grounds, life begins to bloom--a first and irreplacable experience of opening of your eyes to the world around you...Though these three years will most likely pass before you like the petals that shower the earth after a cursory week or two, it is necessary to make the best of things...Your time here at Momotani High is precious, so I wish you the best of luck in the next three years..."

Mitomu dozed off, catching small fragments of the principal's robust encouragement and exhaustively redundant platitudes. The three hundred or so kids in his freshman class sat motionlessly in their chairs, heads propped downwards in a respectful way so as to sleep without being noticed. Some of the teachers followed suit. A few finches chirped outside in the the dark branches of the cherry trees.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Every few seconds the wind settles down and distant sounds from this city emerge like a recollection of something buried deep in my past. Two children are playing in the park next to my apartment building. The broad, flat dirt clearing and jungle-gym remind me of the playground in which I spent most of the days of my childhood. Well, there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about that place, other than the fact that it was the setting for my first significant acts of joining matter and mind, my first clear--perhaps clearest--memories. At recess, lunchtime, and after school, I joined in various games, sometimes winning and sometimes not caring if I won. It might have been my "place of first permission," and if you will permit me this indulgence of my need to reminisce, I would like you to pay attention to what may seem on the outside a mere token, a charm, some personally auspicious vehicle through which I picture my life participating in the life of God.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Chapter 1

Walking along this shore, which makes the same arched curve as a cat's tucked, sleeping body beneath a sunny windowsill, Isaac breathes with difficulty into the tearing wind. When was the last time I went to the beach? he thought. I must have been with others. Certainly I was with others. He cannot remember something that simple, and yet remotely frightening: the last time he was alone at the beach. I was with others. His feet sink quietly into the dry, grey sand as the occasional cry of a lonely gull would interrupt the drone of the surf and his spiralling thoughts. With others. He walks along, waiting for an encounter that he knows will be another disappointed dream, but for which there is still a dim underglow, like the small red core of a fire that is not yet out, telling him to wait also for this to pass, like the others before whose smoke every now and then drifts over him uninvited but wanted.