Words are wonderful: using your own personal experience against you to convey an idea or to provoke tears. Powerful weapons they can be, that is if you speak the same language. This is the story of a confusing vacation to 1960’s Tokyo.
The idea bloomed when I was doing my morning routine, though it was around 1400. I stepped out of a blistering hot shower and began the process. I wiped the mirror to reveal my bright red body, sadly not bright enough to hide the dark circles under my eyes. I have, in the least, been running myself ragged. I could feel the strain when I did get sleep in my once broken bones. Shit, I was tired- endlessly so. I decided that some decent rest was needed, but I needed to get away from here, away from these God damn experiments that keep me up too late.
I didn’t pack much; just stuffed essential in my pocket and went back to July, 18 1969. I arrived in a vacant alley in the middle of Tokyo. I walked around the streets for some time, the smell of exhaust permeated the summer air, reminded me of the rides back home after shoveling coal so many years ago. A calm set inside me that I haven’t felt in a long time. I found a motel that most people would really consider a bed and breakfast. I approach the elderly woman- she scowls at me but greets me in a nice tone. I have no idea what she said, but I’ll just assume it was pleasant. After about 5 minutes of miming that I required a room, she hands me a key. I handed her what I thought was enough money, my hand returns to my pocket but yet hers remained open in front of me. I hand her some more yen and she pulls her hand away, points to the stairs, then the key in my hand. I make my way up the skinny staircase to the second floor. The rooms were numbered, mine was room 5. I bump my head on the door frame, I heard bells and birds. I curse the pain, palm my forehead and slide the door closed behind me. Ambient light pours into the room from everywhere, giving the bed a welcoming glow. I fell on the bed and slept.
I awake suddenly when I hear the door slide open and close fast. A young woman with a white shirt and tight jeans hid in the corner of the room. I was barely standing when the door opened again, flooding the now dark room once more with lights from the hallway. An angry looking young man, that was dressed like a weird cross of a mod and punk. “To be young again.” I say in my head, I wasn’t even awake yet. He yells something at me in Japanese, not a clue what he said I do the international movement of “I have no fuck’en clue.” He gets the point and slides the door closed hard, enough so it bounces open after his attempt. I walked to it and close it completely, using the tiny lock to keep it in place. I turn to the right and kneel in front of the girl in the white shirt. “Is everything okay” Feeling silly when I asked. To my surprise, she answers softly in broken English “I have better days.” I help her to her feet; she walks to the bed and sits at the end. I pull the small silver flask from my pocket and hand it to her. She turns it upside down, kills what blue gin I had left, wipes her mouth and grins.
She tells me of the events leading her into my room, even though I didn’t ask. Her boyfriend- the angry man from before had an argument, they’ve been living at this motel for some time it seems ever since she started college. She talks about how nice it is to be in Tokyo, and not in the fishing village she was from. I start to feel like I read this somewhere in some place, I drop the thought when the sake I ordered from the motel lady arrives. I open the door wide and she spies the girl in the white shirt. They exchange quick words in Japanese, making it appear that I was just made of clear water, looking right through me. The tone didn’t sound right. I pay for the sake and close the door, regretfully forgetting to lock it again. I set the tray on the small table and pour some in the single cup and fill my flask. I walk over to her and hand her the cup and she continues. I lean against a support beam; she barely gets started talking about her boyfriend’s conservative views when the door opens again. Her boyfriend storms in fast and grabs her head by the hair, kicking and screaming he begins to pull her out the door. I drop my flask, spilling its contents over the floor and forcefully grab his arm. His fist came quickly, connecting to my face like their famous bullet trains. I drop like a sand bag from the blow, my brain reboots and they’re out in the hall. I stand and shake off what I could. I look towards the door again, they’re gone. I move to the hall and follow the sound of the shouting. I find myself standing in front of room 9, the last room in the hall. I try the door and it’s locked. The shouting continues. I hear what sounds like a scuffle and things breaking. I look to my right and the motel woman was standing at the end of the hall, she has a dissatisfied look on her face. I turn to the door once more and pull on it again, it gives a little but the lock holds. That’s when the scuffle stops, there’s a scream then a shot. “Fuck, fuck, shit, fuck!” I say to myself. I pull on the door with all my might, the lock gives. There stands the girl in the white shirt over her dead boyfriend. “Fuck, fuck, shit, fuck!” I repeat to myself. I dart into the room and grab her by the wrist. The motel woman shoves past us as we exit the room. I hear a murmured scream as we make our way down the stairs. I was moving too fast to think. We make our way outside and walk about a block. I notice the gun is still in her hand, I take it, and toss it into a bin. It’s then I see the little red freckles on her white shirt. What the hell did you get yourself into?
We’re four or five blocks down the street when the police cars pass with sirens screaming. I could feel her panic as she grips my hand tight. We walk for a little while more to let the clouds clear. I stop and turn to face her “Where can I rent a car?” She gives me a puzzled face then repeats the question out loud. She now takes my hand and pulls me along the street. I move my device back and forth in my pocket, considering just abandoning this.
We stop in front of a dinky mechanic shop, she tells me she’ll “return” and heads inside the shop. I stand there kicking a rock around on the ground my hand firmly on my device. She comes back out and asks me for my money. I hand her everything. She walks back in and comes out with a set of keys and a paper bag. She leads me to the Sun bleached Datsun 115, the door was unlocked and I hopped in what I thought was the driver seat. I was confused by the lack of a steering wheel on my side. Needless, she hopped in the driver seat, the pure size of the steering wheel made her young body look small. The car turns over on the second try and we set off. I fall asleep staring at the neon signs while we drove out of Tokyo.
I wake up with my face against the side window and a pain in my neck. The car was stopped and the girl in the white shirt fell asleep in the back seat. We’re parked on the side of the road next to a pearly white beach. I open the door quietly and step out of the car, she stirs but doesn’t wake. I make the small walk to the beach and light a cigarette. The sun hung slightly over the ocean, I check my wrist for my watch, dammit, I left it in the hotel room with my flask. I could really use a drink right now. I had no idea why I was still here, I wanted to relax, but as trouble goes- it always finds its way back to me. She joins me on the beach three cigarettes later. She sits down and pulls out a bottle of American whiskey. She takes a large swig and hands it to me. I take a large drink myself- it was the right type of burn for a situation like this. “My name is Tori.” She said as I passed the bottle back to her. “I’m Karl.” A pause sets as she drinks; I take the bottle from her and drink again. “What are we going to do?” I ask while wiping my lips in a satisfied gesture, she does the same after her drink. “I am in contact with students from the protests; I will be hiding with them.” I was feeling the effects of the whiskey at this point; I lean back and lay down on the sand. She stands and walks to the ocean. I lift my head to see where she was going. As she walks she removes the stained white shirt, revealing a tattoo on her upper back of a crow. I studied it and her for a second and lay my head back down. I drift off to sleep again; whiskey has always made me sleepy.
She wakes me by bopping me square on the head; I stir in a panic and jump to my feet. Seconds later the rush of drunkenness returns and I feel light headed. “Let’s go silly tree!” Tori said as she walks back to the car, I rub the sand out of my eyes and follow. We talk about everything but the events of last night as we drive down the coastal road. She turns out to be quite the intellectual, this worries me a bit, as they are the type to figure out I’m a time traveler. So I keep the conversation about her, she talks about the protest at Tokyo University, how all that have been involved have been blacklisted at getting better jobs. She begins to drift off and it’s decided that I would drive. She informs me to just head south and wake her when we get to the next town. We pull over and switch seats; she just slides over the bench seat as I get out. How I love old cars like this.
The sun begins to set as the engine on the Datsun purrs, it’s dusk when I spot the road block ahead. I slam the brakes and they lock, the car sways back and forth then comes to a stop. Tori is jostled from her slumber and panics when she sees them. I turn around the car quick, the tires kicking up dust from the shoulder, so much so I couldn’t see them behind me. The little engine roars as I put the pedal to the floor. Tori yelling curse words in Japanese, no translation necessary. The dust settles and the police cars remain parked, needless I get as much distance as I could. An hour of backtracking when the gas gauge on the car shows near empty. We pull into a gas station, a young man maybe fourteen pumps gas in the car and cleans the windows. Tori couldn’t sit still, looking in all directions, as if there was a cop hiding behind every tree, car, and building in the area. We switch seats again, she pays the young man and we drive off. “What now, they seem to know where you’re going.” I said. “Let me think!” she screams. Her knuckles turn a bone white from her gripping the steering wheel. I pat my pocket to check that my device was still there.
We took a left on a road that didn’t have a thing close to it and drove for about an hour when a small town with a motel in the middle of appears. We check in, buy some sake and head to our room. We didn’t have money for two rooms so it’s decided we would share. This place isn’t nearly as pleasant as the motel before, but it had a bed and that’s what mattered. We drink the bottle of sake while it was still hot and kill the rest of our cigarettes. Not one word is said. She removes her clothes and lays under the sheets in the bed leaving an empty spot for me. I take the pillow from the bed and sleep on the floor. I wake briefly in the middle of the night to the sound of Tori weeping. She wakes me in the morning by a kick in the ribs, which felt a little too hard. I retie my tie and pull my jacket from the chair, my device falls to the floor with a soft thud. I pick it up and stare at it for a few seconds. “So easy just to head home.” I think to myself.
To be continued.