Xiaohui says I should stay. I do not know. I like her world, but it is a dangerous one. And Lizzy is still here, still somewhere. I want her and hate her altogether.
And even Xiaohui says that one of her tribe raped a girl to get into her city, just to get in, and left her bruised and beaten and I cannot condone that. There must be rules. She says they dealt with him. But when you tell humans, rotten monkeys that they are, that all is permissible, such things will happen. Can I live in a place where all is permissible? Isn’t that what P—t is? But there if I were to do such a thing I would be immediately devoured by clockwork worms, so I feel there is some justice, and it has a sense of timing. I do not trust Xiaohui to have the same efficiency.
And I miss Chieko. Both of them. I feel I have something to say to the lover, and comfort for the sister. Xiaohui says if I must go there is a place like hers in Kyoto. My city. My home. Such secrets she holds Kyoto, the slatternly thing. How could I not have known. Will I find Chieko there, naked, under lights, waiting for me to catch up to her, as I have never been able to do?
My publisher has declined to purchase my second book. This is to be expected. It is a travelogue, and all but the uninitated would call it fiction. I have no money. I must go home. And yet. That which is truly my home is always fleeting. I simply pass the time until sleep, when the hearth of my heart opens up and I can walk with those golden worms, and converse in wormy philosophies, and feel myself at rest.
I must go home.]]>
I understand there is an American book called that. For children. I have no children, nor intentions. But I think of that phrase.
Xiaohui took me to a place. The vast back storeroom of a restaurant–oh, the places you’ll go. All of them secret.
There were women there, and men. All of them my kind. My tribe. My kindred. All of them eager, all of them shameless. This is her faction, Xiaohui’s battalion. Three of the women and one of the men had nothing on their skin at all. They were the most eager.
I often thought, on that long night, that I saw Chieko. Xiaohui knew her. She threw her name at me to see me flinch. She knew the gardener in Hokkaido, too. She has lists of lists. Her lists match everyone with everyone: what parts of Palimpsest they carry, how they were grouped when they entered…
And that’s the rub, she said, as a man cradled her head and suckled her neck. That place with the bowls of ink and the frog-headed woman, that first place we all go when we lose our peculiar virginities and our bodies cease to be our own. If we could but find them, those strangers, if we could complete her records, such wonders might happen. No one has managed it yet.
Oh, the things I’ve seen. In the night, in their arms. A river of cream curdling through the slums, bees with clockwork hearts, an opera house where all the patrons wear blindfolds and weep for the sorrow of a war only just done, a war I never knew, a war like the one at home, that destroyed everything, yet cannot be spoken of.
A war that still blazes, on this side of the world.
Heaven help me, but there is nothing I would not give to fight alongside the bees.
I hoped to simply have a week or so to rest and stare at flashing things and eat sweets. My publicist quit this morning–the Italian edition is not going forward and the American edition has yet to show real “legs.” I am not concerned. I wrote for myself–is that not what all failed authors say? Myself and Chieko and a city that is also not called CITY, but would change its name, if I wanted it enough. If I asked the right way.
A girl sat across from me at the noodle shop. How do they find me, these earnest, crazed creatures. She was Chinese. She had bright blue eyes, but they were clearly contacts.
“You are Sato Kenji,” she said.
“Yes. If I am famous you should buy me noodles.”
She did, to my surprise. And said my name in the right order.
“I read your blog,” said the girl. Oh, I said. I knew what was coming.
She showed me her leg, opening her thighs and gesturing under the table in a most lewd fashion. It was on the inside of her thigh.
“I’m not going to have sex with you,” said she.
“That’s a novel approach,” said I.
“Well, maybe, later. Whatever, right? The point is, you know Lizzy, and so do I, and looking at your hands I’d bet we both hate her, so I thought that you might like to play on my side of the fence.”
“What side is that?”
“She wants to keep people out. I want to let them in.” She kissed my hand like she was a gentleman in some old movie. “I have a family here. We are all working together, for the same thing. My name is Xiaohui. I know how to stay in Palimpsest.”
Her eyes sparkled. I’d never seen anyone’s eyes do that outside of a book. And then she said: “Chieko says hello.”]]>
Once Chieko, my lover Chieko, not my sister, told me that she liked trains because they were magic: you walk in one door and when you walk out, the world has changed around you. The platforms are like magic portals–everything is designed to sweep you up and move you elsewhere. Trains are cities, she said, that never stop moving, and you cannot stay.
I cannot stay.
But my ticket says San Francisco. I could drive, but I don’t think it’s safe. I have a flight tomorrow, and then a little while to lie low and ride trolleys which are not really like trains at all and then home, home, where we understand that perversion is fine so long as you give it a safe place in society and raise up a cage around it. We do not chase folk about in Datsuns.
I miss my sister.
But I will not stop writing here. My publicist has washed her hands of me. Yet I say:
I wrote a history of trains. I did. But only some of them were trains you have ever ridden. The rest…they ride you.
It has always been:
Oh, Lizzy, I have not forgotten how you tasted…come back. I am lonely. I have fingers left.
My publicist says that I can still make it to New York and maybe a Boston appearance if I’m feeling up to it. I’m not.
I had three egg salad sandwiches today. I cannot understand how Americans eat this. It’s like yellow paste.
I have locked the doors in my motel and drawn the curtains. I have a small knife and a panic button keychain that makes a most obnoxious noise when I press it. All of this so that I can tell you:
In Palimpsest, there is a woman named Casimira. I only met her once. She is like an empress there, though she isn’t official. I met her only once, on the trains there. She was en route to the dedication of a war memorial. She had a small boy on a chain. She looked at me over the dining car and said:
Write a book for me, and I will let you kiss my foot.
It was the day after I met her that I began Train Travel. Ah, what I will do for a cause.
In all my night in Palimpsest since, she has never appeared to give me my reward. That is how things are in that place. I know that now.]]>
I had to miss my reading in New York. The pain was too much. And I was afraid.
The woman in the blue Datsun found me at a truck stop outside Pittsburgh. She had a baseball cap and wore a shirt that said Wish You Were Here!
She said: why are you doing this to me?
I said: why are you following me?
She said she was sorry. She said she didn’t want to do anything bad, but I was making her. Couldn’t I just be quiet. Couldn’t I just leave it alone.
Of course I can’t. Don’t be silly. I asked her: don’t you want people to know?
She shook her head. We’ll shut down that site if you don’t start talking about top ten lists of arthouse movies or which Power Ranger you are.
I refused. And she kissed me, hard and soft and toothy and angry, she kissed me and grabbed at me and you know, we do what we do to get where we’re going. We had a kind of fumbling, frantic sex against the bumper of a semi and afterward she cried and crushed my hands in the truck door.
She threw the dog-headed Virgin bobble doll at me as she drove away. I had such dreams that night, in pain and misery and fear and exaltation. Dreams of a place named after a page. I will not stop. I will not.
I have more fingers. And toes, too. And voice recognition software, if it comes to that.
Liam’s map is of a waterfront, a bustling place on the edge of a river. You can almost see the little boats on his skin.
Chieko’s was a kind of municipal garden or park.
I think Liam is right. I should stop while I have managed to say the words “virus” and “map” and leave it alone. Yesterday the Datsun sped up alongside me and I saw that the driver was a woman, in a baseball cap and a white dress. On her neck was a black mark like mine. She flicked the dog-Virgin’s head; it bobbled ridiculously. But I understood her meaning. There are certain codes, in times of war.
Yes, I said war. It is a war, and I did not understand that nothing has yet been decided on the American front.
Of course there is another war, and it is that one she meant by the Virgin with the dog’s head. A war in the other place, the other city, the other world.
I think Liam is right. But I find myself less concerned with him and more fascinated with how far I can go before the dog-Virgin catches me up in her teeth.
Let’s try this:
The other place is called Palimpsest
I have been through introductions like that before, very often. But he asked me if I knew about the blue Datsun. Of course I did. But an author has to make a living and it isn’t easy and I have tour dates to make and I haven’t said anything I shouldn’t, not really, he is only following me to frighten me and I’ll be fine.I explained that Datsun or no Datsun, I must be in New York on the 21st. He didn’t seem to think so. He reads this blog, and he thinks I have already stepped over the line.
Oh, these earnest Western men with their big hands!
I’ve said the word “virus,” he said, and the word “map.” That is enough. I pointed out that I had not said a very important word, the forbidden one, the name of the place our maps reference. No map is without a reference. It is impossible. Liam’s big hands shook, as though I had said I would kill myself. I suppose that’s just what he thought I’d said. I say this blog is still here, every day, and if they cared it would be easier to delete the whole site than to track me over half a country.
Liam said he had a hotel room. Oh, these Western men. They are so sweet and bland, like tea called tea.
I did not drive today. I stayed in my hotel room. I looked out the windows, through the plastic-lined curtains. The Datsun left for lunch, but came right back.
I watched the ball drop on television. It was boring.
One New Year I spent with Chieko in Kyoto. Not my advisor. My sister. She left her children with her husband and came with me to the Golden Pavilion, which looks black at night and yellow during the day. We snuck in. It was dark. We sat on the grass and fed the koi. There were stars. I held her hand. Already marked, that hand. The things I wanted to tell her…
But she said: “I hate my world. My husband is fat and my children are also fat. I eat cake every day and I cannot get fat. I cannot be like them. There is no room for me in the bath tub when they bathe at night. I listen to them splashing and I read my books. Your books. I want to be a carp instead. They are fat, and placid, and they don’t think many thoughts.”
I kissed her, just like we kissed as children. It didn’t mean anything. We didn’t open our mouths. It is a line, despite everything, I cannot cross. There are cultures where a brother and a sister may mate, but this is not one of them. Yet I hoped I could take from her some measure of pain with that kiss, pass into her some of my capacity to become fat.
I regret now that I did not tell her what I knew, of the mark on my hand and the city, how to get there, how to stay there–ah! An engine fires in the parking lot. How can you know what I am writing, blue Datsun? Can you not leave me alone with the ghost of my sister?How long before this site is gone one morning and ceases to sell any books at all and all my passwords have been changed? It has happened before. I am a blabbermouth.
Fuck you, blue Datsun.]]>