Buying a Gift for My Wife
By Adnan Lermontov
(First Draft. July 10, 2011)
On the way back from The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, in Tokyo Japan, I notice a man, ahead of me, laying flat on the street, and all the cars are going around him. Is he dead? Is that a dead body? I am walking along the Uchibori-Dori Street (On my left, the Tokyo Station, and on my right the Imperial Palace Garden). The garden was hot and humid; and it was hard to breath. This is mid-July. A five minutes long walk will leave you sweating and make you drink a lot of water, and often. And After walking about a couple of hours, I felt like sleeping in one of those shady patches with dark tall trees, or on one of the many open green fields. But I knew I had a long day ahead of me, especially when this will also be the day I buy a gift for my wife. It turns out I am not a very good gift buyer. If I don’t buy anything for her today, then I will not be able to buy anything at all, since I will be busy for the next five days, and then I will head back to the airport straight from the office. This has to be the day. I must find something for her, something that she would like.
The garden is encircled with high-rising skyscrapers, busy streets, and cacophony. The serenity of the garden was soothing, and I was calm inside. But the body on the street startles me, shatters all calm, and a ripple reaches the farthest corners of my body from a sinking heart. I run toward the body. Is he already dead or still dying? There are a lot of people jogging by the street, by why is no one bothering to stop by to find out or to help? When I reach the body, I realize that it is a young man, a photographer, taking the photos of the street. I ask anyway, “Are you ok?” He gets back on the side-walk, and shakes my hand, while saying, “Yes, I am fine, just taking photos of the hot street… heat waves coming off the street.” He is 23 years old, and graduated from the university a year ago with a degree in law. But photography is his passion, and he is working for The Yomiuri Shimbun as a staff photographer. His name is Kazuki Wakasugi. I talk to him for a while, and we exchange business cards. This allows me to take a short rest. Before I leave, I tell him, “If you visit San Francisco, give me a call, you are a nice man, I enjoyed talking to you…” He accepts the invitation cheerfully, and then we shake hands and depart. I don’t know where I am going, just walking, walking West. The air smells of heat, and it makes your tongue dry like the hot streets, of which Wakasugi was taking pictures earlier. I am enjoying the joy of random walking. I’ve always enjoyed it. Being lost, intentionally, for a little while fascinates me, this is one of my obsessions.
I know I have to go back to the Tokyo Station to take the train, to go to the Ueno Park. So I start to walk in that direction, through the tall buildings. It is 3:30 p.m., and the half-moon is looking down from the top of a tall building. I find it strange. I soon find myself close to the Yurakucho Station. I figure that the Tokyo station must be very close from here, no more than a 15/20 minutes walk. If I keep walking East, by the train-tracks, then I will for sure hit Tokyo Station. The train tracks are above my head, on the platform, and beneath it, there are many small stores of beer, fast-food, and other small goods. This is another world, the last of the surviving old. The old should perhaps, somehow, feel small surrounded by the glamorous world; but it doesn’t, it is just perfect, even put the glamorous to shame in many ways. Nothing can beat the taste of the authentic. There are many tour busses’ stations located by this street. I am looking at the tourists in the bus, and they are looking at me. Together, we tourists are creating sightseeing attraction for each other, using each others. I keep walking through the people, not hitting anyone, even when there are thousands of us. I think I walk through the crowd like any other Japanese by now. I am proud of it. This is certainly a skill to have in this corner of the world. The brick platform walls are old and rusty in color and appearance. Compare to the new flashy buildings to the left, the wall to my right is old, my type of the world. One day they will break it down, and make it flashy, but I am glad we have met. I come across an Italian bar, with two baskets full of empty wine bottles by the entrance. The cool and calm sunlight is resting within the hollows of those bottles. How crazy is this? I just watched the Cinema Paradiso for the first time earlier in the morning. Giuseppe Tornatore is one of my favorite Italian directors. His movies always touch me with a sense of the classic, and now this walk feels like a classic one as well. I am enjoying the coincidence. This is living to its full capacity of pure pleasure.
Can I find anything here, in one of these stores for my wife? I keep my eyes and ears open, but I don’t see anything she would like. In the past, whenever I went on a tour, I bought her cosmetics, jewelry, and clothes; but she never liked them. She is not picky in general, but she wants to buy these things on her own, and if I am buying, it has to be artistic, in some way. I never pulled it off. Where or how am I going to find an art piece? Earlier in the day, I went to Akihabara, and roamed through the Electric City, hoping to buy a camera for her, but I didn’t find a good one, especially when it had to be a certain kind of pink. There was nothing that you couldn’t find in that city of technology. But because I could not find a certain type of pink, I had to give up finding anything for her in the Electric City. So I switched back to my random walking mode, to enjoy my time for few minutes more. I came across a porn-shop, and it looked huge from the outside. I entered. They sell everything in there, the magazine, the DVDs, and the toys. The first floor was full of soft-porn, which I would like to refer to as the Basic Porn. Why do I call it the Basic Porn? You will know soon. I went to the second floor, and I realized that it was the hardcore floor. I referred to it as the Intermediate Porn. Challenge your imagination to its limit, and you will find that type of porn in that place. No problem. I went to the third floor, and that was the real shit, the kinky stuff. If you were there, you would realize that you didn’t even know that you had that kind of fantasy in you. The third floor of that porn shop will introduce you to yourself, and you will be shocked. I called that the Advanced Porn floor. No one was trying to hide their faces there, the very young and the very old were trying to select the porn that they would like from the shelves, standing side-by-side. No hesitation. No fear. No shame. I felt like graduating from a first rate Porn University, in less than 30 minutes. All I had to do is walk up to the third floor without being judgmental.
By now, I think I am half-way to the Tokyo Station. I suddenly notice that there is an indoor place, to mu right, with tall trees in between two tall buildings. It looks cool, and I decide to walk in. The shade of this place is seductive in a hot day like this. It is a place for people to dine, shop, and rest. I rest for a while, and then I notice a store, which looks like a gift-shop. I ask a fellow resting man what this building is all about, and he tells me in broken English, that it is the Tokyo International Forum center. I walk into the Forum Art Shop, and it seems like a gift shop for the lovers of science and technology. A lot of models are on display related to the space research. There are just too many tiny items crammed in a small shop here, and the walking people make it even more crowded. On the other side of the store, I notice small boxes, with many composers’ faces on it. What could it be? I’ve never seen anything like this. Soon I realize that these are music boxes, which I only read about in my boyhood in encyclopedias, but never seen one. I like the box playing Swan Lake by Tschaikowski, and I immediately decide to buy it for my wife. I know she will like it. I know she likes this kind of surprises. I know this is the first time, I will not have to worry about the gift I am buying for her. The music suddenly makes me miss my wife intensely, and I feel the return of the calm inside, a melancholic calm. I say it to myself, this is the right gift, and I should have no doubt about it. I keep the box safely in my back-pack, and start to walk toward the Tokyo Station again, thinking of her face, her smile, and her deep dark eyes.