Monday, August 5, 2013


The night was moonless and dark. Under the shadow of office buildings and apartments, the street was even darker. I circled for long minutes, passing young women smoking and taxi drivers idling and reading magazines. I repeatedly unfolded a crumpled map, glanced at it, and stuffed it back away in my coat pocket.

Then I saw a warming yellow glow behind an opaque screen that called to me. Hadn't I passed this way before? I slid open the door and faced a long, narrow hallway. A lone violin's music hauntingly wafted along. The air was rich with fruit.

I crossed over a pool of small stones and sat on one of nine stools along a rough-grained wooden bar. The man behind the counter had lily-white hair but looked youthful. He more flowed than moved, like he was walking on air.

"My portal opens to those who want to find it," he said. "What can I get for you?"

The wall behind the man was lined with sake bottles of all shapes and sizes in a riot of color like the leaves of an autumn forest. My mouth was agape, head as far back as it would go, staring up to the top bottles that were coated in dust.

"Take me on a journey," I said airily.

He poured out three small glasses from three different bottles. The first was cloudy, but with a warming sweetness like afternoons in a sun-drenched orchard. The second was as cold and clear as pure water, but it tasted like dark, sweet earth. The last was hot and it weighed me down like a deep sleep, making my eyes fog over.

"Who are you?" I asked, mouth tingling, dripping.

"Just a man," he said as he refilled each of my glasses. "If I make my door narrow enough, I can do what I love for those who want to enjoy it."

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