Underground is nothing. I ride the Emperor's bronze chariot in plain sight, entombed above ground, buried in plain sight among bartenders schoolchildren awaiting a bus that never comes, stuck with dirt and terracotta slowly peeling away like rind from an orange. My eyes are resolute and true and I swallow fire like a professional without a contract begging the world to give him a second chance on a life he dreams awake each morning only to drown in the sludge that remains at the bottom of his coffee cup. If I try to read fortunes from this same sludge it melts the brown enamel paint before burning a hole in the table that bores deep into the ground until it partially fuses with the core of the world and makes everything spin so fast until the days grow shorter and the government mandates a nine day work week before the three day weekend where we'll go to the coast and hold hands and watch the waves thread together and crash ahead of the candy apple sunset.
I suck a candy drop and hold your hand. The world is butterscotch Chanel, and when you laugh your perfume jumps from your neck and caresses my cheek and insists that the world is mine and so are you.
Butterscotch Chanel shocks me awake and I see the sun flee behind adjacent apartment buildings, stolen each day by charlatans I'm powerless to stop. There's nothing left in the mirror except a skeleton inside a terracotta guard animated by convenience and fate, so I shave and brush my hair and drink canned coffee that tastes like yesterday and the day before and a blur of time until memory clouds like a cataract and the only thing left is to guess a direction and proceed to the train station and ride the Hibiya Line to Roppongi and ride the escalators in billion-yen leviathans until the security guards decide I'm too much of a nuisance and sternly point to the exit. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I wash ashore in Shinjuku, a dejected castaway, and salve wounds at pocket bars where bubblegum twenty-somethings laugh and mumble nothings like Shakespearean lovers packing sonnet pistols. I slam two Suntory highballs and regain momentary sympathy and recall a fleeting scent that floats on the tides as it carries time and memory out to sea like so much flotsam.
Things distend. I stretch across stalls where attractive women coo seductive offers staked together, yakitori on the grill, and salarymen inhale noodles in water-oil broth while others line up awaiting their turns grasping Seven Stars cigarettes like sailors lost at sea with only the thin rubber of a flimsy lifeboat between them and a gentle response. I prefer Marlboros.
I bypass the horde and slide into a Cafe de Crie tucked between dueling pachinko parlors. Inside each man ordering coffee is worth ten packs of cigarettes, and I breathe deep and imagine the odd looks I get when I close my eyes and seem to be enjoying myself too much. The woman behind the counter gives me the withering not-another stare as I wobble in place and squint up her bright yellow board with blue letters before attempting a self-effacing laugh while trying not to stare at her breasts.
"Cappuccino?" I mumble-ask.
She pretends not to hear me and looks past my face to the next suit, an older man whose wobble I recognize as the Suntory shake, evidenced further by the burst capillaries of someone who dips in a bit too early and often. His grey three-piece suit is a nice accessory. I look back at him, and his response grunt shakes loose his glasses enough for them to slide gradually down the bridge of his nose.
"Can I help you?" Her impatience endears.
"Cappuccino," I say with more flair.
She rolls her eyes and moves aside to make my drink. She's somewhat gorgeous, I decide, chocolate-skinned and creamy in complexion and movement. My pockets hemorrhage hundred-yen coins and I hold myself up on the counter and await deliverance.