Tuesday, February 25, 2014


The Marunouchi Line from Shinjuku is a swarm. I fail to find a seat and stand between the shut door and a man whose umbrella pokes my leg so hard I imagine it's a packet dripping with sarin and he's a jittery Aum Shinrikyo member steeling himself against the inevitable fury. Four pricks and he's certain. Sarin drips down my leg, pooling under my loafer, quickly becoming an invisible wisp that claws its way unseen up suits and slacks and jeans until its forcing everyone in our train car down dark tunnels in their eyes until nothing's left.

Of course the man isn't an Aum Shinrikyo member. Random wickedness exists in the world for fits and starts on crazed minds that spread the gospel like smallpox. People might not be born into it, but visions have a way of sliding a knife across your temple and peeling everything back. After a particularly violent stab into my ankle I glower visibly enough that the man gets the idea and threads his way through the crowd, to another train, rather than incur my continued wrath.

Each person infected with Sarin on that day carried tidings with them, on their clothes and in their hair, across trains, into offices, shaking hands and embracing friends, co-workers, or complete strangers. It wore them like a suit, and rode them like they rode the train, across Tokyo in a flash. Before anyone knew that they weren't just sick with the flu hundreds, thousands were sickened and several were drawn down a darker road.

A woman next to me sees my protests and smiles in sympathy. I try to smile back, but it melds with my scowl to become more of a panicked, teeth-gnashing uncertainty. She laughs, more a anxious reaction than genuine amusement at being crushed in a tube alongside the weirdo who imagine sarin scenarios involving hapless salarymen clutching 500 yen umbrellas with metal tips for dear life.

The doors open at Yotsuya station and I fall out of the train. Literally. As I step out my feet become entangled in another's and I spill onto the floor face-first. My teeth absorb the blow, wobble, and hold. I taste blood. The people in the train gasp back in too-sincere horror until the doors slip closed and the train blasts off once more, carrying their uncertain indignation away toward Akasaka.

I lay on the ground, feet threatening to dangle over the tracks if I slide further back. A station attendant eventually notices how I'm not getting up and comes to ensure I'm not going to get him in trouble with his supervisor by being either dead or drunk or a delinquent. He offers his white gloved hand and I rise. He gives me a stern look, having decided I'm neither dead or drunk. I can barely make out his pupils through the smears on his thick, metal-framed glasses.

This man is dedicated. This man is serious. He rises early and commutes to this station, where he has worked for years with the train company. In the evenings he goes home to his wife and children, eats a nice, hot meal, and relaxes. He's attentive; nothing about his navy and white uniform is out of place. We move away from each other and I look back. He walks with urgency although his destination is only a few meters away.

I imagine the sarin again, dripping from bundled newspaper in his hands as he forces it into a waste bin, unwittingly sending him down a one-way street he never envisions until it's a pained blur and the last thing he ever sees.

No comments:

Post a Comment