Tsutomu woke up that morning, like every morning before it, at 5:00 am sharp. Being the punctual and proud man that he was, the snooze button gave no siren call, for he was not a lazy man, and needed no fancy tricks, like hiding the clock somewhere the night before, or placing it at the other side of the room. No. He did not need any mental men to tie himself to the mast and place wax in his ears. He swiftly swung his feet around the end, and snuggly placed his feet square on the floor, and marched his way to the shower. Reaching for the light switch, he…reaching for the light switch…reaching…ah! there. Oh hell it’s bright. Tsutomu does not let the light come in his way to the shower. Pressing on, with squinty eyes, Tsutomu clambers into the shower and turns on the cold water. COLD water. None of this hot water business. Makes one lazy. At least, that’s what the doctor says. Like every morning before this, Tsutomu jumped as the first droplet bombarded his skin. Hurriedly, with plenty of shrieks and jitter-buggery, Tsu rubbed the bar of soap all over his body, lathering his humble Japanese body. After lathering his face and facing the shower head, he exited the shower and with triumphant leap.
Looking at his face in the mirror, he almost paused to wonder what it was all about. His dull morning, each and every morning, his due diligence to do a good-morning job-well-done, just to race for the bus, to find the one last remaining seat, only to have an old hag climb on two stops later, everyone, all part of a world-wide conspiracy to haunt Tsu with guilt, staring at him, implying with their god-damned judging eyes, implying that you were not a good man, not a virtuous man, nothing that mother would be proud of, why, not getting up for an old lady – an old lady with a walking cane, for that matter – how dare you? So you humbly get up, not giving them the satisfaction of seeing his guilt, instead acting like he meant to give it away all along, with stares from strangers or not. She takes the seat, like it was her god-given right, like her name was written on it, like the fucking stars had aligned it, without a god damned thank you. Nothing. But that’s not why you did it. You did it because you’re Tsutomu, you’re a proud man, you’re a good man, and you will one day find meaning and happiness in this festering existence you call life.
Opening the mirror, he takes his toothbrush and toothpaste, cherishing the few moments it takes to squeeze the paste onto the brush. This is one of his favourite things, and it never gets old, not ever. It’s as rewarding as it was the day before, just like the day before that, and on and on since he was a little jap in blue PJs. But that was a long time ago. He almost paused to think of how he got here, to this moment, to this point in his life. Instead he counted to a hundred: one for every stroke of his brush.
Inspecting his body in the mirror, he tries to imagine what it is like to be a woman. A pretty woman. One who likes men of dedication and hard work. Would this woman like what she sees in the mirror? Does he ever turn a head as he walks to the bus, or to work? Do women every think “there goes a good man” “I bet he’s hung like a colt” “I wouldn’t mind some of his man meat down my throat tonight”. Tsu stops himself before he gets too excited, feeling the tinge of an erection coming on. He hasn’t had one of those unclean things in a long while. God, what he wouldn’t give to slide it into some beautiful Geisha’s wet hole. Hell, he’d take a hand job from a hobo in a park at this point.
Tusmotu makes his way to his bedroom, grabbing a pair of white underwear, from the drawer full of them, and an undershirt. Barefoot, he makes his way to the kitchen where he turns on the coffee machine and puts in two pieces of toast in the toaster. Pooring himself a glass of water, he downs it and pours himself another. The toast pops and he spreads raspberry jam on one piece, and honey on the other. Taking his meal fit in one hand, coffee in the other, he makes his way out to his balcony. From here he has a view onto the apartment courtyard. He can look into other people’s windows, or watch the children play down below. However, at 5:30 in the morning, nothing much is ever happening, the majority of people, not having to make a two hour commute to work on the filthy transit buses every morning, continue to rest and dream of plump Geisha’s writhing up and down over-grown cocks (atleast, that’s what he would be dreaming of). Slowly chewing his food, as if in such deep thought that the brain energy usually reserved for mastication had been delegated to complex mental acrobatics. Swallowing, with the aid of coffee, and spacing out on the terrace, he will continue to do, unchanging, for the next fifteen minutes. Once finished, at 5:45, he makes his way to the bedroom to assemble the rest of his outfit: black socks, black pants, white overshirt, black tie and all. Methodocially putting himself together, tightening the last button and fixing his tie, he puts on his blazer, slips on his shoes, grabs his briefcase and leaves his apartment.
He finds the bus to be relatively empty. Maybe this is my lucky day, he wants to think but knows better than to jinx himself. He sits down beside a questionable character, which, due to this distinct property, lends itself to freeing up seats around him wherever he goes. The man is crouched forward, wearing a business attire, if business demanded dirty-formal. What appears to be a molasses type substance is splotched all over this man, with dark brown stains covering his what-was-once white button up shirt. Tsu naturally comes to pity this man, to wonder how he came to this point in his life. Then he notices that the man is wearing almost the same outfit that he himself has decided to wear this morning (and every morning before), that is, sans the shit-colored stains.
Now, instead of pity, his feelings have turned to worry. He feels like he’s looking into an alternate reality, whether it be how Tsu might have turned out, or how Tsu may still turn out, sometime in the future. What would happen if he just all of a sudden lost his job? What then? He has no one to fall back on, no family, no friends (not any good ones at least), no loved ones. Society would just throw him to the curb, shake him off like a dog shakes off water. Is that what happened to this man? Maybe all he needs is a helping hand. Certainly, he must have been some kind of business man before…before whatever got him to this point: smelling up a bus and striking fear into the hearts of the common commuter. “Excuse me” Tsutomu finds himself saying to the man. It comes out as a simple whisper, barely audible above the collective hum of the bus and random noises from the other bus riders. The man doesn’t hear him, or if he does, doesn’t show any sign of it. He just continues to sit there, crouched forward and mumbling inaudibilities of his own. Tsutomu takes a second to re-evaluate what he is about to do. What if this man is just plain up ape-shit crazy? What if he lashes out at me, he thinks. But maybe that’s what the rest of society thought of him. If he let’s himself think this way, then he’s no better than the rest. But I am better. I’m a virtuous man, he thinks, a man that helps his fellow brother out. With this new found courage, Tsutomu once again tries to get the man’s attention: “Excuse me”. This time, however, he manages to bring it above barely audible. Actually, he’s gone too far in his attempts to raise his volume, and has just found the tone and volume of his message to have come out as a straight up shout. The man briefly reveals himself from his crouched-forward fort, looks at Tsutomu, and responds by shooting him a glance and rotating a little bit away from Tsu. People are looking at Tsu. At the two of them. He believes he has successfully convinced the rest of the bus riders that he’s just as crazy as the other one. Well fuck them. They’re the ones that are responsible for this poor man’s predicament. He won’t let their judgments stop him from doing good, and he’s certainly not going to let a little misunderstanding stop him from connecting with this human being. That’s right, he’s just another human being, like the rest of us. Why can’t they see that? Because they’re too concerned with themselves, and their selfish lives to give a shit about another person. Well not Tsutomu. Here we go, let’s try again. This time he tries a different tactic. He taps the man on the shoulder. This time the man fully comes out of his forward crouch, even resorting to sitting straight up, but rotated towards the tapping offender, with the look of a genuine crazy man on his face, eyebrows raised and screaming eyes communicating chaos. Neither of them moves for what seems like an eternity; Tsu staring at the man, and the man staring back at Tsu. Two dears caught in two headlights, with each thinking the other is a mac-ten-ton-truck. Tsu is the first one to break the visual embrace: “Uh, hi” is all he can muster. He immediately mentally slaps himself on the forehead. The man, probably befuddled, even for a crazy man, simply looks left, then back at Tsu. Poor man, it’s obvious that no one has ever tried to talk to him, he doesn’t know how to respond. You’re a good man, Tsu, you’re about to bring this fellow human out of the depths of socio-political despair, and climb with him, rung over rung, into the lower-middle class that the majority of Hiroshimans enjoy. “I just thought I’d say hi, is all” is what comes out of Tsutomu’s mouth next. Yeah, sure, this is going to work. Just casually start talking to him, like he was not obviously a human disaster. The man seems to relax some of the crazy from his eyes, seems to think to himself for a second, then launches into the following diatribe: “like the elders before us, as the elders in the future, we will all return to the state of eternal bliss that was designed for us but taken away by the great dragon in the sky, the dragon that never sleeps and feeds on the dreams of the young and the innocent. Only I know the secret to slaying this dragon. Only I can even see him. But he exists, he exists and he’s all around us, at all times, I see his strings, I see the strings that he uses to control everyone else. Since I could see my own strings, I cut them. I cut them off, here, see where the strings were?” the man reaches with his right hand over his chest to the labels of his shirt and pulls away the clothing to reveal his left collarbone. As if it were in slow motion, Tsutomu’s mind does not know how to deal with what he sees. Slowly, his mind begins to understand that what Tsutomu is looking at is exposed bone, the skin which uses to cover it having been cut away and never allowed to reform. Tsutomu’s mind begins to reel, but the man doesn’t seem to notice as he continued his story, happy to have another person to tell it to, “Would you like me to help you cut the strings? Do you want to be free from the dragon? Only then can we join our elders in eternal love and goodness, in the land beyond this land, where there are a thousand virgins for every man, and where the dead who escape the dragon go to live happily and without worries. You see, they’re all expecting me to help kill the dragon, and that way I’ll release the dragon’s prisoners, including yourself, and then we can all live with peace on earth, without this war, and America and Europe will fall on their knees and thank us, and me, the whole world will thank me, we’ll all shed our filthy exoskeletons to reveal the beauty of our souls” at this point the man has begun to take off all of his clothes, talking so fast that a saliva party has formed around his mouth, and letting gravity and momentum bring it down to where it will lay, all over the floor of the bus and onto unlucky shoes. The man is now stark naked, facing Tsutomu, who can only find himself staring at the man’s unkept privates, and the exposed bone all over his body: shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, hips; holding his briefcase tightly to his chest, and look of horror etched into his face. When the driver sees this, he immediately stops the bus and orders the man off. Without hesitation, the man picks up his clothes and calmly makes his way off the bus, as if this were his natural destination, and that this was what he wanted. By this time everyone is looking at Tsutomu, with looks of consternation and disappointment. Why couldn’t you do what a reasonable man would and know that that man was crazy as shit, and leave him well alone. Huh? Idiot. Tsutomu crouches forward and brings the blazer up around him, creating a fort, the fact that this was how the other man was sitting not being lost on him. I guess he was an image of a future me…it’ll be only days now, before I’m cutting skin from my bones.
After being in this position for what seems like almost an hour, not daring to reveal himself for fear that the people will still be staring at him, Tsutomu gathers some courage and decides to peak out of a tiny hole he makes between the blazer lapels. The bus is jam packed. No one is staring at him, there seems to have been a large turnover from when he went into hiding. He decides to abandon his make-shift fort, and pretend like he was a sane, upstanding citizen like everyone else. Sitting upright, he stares ahead and tries to put on his most I’m-totally-normal-nothing-wrong-with-me face he can muster. This lasts for a good minute, before he notices the strikingly cute girl sitting to his left. A university girl, maybe, is looking at him, with a quizzical look and a mischievous smile on her face.
“Coming out of your shell I see”
“Wh-who? Me?” Act cool. Sweat begins to bead down his forehead. His heart begins to beat a thousand times a minute, erratically. She’s so pretty, is all he can think. She’s staring at him, as if it was completely natural to stare at a complete stranger who everyone else on the bus thinks is a lunatic. He can’t face her. Everytime he tries to get a good glance at her he sees that she’s still staring at him so he just continues to face forward.
Chuckling, the girl says “Yes you, silly. I’ve been sitting here for the last ten minutes, wondering when you’d come out.”
“Oh well. I was just. I was” I was what? What am I going to say that won’t scare this girl away? “Well, you see,” he started, in a whisper “I was talking to this other fellow, b-b-before you got on. And, as I was saying, I was trying to talk to him, but he just went nuts, and took off all his clothes, and everyone was staring, and I-I…I didn’t know what to do, but the bus driver told him to get off…”
“He got naked?!” She exclaimed, her eyebrows raised in comical disbelief.
Tsutomu shush’s her, with a finger to her lips. The girl crouchs closer to him and mimics his finger-to-lip motion with child-like glee.
“Why on earth would he take off his clothes? On a bus! for that matter.”
Tsutomu, couldn’t believe his luck. Here he is sitting beside this, well it turns out this wonderfully attractive young woman, and not only does she not think he’s a crazy man, but she’s absolutely enthralled with your own story of another crazy man.
After shushing her, he finally could look her in the face. She was a short, plump girl, with black hair braided down both sides of her head. She wore glasses, and a pink dress with large white polk-a-dots. She was a vision of his adolescent fantasies.
“I have no idea. He was talking about dragons and crazy stuff. Something about puppetts and how he had cut the strings. Oh lord, that’s right, he had all these cuts on his body-“
“Cuts?! What do you mean”
“He-he had cuts that went down to his bone-“
“What?! You could see his bones?”
Tsutomu had yet to realize that the girl was now holding his forearms in anticipation.
“Yeah! It was disgusting”
“Well, I can see why you would hide yourself”
Tsutomu felt like a million bucks. How did this come to occur, that some beautiful girl would actually give a loser like Tsutomu the time of day.
Tsutomu chuckled and began to relax. It was then that he noticed her hands on his arms. She must not have noticed herself, since when she saw him looking down at her hands, she immediately removed them and gave a look of surprise, and Tsu believed he detected a hint of a blush.
“I bet things like that happen to a guy like you all the time”
Offended, Tsutomu replied “A guy like me, what do you mean?”
Immediately Tsutomu regretted his decision. What are you thinking? She didn’t mean anything by it. Good lord you’ve ruined me for the last time, he thought of his penis thinking.
“No, I didn’t mean anything by it. I just- Well, I don’t know what I meant. I’m sorry.”
They both sat there in silence, Tsutomu mentally beating his face in with a sledge hammer. You ruined it. You’ve ruined it again like you always do. What are the chances that a girl like her would talk to you? No one will ever talk to you again. She probably would have liked you, that is, until she learned that you’re a crazy man in the making.
Tsutomu’s thinking was interrupted “Listen, I’m sorry. Hey, let’s start over. My name is Kristi”
Tsutomu could feel himself recharge, and even a hint of an erection pushing against his thigh.
“I’m Tsu, short for Tsumotu”
“It’s nice to meet you Tsu”
“And I you”
A pause. With his regained confidence, Tsu is not deterred.
“Are, are you a university student?”
“Uh, not exactly. Well, no, not at all. I work in my grandpa’s book store. That’s where I’m heading now, to-“ as she looked out the window to see what stop they were at, her happy disposition disappeared “Oh fuck! Ah hell…I missed my stop. DRIVER!” Shocked, the driver pulled the bus over immediately.
“Hey, I’m so sorry, but I have to go” she said as she moved towards the door. Without thinking, Tsu found himself following her, until she was off the bus and he was leaning out the door.
“Wait! Where does your grandpa work? What’s the book store?”
Just before the doors closed on his face, he thought he heard her shout “Morimoto” over her shoulder as she ran the other way.
Rubbing his nose, he repeated those four syllables over and over in his head until he reached his stop.