Bay of Lights



  Libby and I finally touch down in Narita International at 2am. As we step off of the plane Japan welcomes us with a warm wash of humidity that knocks the remnants of lucidity from our tired bodies in a flash. Neither of us managed to get any sleep on the fourteen hour flight. Screaming kids and a chatty captain saw to that.

Tokyo isn’t asleep – far from it. It’s bright and loud and pulsing with life, ready to welcome us with it’s open neon arms, but we aren’t ready for that embrace. Libby falls asleep on my shoulder as we stand waiting for our suitcases to revolve our way, watching for rainbow scrunchies that distinguish them from the rest of the luggage that rolls past in a haze of fatigue.

  Our red eye flight from the states was delayed. Delayed long enough for the airport to deem us worthy of a free meal whilst we waited. I complained into my lukewarm plate of pasta whilst Libby remained positive, talking excitedly about the prospects of the next few months between mouthfuls of an anorexic cheeseburger, ignoring the fact we’d miss our shinkansen to Nagoya once we touched down.

  She’s quiet now, shuffling behind me as we make our way through customs and towards the streets of Japan’s ever-pounding heart. From the air it had looked spectacular, an endless stretch of snaking lights rendered in every colour, the majority gold lighting up and perforating the low hanging clouds above.

  We roll through the lobby, a miniature mob of the faux-undead pulling our luggage behind us, our unique forward journeys forever masked by the ambiguity that doesn’t transcend travel companions. The kids that kept us in a state of pseudo-insomnia are slung limp over their parents shoulders, sleeping soundly. 

  I notice a line of little doors at the side and wander over to them absently. The Japanese means next to nothing to me at this point, but the poorly translated English below tells me that they are waiting rooms for outgoing flights, replete with showers and beds. I nudge Libby gently out of her lethargy and she blinks a few times at the sign.

  “Better than trying to make sense of it all when we’re running on empty,” I say. She nods. I don’t feel like navigating the mess of subways that await us outside and besides, I’m not sure if there are any night trains to Nagoya regardless. Our apartment would have to wait. Jet lag and culture shock was an undesirable mix at this point.

  I thumb a couple of thousand yen through two adjacent slots and buy out the neighbouring rooms until eight am. I wait for Libby to head inside hers and close the door before I open mine. The room is a pokey affair with barely enough room for me and my belongings, but at this point it doesn’t mater. I lock the door behind me and collapse forwards onto the small – even for a single – bed, face first.

  The last thing I think before sleep swallows me whole is how distinctly unAmerican the sheets smell.


~ by Joseph Blame on November 2, 2010.

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