Kiyono's lingering ex-boyfriend has finally moved out, which means I've seen her apartment for the first time. It made me really, really sad for some reason. Perhaps it was the sheer weight and reality of it - before, she was some kind of Cinderella (is that the right fairytale?) who vanished at midnight or 5am with a wave and a smile, the girl who I'd never seen in daylight, nocturnal, drawing in smoke under the neon sun. Now, here she was, pinned down to a place and an apartment and a time, her makeup peeled off, contacts out, glasses on and I nearly didn't recognise her in the daytime, sans hostesswear, nightwear. Day movements; langorous movements, pajamas, the slow passing of a day spent as the afterthought, aftermath of night.
(What a night it was; a cheap yakitori place, a few drinks of shochu, the arrival of T - her best friend, newly revealed as her ex-boyfriend from the time before last, more shochu and suddenly she was drunk in a second, between two breaths and she ran off to vomit and then we staggered outside together and her athsma chose then to strike and she had a terrifying attack. Recovering, the light came back in her eyes, a familiar cheekiness and she was up and running, delighted in life, running twenty metres away from me (chiding, stop! stop!) and casting glances back; her throat would strain and constrict again, breath impossible - no puffer - and then she's up and running again, a delighted child defying her own body to strike her down, impudent, alive. But as we ran and stopped, ran and stopped, all the way back to her house, I wondered at her; there is something deeply, deeply sad about her, and I still have no idea what it is, this abiding world sadness in her eyes, a wistfulness)
There was evidence of her ex-boyfriend in her apartment and she made snippy remarks about him at suitable intervals to mark his passing and favourable remarks about me as welcome and I wondered whether this was possible, whether I wanted to fall in love with someone from another country, learn her language from her, live off her kindness and then leave, at some time, eventually, back to a place where I know far better how to live, where I know the rules, the language, the unspoken society that we contrive. She knows this too - last week, she was torn between her ex and I and there was one moment when we drunkenly talked about it and she said perhaps I love you already but also I still love M and besides he has a three year work visa while you are leaving in a year and I laughed in disbelief and then saw she was serious. I wonder how viable my idea of a lover is here; someone I can love and give myself to in the knowledge that it will end, must end. It makes me sad to realise that although a life here is perfectly possible - I have constructed quite a nice one already - everything I create or do here is for Now Only.
Which is nice, really, considering I think perhaps I came here to live or to learn how I am to die, how to face death, and my life here is a speeded up version of Life - creation, learning, destruction. I've thought about death every day since my brother died, and John Gray's Straw Dogs has stripped away most of the cozy comforts I'd been trying to build about death. Death is paralysing me. I'm not scared of it; it'll happen, I will die. It's the only certainty in life. But what paralyses me is the fact that it makes every single thing I do, or want to do, pale into insignificance. What Gray does with great skill is peel away our illusions, and mine were particularly susceptible. Since I gave up Christianity (tried it; felt nothing; got nothing except a lingering dose of guilt about sex), I've tried to find me a new metanarrative in which to place myself. Lately, I've been trying science - the one area in which I see actual progress. As Gray writes, the political utopias of both Left and Right have been tried and found wanting this century and no one gives a shit anymore about politics. The Enlightenment is well and truly over. We're not rational creatures. We're animals with a capacity for delusion. But here the trouble with science kicks in - as Gray says, if you want to believe in science, take it to the limit and test it out. Dawkins wrote in the Selfish Gene that we're not even animals so much as collections of genes, information flows which want to replicate themselves. Everything else is just an attempt to complicate the uncomplicated.
It's terrifying; but perhaps I will give up the idea that my life is my own and that I control it. Subconsciously, I know I don't. I don't really know why I'm in Japan and I don't care. Decisions have always been scary for me, and I've generally tried to avoid them, by letting life flow over the top of the potential decision points; by rationalising bad decisions after they happen, because as Gray notes, scientifically, this is how decisions occur - unconsciously, with the conscious thought occuring afterwards, to justify the "decision". Whenever I have to make a big decision, I pop my head into full consciousness (a place I don't like particularly much), take a brief look around and duckdive back into my safe place of dreaming. I hate decisions. I hate big pictures. I've seen the big picture, and it is the fact that I will die, you will die, we will all die and every single form of immortality that people have attempted in art, politics, war has failed and that the closest we come to immortality is by having children and letting at least some of our influence continue; genes, environment. The way I prefer to live is more of a flow; it makes me much happier to concede some control, to give up the pretence that I control my life. So much is chance, coincidence and the ease of saying yes.
Freedom is terror; we all understand that, intuitively. Entertainment is big business now because we don't want freedom, we want to be tyrannised, ordered around, have our lives chosen for us. Free choice is terrifying. Newness is terrifying. We all know this but we make a fetish out of choice, we hold it up as the one truth of the rich post-Christian world but it's bullshit. When we buy a product in supermarkets, we do it because we are either familiar with the product or we like the colours/shapes/what it says on the box. There is precious little rationality about choice. The battle over what to label groups who use violence to achieve their aims is interesting - are they freedom fighters or terrorists? Neither; both. They are fighting for freedom, but freedom is terror.