Tokyo Train Stories

A young woman
stands on the train
across from me.
Her short skirt is silver
like the metallic stuff
in windshields
that keeps the car cool
in summer.
Her high tops are silver
and her knapsack,
a toothy shark,
takes a bite from the pole
on which she
leans and reads.

A small girl spots the woman in silver.
Eyes widen
as she points,
whispers to her mom
who sees me watching
and shushes her.

When a seat comes free
at the next stop
the silver woman sits down
near the gawking girl –
A (replanted) Mexican jumping bean –
who cannot contain her joy.

I hope she’s thinking,
“When I grow up, I’m going to wear
a short silver skirt
and a knapsack
in the shape of a shark.”

At Yokohama Station
a small Asian woman
and her tall foreign partner
enter my car.
She wears
traditional Japanese kimono-pajamas
{I have no idea if such a thing exists
but that’s what they look like to me.}
The kimono-pajamas are purple and fuchsia
with threads of gold
that dance in the light
like kids at recess
or experienced house thieves.
At six and a half feet
her partner dwarfs her.
He may be the whitest man in Japan.
His hair is shaved close to his head
and he wears sunglasses like Robocop.
He too wears the kimono-pajamas,
black, white and grey striped
sear-sucker shorts
and kimono top.

It is a great tribute
to the generosity
of the Japanese people
that no one on the train
rolls their eyes
at the foreign man
in his pajamas.
They seem not even to notice.

On the return trip
we stop at Den-en-chōfu,
a particularly affluent neighbourhood.
I notice that guard rails
prevent “jumpers”
from ending their lives
on this section of the tracks.

An older woman sits in Courtesy seating.
Black hair with a beautiful cobweb
of grey,
perfectly pressed linen trousers
and Bladerunner blouse.
She holds a dark grey hat
with a brown band
and a book covered
in brown paper
dotted with tiny evergreen trees.
She reads for a few stops
and then falls asleep,
her head drifts back gently,
coming to rest
like snowfall
on the window.

Her shoes are mint green
Mary Janes
with a small kitten heel.
Made of the softest leather,
the toes are scuffed,
Shoes from a different time.

A school girl sits
Grey plaid skirt, starched white blouse
and a cream woolen vest
in spite of soaring temperatures.
On her feet, a pair of converse high tops.
Fuschia, turquoise, green-apple and purple
I detect a pair of lips
but the train slows
and the converse girl
is gone
taking with her
the secret language
of her shoes.

A teenage boy walks through this car
on his way to the next.
He is what our kids call “half” ~
one Japanese parent,
one foreign parent.
Tee-shirt and board shorts.
Long curly hair in a ponytail.
He smiles,
the happiest on the train.


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