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Time Warp Complex.

All of this happened last summer. I was upset about a dream of being in love with a tuna when I got a call from either the tuna himself or Super Jetter, boy wonder of the comic books I read as a girl. I wasn't sure which, but the caller kept saying, "There's somewhere you have to go," and I ended up having to go to a station called Umishibaura.

Umishibaura is the last station on the Japan Railways Tsurumi Line. It has one long platform that runs right out over the sea at one end. At the other end there's an exit of sorts, a staff-only entrance to a Toshiba factory, but it's strictly "no entry allowed" to anyone but Toshiba employees. At one end the sea, at the other the Toshiba factory, so to leave the platform you have two options: jump into the sea, or show your Toshiba staff ID. If you happen to get off at that station, and you're neither fish, sea snake, nor Toshiba employee, but rather just a person, you have no choice but to stay put on the platform until the next train comes along.

This was where I had to go.

I still wasn't sure who my caller was. I'd been fast asleep when the phone rang, and at first I thought the call itself might be a dream. After I said hello, there were a few seconds of silence. I decided it had to be X. I thought, I'm having a dream about a phone call from X.

"Well, it's me. Yes?" I said. This "yes" was my signal to hurry things along. It meant "I know exactly where we stand here, and I'm not planning to offer any small talk, so get to the point." Such unadorned greetings are the best I can manage when I'm half-asleep. But my caller was unfazed, and his response was all business.

"Have you given that ... matter ... some thought?"

"Well, let me see ..." I replied provisionally. I hadn't, of course. I don't mean that I hadn't thought about the matter. I mean that there was no matter in the first place. In any case, even if it was just a dream, I was still in love with the tuna.

"Anyhow, you'll need to go somewhere for me. Anywhere you like is fine."

"I see. Yes. Yes, well ..." was all I could say. Telling me I had to go somewhere didn't explain what this was about. And even if I was being told I could go anywhere I liked, there was nowhere I felt like going. What's more, being in love with the tuna made me feel like not wanting to go anywhere.

But if I did have to go somewhere, I wanted it to be where the tuna was. The Kasai Seaside Aquarium might seem like a good choice, but what they have there are actual, live tunas, and that's not exactly what I had in mind. With or without real tunas, the place I wanted to go had to be really tuna-ish, though if someone were to ask me what I meant by tuna-ish, it would be tough to answer. I was just obsessed with the idea of being in love with the tuna.

No, obsessed is the wrong way to put it. But it's true that I wanted to hang on to that intoxicated, addicted, floating-on-air feeling. And waking up was taking the edge off it, leaving me in a muddle. I couldn't get beyond saying that I was obsessed with the idea of being in love.

The dream sea where my dream tuna lived wasn't the blue color of love. Instead it had the dull gray sheen of greased metal; only the little waves seemed happy. The view beyond the concrete-reinforced hill of withered grass afforded only a glimpse of this sea. I was walking there when I came upon a fishmonger's shop, with a wooden box out front full of fish. I often dream of a fish circus, so I was vaguely thinking, oh, this again--but the circus didn't appear. There was just me, peering into the wooden box.

Along with the fish, there was a row of bottles in the box, each a unique shape. None of the bottles was in the least bit beautiful, but they were intensely transparent. I had a strange desire to have them for myself, so I went into the shop.

The salesman was the tuna. He was different from your average tuna, but nonetheless a living being with a distinctly tuna aura. His body as a whole was the body of a fish, but narrow at the neck. His eyes were like an excited cat's eyes, with wide-open pupils--not at all like the eyes of an actual tuna, of course. And his skin, rather than suggesting tuna, had more the silver and hardness of a freshcaught bonito. The tuna was a little shorter than me, say five feet, with long thin fins sticking out like penguin wings, tips curled slightly like the leaves of an office plant. An inverted triangle of face was stuck on his front, like the face of a person.

This face was inclined to the left, looking my way. I felt a bit uncomfortable. My cat eats tins of tuna every day. I was starting to think that maybe this wasn't a tuna but a merman. Or perhaps I should say that I took refuge in that idea.

Maybe this creature had evolved from some natural species of tuna.

Just as this thought occurred to me, the two of us hit the same wavelength. The tuna looked at me and nodded. Tuna as lover Although it could never go any further than that exchange of looks, we reached that peak together then. A touch-me-and-I'll-explode lovetuna; that's what he was. Nothing else happened after that. Love was simply there.

"You've got to go there for me. It is the twenty-first century, after all."

Well, so what if it was? ... wait a minute. Are we already into the twenty-first century?

"Uh, I see. Yes, I'm listening." I always try to keep my mouth well clear of my mind, the better to lie at a moment's notice. One sounds much smarter that way.

"Well, I've thought about this ... matter from various points of view," I continue. "A very wide variety indeed. It's just that ..."

"Yes?"

This guy too could manage a pretty well loaded "yes." This "yes" meant, "Don't even start with `I've thought about this ...' If you'd thought about it, you'd come out and say what you thought."

But if you keep your mouth free from your mind, you can handle this sort of situation well enough. As long as you maintain some semblance of logic, you can come up with a flow of words that is completely equivocal.

"It's just that, well, there's the question of how I get to wherever it is I'm going, and what I do there. And how much do I pay to get there? Who will I go with? And what for?"

I was impressed at how reasonable I was being. But my caller was apparently no fan of reason.

"Oh, come now. Instead of saying all this, you could already be on your way. Won't you just go?"

Maybe it was because I'd woken all the way up now, but this business of just answering ad hoc, with no idea of the subject under discussion, was getting to be a strain. On the other hand, it occurred to me that it wasn't that much of a strain. And who was this guy? From the phone, the gray sea where my tuna might live began to hiss gently, like a breeze.

What if my caller is the tuna? I thought suddenly. But instead of letting my heart go thumping away wildly, I thought instead, you're obsessed. While I was distracted with the gray of the dream sea, the caller turned the conversation in a new direction.

"What I think, Ms. Sawano, is that rather than somewhere run-of-the-mill, what we need in your case is somewhere, oh, utterly bizarre. And I'd like you to take some snapshots there."

"Ms. Sawano," he'd said. So this call was indeed intended specifically for me. Here I'd begun thinking it must be a wrong number, not taking it seriously at all. Plus the guy throws in this business about photographs. Since when do I handle photography jobs? Probably best, though, just to keep the conversation going for now.

"`In my case,' you say?"

This sort of conversational prompt is usually fine as long as it seems sort of meaningful. The caller, at any rate, sounded happy.

"Yes, that's right. Yes, indeed."

But then things went wrong.

"Yes," he said, "in as much as you never do anything normal, you're not remotely fashionable, and you're always getting involved in strange situations. You get into the silliest trouble with some honest soul, for example, then make yourself a victim and cause a fuss. You know nothing of the world, and you're particularly weak on politics and economics. So I want you to exploit these rather complete deficiencies of yours and get out there for me. Absolutely anywhere is fine. All I'm trying to say is, well, it is the Heisei era after all."

What does the current emperor's reign have to do with anything? I thought. And my caller hasn't left much out here, has he? Yet I'd let him go on as if it didn't matter one way or the other. If I didn't want to go, I could always just turn him down. I wasn't too stung by any of this anyway, though a lot of it was on the mark: an oddity, an amateur, removed from the culture--that's me. But then I thought, a camera produces culture. Even snapshots require at the very least good sense and good luck.

Still in the dark, I tried out an insecure-sounding voice in the hope of drawing the guy out. Or perhaps my taking an odd, sulky tone, rather than lashing out at him, was due to lingering drowsiness.

"Oh, photographs. Well, as long as you don't mind a disposable camera, then I suppose I have one of those, but ..."

The moment I'd spoken, my mind--agile for still being half-asleep--cut to a memory of a camera.

I'd taken a picture of a weasel, nine years earlier. I took the picture through a glass door, and this caused something called halation. The image of the weasel and the Japanese-style garden in the background came out cracked and cloudy, while in the center of the photo there was a corona of light radiating from the weasel's back. Sort of a Weasel of God effect. Actually, I would have opened the door to take the picture, but that would have scared the weasel away. This was the extent of my photography career. I went ahead and told the caller about this to put him off, but he wasn't disappointed in the least. If anything he seemed impressed.

"I see. So you don't have a camera. Very, very interesting indeed."

I began to think this might be a crank call.

"You find that interesting, do you?"

I was hoping to put him off balance, to find some hint of unease behind this guy's "interest," but then things took another unexpected turn.

"I'll tell you what," he said. "If you go to Shinjuku or somewhere, they'll sell you a camera for around 50,000 yen."

That was definitely not interesting. I was flustered, but tried to sound indifferent.

"I do not need a camera at present, thank you."

So that was what this was about. He was a camera salesman. Though I wasn't sure that particular job still existed.

"Won't you buy a camera?"

Not a camera salesman, then, but a camera subscription salesman. They would come around with some free film or eggs and do their pitch for the camera. Turn them down and they'd throw in a serving mold for chicken pilaf. But then you'd get the morning and evening cameras piling up on your doorstep.

Come to think of it, didn't I hear an interview the other day where someone was saying, why not buy a fax machine, they're selling them for 50,000 yen or so in Shinjuku? Were these electrical appliances all one price, 50,000 yen?

But 50,000 yen is enough to affect my financial peace of mind for six whole months. And while I definitely could see a use for a fax machine, I couldn't imagine needing a camera more than nine times in my entire life. Aside from that, why were people so cavalier about electrical appliances? I remembered how the color TV that my parents bought around the time they started broadcasting the Hyokkori Hyotan-jima puppet show seemed so important, and how cameras and suits were major assets parceled out to relatives after people died.

I found myself wallowing in memories of the distant past. This was getting dangerous.

"Well then," he was saying. "Let's be on our way, shall we? In any event, think of some strange, strange place ..."

"Ah yes. Somewhere incredibly strange. Let me see ..."

I thought of places I could get to for less than 200 yen one way. I wasn't inclined to spend a lot; the caller had made me feel stingy. In recent months the amount of money in my apartment had been minuscule, and my bankbook made it clear that my savings were also minuscule. My daily life was such that I'd smile at the sudden recollection of a 500-yen coin that I knew was tucked away in an old bag. OK, then, the fare had to be no more than 200 yen.

I'd go somewhere where no tickets were needed.

A place that costs nothing, a place that costs nothing ... my mind conducted a search on its own, and up floated an interesting idea that wouldn't require any train fare at all. My voice took on an exceptionally clear tone--a smoothness that suggested I'd had this in mind all along.

"Perhaps I'll go see an election. A photo of a polling station, maybe, or I can snap a shot of that Diet member who walks by on the street under my window."

When had that been? As I recalled, a Diet member did walk by under my window regularly at one point. Navy-blue suit, bent forward, trudging wearily. One time, he stopped in front of a boutique and turned to the window, still bent at the waist. He raised his arm demurely, like a woman putting on a coat over a kimono. Then, facing the shop window, he waved his hand and bowed. I wished I'd taken a photo of that. But why should I have to go outside?

I live in a one-room apartment on the third floor. My window looks out over a shopping district, with a view of everything from parades of Awa-odori dancers to election speeches, to patrol-car arrests, drunken brawls, and lovers' tiffs between heavy-metal types in the early hours. When I don't feel like going out, I just pretend that I'm looking out at the whole world from up there.

Now some kind person might say, "but you can't actually see other countries from up there now, can you?" just by way of giving me a chance to explain that in fact foreigners constantly pass under this window after dark, even though you hear that their numbers have dwindled since the recession set in. Dhaka and Dub and Hong Kong--just like the words in the song ... workers of every nation. Now that I think of it, didn't I hear something recently about chocolate from Zimbabwe being sold for Valentine's Day? Or was it from Kenya?

That reminds me of the time a Kenyan named Ali came over from the hospital in Urawa where he worked to visit a friend who was a janitor in the hospital across the street from my place. Ali's friend wasn't there, so he wasn't able to ask the friend to lend him the train fare to get home. If he'd gone to the local police station for help, they would have arrested him as an illegal alien since he hadn't brought his passport. So instead, he made his way up to my place and asked to borrow 700 yen.

At that time I'd just moved to Toritsu Kasei, and simply hearing that Ali was from Kenya ... it wasn't so much pity because it was cold outside; it was more that I couldn't conjure up the remotest physical sense of the distances involved when I heard the word Kenya, and this made me feel sad. Anyway, I ended up lending him the 700 yen. It's been more than a year, and he still hasn't paid me back. I wonder what happened.

"An election, huh? No, even better than that--because we're in a recession after all, and `recession' puts one in mind of the former Showa imperial reign, wouldn't you say?--there's this station called Umishibaura. Why don't you go there?"

"What was that name again?"

"Umishibaura. U-mi-shi-ba-u-ra."

I must not quite have made it from the Showa era to the Heisei. That was one tough name to catch ...

"Um, I'm sorry, but ... what was that again? Umishinagawa? Umashiroura? What was it? Something `-shimaura?'"

"What I said was, U-MI-SHI-BA-U-RA."

"Ohhh ... Ki-mi-shi-ma-na-ra. Kimishima-Nara, is it? In the mountains, right?"

I was sure I'd heard of a place called Kimishima near Nara, so I put the two together immediately. That's because I'm from Ise, and most of the places around there seem to have that sort of double-barreled name, like Ise-Matsuzaka or Ise-Kawasaki--except for Ise itself, of course. So I just assumed that some person born in Nara and living in Kimishima had fond childhood memories and started calling the place ...

"What? In the mountains? No! Listen, what I'm saying is umi, as in `sea.' U, MI, SHI, BA, U, RA."

"Oh! Umi as in `sea,' shiba as in `grass,' ura as in `shore.'"

"Well, of course. You've heard of it?"

"No. Never."

This was how I came to know the station's name. Umi and shiba and ura. U-way-mi-way-shi-way-ba-way-u-way-ra-way, as kids playing with the sound of the word would say nowadays. We'd have said u-yay-mi-yay-shi-yay-ba-yay-u-yay-ra-yay ... but things have gotten stranger.

My sleepy-agile mind leapt into overdrive, bringing forth a completely unsolicited image to match this name, a sea as artificial as a backdrop, like a piece of glittery cloth. You couldn't see any islands, but there were several large patches of grass on the shore. A ghostly hand popped up from within my mind to pluck a single blade of this grass. But the blade seemed to be connected to the rest of the grass by a thread which the hand was rapidly winding in, like the stitching of a piece of fabric, and the sea unraveled together with the grass and everything got tugged up. Then from out of nowhere, riding on a stuffed, decorative, endangered sea turtle, came a crumbling mummy dressed in bright, kabuki-colors. It was Urashima Taro in a grass skirt, the boy from the folk tale who returned from beneath the sea to find everything changed. He swished on his turtle through the white space which the tugged-up sea had exposed, and when he disappeared, there finally emerged a realistic seacoast worthy of the word shore.

It was pretty similar to the sea where I'd met the tuna.

This wasn't obsession, just obstinacy. But ... I loved him. My love-tuna.

"So as I was saying, let's get going to that station. At one end of the platform is the sea, after all."

Aha! So that's where Urashima Taro was swishing off to. The gray sea where the tuna lived grew vivid again. But it soon faded away, and though it was summer a shiver ran down one side of my body, leaving me with goose bumps.

"The Urashima Taro legend ... and the platform... ?" I asked.

"What? What kind of stupid nonsense are you getting at? The other end of the platform is a Toshiba factory!"

Then, all of a sudden, I heard a voice that unleashed a wave of nostalgia.

"... Do come ..."

Were the phone lines crossed? That wasn't just nostalgia; it was a voice I'd never heard before. The tuna. He was calling me. But those words, "... do come ...," did he mean come to Umishibaura? I had no idea. Flustered, I addressed the tuna directly:

"What did you just say? Where are you?"

I spoke in a serious, in-love sort of voice, but I could tell that my delivery stank. And my caller hadn't heard the tuna on the crossed line.

"As I was saying, the sea breeze blows along the platform, like in a dream."

The Umishibaura in my head now took on the appearance of a seaside resort. There was a glass-encased showroom and a perfect Japanese garden on the grounds of the Toshiba factory. A sign on the platform said "Welcome to Umishibaura," and out at sea, tour boats plied their trade. On the first floor of the factory there was a restaurant looking out over the water, with nothing to interfere with the view but the train platform. In the foreground, of course, there was an old man in a cheap jacket passing out leaflets about gathering natural gems, and a loud young man in a livery jacket held up a banner for a local inn. Just like the Nagasaki I'd visited on a school trip.

I reminded myself that even if the station was only there because of the factory, we were talking about a station by the sea, and there must at least be a cafe. Even so, I didn't want to go to Umishibaura.

"Do you think they sell postcards on the platform?"

"No, that's not what it's like," he said. "It's more like Blade Runner."

"Are they making replicants at the Toshiba factory?"

"No! No, no, no, no, no?

A very firm denial. I began to think my caller might be a replicant himself.

"What I mean," he said, "is that that railway line is a vestige of economic expansion."

My head reeled. Here was an idea that I found even less comprehensible than foreign languages. I know nothing about economic expansion. Between the struggle to write fantasy dream fiction and to bring in enough for the household necessities, I could trace economic history back no farther than the strong yen and the consumption tax.

In other words, I remembered only the part of it that had affected me personally. When the yen strengthened, imported meat and American cherries became cheaper, then Japanese beef and cherries followed along. Up to then I'd been eating ham and cabbage curry toward the end of each month, but with the strong yen I was able to manage broccoli and beef-shank curry. Then they introduced the consumption tax and, in a virtuoso performance, sucked up what slight leeway the exchange gains had allowed me.

It wasn't just that the price of beef returned to its original level, but that all of the curry options became exorbitant, and I had to search for other areas to make up for the monthly shortfall. It wasn't a matter of giving up any one thing in particular, but one way or another things got tighter. I went to concerts less often. I gave up buying even a single high-quality notebook. Come to think of it, I stopped buying flowers for the apartment around then.

All of this was during the days of the so-called economic bubble, but I'd just made the transition from living off an allowance to living by the pen, so the craze for trips abroad, designer goods, and city-hotel-getaways more or less passed me by. The strong yen did bring a stream of my favorite jazz musicians to Japan, and by stretching things I was able to hear Steve Gadd and Jacques Dijonnet at small clubs. The ticket prices had skyrocketed though, and even with all of the advertisements, the programs still cost 2,000 yen each.

Then the bubble economy pushed up rents, and I was thrown out of my apartment. The only affordable places were exclusively for students or for companies providing housing for their single employees. While I was looking for a place, those "Corporate Contracts Only" signs were my enemy. I searched on and on for a new place to live, growing ever more exhausted.

Which reminds me that the good times are over now. Now we're in a recession.

I moved into this apartment just before the bubble burst; by summer, the rent had dropped a full 6,000 yen. The very day the rent went down, a muddy and emaciated silver tomcat took to hanging around outside the door of my apartment. He stayed for the next three months. Boy was that cat big! He ate a ten-ounce tin of the cheapest beef cat food in one sitting, and the cost of feeding him came to exactly 6,000 yen per month. One day he simply vanished-I suppose he decided to go home when the mating season ended. But for that three-month period, every time I saw the cat I felt there was some strange law in effect which held that the amount of money available to me must remain constant, no matter what.

But what has economics got to do with it? Is my caller an economic authority, or is he someone who's read a book that some authority wrote and sold for 680 yen?

"In the seventies there was the oil crisis, you see, and after that the area gradually went into decline. It remained depressed throughout the bubble economy years, and what with the outlying dormitory towns all being in recession, there you have it: a vestige of the earlier economic expansion. The scenery's rather interesting--near-futuristic ... a real Blade Runner type of place. And you're to go and see this aftermath of the industrial dream, this scene of what's left after everything is over."

"Scene of what's left ..."

"As I've been saying, Umishibaura."

For some reason, this pushed me right past the end of my rope. Words started to well up.

"Oh really? As you've been saying? As you've been saying!? Now look, I don't mind a visit to the sea, but one end of the platform being the sea--that's outright scary. Half of your body might as well be sucked into the sea. A place like that ... how can you keep your balance?"

I imagined the train to Umishibaura disintegrating, held together by threads. Half of the passengers were oozing out through the windows like fermented breakfast soybeans on sticky strands, crying aaaaaaaaaagh, eyeballs glued to the sea they were returning to. Their heads changed into creatures from an ancient ocean ... nautilus shells ... trilobites ...

In the middle of all this fear and anxiety, my caller burst out laughing, woah-ho-ho-ho-ho-hohhhh! He sounded like a nautilus himself.

"Hooh! Anyone would feel the same, I'm sure. Hee-hee-hee. Half your body carried away by the sea ... If you find the sea frightening, the Hanayashiki amusement park in Asakusa should be fun for you. After Hanayashiki, why not go to the races and have a bite of horse meat?"

He certainly seemed to be enjoying my comments. Well, then why not give him something even stupider?

"No, horse meat is definitely out. Basically, I see horses and ducks as my friends. I know it's kind of a contradiction, but I don't eat those guys."

"Pardon me?"

"I do not eat horses and ducks. Or sparrows. It's not that I think of sparrows as my friends. I just don't eat sparrows. If it's something to eat that I'm looking for, then I prefer an all-you-can-eat cake buffet, I suppose."

That didn't get through at all.

"What's this you're saying?" he said. "You keep horses and ducks? And sparrows? Hmm, yes. I see. Well, this station really is interesting. By the way, where is this all-you-can-eat cake buffet you mentioned? It sounds disgusting."

I no longer had the slightest idea of how to communicate with this caller. Despairing, I floundered about with the only word left in my head, photograph.

"Hmm, yes. Now that I think of it, there's a supermarket right near my place. I'll take a photograph of that. I saw an American couple taking photos there, so it must be okay."

"That sort of thing is not in the least bit bizarre."

"Yes it is!"

I'd shouted reflexively, getting all worked up about this for some reason. It occurred to me that this was just the way I lose my temper in dreams. Nonetheless, I couldn't stop myself. I became oddly childish.

"If it was a supermarket in Hawaii, you'd certainly think that was unusual! Great big cartons of Gatorade. Ice cream in buckets. Chocolate ... I once had some American chocolate ... my father ... I thought it was American, at least ... I always thought it was American ..."

Now I was crying. What was this all about? I thought, and suddenly I understood: chocolate! My mind grew instantly clear. What I still didn't understand, though, was why chocolate? And what had cleared my mind? Somehow--through dream or the unconscious or hallucination, I don't know which--a body-warm association, like a weaving of nerves, had formed between Umishibaura, the tuna, and the chocolate. It was making me laugh and cry at once. The caller, of course, didn't pick up on any of this. Only the first words I'd said even registered with him.

"You've been to Hawaii, have you?" he said.

Why was it that only a sea-related topic would have gotten through to him? I decided to play along with the caller for now, but that took us even further off-track.

"No, I haven't. I've never been anywhere but school trips. Kyoto, Nara. Then there was the trip to Tokyo for my university entrance exams. I'd love to go to Hawaii, though."

For some reason, the caller didn't take any of this in.

"Oh yes, how very nice," he replied with great happiness. "Yes, do go to Iran. At your own expense. Or perhaps some place in the mountains where you can find a suspension bridge. In that case, somewhere in Japan would be fine. Yes, I can just see you doing that, Ms. Sawano."

I should never have bothered to play along with this stupid guy. My voice dropped to a whisper, but finally I managed to assert myself.

"No. No, what you're suggesting is definitely out. What I'm looking for is somewhere that's less trouble and more fun. Some place where you can enjoy a meal, then come home. Besides, if you go to a hotel in Iran, they're sure to ask about your political identity."

"What's that supposed to mean?" My caller sounded angry.

Reflexively, I hurried to appease him.

"Anyhow, I'll go. I'll go. Somewhere. Okay?"

I remembered reading in a psychology text that appeasement always brings dire consequences, but I was too sleepy to suppress the instinct. Anyway, the caller seemed to appreciate that I was trying. He backed down too, offering a relatively hassle-free option.

"By all means, go somewhere. Go and see Jurassic Park or something."

"I'd love to know if those dinosaurs are real."

The conversation was heading toward a conclusion. In my mind's eye I saw a mathematical formula about limiting values which I'd studied at school. I could see every symbol clearly, right down to the tiniest character. The caller's voice was growing kinder and kinder.

"Ah, yes. But now that it has come down to really going ... I'm sure you'd like to see the sea, wouldn't you? The sea is real."

Then that voice again.

" ... Do come ..."

A great sadness washed through me. I responded without thinking.

"In that case, I'll go to the sea."

"And that station?"

"Yes, I'll go to that station," I said, and hung up.

This had gone beyond the limiting value equation to the limit itself. I'd just been trying to placate this guy, then before I knew it I was going to Umishibaura. Or perhaps that way of looking at it was itself part of some solo performance I was putting on.

Three minutes later the phone rang again. That same initial silence, even though he was calling right back.

"Hawaii is one thing, but would you go to Okinawa Hall?"

"You want me to go to the shore in Okinawa? But it's the hot season down there now."

"I said Okinawa Hall. The temperature is constant. You've heard of Tsurumi Station?"

"No, I haven't."

"It's on the way to ... your destination. So once you find it, get busy. In the underground mall at Nakano Broadway, they're selling tuna eyes for 600 yen a pair. Be sure to look for the most near-futuristic-looking station. Get off there and cut across Irifune Park. Walk under the overpass, and you'll find Okinawa Hall."

"Is the airport in Okinawa near the shore?"

"What? Look, we're not talking about Narita. This is over by the harbor."

It seemed I'd been told to get on a train and go to Okinawa. Some seabed-bound train leaving from the platform for Okinawa. Just great. Okinawa! Hawaii or Okinawa. As words do in childhood, Okinawa suddenly reverted for me to its constituent sounds, o-kina-wa. O-ki-na-wa-re-ver-sion. My mind swam with underlined text and photographs from school textbooks on Japanese history. The reverted Okinawa led to the Reversion of Okinawa, and the common theme linking Hawaii to Okinawa shifted from pleasure travel to politics.

"Um, about the relationship between Umishibaura and Okinawa and Hawaii, well ... uh ..."

As I was formulating my question, the line went dead.

I was in a real fix. I didn't want to go anywhere. I had no use for the real sea; the dream sea was the only one that I wanted to see.

But then there was that mention of tuna eyes, and that "... do come ..." I wanted to meet that tuna again and find out exactly what was going on in my heart.

Well, if that's what I wanted, then--horrid thought--rd have to go.

In the end I didn't know if the telephone call was a dream or if it was real. But I had to get to that strange station. Crossed phone lines or whatever, I had heard the voice of the tuna. The next day I set off for Umishibaura.

Translated by Adam Fulford, with assistance from Takahashi Yuriko and Ito Nobuji; stylized by Michael Keezing

MICHAEL FUJIMOTO KEEZING studied English at Yale University and received his M.F.A. from Brown University. His avant-porn story, "Anna-chan of Green Gables" was published in 1996 and translated into Japanese in 1997. Formerly teaching English at Keio University and Meiji University, he lives near Amherst with his wife, Mika, and their daughter, Umi.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Shono, Yoriko
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Short Story
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:5816
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