Tuesday, February 28, 2006

mentally challenged

if you could get a hold of a legitamate and official looking pin that said, "Challenged Person" on it, what would you do?

what would you do if everyone believed that you were a few fries short of a Happy Meal?

so after staying out all night Saturday, drinking enough beer for two weekends combinded, breathing in enough second hand smoke at bars to fill a 6 month quota, and not getting to sleep until after 5am, I was finally heading home Sunday. It was a very rainy day, but I was happy. nearly giddy in a I-feel-so-young-and-alive sort of way. It was 3pm and I felt I generally had my wits about me. My stomach was mostly settled and I was mostly awake. I smelled of nasty stale cigarrette smoke and was obsessing about drinking grape soda while waiting for the train home when a stranger aproaches me.

Now, the Japanese have the advantage of being realitively ageless compared to Westerners, so I don't konw if this guy was 18 or 30. He very intently walks up to me and says, "Oneechan! Onechan! Hisashiburi onechan!"

or roughly, "Older sister! Older sister! Long time no see sister!"

I'm a little confused. A little more that a little.

and as he keeps talking to me, he snuggles up against me as he sweetly takes my hand and I notice the bright yellow tag safety pinned to his puffy vest. There about 4 lines of Japanese that I can't read and in clear English letters, "Challenged Person"

about this time I remember that "Onechan" can also be translated more generally to 'young woman.' still, this kid seems to act like he knows me. He lifts his head from my nasty smelling coat and starts looking a little worried. eyes big round and innocent he asks me, again with intensity that could win an Oscar,
"Onechan, genki desu ka?"
"Are you OK/healthy?"

"sure sure" I answer in some manner of Japanese. I consider no pretending I don't speak any Japanese but figure it's too late for that and he probably wouldn't care.

He grabs my hand protectively and snuggles up against my filthy coat again. I glance around. Is he supervised? Am I supposed to turn him in somewhere? Am going to be accused of some horrible crime by letting this "Challenged Person" snuggle up to me and hold my hand in the subway?

I'm so confused. I'm still obsessing over a grape soda.

I ask him where he's going. Maybe I can get a clue. In typical Japanese fashion, he returns with, "Onechan, where are you going?"

I lie. Tokyo (meaning the station, the next one). He walks up to the map and a nice lady points to where we are (Shimbashi) and where Tokyo is. He seems satisfied and comes back to hold my hand.

I'm so confused.

The train arrives. I'm a little worried but he holds my hand tightly and pulls me into the train. He then lets go of my hand and finds a seat for me. He tell me I should sit down so I don't catch cold. I look at the poor woman who would have to sit by me and my morning after Roppongi funk. No, I can't bear to subject anyone else to this funk.

I tell my friend, 'thanks but I'm OK' he nods and starts walking down the train. he stops to talk to people, most are friendly, a few are cold, I don't see anyone else hold his hand. Tokyo station comes and goes and I head home.

After a shower (where I try and smell my wet shampoo-y hair to see if it still smells of smoke and inhale water instead) and some more food (and, oh yes, magical grape soda that is the cure all for all problems except cavities) I ponder the encounter.

sure, it was a little unnerving at first but I kinda wish more strangers would walk over to me and hold my hand. I mean, if I could get away with it, I think I'd go up to strangers and hold their hand. I guess we all have our 'challenged moments,' some people just have them more frequently than others. This I think as I try and get the shampoo-y water that I inhaled out of my nose and drinking my second grape soda....

Alix Olson (lesbo slam poet genius) says that,
"we've all got these hidden lives
that's why crazy folk got shining eyes
we take our lies and hold them up as true
they take what's inside and let it shine through

and truth
is kinda crazy"

all in all, another surreal vaguely reflective day in Tokyo. I love this life.


Anonymous said...

OK super kid,
Now ya did it. Ya took off out of the homoginized white bread complacency of USA homeland security to go an oppisite world where words are brush strokes, a look means 5 things. You told me you went so that you would have stories rather than a boring resume'. Now you have attained that plateuo. now you have the wonderful stories. Now you stand beside your ancestors, amazing the masses. Way to go kori. You are beautiful. now .. you'll never be allowed to stop. Nor will you ever want to. You are ruined for the track of mediocricy. May Allah perserve you.
I want a pin that says "challenge me or I'll kick your ass"
Love you so much. You are doing a wonderful thing with your life.
Love, Dajii

inkandpen said...

What would I do? Probably toss it, or return it to the seemingly appropriate entity... but then again, I have no fun.

I like that one way of thinking about the encounter is being snuggled by a fellow who is mentally challenged, but another is being snuggled by someone who just happened to find the button!

Anonymous said...

For 3 months in 1975, 2x a week, I cared for the profoundly "Challenged" at Fircrest in North Seattle. Those kind individual souls will remain with me forever. At first, like you, I was a bit uncomfortable, but like you, I was rewarded by their touch, both physical and spiritual.

Kiki said...

Why is it that it's usually the crazies who break inside our Cone of Silence? Thankgod for travellers and children and crazies to remind us how it could be.
I love your adventurous spirit.