Farewell to Sherlockville
Part 1: The Last Supper
It was, of course, a sort of 'Last Supper’, except without Christ, or the 12 disciples, or even an unfairly maligned Judas skulking in the shadows. Mizumi's Japanese Restaurant was deserted. In its window the soft pink blur of a neon sign spelled out the Mizumi’s in luminescent curlicues, minus an ‘i’ at the end. Inside, all the simple tables sat about in orderly, tidy rows of shadowed disuse, as if in anticipation of ravenously hungry hoards of hard-core soba noodle fans that had mysteriously failed to materialize. The hushed emptiness was perfect and palpable.
It was a fitting 'lonely guy' scenario to walk into, as Wingnut knew it would be. Silently, Wingnut congratulated himself on having picked the perfect ‘Noe’ place to celebrate his personal, lonely farewell dinner ritual on this brilliantly moon-lit Spring evening.
The lone waitress, wife of the owner, greeted him with hot tea and a tentative smile that expressed undisguised puzzlement as to why this solitary Hakujin had walked in through the door to interrupt an otherwise completely quiet and uneventful evening: Sherlockville was unused to crowds and loud groups on Tuesday evenings and sometimes even a solitary person was a crowd, to her manner of thought. Mrs. Mizumi was Nisei, as was her husband who bore an astounding resemblance to the Japanese-American actor Mako, plus 20 years.
Wingnut reached into his windbreaker and brought out his stained, bleached-out old hachi—the same pair that had, up until the occasion of Ono the Honda’s adoption by another owner, ridden around sticking out of Ono's battered old dashboard ashtray. Mrs. Mizumi noted the well used chopsticks Wingnut had placed on the table, partly hidden by the menu. With one raised eyebrow, she silently acknowledged their presence. Wingnut simply twisted his lips into that sad smile of his and nodded that, yes, he would use his own pair instead of the single-use disposable pair provided.
Mr. Mizumi, out in the kitchen, gazed abstractly at their sole customer. The dinner would be Chicken Terriyaki, he thought. Mr. Mizumi would have been willing to make book on that. Most Hakujin ordered Terriyaki in Japanese restaurants, he had noted, with as much certainty as they tended to order Lemon Chicken in the Chinese restaurants. It was a fact that long years of observation had verified.
Since the Chicken Terriyaki was already served up and warming under a heat lamp, it was soon sitting on the table in front of Wingnut. Wingnut always ate in the fastidious Okinawan manner, each course separate from the next and rice last. Mrs. Mizumi noted this from the small kitchen window, which commanded a hidden but panoramic view of the main dining room, and wondered to herself where he had picked up that habit…eating his rice last like one Japonee.
In the background a rustic Japanese samisen & koto orchestra made a half-hearted effort to wheeze its way over and around two American songs: the theme from the motion picture ‘Love Story’ and that from ‘Gone With the Wind.’ Wingnut allowed himself another slight smile, thinking how ironically appropriate these two dreadful selections were as he munched thoughtfully on the noisy pickled cabbage. He redoubled his effort to evoke that sense of profound nostalgia which was always so fulfilling for him at such moments of deliberately self-engineered melancholia.
Somehow, despite his best efforts to capture that delicate mood of sorrowful dudgeon, the melancholia managed to elude him the same way the pickles were managing to elude the unsteady grasp of his chopsticks. Reflecting on that fact, he continued to pluck at the stringy pickled cabbage
Elsewhere, on a small visual soundstage set in his imagination, the door to Mizumi's Japanese Restaurant was opening to admit a muted but gradually increasing backdrop of animated female conversation. Reflexively, Wingnut turned to see who the voices belonged to. In the small window, Mrs. Mizumi’s face framed itself briefly in the opening. A young woman walked in.
It was not Sukiko. Of course. It could never be Sukiko…would never be Sukiko, he corrected himself. Not Sukiko.
But it was a young Sansei woman. She was somewhat flushed as she finished what she had been saying, coming through the doorway. Her gaze, which had been directed over her shoulder and thereby hiding her face, suddenly reversed itself as she darted a quick glance around the room. The empty room that Wingnut sat in by himself, with no one but himself for company. The young woman looked about briefly with some uncertainty.
It is difficult to inhale an average size piece of Chicken Terriyaki whole, although many likely have unwillingly tried, throughout history. Perhaps the chicken morsal was smart enough to realise that its passage down the main bronchi was physiologically inconvenient, for when Wingnut suddenly gagged and turned blue for the merest second, the recalcitrant bit of fowl smartly did a 180° course change and sailed across the floor with the inertia of a Kabuki actor lunging at a foe to land almost exactly at her feet.
The young woman in the doorway, who had stopped dead in her tracks during this whole maneuver, stared at Wingnut. Perhaps it was the bluish tinge of his face that caught her attention, for you certainly don't see many blue Hakujin. Wingnut for his part, had stopped choking and was staring vacantly back at her, for it had been her sudden appearance that had prompted the chicken fragment to explode out of his mouth with rocket-like gusto.
Both stared at the other for a full heartbeat. It wasn’t Suki, but it could have been Suki's sister. She had the animated look of a stone etched into her expression.
The young woman, who was Mrs. Mizumi's daughter, had turned then, and, after muttering a few brief words to her mother, walked back out the door she had come in. Wingnut watched her exit with a blank look. She did not return. Nor did Wingnut's choking sensation.
Part 2: Twilight on Steroids
Despite the dysfunctional moodiness at Mizumi’s, it was one of those rare, but beautiful and charmingly moody nights in which the whole moon-lit world seems to be holding its breath. There was not the merest hint of a gust outside the small beach cottage, nor the slightest suggestion of a breeze. The clear and coldly luminous moon poured its dispassionate grayish beams down upon the quiet coastal landscape with the detached but demented obsessiveness of a dairy farmer who had gone quietly insane and decided to methodically pour his cows' milk back into them...through their ears.
Outlined by the pale lunar illumination that quickly pushed twilight off the horizon, it was a contemplative, evocative moonscape that cast its spell upon the ocean’s sandy doorstep. Further below on the beach, the breakers churned and muttered in low voices, gossiping about the myriad mysteries of Monterey Bay’s shallows and speculating upon the submarine depths of the deep abyss that yawned just offshore.
Wingnut walked slowly from the house down to the rickety old platform that perched precariously upon the verge of the precipice; the steep plunge below it pitched sharply down the sandy rise to the vast blackness of the beach, at the bottom. He was still drinking in the mood of quiet melancholy, savoring the bittersweet thrill of the semi-desolate, semi-cozy ambience and absorbing it as deeply as possible. His gaze swept the unusually docile breakers that stretched out before him. A seething mass of shadowed fluidity, they rolled ashore in muted ranks before disappearing into the fogbank that lived permanently in that littoral place. It was too peaceful, too gentle, too....’pacific’, he thought poetically. And yet it was perfect for the sort of semi-masochistic sense of nostalgic yearning which he wanted so desperately to feel, to conjure in himself, to isolate and minutely examine in the convolutions of his emotional wallowing.
Far out to sea, above the benign and noncommittal fogbank, the lights of a swiftly coursing jetliner marked out the streak of a 0.85 Mach winged aluminum projectile, as it voraciously consumed the miles stretching along the LA-to-SFO domestic flight corridor. Its multiple 200,000 watt strobe lights gave it the strange appearance of being another set of competing stars in Orion's girdle; except that this part of the girdle was falling, hurtling off, abandoning its stellar cross-dressing mimicry in hot sexual pursuit of the GCA beacon at San Francisco TCA.
The small tendrils of fog that were visible in the immediate area formed a soft halo around the lucid opacity of the moon as they slowly, silently and not without a little mystery, wafted seaward from the shore. There was a gentle off-shore breeze up higher, although here below the draught was no more turbulent than the eye of a typhoon…or the ‘third eye’ of an existential hurricane.
Wingnut swept the horizon with his gaze, huddling down a bit more into the warmth of the old windbreaker. On its back were the words 'Santa Cruz Senile', a reference to the local paper, in flocked white fuzz that glowed strangely in the moonlight. All was quiet on the western front of the Monterey deep. Behind and below him stretched darkened acres of immature Brussels Sprouts. Framing the edge of the sky, pines and cypresses rose like silent sentinels. Nothing was moving except the lights of the airliner slashing through the night, far off and 30,000 feet above. It was hushed. Everywhere it was perfectly silent.
Even the waves were whispering for some strange reason. Wingnut suddenly felt a slight rustle of movement within himself, a hint of the feeling he had been so carefully searching his emotional repertoire for. It started with a slight tug on his heart. An odd pair of extra-systolic beats which punctuated the moment, much as the upside-down exclamation mark of a sentence in Spanish preceeds the remark that it brackets. Then the flood gates of a million virtual hellish waters of darkness opened and swept through him with the fury of a monsoon. This new, emotional abyss yawned bottomlessly and spewed forth raw emotion from its turgid depths. Then, finally, the toilet of his soul noiselessly flushed!
Oh God! He was lonely. He was so lonely he began to regret having paradoxically wished for the feeling of loneliness. He was suddenly so lonely he felt he no longer knew or cared about the difference between life and death, or whether either even mattered at all. He swam in the wonderful agony in a frusty, perverse way, but the unforeseen extent of the hurtfulness contained within it gnawed sorely at his guts (or perhaps it was the Chicken Terriyaki and wasabe...?).
Of course, in the pall of this immense tidal wave of carefully nurtured solitude such thoughts counted for absolutely nothing. They simply did not exist. What is the character of a thought when no brain existed to consider it? What did exist was the crushing, but gratifyingly painful misery of this Frankensteinian parody of despair that he had so deliberately set out to conjure forth and coax out of himself. Substantially co-dependent, of course, was the conducive moodiness of the clear, neutral and disturbingly appealing moon-lit solitude.
He shivered as he let his body soak up every last bit of the wonderful angst of the splendidly cathartic emotional anguish. Sweeping the horizon, his eyes caught another spectral stratospheric intruder blazing through the cold and hostile fringes of space, lights flashing and engines throttled back to cruising detents. Another cargo of impatient souls, bound in from nowhere, he reflected, headed out for nowhere. In a hellish hurry to ignore the cruelly implacable reality of the present moment…second…nanosecond, all biological life continued to ignore the requisites of Universal emptiness. The furiously impatient pursuit of the elsewhen and otherwhy, that they all hoped existed at their destination, continued unabated.
And then, quite suddenly, Wingnut felt the profound sense of loneliness lift as quickly as it had settled in. Mildly disappointed, he retraced his steps up the hillside path back to the house. Bathed in moonlight as it was, it had all the visual appeal of a shadowed mausoleum in some dead and forgotten burial ground. Walking up the dirt driveway, he opened the rear door of the crypt and entered.
Unknown to Wingnut, who thought he was completely and utterly alone, the fog had followed him. Dogging his footsteps like the most tiny and persistent little shadow of a hungry mouse, it crossed the verge unseen and sat there, nibbling a fragment of pale moonbeam cheese...