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Chapter 13


In this perfect early fall cool with soft chirping of crickets and night clouds above, I can almost hear the faint echo of high platform shoes clicking on the stone cobble lanes.


-The sound of the tayu as she carefully steps.  My neighbor, now an old woman, is a tayu.

The dark slats on on my own house tell a story, as they do on Sumiya banquet hall, or Wachigaya, where the rings overlap as two umbrellas might, for a moment, in the rain.  To some, these slats were bindings.

There are many bindings in this world.  The reeds are bound into the mats under my feet.  The blinds are grasses bound with strings.  This room is bound with beams of lumber doubly bound in plaster.  The picture is bound in a frame.  Even the hanging scroll, delicate, is bound in silk.  The garden fence, bound spicebush, came undone long ago, its reeds tatters now.  When the bindings of this house are finally undone, it too will crumble.

What are my bindings, I wonder?  Those who worked here years ago were bound almost in cages.  Beautiful things pacing behind bars, like tigers, or laughing, fanning themselves, like monkeys.  The flowers in the vase too, cut and bound, bloom fantastically and then wither.

Space is supposed to rid us of bindings.  An endless void, natural, beautiful.  From space, our planet is a flawless blue-jade sphere.

We brought our human ways into space: families and passions, but the void always calls from beyond big glass windows in plastic frames- "Run!  You can be free! Depart!"  And so many make their lives on distant planets, distant cities, and distant space stations.  The price we pay, of course, is risk of a kind of space-sickness.

The tayu here on this planet represent a refined aesthetic.  They have the beauty of nature, but it is prepared as entertainment, suitable for human tastes.  They manifest the other world of ecology, of mysterious happenings, of spontaneous blossoms, encounters, and they present it, to be consumed.

In space there is a similar practice, one no longer attached to place and season.  Girls gather in fancy space age bars, dim blue light, plastic tables, seats, glistening ice in cylindrical glasses, over which delicious liquors are poured.  Customers come because they suffer from space-sickness.

In this sickness they have not dreamed in weeks.  If they do dream, their dreams are lost on the long commute to the space station, or they dry out in the void, just before waking, never pooling in the mind like morning dew.

Those with space-sickness seek a friend, a conversation, anything.  The girls serve a concoction of make up, primped dresses, and giggles.  In return, they make more money in  a month than they would in a year, and they only work nights.

With this money and time they can fall through space, weightless, floating...  The black depths with pinhole stars swaddle them, or swallow them.   This darkness might come to resemble bars, black slats, like the ones here in this old neighborhood, on this planet.

There is a story of two lovers who free themselves from such a prison. I saw it in a film called "Sakuran."  At the end of the film, when the fox god's old cherry tree finally blooms two small white blossoms, the heroine and hero escape.  They were bound in beauty.  She was a worker who started low, but became a high tayu.  He was the son of the company owners, just as much a slave to the industry.  They found freedom in love, unbinding.

So in an old house, still bound and intact, in an old neighborhood, its streets tied as ribbons between black tiled houses, I hear the click clack of high platform shoes on stone cobbles, binding and unbinding in autumn air-