Turning another corner, I saw Ghost Park across the road and set course. The two teens from Saizeriya were there, drinking mega cans of Asahi, smoking with poor technique, their arms hanging off the swing chains like monkeys.
I strolled over and sat down on the adjacent set of swings. One of the chains was hanging down lower than the other, but that was normal. As was the graffiti scrawled on the padded ground claiming, NO KIDS ALLOWED. Ha, it was true, the only kids who came here were the ones too young to patch in to Kanto Land…or those slippers-outdoors types, struck with luddite parents pining for the old days.
Pushing off the ground, I let myself swing lopsided, eyes switching back to the two clowns.
The taller kid, the sugar tin-throwing perv, had finished his can and was now crushing it awkwardly with his right hand. Mumbling something, the other kid swatted it onto the ground, gave a quick stamp, then kicked the remains at the slide opposite.
‘Way off,’ the taller one yelled back.
‘You didn’t fucking crush it right, kasu.’
I pulled up the sleeve of my shirt and stared at them. Neither one of them had the balls to stare back.
Fucking kids, always loud, always cans.
They talked some more. About Ikebukuro and the things they were doing there. Or the things other people they kinda knew were doing there.
Liars. Story-tellers. You wanna know about Ikebukuro, take a seat…take a swing, I’ll tell you.
But what was the point?
I turned away and pushed off from the ground, going back to Alien. That scene, Yaphet Kotto and the alien.
What was it exactly?
Nothing, only dialogue.
Kotto to the alien: ‘Fucking liar.’
What did that mean?
I hadn’t seen Alien in years, and even then it wasn’t the greatest space filmn ever…definitely not in the same league as Rabbit Hole. Why the hell was I thinking about this?
One of the kids shouted something, seemingly targeted at someone.
I turned, hoping it was me, and saw the two of them standing near a homeless guy who had appeared out of nowhere.
Wah, he was a mess…slumped on the ground, spine half inside a hedge, one of those Baltic revolution hats covering most of his forehead. For some reason, his trousers were rolled up to the knees, left hand scratching the shin.
The two kids shouted at him again, the usual shit. ‘Get a job.’ ‘Fucking drunk, fucking leech.’ ‘Do something, don’t just sit there, old man.’
The homeless guy ignored it all and switched to his other shin.
‘You braindead, homeless?’
‘Kick him, Yasu.’
‘Yeah, I will.’
‘Kick him, go on.’
‘He fucking deserves it.’
‘Fucking drunk, fucking leech.’
Betraying his own rhetoric, Yasu didn’t kick the guy. Instead, he did what all cowards do and stood there like a shopp dummy, shouting the same insult on loop.
I waited another minute to see if they’d give up and move on, but they didn’t, so I got off the swing and rolled up my sleeve. The two of them weren’t that much younger, that was true enough, but they were about four inches shorter, and there was no way on this planet they’d go up against me.
At least that was the theory.
I started walking towards them, keeping my face Russian.
‘There where? What you on about?’
‘Some guy’s coming.’
Yasu looked. I was right. They stood their ground for about three seconds then moved back to their coward swings as I got closer.
‘What’s up, kasu?’ Yasu said. ‘You friends with the drunk or something?’
I stopped near the homeless guy and stared at them.
‘What?’ they said in unison, the smaller guy’s voice cracking. ‘What you looking at?’
I kept staring.
‘What you doing?’
‘I think he’s broken…’
‘Maybe he’s full of shit…’
I kept staring.
‘You broken or something?’ Yasu asked.
‘Yeah, what’s up with him?’
I didn’t answer.
‘Hey…you in there?’
‘He’s a weird fucker, Yasu, leave it.’
‘I’m talking to you. What you doing?’
I took two steps toward them.
Yasu didn’t move, but the other one nearly fell off his swing.
‘What?’ he yelled, his voice buffering a bit.
‘Yasu…let’s just go…this guy’s weird…’
‘What the fuck you doing?’
‘Don’t pick on people, abazure,’ I said, finally, calm as a spring-time monk. ‘It’s childish.’
‘Yeah, well…’ The kid was about to say, what you gonna do about it? I knew he was, so I started walking towards him, balling my fists.
‘The fuck, kasu? What you doing?’
‘Don’t talk back, abazure.’
I got closer, another few steps and I’d have him.
‘Hey, back off…’
‘Back off, kasu…what the fuck?’
I shook my head, sliding a hand inside my blood red YONEX jacket, pretending to search for a knife. At least that’s what I assumed they were thinking. Didn’t really matter, fists or blade, I only needed to put down one of them.
The other kid couldn’t take it and started heading out of the park. He got to the wooden gate with two broken planks – two years and no sign of a repair team – and called back to Yasu, telling him to leave it alone, I wasn’t worth it. Yasu looked at me [already off the swings and a few yards back], spat on the ground and walked after his friend. I chased his trail a little until he was out of the park then stopped. Predictably, when they were far enough away not to be caught, they shouted back, calling me a fucking dead man, fucking cunt, fucking pussy etc.
Pulling the hand out of my jacket, I went back to the homeless guy. Wah, he was still scratching his shin. Did the last five minutes not happen?
‘Hey, you okay?’ I asked him.
‘You know, you shouldn’t sit in parks on your own. Don’t you have any friends you could group with?’
He stopped scratching and looked up, smiling like a loon. ‘Used to be good. Had a building, conjured up science.’
‘Okay, teme.’ I looked out of Ghost Park and across at the conveni on the other side of the no-car road. As sure as night follows day, the lights were on. ‘How about I get you a coffee or some noodles? You hungry?’
‘Not Japanese. Not. Notto.’
‘Yeah, teme, wish I wasn’t either.’
‘The second mind-tower I made. Did it, finished, done. Here.’ He jabbed the top of his head. ‘Made the second mind-tower and it worked and now I’m here and the other one is over there so so far. And wet. And far.’
I decided that he was babbling nonsense cos he was hungry, so I walked out of the park the non-gate way, crossed over to the conveni and bought the second cheapest pack of noodles. Five minutes later I was back, sprawled out next to him, explaining a few ways I’d thought of to help him get out of this mess.
‘See, if you create your own magazine, get some charity to subsidize it, the print version of it…then you’ll have more passion when you sell it. Right? And it’d be miles more interesting than the shit they give you to sell. So, people would be more willing to buy it and…and you’d have more fun selling it cos it’d be your baby.’
He was scratching his leg again. The noodles were on the ground, untouched.
‘And you could get people who buy it to go to a hub-site and leave comments or something. You could have a whole community, get other homeless guys involved too and yeah, okay, it won’t make any of you rich, won’t get you a housse or anything, but it’s something, right? It’d give you a bit of cash and…some kind of creative purpose. At least something you can…hey, are you listening?’
He wasn’t, he was staring at a leaf on the ground.
‘Seriously, teme, I’m not messing around, this is good advice. They’re doing it in Denmark and North Britain right now, I read about it. Yeah, Liverpool, Edinburgh, the other ones…Glass something…that’s where you should be, they treat guys like you better there. Community housing or something. This country doesn’t do shit, just makes you feel like a wretch, but Scandinavia, you ever thought of that? Going there? Or Ghana maybe. I heard they had communal initiatives too. Don’t know how true it is. But it’s got to be better than here. If you can afford the flight. I don’t know. Maybe, a year or two, if you save a bit from the mag I told you to do. Maybe you could go.’
He glanced at me, smiled then went back to the leaf.
‘Okay, look, you should eat the noodles at least. They’re good for you. Well, kinda. Better than eating nothing.’
He picked up the leaf, examined it then tore it in half and threw the two parts back on the ground.
‘Hey, you listening…’ I picked up the noodles and waved them like a toy shuttlecraft in front of his face. ‘I’m not doing this for fun.’
He was finally looking at me.
‘Hello?’ I asked, double-checking.
‘You don’t do it for fun, ne?’
‘Oh, you can see me now?’ He smiled, so I continued on. ‘Well, yeah, like I just said, I don’t do it for fun. I’m trying to help you out here.’
‘Actually, I’m under duress…kind of.’
‘Someone bigger than me…an anarchist.’ I paused, thinking back. ‘Well, he used to be bigger.’
He laughed and said, ‘brother.’
‘Brother, brother, brother.’
I looked around the park for cameras in bushes or rubbish bins. How did he know that? Was he guessing?
‘How’d you know that?’
‘Hey, how’d you know that…about my brother?’
He laughed again. ‘Where’s my science gone? Have you seen it? My old friend science, where’s it hiding where? There where? Where there where there?’
I tried again to get an answer, but it was no good, he was gone. Not physically gone, just gone from the conversation. Not that it was much of one. Fuck it. This is what my country did to people like him. It was no Denmark, that’s for sure.
Dragging myself back to my feet and brushing dirt of the almost brand new YONEX jacket, I told him to eat the noodles before they got cold then left the poor bastard alone to do whatever it was he did at two in the morning in this empty, shitty, end of all lines Ghost Park.