It was another killer of a morning.
In June it was.
I was driving around looking at houses.
This particular house stood so close to a river-bank it seemed to be foaming.
It looked impossibly far off.
In time and space.
I climb out of the car and go in.
There are signs a painter lived here.
Oil paint smears at the turn of the spiral staircase.
The odour of turpentine in the air.
Yes, and the scent of still-life summer citrus.
I go up the spiral staircase.
Round and around.
I hold my breath.
The woman showing me the house says something,not that I'm listening.
From upstairs you can see the roof of another house.
And beyond that roof the roof of still another house.
There's a brute metallic clank.
I cautiously shift my gaze to the floorboards.
A bunch of keys is lying there.
She picks up the keys, straightens her tight skirt.
Smiles awkwardly,then says something again.
I open the door to the upstairs bathroom to take a peek, run the water.
I'm considering inviting her to lunch.
I exit the bathroom to view the river on the east side of the house.
In the bright June sunlight, it looks like the Chao Phraya in Thailand.
It flows with shed cocoons and cicada husks and grasshopper legs.
I feel ashamed to be neither old nor young.
We tiptoe down the spiral staircase.
I take a look at the bath and the sink area.
I turn on the faucet with the red mark.
Rusty water gushes out full blast.
Like the plumbing in a science lab at school.
I take a deep breath.
Then I recall something I used to argue about.
She looks at me.
She pushes up her glasses with her index finger.
I have no idea what this gesture is supposed to mean.
I determine that what's coming out the faucet is not hot water, then turn it off.
Was that the sound of the noon-hour gun?
I look at my watch.
She smiles and says something.
I'm not listening.
gOf course, it's an old house .You don't like old houses?"
This time she comes through perfectly clear.
I look at her blouse.
Billowing soft mounds.
Then I shift my line of vision to the wall behind her.
The colour of the wood panels, I'm about to remark, but break off.
Why would anyone let their walls reach such a state?
Who on earth would choose to live in such a melancholy place?
An artist is who.
A Nobel-prize-class one.
Oh, they don't give Nobel prizes for painting?
Well,what I meant was the person had to have been an artist of some renown.
That's why there were paint stains around the spiral staircase.
And the scent of oranges.
Though wouldn't you expect a little more sensitivity from an artist?
Sure, what with the paneling and all.
Then again, maybe not.
That is, insofar as there's not a house in Tokyo that's not out of sorts.
Or maybe I'm the one that's out of sorts.
I'm sure if I opened my mouth that's what I'd be going on about.
And what would she answer back?
gWhere would you do your writing?"
Having mentioned that I write fiction.
gIn an upstairs room, I bet."
gWherever strikes my fancy."
I pull out my cigarette case, flick it open with a nice precise click.
Only there are no cigarettes.
That is, you see.
I'm all dried up.
Certainly no fountainhead.
Because I've always denied my fertile self.
Really, I've never been able to believe in the rich potential of humanity.
Before I reached that point I'd be too embarrassed.
There, does that make me seem more like a writer?
"The furniture was left by a previous tenant."
She sits in an armchair.
As vigorously as a teenage girl.
Dust gets in my nose.
"What a great chair!"
All of a sudden assuming a very friendly tone.
"Wish I had a chair like this at my place."
Am I to smile?
Does she want a kiss?
Same old stoly.