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The Window

It is typhoon season. It rains long and often here in Tokyo. Today it was particularly stormy. This morning I woke up and found that the world outside was wet. It was steady and it was hard, but I wouldn’t take the bus. I couldn’t take the bus. I am stubborn. I didn’t want to spend the 400 yen. I didn’t want to miss the exercise. I didn’t want to feel lazy. More importantly though, I said, as I often say to myself when trying to do something that seems outrageous or pointless, it was an opportunity to do something different. To ride in a typhoon. I looked out the window and saw nothing but water.

I rode the bus for a month. You can never go wrong when you do something new, if you do that something new just once. So, I took my Japanese umbrella and some spare clothes in a plastic bag stuffed in my school backpack. Things seem safer from the window.

My umbrella didn’t last to my first creaky turn. The wind flipped her inside out, making the umbrella more a bowl than a cover. I stopped, crying the rain from my squinting eyes, fixed the umbrella, stuffed it in my basket to cover my bag, and rode on.

I made it to school, riding the glances of Japanese faces unsure why I would be showering in the rain on a bicycle with a bag covered by an umbrella. I went to a bathroom. I changed my clothes and went to class. I assumed the rain would subside.

The rain did not subside. Things seem safer from the window. I changed back into my wet clothes. I went to my bicycle undeterred. The rain grew, but never raced to a sprint. The rain continued; it did not heighten. The rain was comfortable and satisfied with pattering on my shivering shoulders.

I got home a couple hours ago. Things seem safer from the window. I took a hot shower, a luxury I have been given. As I dried myself, comfortable once again, I remembered. I remembered that just an hour or so ago I was racing down the hill of Meguro-dori, the rain pinching my face, the wind pushing my bicycle. For every sentence of meaning and truly original experience that we acquire, there is no complaint or discomfort that can discredit it. I smiled down that hill, and I couldn’t stop smiling, the rain peppering my lips.

Near the end of my trip, a group of young girls in school uniforms came running around a corner, laughing and shouting. They were laughing and shouting at the rain, smiles bursting from their little faces with closed umbrellas in their hands. To many I was being just as foolish as they were.

Yet, seeing those girls only made me happier with my decision. There is something to be said for the justifiable hedonism of the innocent. Those girls were laughing and shouting at the rain and why shouldn’t they? Isn’t it odd that from time to time water falls from the sky?

Isn’t it a feeling to be cherished and sought after? The rain tickling and digging at your waxy face and shriveled fingers. It is when you are young. At some point in our lives the rain becomes a burden, a curse, an interruption to our suited day in the business world. Suddenly, things seem safer from the window. You huddle underneath functioning umbrellas and forget once you were a child laughing and shouting at the rain, a smile bursting from your little face.

I could have ridden the bus. But I wouldn’t have much to write about, would I? I rode a bicycle through a Japanese typhoon, laughing and shouting at the rain, a smile bursting from my little face.

I didn’t ride the bus. I took my squeaky bike for another trip through Tokyo streets, but this one was different. I have certainly ridden in the rain, but not this hard, not with this much wind, not with this much reason to take the bus. I passed by a few little old ladies who appeared to have umbrellas for heads, and I passed a few other bicyclists, all adorned with full-body rain gear.

Maybe I thought what I did was a little heroic, riding my bicycle through the storm. Probably you think what I did was a little stupid, riding my bicycle through the storm. Isn’t it odd how often stupidity and heroism are so closely linked?

But, of course, what I did wasn’t heroic. It wasn’t heroic because it was just rain and it was just water and as storms go there was no story. I saved 400 yen. I got my exercise. I didn’t feel lazy. More importantly though, I did something that is original and is worth a story. Stories and their pursuit being my understanding of why we live our lives make that trip quite worthwhile. Things seem safer from the window, but you never know until you try.

Jaa ne,

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