Friday, June 27, 2008

In Japan, the Seat of Power

Ever since I spent a decade studying martial arts, I have had a deep reverence for all things Japanese. And now, my friends from the East have once more demonstrated why they are ascendant even as the Western world continues its accelerating descent into chaos. According to the Washington Post , Japan's Toilet Seat Evaluation Standards Committee is concerned that 23% and 30% of Japanese males now sit to pee. It is more comfortable and avoids "urine splash." Not to be outdone, the Warm-Water-Shower Toilet Seat Council, found that Japanese women pee eight times a day with an average seat-time of 96 seconds. Meanwhile, Japanese toilet-makers are creating increasingly intelligent loos that sing, keep warm, spray perfume into the air, and memorize a family's toilet habits so as to be ready to handle Mama or Papa-san (and their offsprings-san) when they come a-calling. The johnnies cost some $4000 for luxury models that can hum Ave Maria louder than you can fart. This, of course, takes a lot of energy---more specifically, about four percent of a household's energy consumption.

I am desirous. I want one. Were I to iknstall one in my home, I am convinced my success rate of NYT crossword puzzles would increase drastically, making me feel a lot smarter and therefore more useful to society. I would program mine to sing Queen's We Are the Champions. My friends with inferiority complexes will thank me.

Here's installment 31 of Wasted Miracles.

When she came down fully from the sweetness and light--it seemed hours but may have been minutes--when the jarring suddenness of the need hit her and she first felt the crawling in her stomach, she remembered something she’d been told after a meeting, a phrase that hadn’t made much sense at the time. It had been an old guy, in his 60s at least, a former jazz sax player who still had an eye for young blondes so she hadn’t paid much attention. He’d sucked hard on his Tareyton, exhaled, breathed, “While you’re trying to live a normal life, your addiction is in the next room doing pushups.”
And from a counselor in her first rehab. “Your disease picks up where it left off.”
And from countless people who’d relapsed. “It took me years to build my habit the first time; it only took days the second time around.”
Now it made sense. She felt a gnawing in her gut, like something trying to chew its way out. She remembered the sensation, dreaded what she knew was coming. Her innards twisted. The tips of her fingers twitched, felt numb. Her lungs were raw. She sat cross-legged on the floor, Indian-style, very still, eyes closed. Her forehead started sweating. She tried to recite program mantras but the words took flight. With the tip of her tongue she could feel the warm smoothness of the glass pipe’s stem. She bit her tongue. The pain brought a moment of clarity but no more. Her mouth went dry and she gathered enough saliva to swallow just once. She gagged, coughed, felt like throwing up, mustered every gram of willpower not to do so. Then the cycle started again. After what seemed a nauseating eternity, the Zulu came into the room, smiled, said, “Can we talk?

Chapter 7

He had come into the room--what? Three, four times? Each time he fed her the pipe. Once, he said, “Do you like this? It’s a new compound, somewhat experimental but very potent, they tell me. Apparently, the effects are extremely potent but rather short-lived, as such things go. Unfortunate for the users, of course, but quite lucrative to everyone else. Now,” he smiled. “Have you remembered anything? Anything at all?”
Truly, she hadn’t. Herbie, his death, stolen drugs. To the depths of her being she didn’t know what the black man wanted from her. It was terribly important to her that she somehow communicate that very basic fact to the Zulu. It was essential. It was life.
In the darkness between the Zulu’s visits, she filtered thoughts, impressions, memories. She reviewed every instant spent with Herbie, every moment she could recall. Time became liquid.
The taller black guy--Comfort, what a wonderful name--brought her food, an Italian sub that she picked the onions and pickles out of. She didn’t want to eat, wasn’t hungry at all but Comfort stood by until she did.
The beanbag chair became home. Once, she threw up on it. Comfort must have been just outside the door and heard the retching sounds she made. He came with a bucket and some rags, cleaned the mess up and took her to a bathroom. She peed, stripped, cleaned herself as best she could in the sink. Comfort took her soiled clothes away so she wrapped herself in the damp towel she’d used and returned to the beanbag chair.
She wondered how her mom was reacting to her disappearance, felt guilty over the panic she knew she was causing. And her father? Was he concerned, worried? Probably not. She could visualize his face, his hands, his frown, downturned lips shaping disgust and disbelief. She wondered if her mom had ever used crack.
No. They’d talked about drugs and alcohol many times and there were few secrets there, though many in other areas of both their lives. Her mom had dabbled with the stuff people took in the 70s and 80s, dope of course, hash, acid. Coke a time or two but it had scared her, Josie remembered the conversation well, her mom had said, “It felt too good. You understand what I’m saying? Anything that felt that good had to demand a heavy price. It couldn’t possibly come free and that frightened me, the idea that somewhere down the line I’d have to pay up.”
Crack hadn’t even been invented then, had it?
Josie wondered if her parents had called the police, decided they probably hadn’t. Had they even considered it before deciding against? Had her Dad ever tried drugs? Had that ever tempted him? She’d seen him slightly drunk a number of times, a jolly smiling man too quick with the embraces, a man who got very red in the face after a second martini. Drugs and him were unlikely. Still, she’d been in the program long enough to realize that the straightest-looking, most normal people often rode their addictions to the meanest bottoms. It was the pale, bookish types who had the worst stories, the ones full of violence and theft and betrayal.
Her thoughts meandered back to Herbie. Dead Herbie, whom the Zulu claimed had told her things she couldn’t remember but eventually would.
It struck her in an idle way that she would probably be dead herself very soon. If the Zulu found out what he wanted to know, that would be that, he wouldn’t keep her around, certainly wouldn’t release her. And if she didn’t know, couldn’t tell him anything, the result would be the same. The thought held no fright, had a certain appeal. In her mind she’d seen her own death hundreds of times, had created endless scenarios. During her rehabs, it had been a way to while away the silent hours. It had helped her come to term with things, this vision and understanding of death. How would they do it? She hoped for an overdose, that would be best, too much of a good thing. After a while the cravings returned and she thought of nothing else.
Sunlight didn’t penetrate the basement. She thought she might have been down there maybe a day, maybe two, but it could have been less or more.
The Zulu seemed to know when to appear with a fresh dose. He would sit across from her on a footstool and play with the crack vials, tapping two against each other so they made a glassine sound, muted windchimes. He would hand her the pipe, light it, she’d suck at it greedily. He’d ask the same questions over and over again. He had patience, he never raised his voice, never threatened her. He would stay a few moments and then stand, straighten the crease in his trousers and walk away.

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