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Park Life

   Azami and I are sitting on the edge of a concrete planter in an uninspiring little park, eating the sandwiches we bought at a bakery nearby for breakfast. We think the park is deserted until a homeless man crawls out from the impossibly small place below a park bench.

   Nodding towards the man, I ask my girlfriend: “Think he's got a busy day ahead of him?”

   “Maybe,” she replies. “A conference in Tokyo. Or perhaps a business meeting in Osaka.”

   “And a mixer party with easy chicks afterwards.”

   Azami laughs.

   “You laugh, but why is it so funny?” I say. “Homeless guys get lonely, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the eligible homeless bachelors and bachelorettes got together once a month at, say, Central Park for a big party . . .”

   “Hmm. Sounds nice.”

   “And they get up on a park table and introduce themselves . . .”

   “’My name's Yuko’,” Azami says. “’I'm forty-seven years old. I'm currently residing under the bridge on the east-side of Hakata Station . . .’”

   “’I like drinking One Cup Ozeki on quiet nights under the moonlight, won't you have a drink with me?’”

   Azami lets out peals of laughter.

   “‘Uh, what? Am I next? Um, I, ah, I am Jun. I live in a small park in Yakuin . . . Um, I enjoy ballroom dance and collecting empty cans. I'm saving up to buy a tarp, and, um, I should have one before the winter sets in. How ‘bout we keep each other warm?’”

   Azami asks me if I think homeless people have sex.

   “Sure, why not?” I reply.

   “But they don't bathe. They've got to be pretty smelly.”

   “Well, beggars can't be choosers, can they?”

   “Just thinking about it makes me nauseous.”

   “I once read about a homeless woman who did tricks for homeless men.”

   “No! You're kidding, right?”

   “Well, I did read about it in Friday[1], so you can imagine how reliable it is, but the article said she would blow a guy for a hundred yen.”


   “Yeah, well, she apparently wasn't really doing it for the money . . .”

   “What then?” Azami asks. “Love?”

   “You never know what makes these people tick. Maybe she has a fetish for filthy old men?”

   I tear off a bit of bread from my sandwich and toss it out onto the ground where a few dozen pigeons descend upon it.

   “Oh, please don't do that,” Azami says, grimacing. “See? Now they're all coming over here. Pigeons disgust me.”

   “Oh, they're harmless, Azami. Besides they're fun to watch?”

   “What's fun about a bunch of dirty old pigeons?”

   “Well, look at them. That one over there.”

   “The one that's all puffed up?”

   “Yeah. He's walking around saying, ‘Hey, look at me! I'm huge! I'm a buff dude, yeah! Check me out, girls! Oh yeah!’ But the funny thing is none of the other birds are paying the least bit of attention to him. It's not much different with real guys—you know, we humans—when you think about it. I mean that bird probably took his time preening himself. ‘Gotta look good for the chicks!’ And what happens? He's completely ignored. Everyone else is more interested in the manna that has just fallen from Heaven. The idiot is not only not going to get laid, but he'll end up be hungry, too.”

   “It's to be expected,” Azami observes.

   “Why's that?”

   “The girl pigeons aren't all that interested in his size anyways. They know he's just compensating for . . .” 

   “A small dick?”

   “I wonder, do birds have penises?”

   “I haven't the foggiest idea.”

   “Whatever it is,” Azami says, “they know he doesn't have one, and they wouldn't really want even if he did.”

   “Yeah? But look at him! ‘I'm huge!’ he’s saying. ‘Just huge! Hey, babe, this ain't the only thing that's huge! Oh yeah!’”

   “The girl pigeons don't want that. They just want to find a boy pigeon that's kind and loving.”

   “Like that one?” I say, pointing to a pigeon which is missing all the feathers from his nape and is hobbling on a stump where there should be a foot. It's the saddest excuse for a pigeon I have ever seen. “I bet he's kind and loving.”

   “A bird in that condition,” Azami replies, “has no choice but to be kind and loving.”


   I throw another bit of bread crust into the air and watch it fall amongst the birds. There is a flurry of feathers and dust.

   “‘Hey, idiot, that was mine!’ ‘No, it wasn't.’ ‘Yes, it was!’ ‘Oh, lady! That's not bread that's my leg! Ow! Would you quit it?’”

   “The funny thing about these pigeons,” I continue, “is that when you throw a piece of bread into the middle of the flock, you would suspect that the fastest or the strongest or the most clever ones would get the bread most of the time and the others would just have to satisfy themselves by pecking at the ground on the off chance that the faster, stronger, smarter birds dropped some. But watch closely.”

   I toss a larger piece of bread just beyond the birds. There is another fury of dust and feathers as they chase after the bread. In a second, the bread disappears under a pile of pigeons, all pecking frantically at the bread and trying to tug it away from each other’s beaks. The bread is knocked out of one bird's beak and bounces like a pebble skipped against water, off the head of one, two, three, four hapless pigeons before landing on the ground. The birds hurry towards it, and just as one of the larger birds is about to pick it up, a sparrow glides in and nabs it away only for another pigeon to peck at it and send it flying again several meters where it lands at the one good foot of the gammy legged, scruffy pigeon. Before the other pigoens figure out what is happening, that scraggly, sickly pigeon flies off with the bread in beak.

   Azami is in hysterics, laughing so hard she’s crying. When she gains her composure she says, “I can't believe it.”

   “It's all luck,” I say. “You have it or you don't. You can be the smartest, most talented, but if you don't have luck . . .”

   “Yeah! I get it. I do. That’s how it really is.”

   “And Romeo over there is still trying to get laid.”


[1] Friday is a tabloid weekly.

They do.

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