The kanji for peace (heiwa) is spray-painted in the underground walkway that connects the main street in the tourist area of Fujisawa by the coast with the walking bridge to Enoshima Island. In the daytime, it’s a bright, lively area where people do and say pleasant things, and there is even a little book exchange stand where strangers are free to drop off and take books at their leisure.
But now, it’s late.
The tourists have left or are asleep or never bothered to come in the first place. The shops are locked and the little book exchange is shuttered. But in the underground area that connects the main street with the bridge, there is a homeless man doing Vudu of some kind with hands that fly, flap, and dance without reason.
His gray and scraggly hair points in all directions, Tokyo, Hell, prisons of the mind, prisons of the soul, and yes, even Enoshima Island. His clothes are dirty, torn, and in places non-existent — but beyond this, I don’t know the man, because I don’t look at him directly. The smell of shit hits me even though I give him the widest possible birth. I walk briskly and cautiously as I make my way to the other side, but I can’t help but see out of the corner of my eye that there is something in front of him as he sits Indian style.
It could be something dead or it could just be two-week old dinner. But there are flies. It’s late at night and the cops won’t be coming for him. And then I pass under the spray-painted kanji for peace and I realize that it is dripping in just the right way to make it seem like its reverse — a harbinger of horror. And then, the man in the underground walkway connecting the street to the bridge lets out a wail that can’t wake up those who temporarily don’t exist. The cry echoes on and on into the night and reminds me that there is a deep and horrible underside to peace and beauty.
And then I’m out the other side of the underground walkway on the bridge to an island that is dead as night.