What separated a room rented for the night from that wherein one customarily slept, awoke, and cuddled with the blanket was that the former almost always had a bathroom or rather a closet of a sort with a sink and a mirror and a sprinkler head and white translucent curtains hooked to a rail on the ceiling or to another pole extending from a wall, the polyester often stained with god-knows-what, wedged inconspicuously into the wall of the aisle on both ends of which would be the door with a peephole or a tiny glass bulb that would blink on and off instead of the doorbell indicating the presence of a visitor, supposing whoever occupied the room remembered to flip on the “do not disturb” sign, or hang the card with those words printed upon on the doorknob outside; and what separated this bathroom from the bathroom one would have in one’s own abode was the lack of concern with which one might enter the former; there was no cause to fear that one might unwittingly or not, exceed the funds one had allotted for the water bill this month. With her back to the mirror Nakajima unhooked her bra, the strips of which she had always kept loose over her shoulders, and with each end clamped between two fingertips took it off and abruptly let go and let it fall atop the pile of clothes to be stuffed into the washing machine soon as she returned home on the bathroom floor, at the bottom of which was of course, a plastic bag with its handles lying stagnant waiting to be tugged back up. Then lifting one foot at a time she slipped her underpants off her thigh and then shin and then ankle and finally her toes and afterwards the other foot. The underpants too was discarded and left to drift freely onto the pile of unwashed clothes. The sprinkler was already running behind the curtains. Nakajima tore a sheet off the toilet roll and dried her left index finger before applying it to the switch for the ventilation fans, and then stood there listening as the whirling noises slowed to a halt and steam began to fill the bathroom; only then did she extend a leg past the shower curtains, dip a toe in the puddle of water gathered there on the floor, and hastily withdraw it with a muffled yelp, adjust the valve and then repeat and upon concluding that the water was finally at a desirable temperature ushered her entire body through.
What separated the bathroom of a plain rented room from that of a more grandiose establishment was that nothing in the former was arranged in such a way as to inspire guilt in the occupant when she was forced to temper with the schema to which every item had been set. The soap bars were not neatly stacked atop one another and wrapped in inconceivably creaseless envelopes and in fact there was not even a single soap bar here, only two non-descript bottles with the shrink wrappings with the brand names and faces of whichever model was hired for the promotional campaigns removed, nor was there any towel on any rack behind her: she had to bring her own towels along, not that she would have it any other way. Nakajima ruffled her hair with a hand and shut her eyes as shampoo bubbles and tepid water trickled down her fringe onto her face and then the rest of her body. Her spare hand spread the water evenly across her face. She exhaled onto the wall immediately before her and watched her breath condense to a film of water beads which one after another began sliding down and she kept breathing onto the wall replacing every bead she lost with another. The porcelain tiles were drenched and seemed more transparent than ever. The crevasses in between were white with gray molds here and there. Her belly fell upon the valve. She glanced up at the sprinkler and not another droplet of water struck her head, but she did not bother to switch the valve back on and instead merely without any hint of distress smiled, inclined her head towards and against the wall, and smiled more at her toes and the valve hovering over her belly and upon and from which her own reflection smiled back up at her. The drain at her feet gurgled and there was the occasional sound of water dripping from a tap or the sprinkler or perhaps her own body. She thought of a great many things, of gravity, of the pictographic representations of water, the primordial and revered element of water, the virtue of being as water1placeholder, the fountains concealed in the mountains the signposts at the foot of which always warned hikers to not drink the water and so on and so forth and briefly let the lids slide over her eyes, and this dream as a dream was delivered to her by a thrust of the tip of author’s pen penetrating the strip of paper upon which it had labored, manifesting here and now in a series of apophantic frames with letterboxes, of images jointed, juxtaposed to and against one another:
A fetally curled silhouette was dragged to the bottom of the cave by waves so transparent they seemed surreal and that was how she knew it was a dream without a doubt, and as the figure struck the floor, the waves lashed out scrubbing off its thoroughly untanned skin and charring the subcutaneous tissues beneath, and then seawater ushered this raw writhing lump towards the slit through which the cave and sea conjoined, squeezing its body against the walls, and the muscles and tendons, now laid bare beneath the torn skin, snapped one after another and swung back and forth in the waves beckoning something or someone, and the third wave split its bones and a yellowish gelatinous fluid puddled to the surface seething, and the silhouette completely dissolved, and the waters turned an ambiguous hue, of gray, of crimson, of yellow, of azure, and of magenta and of such and such, and the tides at long last withdrew, until all that remained in the cave was a film of sea- and fresh-water barely high enough to reach a toddler’s ankle.
Nakajima opened her eyes not at all perturbed by what she had seen or rather she could not be certain there was any truth to what she had seen, this dream as it were, or that she had and could have interpreted it to an adequate extent so as to grant this dream meaning as if this “granting” was an act of which she as an entity in this instance2placeholder of the world was capable; it did not matter to her what awaited her on the morrow or the days that were to follow, and as of this moment something had struck her, captured her attention, and drawing back her elbow a little, she began tracing out the shape of the Kanji character signifying “water” in the cooled steam coating the wall.
It had always struck her how this word resembled that which signified “wood”.
And that were she to so much as add one more stroke to the crown of this pictographic tree which she did as a child, its signification would crumble upon itself and become
“The tree yet to bud”
The word for future was a redundant portmanteau of two characters one of which signified “yet-hood”, “un-ness” and the other signified “to come”, “to have come”, and a past infinitive “to be”, yet surely the first already implied a sense of spatiality, a sort of “come-ness” or the phenomenon of “coming” as a movement from one point to another on a Euclidean plane. The referent of a word if such a word was to have any meaning whatsoever, must to some extent be grounded in this world of hers, for it to correlate to and with her frequently enough to be something recognizable as both a semantical item and an actual worldly “thing”.
“Yet to come” :⇔ “Un-come”?
That however did not matter. Nakajima realized now another issue that urgently needed a resolution. What was an “un-come” or un-coming? That for her to have intuitively placed “un-come” alongside the infinitely more comprehensible “yet to come” and not as a tautology of the latter, surely the two must be different and she thought so even as she sensed that logically speaking, if she was to assume the stance of one who regarded and handed verdict over all of existents from a strictly logical point of view, the two were in “truth” so to speak, identical. What had yet to come would not have come to the eyes of one who resided in the present. What had not come would occur to one who remained acutely aware of the continuum of past, present, and future, as that which had merely yet to come; but that was to take this word too lightly, Nakajima knew, to reduce it to little more than a statement on the perspectivistic mediocrity of life, or some tabloid quotes for house-wives and -husbands to repeat to neighbors in their daily tedium and ever-replenished urge to showcase his or her worldly wisdom. An un-coming as the or a future was more than that — un-coming was not futurus; there was and would always be a certain depth in Sino-Japanese which no Logos could ever hope to penetrate. Perhaps the hint here was to not regard time as a trinity or a gear-work with three highly specified components constantly rotating to keep the machinery that was the world humming functioning at peak efficiency such that its inhabitants could continue breathing, making love, eating, slumbering, and in general living lives. Her first task here then would be to stop living and that hardly seemed viable, as a way of life that was though of course as the phrase already implied, one could hardly maintain one’s self in a certain way of life once one had chosen if there was such a choice and if such a thing as “living” or “life” was something existential, something of the world or the humane world in particular,5placeholder enough to be determined by a single human choice, to stop living, but then again one and she indeed would doubt why it was that such a practice, of fishing categories out of a hat and pigeon-holing actual things into such categories, was regarded as something analytical, philosophical, and not some childish gesture founded solely upon one’s gut-driven quest for some uniformity and non-indifference in the world, to mathematize the world as something highly systematic which despite being a that which included asymmetrical entities such as humans as its contents, must be given the attribute of regularity; that it must have been organized a priori in so and so a way like a jigsaw puzzle, as to have a certain pattern of its own that would yield a certain knowledge of itself ready to hand to earnest phenomenologists and metaphysicians: a “knowledge” tantamount to a wholesale destruction of the world to a heap of semantical and numerical utterances; but then again offended as she might be by the inhumanity of such universalities, such reduction of something with apparent intrinsic value to something shared by all, when she at times glanced at the world, at the beings of entities and entities of beings encircling her, she did indeed detect a certain tinge of universality which albeit faint, remained to her a clue suggesting some sort of predestination and a certain plot with objective unknown underlying all that was, and she could not help but wonder wherefrom such a sensation stemmed and if she could still put her faith in her own senses and if she was merely losing herself to herself or to the world, to be so thoroughly seduced, absorbed, assimilated as to at long last grasp something primordial and in such a way “meaningful” beneath the myriad of entities and beings and extended things and thinking things and protracted word never to reach purity or fruition, and all of such items loitering across the surface; or if she was simply seeing mirages, her own mirages no less but apparently of the world, of herself incarnated within. Nakajima twisted the valve back on and resumed her shower and tilted her head and let her fringe part and topple over the sides of her face and tickle her ears and with her eyes shut once more, water splattered down with a gravitated vigor that drew as much pain as comfort from her skin, and for a split second, for an infinitesimal fraction of and in a time more primordial, more intimate to her than the triune temporality of past, present, and future, the downpour drowned the world out from around her.
See Laotzu, Tao Te Ching.
Here in this context “instance” is synonymous with “example” as in the expression “for one instance”, and occasionally though not always within this text, the principle of instantiation, though its etymological associations with the English temporal “instant”, and Latin “in-stare” (signifying, “to stand on, upon”, “to draw nigh, threaten”, “to pursue, accuse, assail”, “to urge, ply, insist”) must also be borne in mind such that one is not misled into regarding this as a lousy choice of word on the part of the author.
Etymologically speaking Nakajima was mistaken here in that the character for “water” as it appeared in oracle bone scripts and other prehistoric incarnations was a pictogram consisting of five downwards wavy strokes evidently intended to imitate and indicate the flow of water down a river, and was derived too from a hypothetical Proto-Sino-Tibetan word signifying “flow, stream”; whereas that for “wood” was an explicit pictogram of a tree.
Kanjized equivalent of the Chinese “來” signifying “to move [more-or-less unilaterally], come [towards something]”, “to arrive”, and by extension, “to occur”, “to have already transpired”, “[the] coming [of something]”, or a “coming”, “arrival”, or “transpiration, occurrence, event, Ereignis” as such.
Here Nakajima seemed to have given up on keeping her language free of obscure terminologies, though those who could and did indeed follow her train of thought might state in her defense that she had no choice, for here she had ventured head-on into purely speculative and metaphysical territory. She was alluding to the perennial argument of existence versus essence and in which one might be privileged or held on a higher ground over the other viz. if there was to be a certain essence to one’s existence, then one might seek without a reductionist’s non-existent guilt to explicate the world and human existence in terms of universalities, lumen naturale, and some such, and still do the world and humanity (as such) justice; and alternatively if existence preceded essence, then surely such universalities were likely no more than abstractions detached from one’s existence which came first and thus could not be relied upon, much less trusted as something truthfully “universal”. In Nakajima’s instance, she was wondering whether “life” could be taken as something essential or existential without determining beforehand for herself which was to precede which. In plainer terms, she had thought herself into a corner by refusing to plan or at all.