The Name Maketh The Man

June 13th 2015

I inherited the name of my father. Though it was a name that even he could not lay claim to. He was born in a time when unwed women were forced to give away their babies. His birthfather lived a solitary life in the remote windswept ranges of the far South, and his mother whom I would come to meet much later moved to the big city.

Eventually I decided to leave those Southern Islands altogether.

On the quiet week before I was set to go my mother was doing her own packing.

I remember visiting and seeing my mother sitting out the back of the house with a large oil drum cut open, a fire burning inside. She was incinerating page-by-page old school books of which there were several boxes. These books meant nothing to me but they were everything to her. She was running through the memories of me as a child, searching each page for the last hint of innocence and nostalgia. She was looking for something that was not there, saudade, looking for a person that no longer existed.

I live and travel lightly: a backpack and a sharp mind. I pick up things as I go; I get rid of them when I leave. However there is one thing that has always been with me during my travels – My name.

The bodies we inhabit as children are temporary vessels that we shed slowly as we grow up. But the name stays. The name tied me to a particular story. My namesake represented many things that were not congruent with whom I had become. I am fascinated by the process of naming and renaming in Buddhist cultures such as Japan. Upon death a new name is chosen and eventually the worldly name disappears completely.

I decided that a purification of sorts was necessary.

I had dinner in Gakugei-daigaku with my lover at an old noodle place under the tracks. We then took the train to Shinjuku and on to Mitaka.

With my lover walking three steps behind we left Mitaka station and followed the Tama River tributary. The sky was hanging low; insulating this reality we were in from the outside. The energy and life of the station faded behind us. The street lamps had a special kind of care given to them.

The concreted path turned into a dark soil track covered overhead by trees. We continued for a long time along the path that was only wide enough for one person. I could hear music and dancing through the trees. An orange glow was visible in a small clearing. We slowly approached the dancing light. There was a small carnival of fantastic animal outfits on a stage of water.

We watched for a few minutes as the animal outfits performed before we continued along the track.

After a while we came to a small wooden bridge where I threw a five-yen coin into the stream.

Further along we came to an empty stand selling Buddhist trinkets for ten yen.

Finally we came upon a stone bridge. I waited for just a moment before I slipped out of my wooden sandals and over the fence in a single movement. The high bank led straight down under the bridge. The soil was loose however there were several log steps creating a staircase of sorts. The stream was only a few metres wide and moved very slowly. I dug my toes into the silt, feeling the cold-water lap against my legs. I held my yukata and waded further in.

I remained in the stream for only a moment. I found what I had been searching for. I climbed back up the bank and over the fence. She was looking for me, having not seen me jump the fence a few moments earlier. My feet and hands were both muddied. I said nothing as we left, following the road past a field and towards the main street. We crossed back over the stream one last time on the way back to the train station. I looked back into the depths of the water and the darkness of the forested track.

I know that I cannot completely wash the name away, but a part of me was freed that night.

© Cody Rapley 四月一日