Somewhere in the brokenness of September, when the atmosphere begins to take an amber hue of twilight in the afternoon, I begin to feel the despair of winter.
This is an annual ritual of regret, because soon my bed will be cold and empty, and my only company will be the remorse of decisions my younger self sentenced me to a long time ago.
Understanding this diminishes the beauty of the leaves this time of year.
I imagine each leaf, having depleted its useful chlorophyll, taking a deep breath like the kamikazes probably did as they forfeited their lives to gravity, impaling their screams upon aircraft carriers and destroyers, sinking them deep into the great sarcophagus of the Pacific.
Listen closely and you will still hear their fury trapezing on the wind, amidst the scent of pumpkin-spiced marketing, premature nativity displays, and burning pyres on the breeze.
It’s a season that inspires comfort in a humble bowl of ramen.
Last year I visited an izakaya I had not tried before. The restaurant came from the recommendation of a Japanese friend who said that the place wasn’t bad but didn’t really compare to the bowls back in Kobe. My regular noodle joint has it’s own ritual, but getting there was less convenient and there was part of me that didn’t want to see familiar faces, even if they were the faces of people I would probably never know.
Predictably, tables were available because it was the middle of the week and early into dinner service.
When accustomed to the practice of dining alone you tend to pick up on these things.
When communing with kamikaze, it’s gracious and good manners to take a seat at the bar, or in this case – the counter reserved for express service, couples, and other denizens of middle-aged hikkomori.
Fortunately the restaurant’s host recognized my cloud of brimstone and seated me at the bar facing the kitchen, safely away from anyone who might resemble a functioning member of society.
Before me, encased in a fish tank of glass, was a crèche of anime kitsch that served as a lousy substitute for genuine atmosphere. It was a table of toys arranged to hold the company of other misfit toys, lest the restaurant mistaken for a fucking Chipotle by some bewildered and confused suburbanite.
I shrugged and gave the owners the benefit of the doubt. This wasn’t fucking Osaka.
So I ordered my beer, some gyoza, and takoyaki and left for the bathroom.
In the hallway I encountered a woman gently shepherding her bouncing four year old daughter back to their table. For a moment we made eye contact but I directed my attention to my shoelaces, because it only took a second for enchantment to snare me with a familiar paralysis, and I’ve developed a certain self-loathing thanks to my own propensity for the male gaze.
Beneath the leather of my heel, I made a mental note of where my soul would be sinking if I needed to find it again, somewhere under the polished concrete.
As I feigned the pantomime of strangerly ambivalence, my mind calculated all the alternate universes that quantum theorists spend their days arguing about.
There’s this great hypothesis called the Everett Interpretation that says each moment in time branches into an infinite number of universes.
According to Everett, an infinite number of selves would branch into an infinite number of outcomes, and so on and so on all the way down the fractal rabbit hole.
Eventually Everett committed suicide. His son went on to found the band The Eels.
I imagine that somewhere on this great intergalactic heap of cosmic chaos, Ganesha reigns on his throne of knobs and doors. Sometimes I like to think that he holds holds a different quantum state of my timeline in a multitude of outstretched palms, where he keeps the happiest universe secret, somewhere under his trunk which he will reveal to you if you tickle his belly and ask politely.
Often I wonder if my branches will ever resolve to happiness, or if I should just be satisfied to live out my wavefunction as a complier of daydreams, an artifact of multiverses unrealized.
For some of us, age gives us a different kind of lust, something alien to our teenage years, an emotion fermented by jealousy, regret, and loneliness.
As my footsteps stumbled with an awkward certainty out of the bathroom, in my mind, this stranger had embraced me intimately as I came home from work, our daughter had just explained a drawing of robots and Jovian moon colonies made for me in kindergarden a few hours earlier.
For a moment, this is exactly what we would be doing on a Wednesday evening.
Looking at the balls of battered octopus before me, I accepted that this wasn’t my probability. With a sigh of acceptance, I returned the shoplifted universe to her husband who looked like some staff attorney or accountant at some large corporation.
I didn’t understand it. He probably took his tickling acumen for granted.
I didn’t permit myself to eavesdrop, but their nuclear family looked happy. I was glad that they were seated behind me, where they wouldn’t be bothered by the voyeurism of a drowning man who sinks his own battleships.
So I kept company with the plastic manga robots and exaggerated plastic models.
I ate my ramen in silence. From my peripheral vision, I watched the leaves blush.