Story and image by Roy Parkhurst
In the ontology of memory, are the souvenirs of our past given a different cast if they are events or dreams? I remember feeling the strong sensation of abandonment upon stepping from a train onto a platform in a totally unfamiliar space.
I am a young man, but I feel much younger. In this memory, I am traveling in Japan with my mother. I speak no Japanese. I follow around and attend to my mother at all times. I get the desire to go to Tokyo to shop in the Shinjuku, but my mother really does not want to go. She tells me to go by myself. I am staying in a town outside of Tokyo in my Grandmother's home. This town is crowded with business and houses, clearly a bit of the outskirts of Tokyo. It's a long walk from my Grandmother's house to the train station, but it all passes through tight streets of bustling activity, landmarks I have begun to memorize. I have walked this path many times with my mother over the past few days and think that I can find my way without too much trouble, even at night. I prepare a careful itinerary of the train trip.
I go to Tokyo and do my business. Everything goes well. I am very careful to look at every station name as I pass, noting on a checklist all the different locations, their order, and when to change trains. In deep concentration, I find that it's very easy to get around. I find what I'm looking for. I come home late in the day. Perhaps I am overly confident from the good fortune of the earlier part of the day. Perhaps I make some errors in timing, missing the train I'm expecting, but I figure out when the next train on this line is going my way and feel that it simply puts me behind a bit. Perhaps the new train doesn't stop at as many stations; perhaps it is some sort of express. On the way home I lose track of the stations somehow. Perhaps the express throws me, perhaps I doze off. I don't know. I count the stations.
Finally I reach a station that I think is close to the correct number of stops as I try and reconstruct it in my mind. But when I look out it is totally unrecognizable. I am horrified and step out onto the station platform with the intention of going back the way I came since I have obviously gotten terribly confused. I see that I am in this wide open space, the platform raised up above wide-stretching fields. There are no people and there is nothing for miles around this platform. The train pulls away and I think that I must have gone too far and must catch another train back the other way, yet I have no sense of how I can find out. This station platform in the middle of a plain seems strangely surreal to me.
Eventually I find my way back toward Tokyo on a train going the other way and easily find the town I am seeking. Everything goes perfectly well after this and my moment of panic on the platform is totally dissipated. I elect to tell no one because I am both embarrassed and do not want to upset my mother who worries a great deal about everything.
This memory which could be a dream, but which seems to me as real as any moment of panic I have ever experienced, is deep in the recesses of my mind. But the feeling of abandonment I now feel is different. I now long to find that lost station again, to stand out on that platform and immerse myself in the solitude of a familiar place.