T.E. Lawrence in Japan
Somehow, I’ve managed to conquer a part of my small cubicle. I have usurped the space under my desk. When I crawl under, I find my own fortress of solitude, constructed out of books. Stacked way in the back, they lie half hidden by the shadow of the desk. If any of my coworkers were to see me with my feet dangling out of the bottom of my desk, I could always say that I’m searching for the magic portal to former Prime Minister Koizumi’s head.
Among basic guides on financial analysis, here and there are the books that sustain me: a copy of Barbara Leaming’s biography of Orson Welles, here; the History of the Peloponnesian War, there; a few books by Haruki Murakami; and good ol’ Maniac Magee. And there, in the very back, is T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
I take it with me to lunch, in part to ward off the evil spirits and the office lady courting me as a suitor. In part I take it to help me remember.
I walk to a café located near the subway station, an old place with dimmed lights―someplace that seems so forgotten its existence is questionable. Smoke hangs like a fog as the old-timers sit around with their newspapers, cigarettes, and bitter coffee. The older men wear black suits and ties, but it’s impossible to tell what they do or even if they’re still employed. The older suits and I leave each other to ourselves.
I open the book and read some of my crude handwritten notes from college: ideas about essays, notes on bills I had to pay. All these things remind me of those haphazard, fast days that were finished before they ever began. Eventually, I focus on the words because I want to be sitting next to Lawrence. Not the real T.E. Lawrence, but the one that exists in my head.
My eyes go over the words, feeling his uneasiness, feeling the awkwardness of writing, the relief of expression/confession, and the frightening sensation when an expression catches the tail end of something hidden in truth’s basement.
“A man who gives himself to be a possession of aliens leads a Yahoo life.” In my buttoned-down suit, necktie choking my face red, my hair nicely trimmed, I can feel T.E. Lawrence’s cold, clammy sentiment on the back of my neck. Glancing over the pages, I’m reminded that I’m an Englishman in Arab garb. I am here, and cannot explain my own existence. My shoes, dress, tongue, and nationality clash beautifully with what is around me, and for a moment I’m sure I exist as unreal as mountain gods oppressing the lives of salarymen, the supernatural management of Japan waiting to weed out the malcontents.
Daniel Clausen’s fiction has been published in Slipstream Magazine, Zygote in my Coffee, Leading Edge Magazine, and Spindrift, among other places. You can learn more about his newest novel, The Ghosts of Nagasaki, at: ghostsofnagasaki.com