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The Old Brave Man in Tokyo

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We walked to the train station in the cold and we crossed a bridge over a low river - clear water and light moss at its edges, and I saw a man walking his dog along the bank below. We could breathe, and we found a vendor selling sweet potatoes cooked on a grill of hot stones. I unwrapped the tinfoil, and they were rich and sweet in the cold - the cold that gnaws through jackets and sweaters. We looked like the only tourists, my brother and I, and there was a loneliness that came with us. I saw the rosy-cheeked children in large coats waiting with their mothers by the tracks. The little ones crane their necks upwards to ask questions, and their little conversations were full of words I don’t know, but they sound tender.


An old man came by and asked us in perfect excited English if we were Americans. His wide smile offered us pamphlets of poetry for 1000 yen. We told him we had to go before he could finish speaking, and I felt guilty knowing that it might have been all he had to give. The old man might have poured everything into it, like we pour our own days into our own work, but I had the chance to sleep when I didn’t have to - whenever we bored of pouring.


We slept on the warm and quiet train, and I had already seen our passengers, so many of them tired mothers feeding children, so many of them tired fathers feeding themselves. The men in suits, Adam says, are the most determined and stubborn people he knows. You see? Men in suits stare straight ahead, but the old one in khakis sees you. They would rather die on these tracks then fail, and he thinks the old man is brave. The old man in Kyoto was brave because he smiled. Kyoto was bitter and empty save the sweet potatoes, but the old man sold what he could. He sounded peaceful, like he cared more than the suits. It was easy to be bitter in the cold, but he was happy. Maybe it was because it was his work? His words?






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