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Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax
{casablanca}
  dana masden


I was in a convenience store in rural Japan when I found one copy of Death Becomes Her, starring Goldie Hawn, and one copy of Casablanca, set-up pleasantly along the same wall as the kitty porn. You had to pick between the two movies because the other choice was Titanic. You might think Japan would have more variety, even in the rural, hot South, but you might also think the foreign is exotic by mere existence and would therefore be wrong in both instances.

I chose Death Becomes Her, but only because there is a new wrinkle on my face connecting my lower eye with the top corner of my mouth and I canít imagine the regular expression I must make in order to produce this line and most of the old women here have this line but they are all between four and five feet tall, like midgets below their towering grandchildren, who for some reason grew so much longer than them; they lean into their walkers with their backs as hard as right angles, spreading their fingers in the dirt to pick up onions. Even in the hottest months, they are covered in cotton fabrics with floral prints in muted tones. When they see me walk by, they are startled. One asks to touch my hair, the other scowls. One bends in the road to pee, ass up, like a big face, but she would be embarrassed if she knew I had seen. I used to go to the public baths and bathe naked with them, until I noticed them covering themselves in my presence, or taking side glances at my genitals, as if we were different species and my body was chemically engineered to look like the western version of a human. This has caused me to become withdrawn.

These days, who wants to grant an American private access to the scared? Our country makes movies about an aging blonde womanís face coming off due to attempts at post-mortem vanity and all the hilarity it ensues over a dinner party and then exports the film to unimaginable global convenience stores. Imagine a place where cutting pieces of your body in order to alter its features is common enough to produce films on the subject. Imagine a place where the man who performs these procedures is called a doctor, and not a scientist; is a rich man, and not a closeted invalid. If you met a woman from such a place, what would become of her? What would she become, away from it, stretching her legs in your same hot spring?

Where I am from, I have no skills. There is nobody guaranteeing my place. In fact, they tell us not to expect anything in particular, but if we must, to expect the worst. For many years they told us we were special flowers meant to reach the sky. I say such a thing to my father and he only blinks. ďWhat do you need?Ē he asks me. He did not think his little flower would still need rent money when he is approaching sixty.

I envy that the old Japanese women know exactly where they will die, even if they donít know when. After seven or eight decades, and from birth, she knew. Out in the field, in the bathtub, at her grandsonís school band concert, what difference does it make? It is all home in one fluid dream where the carpeted forest meets the ocean. Even the convenience store is home. I noticed her there with a missing front tooth; she buys the extra large glass of sho-chu but also pays her cell phone bill. We make the exact same purchase and even have the same cell phone. I wonder who the old woman calls on that phone and what I think Iím doing here. My presence causes her discomfort. Itís like she canít exist just because I am here as she could not die if I were the only person to observe it. I wonder if in three decades I will have already died.