madness in the metropolis 

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Hmmm. I had something which felt like it belonged in a Haruki Murakami novel happen to me last night... I tried shrugging the weird feeling off, but it's lingering despite my best efforts. It's nothing major, just utterly perplexing.

I took the bike out for a ride last night, just up the road to my local ramen joint. I decided to take the long way back... a heck of a long way, actually - detoured down through the skyscraper district of West Shinjuku and then further south into Yoyogi. I was just exploring, really, threading through traffic and veering off down side streets, building up my mental map of the area at a far faster rate than walking allows. Nothing out of the ordinary, just cycling along, minding my own business, not cutting anyone up, sticking mainly to the streets, only pavementing when absolutely necessary, front and rear lights switched on, not going too fast.

On one stretch of pavement, I squeezed between two pedestrians, an office lady on the left and a salariman in a dark suit (surprise) on the right. It didn't take much squeezing, actually - they weren't in a pair or anything, one was moving faster than the other and there was enough space to get through without my giving it much thought. Sure, it might be a little unnerving to have a cyclist suddenly appear past your left elbow, but that's about it - I wasn't even going at much more than a brisk walking pace myself. I passed them and thought nothing of it - until about twenty seconds later.

I heard something behind me, so glanced back over my shoulder... to see a guy in a dark suit, running along about ten meters behind me. Probably running for a train - we were both heading toward Yoyogi Station, after all. I looked forward again, but something was already nagging at me. There was something odd about the way he had been running... so I glanced back again and, sure enough, he wasn't just running for a train, he was running for his *life* - absolutely full steam, legs pounding, arms pumping, literally sprinting... but that wasn't even the strangest thing. I sped up slightly and checked again... yes, there was no doubt; it was a fairly wide sidewalk, but he wasn't aiming to get past me... he was aiming... straight *for* me. For *me*.

Oh, shit.

I arrived at a number of conclusions fairly quickly:

  1. He hadn't tried to attract my attention
  2. He wasn't trying to return something I'd dropped
  3. He wasn't trying to overtake me
  4. He was trying to catch me
  5. It was unlikely that he'd want to make friends with me once he'd caught me - no-one wants to befriend random strangers on mountain bikes *that* badly, surely
  6. He was either pissed (British English) and racing me in a moment of drunken madness, or he was pissed (American English) and he wanted to catch me and beat the shit out of me
Had I clipped him without realising it or offended him somehow? Was it even the same guy I had just passed? Either way, I wasn't about to hang around to find out. I changed gear and sped up again, drawing away from him quite easily. I glanced back - still there, still powering after me. What the hell?

I was comfortably ahead of him, and he wasn't gaining any more. The possibility of just stringing him along for a while occurred to me, as did getting far enough ahead to stop and get a good look back, as did shouting back "ore no koto desu ka?" ("is it something to do with me?"), any of which would have made for a better story than what I actually did, which was pop onto the road, accelerate again and get the hell out of there. I bombed past the station entrance, shot left through the Yamanote Line tunnel, glancing back again as I did so - no sign of him - screeched left out of the tunnel and only calmed down when I was safely heading back north past the DoCoMo tower.

Any other alternative would have made for a better punchline, sure, and I was insanely curious to know exactly what the hell was going on - I'm positive I didn't clip him or cut him up - but, to paraphrase The Matrix slightly, if Chris has the shit kicked out of him in Tokyo Tales, he gets hurt in real life too.

So, that's my Surreal Murakami Moment quota hopefully taken care of for the rest of the year. Though I wouldn't bet against getting home tonight to find amandressedinasheepcostumewhospeaksjustlikethis sitting on my sofa, just in case. What the hell did he want?

Posted by chris at October 3, 2001 06:11 PM | Permalink

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