(published February 2011)
Caveat for o-reader-san: I am not crazy and I am not repressed. Maybe quite bored and maybe quite stressed. I’m not confused in either time or space. I know my tenses and I know my place. I know my audiences: me, me, me. But nothing is ever free from Xì.
Xì. Record that sound onto the VHS cassette of your mind. It is a primitive and essential sound, one likened to the gushing water or the whistling of gusts or the shushing of over-enthusiastic Japanophiles during Eiga Sai. It is a sound uttered by nature and imitated by the human tongue. It is the hiss of tsuchi-no-ko and the chirp of tsuku tsuku boushi. It is the sound of rainy weekend mornings, when you’ve spent the whole night till morning on the internet, for the past few weeks, researching on the different subgenres of heavy metal. It is the feeling of surprise and ensuing ease you get when a person you’ve known for nearly seven years comes to visit far from the usual time. I can tell it’s her as I hear the raspy belching of a trike pull up by our front gate.
The digital clock on my PC says it’s eight in the morning. It’s pouring outside, for chrissakes; what does she want from me at this hour? Barely seconds later, Shara enters my room without knocking, as per the usual. “I have a problem!” she squeals in her usual falsetto.
“I know, right? Those Japs are right on top of us!” I ramble in nothing but my tank top and panties, not even glancing at her once. I put my foot up on the desktop and pretend to browse through Napster. “While their heavy metal industry’s booming like crazy, their bands are busy wasting money on custom-made perfumes and jewelry. I mean, it’s stupid how they tour in far away Euroland when their poor ol’ backwards neighbors are left completely forgotten. Or ignored, depending on the country’s economic status. Fuck agriculture. Farmers don’t even know about Slayer. It’s a sad, sad world.”
An awkward silence. I hear the bed creak behind me and the sound of rain seeping in through the windows. “That’s exactly it, I think,” goes her reply. “We’re poor and I doubt the masses would like music from a band whose name we can barely even pronounce.” Her voice is light and squeaky, like Hello Kitty’s, yet tainted with a slight hesitation.
“The masses,” I say, eyes rolling. “They’d do good to listen to a little heavy metal once in a while, and I don’t mean the trashy popular crap Metallica and Megadeth dish out. Concerning heavy metal, what do we have in this godforsaken country?” I turn to face her then suddenly wish I didn’t, flinching at the fashion disaster that happens to be sitting on my bed.
Don’t tell me she was wearing that all this time: a black vest, and under that, a frilly white blouse, a reddish plaid skirt, black stockings, and tiny school shoes only Chinese foot-binding could get me into. Shara scrunches up her face in thought.
“Wait, never mind answering. I can see your problem and I don’t think it has anything to do with your quaint Marxist perception of society.”
“Yeah,” she says, smoothing out her skirt, her pussy cat voice now stickier. “Can I ask a favor?”
“Go shoot.” I get up and sit by her on my bed.
Her countenance grows tense. She then pleads, “Can you kiss me on the lips?”
Your best friend walks into your room so early in the morning, with a face that looks as if bearing a horrible constipation, dressed all pretty, and asking you to kiss her. What’s the best logical outcome? “I’m sorry, Shara. I really love you but not in that way. Can we still be friends?”
“No! No. Eww, no,” Well, at least she’s honest. She shakes her head then says, uttering each word, fearing I would burst, “I just have a date later.” M-hmm. “With a guy.” No shit. “And I’m scared. I mean, what if he kisses me? I don’t even know how to kiss properly.”
My god, she’s so adorable, it’s infuriating. This is a surprise, indeed. We’ve both been single for as long as we wished we weren’t. And now, she’s telling me she’s got it on with some dude. “Nah, if I kiss you, he might get jealous or something,” I joke around.
“I know, but I can trust you enough not to butt in, right?” Cue thunder and rainstorm.
Xì. Did you feel it slice the air as it slithered past your canal and banged on your drums? Did you feel the sizzle of tonkatsu emanating from the bowels of a deep fryer—or the shrill whirring of highly-coveted Plasma Dash motors as Tamiya mini-4WD cars raced around the wildest track you’d ever seen? And were you, for all that is good and mighty, able to recall the exact moment when your favorite metal band had just hit the last note of the last song of their very last live performance? Xì. The diminishing roll of crash cymbals ended an otherwise godly ballad and lingered on the stage monitors for so brief a second, you failed to hold on to the melody that had once led you to tears, and within the din of frenzied applause that followed, you found yourself falling into a pit with no hope of reconciling the memory with the emotion.
I have just crushed your fragile humanity, may Izanagi have mercy on your soul, and I am not kidding. Admit that at least once in your life, you tried chasing after something. Cars, trains—even airplanes, if you were that hardcore—dreams, hit singles from Britney Spears’ first album played the first time on air, and whatnot. You attempted to hasten your pace as these things sped up, and then they came to a point where you were both about the same speed. And when they breached the limit of your maximum velocity, when they began to step a millimeter, a second, a decibel out of your reach, when the power of the moment slipped right through your fingers, like your entire life savings, splurged on that new perfect grade RX-78-2 Gundam model, you realized these things were “lost for eternity.”
And 8:59, as my wall clock struck 9:00, was also lost for eternity.
Eternity. That was how long it took for Shara to explain how she met Miggo—at some anime convention, apparently, and after an eternity of idle chat over a common interest of J-rock, Shara found herself with a new number in her contacts list, an appointment the following week, and a clean-shaved pubic mound, “Just in case.” The repressed slut.
I stared blankly at the photographs of what were supposed to be remnants of a live concert, scattered across the bed. They formed a mottled swirl of color, like spilled acrylic. Exactly what coerced me to reach for the stack of photos, I could not have fathomed. Perhaps it was the mention of J-rock in Shara’s retelling. Perhaps it was the mention of Miggo, whose very existence I was afraid could have very possibly heralded the advent of a great loss for Shara—or myself.
“I couldn’t even arrange them in order; they’re distant and blurred, and they don’t mean a thing anymore.” I shuffled through them one by one, attempting to recall that glorious moment, and came across a dark picture with a small white crescent-shaped figure near the center. “Is that Yoshiki bending over the piano? Looks more like a kappa bending over a rock.”
No response. “I still don’t get why I have to go with you on your date; I’d only get pissed.”
“But you have a camera,” she pleaded in her pussy voice.
“You know I gave that up years ago,” I said, glancing at the two DSLRs on my shelf; the larger, dustier one, beginning to look like Miku Hinasaki’s Camera Obscura. I pointed at the shinier one and suggested, “Why don’t you bring X Japan? It has an LCD screen.”
“But—I don’t know how to use it. Please?” She approached me from behind and tugged lightly on my arm. I pretend to examine a photograph in front of me. I said I gave up, didn’t I? Sheesh.
“It’s idiot-proof,” I replied. “Just point and click. Heck, take home the thing and make a sex photobook with your new guy or something. No way I’m getting out of this room.”
She then let go and I felt her retreat to the other end of the bed. I turned to look back at her—and saw Shara leaning on the headboard, still in her goofy outfit, her face in her hands.
Shit. Shit shit shit.
I quickly got up and turned the TV on out of habit. Static from a nonexistent channel greeted me. Xì. I loaded my Last Live DVD into the player and it slipped in with ease. Xì. Amethyst’s violin intro began. In the background, the crowd’s cheering and clapping blended with the hiss of rain outside. Xì.
I skipped Rusty Nail and head right on to Week End. Toshi’s introductory vocal made out with the thunder.
“That’s our favorite song,” Shara said, wiping her face. Damn right it is, you cheesy woman.
Xì. I understand now. I know what I should do: I walk over to the large cabinet on the bedside, take up X Japan, remove its lens cover, and aim at the person, who, through the lens and within the confines of the viewfinder, is beginning to slip away from my world. “Say Xì!”
Xì. That is the sound X makes seven years ago, as it adjusts its depth of field.
The shit-expensive, gargantuan Canon EOS IX E is my very first camera. I peer through its lens for the first time and see the words “Visual Kei” largely printed on a Japanese music magazine; they’re both presents. The fact that I own my very own SLR thrills me to the extent that I read the entire magazine through its viewfinder.
The crosshairs blaze through the articles, resting on certain passages: “a genre and a fashion sense,” “performance-driven,” “derivative of Western glam rock and hair metal,” and “Twisted Sister meets Iron Maiden and turns Japanese, I really think so.”
It’s perfect. With that sort of constrained frame of sight, the world outside feels classifiable—even bearable at the least. The viewfinder grows tired of the magazine and wanders around, examining holes in the bedding, the dusty Oishi wrapper by the CPU, the split-ends of the moth-bitten Japanese doll. Through the lens, I own power. I feel like Son Goku on Super Saiyan level four but with a frickin’ camera. Suck my single-reflex dragon balls, Omega Shenron. You have nothin’ on X.
X. Why X? I choose the name for the sole reason that it breathes immense power. And of course, I name my two cameras after my favorite musical group. X Japan is the name of the band on the cover of the magazine—It is the name that is able to completely obliterate whatever present Meiji Era perception of music I possess and build an epic cross of heavy metal in its stead.
Our whole family is on vacation at Japan to experience their momentous Last Live—one of the biggest and most memorable concerts being held in Japan before the band’s subsequent tragic break up. Standing at the far back, we are one among the hundreds of people present; we can’t see the band members very well. “This. Is. It,” I remember telling myself the moment Rusty Nail’s metallic keyboard intro bursts from the speakers. “This is Visual Kei.” It’s never about image—heck, Hide’s usual flaming pink hair never decides how well he plays—nor is it about playing; the art is in the performance.” Would you enjoy watching a shoe gaze band gaze at their motherfucking shoes? Would you enjoy watching the anime adaptation of a visual novel, for that matter, if Studio Deen decided to direct it? You have got to be kidding me.
The setlist is a grueling undertaking of 19 songs but they pull it off. They run across the X-shaped stage, the three guitarists reaching out to every side of the audience, and Toshi, engaging in pre-song pep talks to rally up their rapport. Yoshiki is the best of them all though, and he remains stationary throughout most of the concert. He bangs the piano and the drums; how could you not be turned on by the sweat and tears running down his front as he flips his tousled hair? The man is practically Tuxedo Mask but without the tuxedo and the mask and what remains is 100% hittable hunk and I seriously wished I could’ve licked his body and borne his children.
The swift double bass beats of Orgasm drum on my chest and hips. I raise X, shaking, and press the shutter release per every elapsing minute of every song, occasionally bringing my arm down to rest. And before I realize it, it is already the last song.
Am I wrong to be hurt
Am I wrong to feel pain
Am I wrong to be in the rain
Am I wrong to wish the night won’t end
Am I wrong to cry
But I know, It’s not wrong to sing The Last Song
Cause forever fades
There is no witty or ostentatious way of saying how mindblowingly awesome the best fucking song in the world is. Seeing Yoshiki from this far, huddling over the keyboard as though bearing the weight of the song on his shoulders, is just as painful as the ordeal of the artist who never knew the story he was in, who never knew the story ends.
I take just one more shot aimed at Yoshiki pounding on the piano before lowering X.
That final ballad is called The Last Song. It is about turning the page and going on to the next chapter. Listen carefully to the paper flap as it drags past the wind.
Xì. Can you, for all that is good and mighty, perceive it now? Can you really?
This moment is decisive; it is the moment Yagami Light chooses to become a god of his new world. Turn back if you are afraid; else follow him to your end. Recognize your own individuality and impose Xì upon the whole of existence, or relive Xì forever. The choice is yours. Can you hear that rumble coming from the sky? It’s the storm god Sunanoo rolling at your indecision. It’s your fucking theme song and I am the lady Abe no Seimei to guide you on your spiritual path to revelation, like my father once did for me.
“Do you understand that by taking photgraphs, you steal from nature?” said once my father. A middle-aged otaku who worked for a Japanese-owned software company, he often took all-expense-paid trips to Japan to do Koizumi-Junichiro-knows-what. I never really cared, just as long as he brought home some goodies. Like natto—God, I love natto. Just last year, he bought me an EOS 20D, my second camera, now formally known as X Japan.
The bulky DSLR bumps softly near my crotch area as I walk restlessly between the two new lovebirds; Shara had her driver bring us to Megamall so we could attend some sort of ongoing anime convention. And wherever there are coventions, cosplayers abound like roaches under tatami mats. Jesus Christ, look at all the dorks wearing costumes. Why waste your money when you have all the comforts of web-surfing at your disposal? Don’t you people have any dignity?
Now my father—he was a man of dignity and wisdom. “You do not understand Visual Kei just yet,” he once started, after I’d finished reading the Japanese magazine. “Do you think, that by taking into mind its origins and histories, dogmas and definitions, tenets and principles, you are granted full recognition of its essence?”
I dared not even nod. He took X, which was lying by the magazine and asked me to peer through its viewfinder. I caught a glimpse of father’s lips; I didn’t even dare to aim at his face.
“In a world as chaotic as the scene you see right now,” he said, highlighting the crosshairs, empty spaces, and lines, “there is no life. There is no order. There is no meaning.”
He then took a pen from his breast pocket, and began to scribble on his hand a Chinese character that seemed to look more like a bunch of random lines. He showed his palm and asked, “What do you see here?”
“A bunch of random lines?”
“Go ahead, take a picture of it.”
I pressed X’s shutter release for the first time, letting off a slice and a click. And for a split second, I felt a tingle run up my spinal cord.
“Do you,” he seemed to relish every word, “hear that? That is the sound of breaking apart order.”
“Remember, only in the utter chaos of the world can other chaotic things take meaning. Hence, these new chaotic things penned by beings who seek to completely destroy chaos itself—become the new order.”
I zoomed in at the character on his palm to get a better look.
“A line, a rule, a fashion, a class, a way. It may seem like a disarray of lines, but in the blank space of reality, this disorder creates order. This is Kei. This—is Xì.” As I was busy scrutinizing every contour of the character, I could only remember, from peripheral vision, the image of his mouth, edges bristled with gray stubbles, stretching to almost unearthly dimensions in an effort reveal the true meaning of the word. My father’s words.
I remember them exactly as I squeeze in between the two lovebirds.
“When things are stolen,” I break their idle banter, “they don’t mean squat to the new owner. Likewise, when a photograph is taken, the image produced becomes merely the graphos of photo, drawings of light. It loses all its sentimentality; the act of recognition is what strips everything of its natural aura. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to apprehend the world in a state that means absolutely nothing? In a state whereby imposing chaos upon chaos brings about enlightenment?
“Ah, yeah, I guess,” Shara responds, bowing her head.
I turn to the anorexic Miggo and ask, “Don’t you think so too?” He nods with intent Keroppi eyes and a taiyaki in his mouth. That’s right, just keep on chewing, you noncommittal douchebag. Suck it up right to your lungs. What a fucktard name, Miggo. Sounds like a cereal brand for spics. Eat your Miggoes with milk; it comes in paella flavor too. Bah.
As I slow down a bit, the two instantly form their own world together, now that I’m out of the picture. It’s a disgusting, giggling, swooning world. I raise X Japan hanging from my neck and snap a photo from behind them—only Miggo appears on the LCD preview screen.
It’s twelve noon as I stride behind the couple. It’s twelve midnight as I writhe half naked on my bed. X Japan’s Week End is spilling from the cracks of the speakers, a dam about to blow.
My room is dark and the storm outside has begun to cease. Developed pictures are floating about me like luminescent windows into the past; I am swimming in memory. As the photos begin to replay themselves, one of them calls out to me. I remember this one: this is the first picture I take of Miggo. This is where I aim the camera at him and begin to erase him from existence.
Chk chk chk—that may be the sound Pata’s palm-muted Les Paul makes when it croons a steady rhythm. Chk chk chk—that may be the sound X Japan’s shutter makes when it exposes the image sensor for 1/45 seconds. Chk chk chk—that may be the sound a woman’s vagina makes when the middle and ring fingers get in there.
Oh my Dahlia! The fifth song is a flower. I take X Japan and fondle its shutter release—chk chk chk. A close-up shot of Miggo blooms instantaneously and I can feel the dew on its petals. His sap gushes forth from a bamboo water fountain.
With X Japan, I attempt to steal Miggo’s essence and render him nonexistent. Per shot, he means less and less to the world. It’s Yoshiki’s drum solo—chk chk chk. Miggo cranes his neck to the side, revealing a candid profile—chk. A torso shot from behind; he twists his body and raises an arm to make an insignificant gesture, like Adam of the Creation or Lelouch of the Rebellion—chk. I zoom in—his ass sways like a wind chime—chk chk. It’s just like hitting the backspace button. He turns about to check on me and blushes madly after having seen my camera. I flush red as well, but I keep on clicking. “Shara, picture,” I call to the forgotten friend beside him. She spins and they both get into an awkward pose, Miggo doing a rendition of the Hitokiri Battousai. I zoom in even closer to his katana—chk chk chk.
Longing ends. Chk chk chk. Yoshiki’s fast-paced drumming erupts from the television speakers. Chk chk. Here it is—Orgasm! Toshi’s wail ejaculates from the television’s speakers, splashing onto the sick riffs of Hide’s guitar. The insane combination shakes the foundation of my bed, tickling me from head to toe in a sea of photographic paper. Orgasm ends, giving way to the ecstatic drum rhythm made by my double-bass heart and snared breath.
The photographs form a mottled swirl of spilled acrylic. Miggo’s head, light as paper, lies on my breast, rising and falling after every breath, for what seems like the rest of the concert. My heartbeat slows down to the tempo of Endless Rain. The storm outside has long gone. And suddenly, the song skips all the way back to Week End, as if pre-empting lovers’ aubade. I’ve got nothing to lose, except your heart … Weekend, weekend, weekend. I’m at my wit’s end. The song replays half a day ago over again; a single picture lies on the spot of the bed where I had snapped a photo of Shara in her Gothic Lolita outfit. I pick it up and pause at her bright countenance, her creativity and innovation, at her complacence. Her smile in the picture—that was the ear-to-ear smile she’d never given me. It was like—for once in her life—she was proud to have me as her only friend.
I take a look at all the photographs around me—of Shara, of Miggo, and of random passers-by—and realize that I’m not in any one of them.
Xì. Did you hear it then? It was the sound of having betrayed your best friend. It was the sound of having tainted your dearest memory. It was the sound of having erased yourself from existence. It was the sound of having finally achieved Xì.