Thursday, July 01, 2004


This morning on the ricky-rocky country train I got a close-up view of a new phenomenon I never would have seen in Japan only a few years ago: a young office lady putting on her makeup on the train to work.

The whole cosmetic ritual is edgy under the best of circumstances, but when it's on a train, let alone a country train that really gets bouncing and torqueing the way only those old-fashioned trains can, it's painful to behold. For many of the morning crowd, though, it became unbearable when the young woman arrived at the worst part: putting on her mascara. At that point the more squeamish turned away, unable to watch, like when that famous scene flashes in Un Chien Andalou and everybody gasps as they avert their eyes.

Squeezed in her seat, all the while chatting with her friend beside her, the young lady draws from its sheath the long narrow spiky brush crusted with dark goo, braces the tiny compact mirror against her cheek up close to the target eye and, swaying and bouncing in sync with the train, right there in midst of the off-balance morning crowd brings the jaggedly bristling thing closer and closer to her tender, wide-open eye, then at the right moment, her body rocking and jerking, she suddenly looks up as if in abject terror and blindly, purely by feel, strokes the brush along her short straight lashes in precise micromovements over and over just a hair's breadth from the naked helpless squirming eyeball until each lash is longer and darker and curled and separate and perfect. Then she moves in on the other eye; by then all eyes but mine have turned away, unable to bear the sight of this happening to one of their own...

Thanks to Dali and Bunuel, I was able to watch the whole thing. It too was a surreal work of art.


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