the erosion beneath
The noise from the dark rattles the innards of your ears. You cast around, relief and fresh air washing over you as the quick inspection reveals the few windows ajar. The soothing gatan-goton of the train delivering you from stop to stop is somehow still enough to lull tired eyes closed and tilt heads towards their neighbors. The sudden sharp cough of someone a couple of breaths away roars onto the scene like malicious headlights on a silent road packed full of deer. But no one remarks. No one looks. We are in Japan.
Inner turmoil ebbs and flows along with statistics and oddly contradictory campaigns for safety and travel incentives. Plodding through winter, the situation actually appears deceivingly normal — masks having always been commonplace in the colder months. Here, this handshake and hug-less society records a resounding win. Vinyl barriers and the late-evening closure of restaurants and bars aside, there is little surface damage to identify the quiet conflict at hand. This land of self-restraint and conformity finds itself further boxed-in, but endures its few hundred new cases each day and this new but not altogether different normal with a practiced indifference.