September 4th, Okinawa

Dragon Air

Coming around to a submarine consciousness – head weighing on the pillow, arms crossed over each other, fingers on my chest – I hear a rasping, first long, then shorter, then longer again; so sonically close to the exhalations of a sleeping body that I turn half expecting to finding someone beside me. The bed is empty and as I become more alert, I realise that the source is the hotel room air-conditioning and hear too, in this otherwise sealed chamber, the sound of rain dropping on the roof above, making its way to my ears through the ventilation duct.

Last night’s storm pours its residue through concrete drainage channels down into the river up which flows the incoming tide. Heat evaporates a pungent bright vegetal sweat from the green leaves of trees and plants. Along the esplanade diving cylinders clink, wetsuits are shucked off and peeled on every shape of body, surf boards are carried over the sea wall, families, fishers and runners. We drive past our hotel from 2013. Clouds build and decompose with great rapidity throughout the day, layering into banks, forming looming heads, casting grey and then parting to let through bright sunshine, night falls fast.

The Eisa parade: kids banging their own drums, PA speakers whining feedback at the corner where the procession groups halt, keening whistles from the performers and the audience (pee-ew whit, pee-ew whit, pee-ew-ew WHIT, whit, whit, whit), hot sizzles of meat fat cloud the air, echoes of the force of the choreographed drum beats whoosh back from the brick and glass of the buildings, distorting in my headphones, sanshin pluck through amplified rhythms, steady, faster and slower. From my vantage – back from the crowd – I can’t see the dancing, drumming groups, only those who have finished, costumes, face-paint, exhaustion, smiles.

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