The Face of Tony Takitani ( part one of three)


Daniel first saw Tony at the sports center, 2 blocks from his apartment in a derelict building beside a hospital, twice every week since he lost his dog to an open window. Tony, as he named the familiar stranger, had become his main distraction from the death of his little Lhasa Apso. He'd been reading a collection of short stories then, a Murakami, and the second he opened the page to the story "Tony Takitani", he heard somebody dive into the pool. Daniel had named the three main sounds he heard at the pool area since he adopted it as his reading place; the dive, the swim, and the loud inhale the swimmers made after resurfacing which he called "the breath". What he heard that day was an ordinary dive, nothing strange until he noticed it took unusually long for the diver to resurface, long enough for Daniel to read the title and the first line. Tony Takitani- Tony Takitani's real name was really that- Tony Takitani. He glanced over to the pool and still no sign of the diver. He scanned the surface and turned at the slightest movements of the water.Because of his name and his curly hair and his rather deeply sculpted features, he was often assumed to be a mixed blood child. He looked again, the water still and blue as toilet duck. "They didn't flip the sign again", Daniel thought. The sign was blank from his view which meant that it said "closed for maintenance" from outside the pool gate. And then out of nowhere, there he was. And he was exactly what Daniel wanted to see. His mundane-bound-to-be-forever-uneventful-life had chanced upon a rare apparition. A tall, lean man with dark hair, thoughtful eyes and a perfectly shaped mouth. "Tony Takitani" Daniel muttered. He would say the name over and over until the pool gate banged close and pages rustled to a quick stroke of wind. From that moment on, everytime he saw the man at the sports center, he'd mutter "Tony". And For two months he wouldn't miss him in the center. When he'd go for a swim or read his book on the pool bleachers, Tony would always come in as if on cue and do his laps. When Daniel jogged, he would find Tony jogging too. For two months, Daniel saw and watched Tony.

On some weeks, Tony would smile on Daniel if he caught him looking. Daniel would usually look away, embarrassed but always glad Tony did so. Sometimes, he'd argue with himself whether or not to come up to him and finally put an end to their silent friendship and make it official. He'd muster enough courage to stand, get ready and walk towards him but something would always happen that would make him lose his concentration; a sudden loud shout, his cellphone ringing, water bottle falling and all other random things that seemed almost to him were signs from the universe telling him not to do it. That "Tony" was not for him, that "Tony" wasn't meant to be part of his reality. For the two days of every week he went to the center, it stayed that way. On the last day of the second month since he saw him, it finally changed.

The sports center was old, about 20 years since it opened. It had an olympic sized pool, an oval track, a dance studio, a gym, a basketball court and 2 multi-purpose covered spaces. Daniel frequented only two places, the pool and the oval. His routine was a 10 round jog, the most laps he could do in the pool (he played around underwater too much to keep track of his laps) and reading on the pool bleachers or the grandstand. Of all the facilities in the center, the oval looked the oldest, the rubber track had cracks and bumps and "craters" that turned into three puddles of ascending sizes when it rained; small, medium, and large. The lines of the lanes have disappeared and the once red rubber was faded to a faint maroon that was almost pastel. On his last day at the center for August, it was raining and the oval track was a polished light maroon. Rainy days in the sports center are lucky days for Daniel. He especially liked jogging in the rain, he could sing as loud as he could and he didn't need to keep a descent face while jogging. For that day, he decided to sing a song from one of those who made it to his B-list. The B-list is comprised of what Daniel thinks to be interesting artists with some phenomenal songs but never a phenomenal album. With closed eyes, Daniel hit the highest note of a Bjork song and tripped.

His face rested bullseye on the medium-sized puddle. He raised his head and quickly looked around if his little accident had been witnessed. He laughed, turns out he was the only one jogging. It was, after all, raining. And jogging in the rain didn't seem to interest anyone else but him. For this reason, he didn't get up immediately and stared at the puddle. He'd never seen it like this, this up close. The water was clear and Daniel even thought it wasn't so bad than having hit his face directly on the rubber. He pushed his chest up and sat. The rain was a steady pour, strong enough to keep him wet and but still gentle to keep him from shaking. Daniel continued to stare at the puddle, it was shaped like a painter's palette and made him think of rainbows; if he could paint a picture with that band of smoky multi-colored lights. For a good 2 minutes, Daniel's mind swam in the puddle, dove underneath the deeper center and waded along the shallow edges. He whirled and made spirals in the water and danced with maroon dolphins and whales. He swam gracefully up and into the surface until he saw himself floating, face down and lifted up to heaven from his behind.

"Are you alright?" A voice interrupted. After about two seconds, Daniel replied, it was Tony. "Oh, hey Tony." "How'd you know my name?" the man asked. Daniel would not remember nor would he mind how his face looked the moment he heard this. He was caught by surprise and couldn't react normally. His entire mouth had been paralyzed; lips, tongue, and jaw. His mind beamed into Tony's as if he was teleported into his cranium. No word nor thought came out of him, instead, he stared deeper into Tony's eyes with a big question mark on his forehead. The universe was in that moment, Tony and Daniel existed only in that universe. "Are you alright" Tony asked again. And as if awoken only by thunder, Daniel returned from his mind into earth and appropriately replied, "yes, i was just thinking."Tony helped him up and started a conversation in the rain. "What is your name?" Tony asked. "It's Daniel..and I only go by that name, no variation of any sort", Daniel replied. After the name exchange, Tony would learn how Daniel knew his name and Daniel would sing in the rain aloud as usual but for the first time with an actual audience. They'd learn that both their pets died on the same day; Daniel's lhasa apso and Tony's himalayan cat. They would laugh and they would look away from each other with smiling eyes. Their hands and elbows would brush against each other and they would hold them together everytime it gave them a jolt. Daniel would think the oval had suddenly become smaller and Tony would tell him the exact same thing.Tony would decide by himself that they should stop jogging and brisk walk instead and Daniel would slow down. It kept raining for a good two hours and in those two hours, a pair of wet figures went round and round the same old oval track. From the sky, a couple hours after, a whiff of cloud would cut the oval in half, a vertical mirror of a smile.


-end of part one-