Steel doors open and she emerges to face a wall of blinking lights. The world comes into sharp focus as people move swiftly past her like a river nearly carrying her downstream, but she catches hold of herself by retreating close to the wall. She holds tight her rucksack emblazoned with the flag of her homeland and clutches to her chest the book that got her this far in her travels.
She stands there, taking it all in. Her eyes graze over the faceless people hurrying past to unknown important places, the lights dancing along the wall in various patterns that must mean something to someone, and the sounds of vacuumed air, buttons being pressed, and beeps raising alert to some justified notification. The place holds a sense of urgency she cannot seem to grasp. She has no appointment to make or person waiting for her at the end of the line. Her heartbeat maintains its ever steady pace, chugging along relaxed.
Upon further examination, she notices the lights on the wall highlight silhouettes frozen in the act – in the act of moving, exercising, writing, singing and even standing on one’s head. Squinting she takes a step back and sees that the lights and silhouettes are a part of a larger array of images. A face stares solemnly back at her with equal quiet. Morphing slowly, the lights blink on or snuff out to form a hand reaching out for help, then a smile of a child.
She becomes lost in the mesmerizing, changing images. Each image brings a new emotion to an otherwise seemingly random blinking light pattern.
But the people as they pass, they do not notice her or the lights. They clutch handheld devices to their faces, reading stories of the most recent celebrity scandal or conversing through the device to save time between meetings. Ever moving, never present. They miss out on the nuances and artistry in the world around them. Absorbed in the mundane existence of people they will never know or scheduling meetings just to discuss the last meeting. Never straying from their path, never seeing past the end of their noses.
A sadness rushes over her as it has before in countless other cities. Treasures revealed in plain sight, passed over for the convenience of a tiny screen in Taiwan, New York, Paris, Rio, Edinburgh, and now Tokyo. Part of her wants to grab these people and shake them out of their hyper-focused state to say, “Look around you! This world is beautiful. If you don’t snap out, you’ll miss it.”
Instead, she picks up her rucksack onto her back, makes a quick glance at her book and sets off on another adventure, keeping her eyes and ears open to the world.