Some years back, I wrote this for someone I used to cherish. We both dreamt of moving to Japan one day, so we kept each other motivated, and this was how I went about it. Over time, people change, and perhaps my writing has, too. But, the same wistful desire remains.
She was nervous.
It wasn’t the kind that kept her heart beating on overdrive, but rather the subtle excitement tinged with a quiet anxiety that came with the apprehension of the unknown. She had been planning for as long as she could remember, and it was finally coming together.
October beckoned, as orange summer faded to gloomy grey autumn. Heavy raindrops pelted against the steel exterior of the maroon-red Hankyu train chugging along the Kyoto Main Line, en route to Arashiyama. Its powerful engines heaved and hummed, muscling through creaky tracks against the evening wind. Numerous buildings, whitewashed, tidy, and compact sprang up behind trim rows of trees, leaves laid scattered on the ground.
She stared out the window like many a daydreaming passenger would, as everything else froze around her. Everything but everything felt surreal, like a lightheaded dream in a deep, deep sleep. Perhaps, she thought, she might wake up back on her bed in Texan soil, running late for work; but for the gentle tug as the train neared its next destination, keeping her reality as lucid as could be.
She was excited, and she knew she wouldn’t be the only one.
She had seen them in high definition photographs, and she wanted more. There were so many sights to soak in, and so much culture to immerse herself in. She wanted to dance in the bamboo grove, twirling around immaculately lined bamboo stalks; silky hazel hair gliding with the autumn wind; beautiful, glowing features radiating through.
She yearned to catch whiffs of Buddhist incense wafting through the countless temples paying homage to many a Japanese hero; their simple, rustic interior against the backdrop of modern cities that never sleep; a balanced blend of concrete and nature.
She imagined herself soaking in the calming warm waters of the onsen by the ‘Storm Mountains’ on a cold autumn’s night, with a can of beer and a bowl of piping hot ramen — hands full, mind empty, without a worry in the world. She missed her family back home, but dreams are dreams, and dreams are worth chasing, until her legs give up and her lungs are empty.
It was night, when she had reached her stop. Stale subway air made way for the gentle breeze. She looked up. A multitude of stars twinkled, throwing teasing winks back at her. A life left behind, a new life up ahead. Hand luggage in one hand, enormous suitcase in the other; her yoke was heavy. It had been a tiring day, and she was exhausted.
Just a little more to go.
She looked at the address written on a crumpled piece of paper. He wasn’t expecting her until the next day. The apartment was nearby, situated along a quiet neighbourhood. She smelt the tantalising aroma of shrimp tempura coming from several cafes that littered stretches of road, along with an assortment of quaint stores and the odd pachinko parlour. Her stomach grumbled. She’d have to talk to him about supper.
The building itself was clean and inconspicuous; minimalistic and cosy. Gingerly, she made her way upstairs and rang the doorbell. She could see the lights from within, and shadows of a hurried series of footsteps. The door opened.
“Soooo.. I accidentally made extra pasta,” he said, stifling down fits of laughter to mask his shyness. Silence. Then smiles. Really wide smiles.
She was finally home.