[Translated from Japanese by James Au]
Even thinking aback now, Fumihiko feels a bit bizarre, but his sixth sense told him that they could be friends. He has indeed never had friends both free from conflicts of interests at his workplace and unbound by moss-like commonalities which the two shared in the past.
He thus tried to invite her for a lunch. Rie brought her own lunch box. Particularly amazed, Fumihiko saw her dashing out suddenly from the innermost room of the pharmacy with her lunchbox wrapped by a white striped handkerchief, and placing them with a clink-and-clunk onto a counter table which glass bottles stuffed with either cod tablets or cough drops were scattered around. A chopsticks’ case had been pierced through the knot of the handkerchief.
Rie told him that her lunch time was not long enough for her to eat outside, and that she had to work until half past six at night, so “we can have lunch together if it’s after half past six”, she added.
Fumihiko made a wry smile. From then on their relationship began.
‘Lunch’ time had been both pleasant and splendid to them. Fumihiko took Rie to a Chinese restaurant which offers a spectacular night view. Rie talked a lot and laughed a lot. Fumihiko was no second to Rie too, for he also talked and laughed a great deal. The two were so loquacious in the way as if they learned to talk for the sake of this day, and had lived over the past years to hoard as many as words and expressions as possible in order to communicate with one another.
Aside from food, they drank beer, white wine and Chinese rice wine. Both Fumihiko and Rie were gluttons – they had eaten a wholesome lot.
“It’s so incredible.”
Fumihiko can still remember the smile of Rie, as well as what she said at the taxi stand when they parted. It was winter when the air exhaled turned immediately white and decorative illuminations were scintillating everywhere.
“To dine with a stranger, and to have been so delighted and laughed so much like I did today is really incredible.”
Rie chose her words in a tantalizing manner with her flushing cheeks, glittering eyes and in an exhilarating tone.
However hard it was for Fumihiko to bid farewell to her, and however strongly he had coveted immediately for her undressed, everything seemed to be too perfect that he wanted nothing more. He picked up a taxi for her, while bearing both some childlike sorrow and writhing in agony.
Standing right at the washroom, he has suddenly been awakened to the fact that his present self would no longer be the self of the past. The raison d’être has already been lost.
In the next morning after his ‘lunch’ with Rie, when Fumihiko woke up, he thought of meeting her again. Yet soon he noticed that he had not asked about her phone number. He had enjoyed so much the time with her, simply and purely.
At last when he made up his mind to call her at the pharmacy, since he was about to leave the office around the noon, Rie had made the first move.
“It may sound a bit bizarre, but I have already missed you so much.”
Everything began in the winter five years ago. Fifteen years younger than Fumihiko, Rie was just thirty-one back then.
Fumiko turns the tap full on so that hot water fills quickly the bathtub up. Beneath the soles of his naked feet, the tiles were solid and cold. Fumihiko is always late from his work, so, like most other families, steamed bathwater has never been prepared for him. Instead of filling up the water himself as he did today, he always finishes up taking a shower, to which he has been accustomed for more than a decade. But that is the choice Fumihiko made by himself. At least it is better than bathing in a tub of lukewarm water, and whether to a man or to the bathtub itself, when one knows that he is to be awaited, the burden is inevitably felt.
Perhaps Fumihiko could have never expected Rie’s adamant intention to end their relationship. He has never thought about it, nor can he put up with it.
The sky, the beaming sun, woods, or the crowd – everything surrounding Fumihiko – have drawn him closer because of Rie, and because of her, they looked more colourful, lustrous, and lively. The world has indeed given His blessing the couple. He felt he was reborn to be one young beast responsive to everyday life. It was great, he even thought, to stay alive.
Never could he imagine to have led such a different life together with her.
Fumihiko works at a television station. As a producer, he was somehow famous in the industry, and he have had a few occasions to start a love affair with who also works at the same place. To Fumihiko, part of his duties is to get along with girls. Others include research, surveying and whatever possible.
Even his wife understood well– throughout the two decades of their marriage, Fumihiko might have thought at least once or twice about philandering. They have never talked about it, though. But probably.
The reality is so much different to him now.
It seems that he has journeyed from elsewhere afar, he thinks, while sluggishly returning to the basin pool and glimpsing at himself in the mirror once more. Those eyes are fixed long, unmoved, but he is simply gazing at a stranger’s face.
[To be continued]
[Featured image taken by James Au on 18th Jan, 2016]