[Translated by James Au]
Rie smiled and said, “It seems you don’t understand how much fuss you’ve made.”
Her smile faded after a mere two seconds. She looked neither angry nor astounded, but rather sorrowful.
“You will know it tonight. We can even make a bet of it,” she added.
“About what?” Fumihiko inquired in the way as though the two, he thought, were having a Zen dialogue.
“About how troublesome a man you are,” Rie repeated and took another piece of raw fish.
She then continued, “It’s just a compliment.”
He put his clean underwear and pyjamas on. Opening a cabinet drawer, as usual, he took out a bottle of mouth rinse and sprayed it into his mouth. Even though he wondered whether it was really necessary to do it except before sleep, such a habit was anyway also one of the rules of this house.
Perhaps I can make a call to Rie, he thinks, and he wants to confess to her: “I can’t live without you”, just as he has kept reiterating the pet phrase over the past five hours tonight.
“Are we not going to meet each other anymore?” when he asked the last question, she plainly denied.
“We can meet if you come to the pharmacy.”
It was obvious that the phone call would be made in vain. Fumihiko trudged up to the chamber where his wife is falling into a deep slumber, feeling himself to have been betrayed rather than left by Rie.
Dimly-lit with solely one bedside lamp, the chamber gives Fumihiko a chill of tranquillity. Everything in the room reflected his wife’s own choices of preference: The creamy yellow wallpaper is striped with a sober colour of verdant grass; most pieces of furniture, including bed, chest drawer and dressing table, are dark brown; a family photo frame stands on the chest drawer; before the dressing table is a white, leathered round stool. By the window hangs a green taffeta curtain. Though invisible to Fumihiko now, the creamy yellow, thin-piled rug must be spotlessly clean. The air is laden with an odour of his wife.
Yet from the eyes of Fumihiko, everything in this chamber seems different from they were until this morning. So too are the furniture, photo, cloth, their colours and their textures, which, supposed to be familiar, were at the same time strange to him.
It has appeared to be either his first time to set his foot, or that he has not visited this place for a long time.
Fumihiko stood still, while taking a long gaze at the peaceful interior of the room. Behind his back, his wife is sleeping soundly. However, only the slightly bulging duvet could be seen from where he was standing. He strained his ears, but not even her sleeping breath could be heard. It was a complete silence.
Now Fumihiko feels he has regained his incomparable consciousness. If he viewed the world with a special pair of glasses called Rie, things he perceived and sensed here would perhaps be different.
But he possesses not even one bit of nostalgia, and instead a sense of incongruity, and some overwhelming freshness possesses him. As though beholding an unfamiliar woman, he looks down at his sleeping wife. She is just a stranger woman to him, for he has no idea what jewellery pleases her, after how many cups of Japanese wine she will be drunk, how often she goes to the barber’s, what sort of jokes she likes, and what faith she holds towards shoes.
Pulling the duvet down, Fumihiko slipped his body inside it with both nervousness and some inexplicably surging impressiveness. With his eyes up at the ceiling, after squirming restlessly in the duvet for a while, he took a small but deep breath.
“You are such an upright man.”
He feels like he heard Rie’s voice after her usual secret smile.
In the meantime of feeling distant and nostalgic for a pharmacist who had been his lover for five years and thankful for her willingness to break up with him, Fumihiko buried his face onto the back of his wife.
[Featured image taken by James on 29th April, 2016]