At a Café

Chilly days persisted. The shadows, below the street lights of Shibuya never dwindled in number. Halloween was over, Christmas was over, but before the entrance of a famous department store there the illumination hanged in a couple of trees, glowing with feeble orange. The Canadian and one woman with him entered a café opposite to the building. He ordered mocha as usual, and she requested a cup of hot chocolate. Soon they took off their coats and put them at the back of their chairs, before ensconcing themselves at a table right behind the shop window inside the café.

‘You like hot chocolate?’ the man asked. He took a long sip of his mocha.

‘Yes, I do,’ she answered in short, held on to her porcelain cup handle, and tried her hot drink carefully.

It was then a long pause. They were as though forgetting their vocal cords could function. The man flinched from looking into her. She gazed down at the table.

‘You don’t have to work today?’ he broke the resilient silence.

‘No I don’t. I took one day leave,’ she answered plainly.

‘I…I want to tell you one thing,’ he stammered, and took a gulp of the hot-turned-lukewarm drink.

‘You could just send me a message instead,’ she said with little impatience.

‘I thought it’d be better to talk directly to you. You know I am not well-conversed in Japanese.’

‘Okay, but make it short.’

‘I mean, I am so happy to know you,’ the man said, ‘I enjoyed a lot talking to you that night. I was amused at so many common interests we share.’

‘We shared,’ she corrected him.

Another pause began. If he was to play the scrabble board game, he would probably be a loser. He scratched for words in vain. Everything in his mind had been scooped out. All hieroglyphs, all strokes of Kanji characters, all syllables were frozen in this cold, thick, heavy mist of air.

‘You drank a lot that night,’ he finally opened his mouth again and said, ‘I have never seen a girl who drank that much.’

‘No, I didn’t.’

‘Yes, you did. I didn’t believe you were a first-time drinker.’

‘No, you were the one who drunk.’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘Okay. We BOTH drunk then,’ he stressed. The eyes of the girl tried to avert his, and she looked emptily at the coming and going of strangers across Dogenzaka Street. Darkness continued to wave her hands.

‘Your decision?’

‘You know I can’t. I…I can’t make a living by teaching English here forever. My visa will expire in June, and…’

‘And?’

He could not finish his words. Having drunk up the whole cup, he tried hard to say something to cheer her up. He saw a family of three entering the café. They looked like Japanese, but were speaking a language he could not understand. The child, probably a son of the couple, seemed reluctant to let go of his father approaching the counter. Watching them, he forgot what had plagued him so far. This woman sitting opposite to him made a grimace at him. He found her weird, much weirder than the first time he met her.

‘I know the answer now,’ the girl stood up, put her black fur coat on, and stuffed her phone into her Gucci handbag, ‘Sayōnara, and don’t find me anymore.’

He made no response. He saw her strongly pushing against the door, walking afar from him, her silhouette lost in the nameless crowd. His only wish at that time was to take a photo with her.

[Painting source: Tokyo Nights by Sylvia Paul; https://static1.squarespace.com/static/552a0cdee4b026cc27b79f6d/t/56c14fd9d210b8f08fd3591d/1455509485495/?format=1500w%5D

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