The problem is, if you are not creating anything then you might as well just die. Put the Kaka out and let the money come rolling in is what my boss always said to me.
‘Just be you Shouzu, nothing more and nothing less ne,’ said Mei.
‘Un, I am trying!’ He shrugged his shoulders. ‘That’s why I wear jeans and a shirt.’
‘A pink shirt ne, Shouzu.’ Mei giggled and loosened the cap of a green-tea bottle bringing the rim to her cherry blossom lips. Her eyes focused on a young lady in her early twenties wearing a tight lavender office suit standing beside the sparkling steel train door.
‘Everybody looks like a fashion doll from the shop windows,’ I continued, ‘if they froze for a second I wouldn’t be able to tell whether they’re human.’ They laughed to the annoyance of people passing.
‘Shouzu-kun, you should try house cleaning!’
‘It’s very therapeutic!”
‘You sound like a housewife, Mei.’ She looked away, frowning. The train pulled into Yotsukaido where a crowd of schoolgirls greeted us. I immiedately darted my head into the sky away from the army of short skirts demanding my attention.
Mei and I waited for the bus outside Yotsukaido station. The sky had already grown dark, but the summer air remained warm. A small McDonalds located on the corner to our left was empty. A plump girl wearing a cayenne coloured uniform stood smiling as if greeting an imaginary god. We both had returned to Yotsukaido for the Obon Matsuri summer festival, as we do every year. Unlike Tokyo, Yotsukaido in the suburbs of Chiba is a place that never changes; everything stays the same from the local faces to the local shops. I always looked forward to visiting my parents, mainly because of mum’s home cooked food and dad’s collection of sake. An old green bus pulled up to the curb with its back door open.
My bedroom remained the same, nothing moved, nothing cleaned. I opened the window to let in the echoing sound of the cicadas. I cleaned my desk and patted the futon to release the ageing summer dust. With nothing much left to do, I turned on the hi-fi, plugged in my headphones and fell asleep inhaling the smell of mum’s steamed rice hanging in the air.
I woke up to a violent vibration on my bed thinking an earthquake was raging, but the flashing light besided my leg outlined my chrome mobile. I picked it up and pressed the multicoloured illuminating telephone icon to hear Mei’s voice on the other end.
‘Shouzu, were you sleeping?’
‘Err, no. What time is it?’
‘It’s two am.’
‘Nothing, just wanted to hear your voice! Do you remember how we first met?’
Hear my voice I wondered alarmingly. Mei saying such a thing was way out of context. ‘Yes, it was summer time at the beginning of our secondary school years.’ She fell silent. ‘That day I had taken the long way home by walking along the rice fields. You were dressed in our navy blue and white school uniform chasing dragonflies so freely in the centre of the mass green fields.’ I stood and watched captivated by her air of freedom. She noticed I was watching and motioned me to come to her, and I did without hesitation. I continued, ‘You said to me close your eyes and listen.’ Beads of sweat dripped down my arm under the oppressing heat. I kept one eye half open and remember seeing the crimson clouds climb over the electric cables as the birds flapped their wings, skipping through the trees. Dragonflies chased each other gliding effortlessly over the top of the rice fields. The sound of the cicadas and other insects ran through my whole body absorbing and purifying me. Never had the rice fields appeared so beautiful to me until that moment. It’s sharp green freshness still remains with me now.
‘What else did I say to you that day?’
‘You said the insects communicate in a world without barriers.’ And it was also at that moment you asked me to be your brother.’
‘I want a normal life Shouzu, and I want to have children soon.’ The word soon struck me off guard at the time. Was she indicating that I should give her children?
‘Children? But you’re only twenty-three!’
‘I know, but I want a child more than anything. I feel incomplete right now. I don’t want to be a middle aged mother.’
I could not believe what I was hearing, but I knew that Mei was serious. I could somehow understand Mei’s confusion surfacing from under her intense breathing. She cried intensely over the phone. I could hear her gripping the handset. Eventually her waterfall of emotions turned into quiet sniffs of awkward silence.
‘Shouzu, thanks for listening!’
‘I’m glad we had this chat! See ya tomorrow afternoon ne.’ She put the phone down and left me sitting with a slice of cold air chasing through me.
In the morning I went for a stroll and enjoyed several conversations with the locals and felt relaxed for the first time since having moved to Tokyo. I bought some fruits from the department store and was shocked at how expensive they had become. I then sat at a local park for lunch and watched the children play, reminiscing on my childhood days which flicked past too rapidly to appreciate and was stolen by studies. A mother played with her two children for over an hour without showing signs of tiredness. I wondered, did having children give her more energy. They certainly give you more direction and reason to live, I guess.
I attended the afternoon Mikoshi carrying festival, and even though the Mikoshi is a miniature model of a shrine, it is very heavy nevertheless, as the shoulder bruise still remains weeks after. Mei was supposed to meet me there but said she was busy and would meet me later. I watched as children and adults pulled along the decorated Dashi floats singing, playing the flute, and beating the drums loudly. Every now and then they would halt at a sponsor’s house and lift up the Mikoshi at least three times to show appreciation. Neighbours would rush out their houses splashing buckets of water over everybody. People offered food and drinks, which were all supplied by the local residents. And even though my dad is in his late fifties he still drags me with him to carry the Mikoshi and get soaked by waves of water. His childlike simper always makes me weak to reservation. My mum always watches from a distance so as to not to get wet.
I arrived to find Mei waiting by the gates to the local park where the evening summer festival is held every year. She greeted me with a wide smile and offered me a bean paste cake. She was even prettier that night. Her wavy jet-black hair tied back showing off her sweet little ear lopes that did not stray far from her face.
‘You OK, Mei?’
‘Un! I’m hungry, let’s eat.’
We merged into the crowd with hundreds of excited people. The afternoon’s Mikoshi sat in the far corner under a white tent finely lit by lanterns scribbled with sponsorship names stretching around the park. We walked past a crowd of children eating barbecued chicken, lifting up their weird masks to take a bite. Food stalls circle around the big brightly lit stage. The groups of Taiko drummers were exceptionally talented this year, each member taking their turn to beat while the crowd dressed in summer kimonos danced around slowly in a traditional manner. From time to time people shouted ‘rassera rassera rasse rasse rassera’ jumping in joy. I followed Mei to one of the chicken stalls. The smell of meat drifted in the air as children chased each other around with new toys. We bought some yakitori and sat to watch a group of dancers performing the So-ran Bushi fishing dance amazingly. After the performance the lights went out and everybody looked to the heavens. The flashes lit up the night sky with loud bangs. I caught glimpses of Mei’s bright-multicoloured cheeks. After the fireworks we joined in with the dancing and enjoyed the festivities until to the last moment.
A breeze cut through the warm midnight air as I stopped to look up at the sky catching sight of a shooting star. The crickets sang continuously. Mei stepped closer to me and pressed her warm chest gently against my own. My heart began to throb, as I gently pulled her head back by her hair and looked into her eyes. She smiled at me.
‘Tonight was fun wasn’t it Shouzu?’
‘Yes, it was great!’
‘Kiss me Shouzu. I want to feel you!’
‘But… are you sure?’
‘I don’t want to feel incomplete anymore.’ I pulled away. She looked down at the ground and said nothing.
‘I’m sorry Mei, I don’t want to spoil our friendship.’
‘Iie, don’t be sorry… I think I drank too much sake that’s all!’ She put on a brave face and held my hand. ‘I will see you tomorrow at the station,’ she said in a tearful voice. I walked her to her parent’s doorstep and watched as she slowly slid into the house, closing the door with her back towards to me.
I waited for Mei outside Yotsukaido station next to the police booth. She arrived twenty minutes late wearing a red flowered blue dress. She waved at me holding two bottles of milk-coffee, her favourite. She handed one to me, along with an onigiri.
‘I thought you might be hungry since you hardly ever eat lunch!’
‘Thank you! Sorry about yesterday.’
‘Its been forgotten Shouzu. I’m sorry also!’
We climbed the escalators and headed towards the platform to catch the rapid train straight into Tokyo. Whether it’s crowded or not everybody stands in an orderly line at the stations. Mei looked around constantly as if waiting for something or someone to pop out from one of the corners. As stated by the cute TV weather girl, today was the hottest of the summer so far. The train arrived and we boarded. I watch as a European father and his Japanese mixed-raced son played with each other looking out the window. The father seemed so free and happy. His son looked at me smiling, and so I waved at him and said ‘hello’ in English. They get off at Chiba city central. I looked at the boy’s tiny fingers and big round eyes.
‘Mixed-raced babies are beautiful!’ I had said.
‘Sou ne, Shouzu-kun.’
After lunch in Shibuya we took a walk to Harajuku, popping into some of the shops, then onto Takeshita street.
‘It’s amazing isn’t it Mei?’
‘Every fashion style imaginable can be found on this street.’
‘Yeah, Western, Japanese, trendy, funky, cosplay… everything!’ Her eyes lit up in excitement.
‘Are you ok today Mei?’
‘Yeah, I just sometimes feel like Tokyo is changing me into someone I don’t want to be. Everybody here looks like lost souls.’ She said staring at a young girl dressed in gothic clothes and inked in dark colours.
‘I want to visit London this Christmas. Why don’t you come with me Mei?’
‘Really! But why London?’
‘Just something different.’
‘That’s all I can remember officer,’ I finished.
The male police officer sat in deep thought. The other officer who was female glared at me with an expression of restrained disgust, as a tear fell down her cheek. I was allowed to leave moments later to face my own despair.
By B. L. Crisp
Read: Rice Fields: A Long Sleep Part 1/2