Chapter 45:

Tokyo Part II: Chapter 40

The Kimochi Warui Diary

A couple of hours passed as we saw hippos, capybaras, and even took part in a goat petting zoo. By then, we had circled back around to the entrance.Bookmark here

I assumed that this was goodbye, but Yuno was in no rush to get on the train. If anything, she looked a bit reluctant to leave. Bookmark here

She was mumbling to herself while looking at the GPS on her phone. It seemed that she was searching for something. Finally, she found it:Bookmark here

“I want to show you… cool market!”Bookmark here

Yuno led us a few streets way from the zoo and into what looked like a flea market or swap meet. Bookmark here

There were various booths and stalls lining the sides of a closed road, selling everything from clothes and toys to food and drinks. The wares on display had that “swap meet” appeal to them—bootlegged imitations of popular brands, used appliances, and piles of cheap toys featuring popular characters from American movies and cartoons. Even the food choices were like those you would find at a festival, including taikyaki, takoyaki, and crepes.Bookmark here

At the farthest end of the market, we came across something like a farmer’s market: dozens of stalls selling vegetables, fruits, and other fresh goods. It was particularly crowded in this section—so crowded that I wondered I might get separated from Yuno. Bookmark here

Should I grab her hand?Bookmark here

Back during some high school party, in a friend’s backyard, I was laying down in this children’s treehouse next to a girl that I had known all through elementary and middle school. I’d never thought much about her until now, lying next to each other as our legs dangled out of this treehouse that was way too small for us, watching the stars spin above us as hard liquor swam through our heads. I don’t remember what we talked about, but eventually, she left to use the bathroom. Seconds later, I felt someone climbing the ladder. Jotaro’s head popped up.Bookmark here

“Hey. You gonna do something with this girl?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, we’re talking a bunch and stuff, so…”Bookmark here

“Okay. When she comes back, grab her hand. If she takes it, you’re in.Bookmark here

Then he ducked back down the ladder and disappeared. A few minutes later, the girl came back and laid down next to me, ready to pick up where we had left off. My heart was beating so fast, I wondered if she might have heard it. I waited for a few more words to be exchanged before I reached over and took her hand. She held it back tighter, and I went in for the kiss.Bookmark here

When I opened my eyes, I was back in the crowd at the Ueno street market.Bookmark here

The people were unmoving, forcing Yuno and I to carefully step past and around them. Bookmark here

Her hand was just within reach. Bookmark here

But why was I hesitating?Bookmark here

Did we have anything going on at all? Bookmark here

Had we even gotten past the surface in this so-called relationship of ours? But the physical connection would be a surefire way to transcend the language barrier, right? But weren’t Japanese people extremely turned off by public displays of affection? Would I embarrass her if people saw us? Was she really even 18 years old? Am I expected to act like the foreigner and boldly grasp what’s mine for the taking? Or, perhaps, she likes me for not reaching out so boldly. Hold on… If I’m a foreigner, how am I supposed to know any better in the first place? How was your average, non-otaku foreigner really supposed to know anything about Japan in the first place? By trying to act the way I believed Japanese people wanted me to act, wasn’t I already acting like the least natural foreigner?Bookmark here

I waited for my anime superpowers of intuition to take over for me, but nothing happened. At first I thought I was making excuses, but in reality, there was nothing—no dread, no yearning—just an empty space for thoughts to run wild. It was nothing like at the bar.Bookmark here

Before I realized it, we were out of the crowd. Yuno was waiting for me a few meters away, but as I approached, her cell phone rang. A quick look of panic came over her face. She took out the cell phone and stepped away to answer it.Bookmark here

For the entire time she was on the phone, she looked down at the ground. Her mouth moved only once or twice during the conversation.Bookmark here

When she came back over, she was still looking down.Bookmark here

“My mom…” she said. “I have to go home.” Bookmark here

“Oh, okay,” I said. “I guess it’s pretty late now, huh?”Bookmark here

I walked her to the train station’s platform, and we said our last goodbyes. Bookmark here

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but somehow, I sensed that this was the last time I would see her. I wanted to give her a hug, but even then, I couldn’t bring myself to step forward. I watched her get on the train and waved to her as it pulled out of the station.Bookmark here

Before my own train came, I picked up another pack of Seven Stars cigarettes for me and Jotaro, as well as the latest copy of Shounen Jump.Bookmark here

I got on the Tobu-Tojo line and made my way to the back of the train car. At the next stop, three older Japanese women got on. They were pushing a baby carriage with a fluffy white dog inside.Bookmark here

One of the Japanese women gave me an incredibly warm smile—the first that I had ever experienced during my time in the country.Bookmark here

I immediately got off at the next stop. Bookmark here

I waited until the next train came before getting back on. This one was less crowded, and I rode it all the way back into Tokiwadai. Bookmark here

Back in the hotel room, Jotaro was flipping through photos on his camera’s screen.Bookmark here

“How was the date?” He asked without looking up.Bookmark here

“Wasn’t really a date,” I said. “How was Fuji?”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Mostly covered in clouds.”Bookmark here

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