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.
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.
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:
“I want to show you… cool market!”
Yuno led us a few streets way from the zoo and into what looked like a flea market or swap meet.
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.
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.
Should I grab her hand?
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.
“Hey. You gonna do something with this girl?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I mean, we’re talking a bunch and stuff, so…”
“Okay. When she comes back, grab her hand. If she takes it, you’re in.”
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.
When I opened my eyes, I was back in the crowd at the Ueno street market.
The people were unmoving, forcing Yuno and I to carefully step past and around them.
Her hand was just within reach.
But why was I hesitating?
Did we have anything going on at all?
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?
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.
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.
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.
When she came back over, she was still looking down.
“My mom…” she said. “I have to go home.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “I guess it’s pretty late now, huh?”
I walked her to the train station’s platform, and we said our last goodbyes.
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.
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.
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.
One of the Japanese women gave me an incredibly warm smile—the first that I had ever experienced during my time in the country.
I immediately got off at the next stop.
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.
Back in the hotel room, Jotaro was flipping through photos on his camera’s screen.
“How was the date?” He asked without looking up.
“Wasn’t really a date,” I said. “How was Fuji?”
“Mostly covered in clouds.”