Lost in Japan
I thought it was about time to call it a night. When Sean closed the door, I turn around to open the door to my room. “Well,” I began to say, but Sean grabbed my wrist and pulled it away.
“Follow me,” he said. “I want to show you something.”
He took me back outside. It was nearly pitch dark and, despite the warnings from the children’s drawings at the community center, he walked me down to the riverbed. Thrice I had been there and each time the scenery had changed like a moving set on a theater stage. It was quiet. No distant cars drag racing through the neighborhoods. No leashed dogs barking at strangers ten feet from the property line. No domestic disputes leaking out to unlit front porches.
“Look,” Sean pointed up at the night sky. The stars were few, outshone by the waxing moon, accompanied only by chirping crickets and croaking frogs. “I saw it through my grandma’s window,” he explained. “It’s huge.” He was right. It looked close, dangling above the mountain as though it were an angle or a star topping our Christmas tree. It didn’t matter where I was in the world. The night would be the night. The moon would be the moon--no matter waxing or waning or color-changing. We lay down on the grass, watching as the moon made its soft journey across the sky, leaving behind a small trail of twinkling lights.
“Wow,” I said, brushing some grass off the side of my cheek. “It’s not even full.”
“It’ll be full tomorrow. We’ll have to remember to come out and see it.”
“For sure,” I said. When the dewy-scented grass and nature's pulsing chants made our silence somewhat awkward, I let out a tranquil and performative sigh. “I love the moon,” I said as I might have said I love cheeseburgers or I love anime.
“I love the moon, too,” Sean said, though his tone was delicate like the meat of tuna or the silk of a kimono.
I sat up and looked at him. His eyes meet mine, then his hands ruffled through the grass as his face shifted back to the sky. Was he looking at me when he said that?
“Alex,” he began to ask, turning on his side. “You haven’t dated anyone, have you?”
“WHAT?” I shouted, and, for a moment, it scared the insects quite. I coughed as though it were an accident that I rose my voice that loud. “Sorry. That was kind of out of the blue.”
Sean chuckled slightly. “No, it’s just, I was thinking about the atmosphere.” He stopped as though he were still thinking of it or daydreaming inside it. “It’s not usually the kind of mood you’d share with a friend. This is something you’d do on a date, isn’t it? Moon watching.”
“Yeah,” I said, laying back down. “I guess. But I want to look at it and it’s not like I have a girlfriend.”
“Really?” He sounded surprised and also a little relieved. I took that as a compliment.
“Yeah, I don’t. Not like I couldn’t get one.” He didn’t laugh. “Just kidding, ha ha. Hazukashi.” He chuckled, and I thought I would leave it at that, but he pressed.
“You’re not interested in dating?”
“I mean, it’s not like I don’t want one. I’m a guy after all.” I had started to say it like a joke, but as I continued, the words came out more sober. “But, since starting high school, I guess because I’ve been so busy with school and work and everything, dating just seems like, I don’t know, not a priority. I think that I like the idea of dating more than there being someone that I want to date. Like, if I’m watching a movie, I’ll think, ‘Oh, it’d be nice to be watching this with somebody,’ or sometimes I watch a really good show, I think, ‘I should share this with someone’ but don’t have anyone to share it to.”
“What about your friends?”
“Oh, well, I mean, sometimes I do. Well, actually, pretty frequently I will. It’s not like every movie or anime I see makes me think about it. Just, sometimes, when I really like something, it’s like I have to be careful who I share it with because it matters more. Like, if they don’t like it then they don’t like me, or something. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t really think about it all that often. It just pops into my head somethings, is all.” It was strange that I had talked about this out loud to another person. I couldn’t envision myself sitting down, approaching midnight, and talking about wanting a girlfriend with my other friends. I could understand if Austin, Julian, or I had one that we’d talk about it, but it seemed like otherwise we’d really be talking about nothing at all. None of us had even vocalized having something close to a crush. I don’t think I’d even had one after middle school. I had always enjoyed hanging out with friends and had been satisfied with that, even if sometimes they’d make me feel like an idiot. It wasn’t until I started saying it that I realized, “It would be nice to have a crush.” I anticipated a berating comment. Julian would have said something like crushes are for babies and that if I wanted a girlfriend I should just ask someone out if they were interesting and see where it went. Austin would have made a comment about how thinly stretched my time was and that I shouldn’t waste it fawning over some girl. Sean didn’t say anything. “Like, people always say that young love doesn’t last and that you shouldn’t take the relationship too seriously because, in a few years, you’ll be off in college and become a whole new person. But, I don’t know, I feel like it could still be worth something. Don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Then what about you? You have a secret girlfriend you won’t tell me about. Afraid I’ll get jealous? I can see why but I promise I’ll be nothing but supportive for you.”
“No. I don’t.”
“Ah, so we’re in the same boat, then,” I said, somewhat relieved as though it were a competition. “What about a crush?” I waited for some affirming remark or grunt, but he was silent.
“We should probably go in,” he said, standing and swatting his pants. “I think the mosquitoes are out.”
As I was changing into my pajamas, I was already thinking about watching tomorrow night’s moon; about how I’d better start thinking of a good haiku to fit the mood that’d knock the socks off Sean; about how I hoped he would have shared more of his thoughts about crushes and haikus or talk about his life at school. I’d felt I’d done too much of the talking, especially since he broached the topic, but I wouldn’t call myself a great listener.
As I lay down on the pillow and pulled the sheets over to my chest, I could feel my heart beating and was worried I wouldn’t get any rest. I was excited for tomorrow. It seemed a whole new world of possibility had presented itself in the bright silver of the moonlight and that there was much to explore under the morning sun.
As I closed my eyes, I heard the words “a fly,” echo in my mind. It wasn’t my voice but Sean’s. He had said it that night, but the image that floated in the abyss of shut eyes was not the television set or sashimi platter, but the moonlight. He had said it before in a haiku.
A fly yearns…was part of the line.
"I love the moon," I had said.
...with a dogwood...
"I love the moon, too," he responded.
...the last moonwatchers.