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Love in the Time of Cholera - Monday, Mar. 16, 2020
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 @ 6:16 pm
Love from Japan
We emerge from the metro into a rainy Tokyo night. My first moment in Japan. Rain on my face. I breathe in the city. I hold his hand.
We walk through narrow alleyways, paper lanterns swaying, the light amber and dim. We enter a smokey Bohemian izakaya and drink shōchū and sake and eat plates of tiny fish and pickled vegetables.
Later, we ride the elevator up to the seventeenth floor to the rooftop onsen of our ryokan. We part ways, him going into the men’s side, me into the women’s side. I place my clothes in a cubby and step out into the washing area. I sit on a stool next to the other women, their Japanese skin glowing warmly, their sleek black hair long down their backs. I comb out my hair and let the water wash over my shoulders, watch the froth slide down my thighs and onto the tiled floor.
After washing, I slide open the door to the outside pool and wade into the steaming water. The city is misty and red lights pulse from the top corner of each skyscraper. Silence. A breeze against my skin. The bare bodies around me, my own body exposed to this vast city landscape. I close my eyes. I feel him on the other side of the wall, know that he’s sitting there watching the same view, breathing the same air.
The next day, we go into an immersive and sensory art exhibit. We move through each exhibit together, water running over our feet, the floor softening into a deep and thick texture. We lay on our backs on a mirrored floor in the darkness and experience flowers falling endlessly upon us. One world is strung with infinite lengths of crystal lights. We moved through the glassy and rainbow world together, and his face is filled with wonder.
In among the pulsing light, he takes my hand. We dance a slow Lindy amongst the shifting light. His smile is warm and relaxed, and his hand holds mine tenderly, and this feels more like love than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life. I am in a fairy tale, a magical fantasy. My dreams have come true.
I wish that I had been with you
For all of the times that you had before us.
I have a nightmare. A man is chasing me through hedges and rose bushes. The man reaches me and just as he grabs onto my shoulder I wake up. The sun has not yet risen. In the dark room, on the floor on futon mattresses, Russell is rubbing my shoulder and kissing me gently on the neck. Comforting me.
“You were having a bad dream,” he says.
“Yes, I was. And you rescued me.”
We ride the chairlift up to the top of the mountain. The leafless tree branches are outlined with delicate rime, and the sun makes everything dazzle.
We duck the ropes and ski into the backcountry, into the wild forest of Japan. We float through bowls of knee-deep powder, skin up along ridges, birds flitting amongst the glassy trees. We sit together and share snacks and stare off across the layers of mountains to the Sea of Japan. I ski through bamboo and am enchanted.
Over and over, I am enchanted. At night, at an outdoor onsen set beside a pond of koi. The beautiful Japanese bodies around me. The steam wafting up into the cold mountain air. I scoop up water and pour it over my shoulders and close my eyes.
My body and soul are happy.
We arrive at a new village and check into the hotel. I unlock the door to our room, and as he’s putting his bags down, I hold up the robes - yukata - and matching obi that are provided for our use.
“Let’s set up a photo of us wearing those,” he says. He moves our gear to the far side of the room and parts the curtains just so. Places a cushion on either side of the low tea table. Pours the beer that I bought from the hallway vending machine into the provided teacups.
We tie up our robes, and I frame up the photo. Kneeling? Yes, kneeling. Ten seconds. I run to face him at the table. We look at each other. You are my everything.
The next day, the temperature rises and rain falls. Instead of skiing, we stay in bed, pulling the covers up around us, reading books. His body against mine. Together in Japan. We of course make love, and then later while he showers I sneak downstairs for coffee. These things that we do for each other, just to watch our lover’s face soften and blush with appreciation.
Later, he tells me that we are going out. A taxi arrives to pick us up and drives us up along a river deep into a mountain valley. He parks, and I step out. I can see the steam rising from behind the wooden fence. There is nobody else around.
“You have one hour,” the driver says in broken English, handing us two towels.
“ありがとうございました,” I reply.
Into the curtained change area. We take off our clothes and wash and walk out to the hot spring. Water flows across rocks and into a shallow pool. Rain falls from the night. All else is silent.
We soak and float for a while. I find a partially-submerged flat rock and lay across it, the top of my body exposed to the rain, my back warmed by the alkaline spring. He sits beside me. Silence. Dim light. The water running across the rocks.
“What are you thinking?” I ask.
“Of how life takes you places,” he responds.
“In what way?”
“How when you meet the right person, everything changes. Things become possible that weren’t before. And you, what are you thinking about?”
I pause and breathe. I am thinking about a lot of things.
“About how I've never felt completely accepted by someone until you. About how we've known each other for only a short time and yet we already have a rich history of shared memories. That I hope that you are happy and that you know how much I admire you.”
“I'm glad that you feel that way. Because I feel the same.”
The rain falls on my body, warm water beneath me.
“I wish that I could draw you right now,” he says. “Your body. The water drops on your skin, the water pooled at your navel. Your muscles, your strong body. You are so beautiful.”
I’d planned to tell him that I loved him that night. The darkness and the warm water and our bodies pressed together, completely vulnerable and alone. Instead, I described to him my feelings, talking all around the phrase but never saying I love you.
Maybe it will happen on a regular night at home in bed. Maybe it will happen in the rain while walking around the seawall. Maybe in the snow on a mountaintop.
Maybe something will happen that will cause me to say it without thinking.
Our last night in Japan, we sip plum wine as we sit around the fireplace. The rain turned to snow and the fresh snow brightens the night landscape. A stormy wind buffets against the window panes. A gramophone turns on the bar, old French records playing old French jazz.
He catches my eye and moves his hand to the beat. I read his mind and nod.
We stand and move together. We pulse to the beat for a few seconds, and then we begin. The playful turns, the fun swing-outs. I’ve learned to be more expressive with my hands, and I know my smile is turned right up.
The others in the room stop to watch us, their eyes wide in wonder. They’ve never seen this before. One woman pulls out her phone and records us.
“You are so beautiful,” she cries out over the tinny sounding music. “This is so beautiful.”
The snow falling outside, the fire crackling. People speaking Japanese around us. The vintage jazz and my body hot from dancing in front of the fire.
The song ends and we sit down on the couch, his hand immediately on my leg. Others have risen and are dancing along, making up their own moves and laughing.
We watch as the others continue to dance. We created this. We sparked this energy and connection. These people are all dancing together in an old farmhouse in the mountains of Japan because I said yes. Because I said yes to everything. Because he saw something in me and recognized our potential. Because I trusted that things could be different. Because he held my hand and jumped with me into the cold lake on our second date. Because I pushed fear aside and signed up for dance lessons.
Because of love.
Because I said yes to love.
That night we hold onto each other in bed. The window is open a crack and cool mountain air washes over us.
Fireworks crack and echo around the valley. I glance up and see a shower of fiery pyrotechnics through the leafless trees. It’s the Emperor's Birthday, but it feels like a celebration of something different.
A celebration of joy and compassion and adoration.
A celebration of love.