Subway station Harajuku – exit West Omedosanto, 6pm, in front of a well-known department store. He thought I could not get lost as Harajuku is a small subway station with only few exits. He was there five minutes ahead, I was there on time. That rainy and windy evening. He looked young and jovial. He suggested we went for a dim-sum dinner in a restaurant nearby.
He told me he had been in Tokyo for exactly a year. Every day he had Japanese class and he was learning some kind of traditional therapy called “seitai”. He took a sabbatical year and travelled to Japan. What surprised me a lot was his enthusiasm. He laughed easily. Maybe it was because we spoke the same language in a foreign country. We talked about our mountains, our traditional food, what we liked and disliked in our country. It was obvious we were immediately connected and the feeling of belonging to the same culture was exacerbated because we were abroad. It was easy to talk to him. I come from a big city back home, him a tiny town. He possessed the authenticity of people living in a small town. He was forthright, his words were simple. He immediately found me a little unconventional.
It was still raining when we got out of the restaurant. I laughed at him because he had a white transparent and womanish umbrella. He told me not to make fun of him that quick, me and my black common umbrella. He explained to me that in Tokyo, with thousands of people walking towards you under a windy rain, the only way to avoid bumping into them was to use a see-through umbrella. I understood what he meant when I tried to walk against the wind with a black umbrella in a horizontal position a few minutes after that. We had our first big laugh.
He insisted in bringing me to a small sake bar somewhere in Shibuya. He got lost and we cut through some dark small streets bordered with all these “love hotels”. The colorful signs flashed between “Rest for 70 yens – two hours” or “Stay for 100 yens – the whole night”. Love costs in Tokyo. It took us more than half an hour to find the bar owned by a young couple, two punks with red hair and piercings. The marathon of sake started. We seemed to laugh more. And at times, I just wondered if it was good that he could laugh that much because of what I told him. The traditional type of ideal woman might not be a “clown” type in front of a guy. But never mind. The taste of sake was sweet as that of the plum liquor. I was sober. I remembered saying to myself that Japanese alcohol was not strong enough and I could go on like this all night. Yet I did not remember when I decided that he was charming and that I could like him. I did not know if I was his type. Anyway, it was not the purpose of the evening, checking who is whose type. We got back to the subway station around midnight. We said goodbye in the train, he got out two stations before me. Suddenly and very quickly he asked: “Could we see each other tomorrow evening again, your last evening in Tokyo?” I had enough time to answer: “Hum…yes, maybe, ok, I will call you?” He was already out of the train; he looked at me and the wagon pulling away. I did not have his phone number.
The next day, I canceled my plan for the evening. I dropped him a word by mail. Same time, same subway station, he was there before me. He took me to another neighborhood and we discovered together a new restaurant, some picturesque lanes, some small streets and again some bars. I have to admit: there were two key moments to this encounter. These moments, which may seem totally insignificant to other persons, appear to me as crucial as it could be. Though I have to confess the way I determine when and how these moments become essential is totally hazardous. I have no precise criteria. I go for a feeling, something I get to grab emotionally at the moment. Details can suddenly become important and mean everything, in just a second. It is the moment where I feel like my whole life or my perspective of life could tumble completely. It could be a physical detail, a simple gesture or maybe a right word placed in a right sentence.
This time, in Nagano, in this small restaurant, something of that kind happened, a detail caught my attention. At the end of the dinner, he had meticulously cleaned the table and solemnly put away all the dirty dishes. Then he handed them out to the waitress, with two hands. Like a ritual. In a few minutes, I found myself in front of a bright, clean table. I don’t know why but there was something touching about this act, the way he executed this task, it was as if it had been entrusted to him by an important person and he needed to perfectly execute it and not to disappoint the other person. I observed his seriousness and conscientiousness. It was very particular. The same way of how he controls his body. With this same meticulous manner. I had never seen someone who had such a perfect straight posture when sitting or walking. There was something powerful about his gestures and body. A posture of a ballet dancer.
One magical moment after another, I found myself in Harajuku, in his apartment located in an upscale neighborhood of Tokyo. I was pretty sure that it was not a typical apartment because it was way too spacious for the Tokyo standard. Things happened very naturally as if we had known each other for a life time. He gave me a T-shirt, mentioning that it was the smallest one he could find in his closet. Then he handed to me a bath towel, a toothbrush and a tooth paste. Very often when we think of the adventures of one night, we associate them with the act of sex itself. It could be good, great, fabulous; it could be bad, catastrophic. Usually we think more about the act and its performance than the rest when it comes to a one-night stand. As we were there most likely for sex. Most of the times, we don’t give importance to this kind of experience/adventure afterwards either. For me it was also the same. I am no difference. But not that time. I was in a whole different dimension.
The next morning, indefinable, intangible. Yet so real and true. We made love again, with more laughs, more tenderness, more kisses in a kind of urgent needs. Our desires held us in emergency. We had given it all out. And we had taken it all back too. We had very few minutes left. Everything was sweet and sober, then fiery and impetuous. Never clinical, never fake. It was not one of those awkward mornings when all you want to do is to escape. I climbed on his back. We stayed naked in this position for a while. We wanted to stay longer like that. I was the one who had to get out of bed first. My departure from Tokyo imminent. My flight was in less than 6 hours. I had not packed yet.
Then right there another detail that I would never forget. The second key moment of this encounter. Walking out of the apartment, he had held my hand firmly the whole time and had never let it go. His energic hold seemed to express his desires to keep me a little bit longer with him. In the elevator, then in the streets until we arrived at the subway station, he squeezed my hand stronger and stronger. I felt dizzy. It was very hot and humid. Tokyo seemed foggy but more romantic than ever. At the time, I thought he would be a very well-educated man. He was surprisingly courteous, especially for a « next morning » situation. I did not know if his manners and politeness were learned in Japan where people seem to be raised to serve and to be extremely polite or he was just born that way. I never had a chance to get to know the truth.
There were no good-bye kisses. In Japan, people don’t kiss in public places. At the time, I thought he would mention that to avoid kissing me. Later on, one Japanese acquaintance confirmed me the fact. He told me he would go back home for good in a few weeks and probably we should meet again. This information was left out the whole time we were together. I was confused. I did not remember having answered his question; the subway’s door had already closed on us. I had no particular thought. I ran back to the hotel, packed quickly and took the bus to the airport. I avoided thinking. Sometimes it’s better not to think. Memories and thoughts are good friends of nostalgia and melancholy.
From Harajuku, I have kept the mosquitoes’ bites. There were some that night.
From Tokyo, I have kept the fragrance of the man of Harajuku, his sweetness and stylish manners. Two days later, waking up in my bed, I remembered that day was his birthday; he had mentioned it to me. I wished him a happy birthday in my thoughts. It was my closure for the Harajuku magic.