II. August 2019

July 2019< >III

1st August 2019

My days have been calm in the RA office because Namiko has been on holiday. Though Hiro also sticks to the templates, she has never nitpicked when checking my email patchwork jobs. The women around my desk already know about my resignation. I can tell that without asking. Namiko must have also been informed by our line manager just before her vacation. When I saw them leaving the office together for a cigarette, I just knew what they were going to talk about.

“Are you going to buy some sweets for your co-workers?” Uchida asked me when we were on the same train back to Ogikubo.

“Hmm…”

I bought Chateraise madeleines for my co-workers when I left the Mexican restaurant where I had worked for two years. I chose some fruitcakes from Cozy Corner when I resigned from the Japanese software company after that. I was given no time to prepare anything for my co-workers in ITCM, as they kicked me out with zero-day notice.

“Probably not,” I replied. People who were badly treated are naturally less grateful.

“Maybe, just saying thanks would be all right,” Uchida nodded.

Actually, just saying thanks to Namiko will be difficult for me. But I said, “Yes, Namiko is coming back from her vacation one day before my last day.” What luck!

I haven’t told Ami or Simon about my resignation from RA. Since it’s my own decision this time, they might think that I would be all right with becoming jobless again. In fact, I’m not alright. My anxiety has urged me to sporadically search for jobs in the last months, and I’ve already visited a few companies for job interviews.

One interview was held on the day I heard the bachelor’s Yakuza bellowing in the office. So my nerves were still taut after work.

“Considering your experience and qualifications, I’m afraid this position wouldn’t fulfill your expectations.” When the interviewer apologetically said that, I thought it must have been because of my stammer. I shouldn’t have gone to the interview after work. You never know when the bachelor or the line manager will create a tsunami in the office and I get into a stuttering mood due to stress.

Another interview was held last Sunday, which was quite rare. As soon as I arrived in their office in the superb Marunouchi building, I saw the reason for their time flexibility.

“It’s a start-up company,” the interviewer excitedly explained. “You can arrange everything your way in this Tokyo branch.”

I couldn’t help recalling Hon from GB Holdings. Instantly, I told him that working at midnight to communicate with the US main office wouldn’t be ideal for me.

I have also kept in touch with three job agencies.

“I attend a ballet class at 7 p.m. on Fridays,” I’ve made this stupid request. “I want to keep attending the class.”

When the agencies said that I looked exactly like a ballet dancer, I felt like an impostor. In fact, my thin body was a genetic creation and I even couldn’t steadily stand in the fifth position. But if I said so, they wouldn’t take my request seriously. I hope no one in the agencies knows any of my ballet friends in Onami sports club.

I’ve been active in my job search anyway. I check Indeed job advertisements every night. I wonder how many hours of my life I’ll have to spend on my job search.

***

2nd August 2019

I went to Don-maru and told the shop owner that this would be my last takeaway lunch from Don-maru. The owner remembered me because I always brought the same Don-maru’s plastic bag which he had given me five months ago, and told him that I didn’t need Waribashi: disposable chopsticks.

“So, you are going somewhere else,” he said, but thankfully didn’t ask anything further.

Eventually, I couldn’t try all the fifty kinds of toppings there. When I was eating my last Don-maru lunch, feeling blue, the RA director found me and called out. “You are here, Ishikawa-san! I’ve been looking for you.”

Everyone in the small lunch area looked at me, as if wondering why their director needed this insipid new worker.

“Did they reply to us?” I asked, assuming he wanted to talk to me about a telephone line an African country.

“They did,” said the mouse, happily. “Take your time please and come to my office after your lunch break.”

His little figure vanished behind the door. He must know about my resignation already, but his face didn’t show anything.

After lunch, I went to the director’s office.

“They agreed to close the line at the end of this year,” said the mouse.

There had been this problem that we had two telephone numbers in an African country. My predecessor had agreed this new contract with the Hong Kong provider, believing that the old line with the UK provider would close in March 2019, though it was actually March 2020. Because we needed only one phone line in the country, the director first asked me to cancel the contract with the Hong Kong provider. But after talking with the provider, I suggested another plan which keeps the new contract because of the cancellation fee and the long lead-time. The director agreed to keep the new contract and ask the UK provider to close the old line in December.

“Thank you, Ishikawa-san,” the mouse said. “If we cancelled the new contract, that would have caused a serious problem because obtaining a line in some countries sometimes takes a while and we might have had a period in which we had no line.”

Then, my director for the first time mentioned my resignation. “I’ll have no one who I can consult with, after you leave here.”

I felt weird because we had always talked like “what we are going to do” for the project until this moment, though it was actually only “he” we were talking about.

“You can call me even after I leave here,” I said casually. “I’ll do volunteer work for you.”

Only one thing I would miss about RA would be this little mouse. He had taught me that I had a prejudice against company directors.

9th August 2019

My last working day in RA was occupied by the new worker, my replacement. The woman had been dispatched from an agency.

“Did you hear? She’s going to work until 2 p.m.—” I heard Namiko and Hiro whispering about the agency worker. “Who hired her? How could she help us?”

 I chatted with the new worker while explaining our global project to her. She had two small children at home, so part-time work suited her, she said.

“I’m so worried,” she repeated. “I’m worried about whether I can do these tasks all right from tomorrow…”

“Don’t worry. You can always ask your department manager,” I kept assuring her, but she wasn’t satisfied until she got my private email address. Maybe she wanted to ask me rather than the scary-looking bachelor.

After she left at 2 p.m., I cleared my desk and wiped the entire surface. I sent a thank you email to everyone in the office and finally turned to Namiko.

“It’s my last day. Thank you so much for all your help,” I said, making a smile. Well done, Megu!

“That’s all right. Thank you for working with us.” Namiko smiled back.

She looked refreshed after her long holiday, or with the thought of me leaving. Hiro, Yasue and Tomo were all smiling at this peaceful scene. I could already hear their gossip about me as soon as I left this room for good.

In contrast, my director’s emotionless face looked more unreadable when I went to say goodbye.

“I really will contact you, all right? Ishikawa-san,” the mouse asked.

“Of course,” I said.

In the end, I went to the bachelor’s desk. He was tapping at his PC keyboard as if he couldn’t hear anything other than his typing sounds. When he raised his eyes, they were shining. I said thanks to him.

“All right. Thanks for today, especially for training the new worker,” he said.

His wet eyes didn’t avoid mine. They were rather nonchalantly fixed on mine, yet I could see the trembling emotion inside. So I quickly said goodbye and let his eyes turn back to his PC screen. They reminded me of my former software company director. His eyes were also weirdly flashing when I left his company. Miyo’s as well. Perhaps, they all had itchy eyes with some sort of allergy.

I took the Marunouchi line to go home. I kind of missed my run towards JR Yotsuya station after work. It already seemed to be an old memory. My flip-phone beeped on the train and it was an email from the mouse.

“To show my gratitude, I would like to take you to a nice restaurant for lunch. You helped me a lot,” it said. “What day are you available for lunch?”

I remember that the women around my desk were talking about a dinner party the other day.

“Our director will treat us all!” Yasue exclaimed.

“It’s a posh restaurant of soba and sake,” was Hiro’s voice.

My third eye saw each of them occasionally glancing at me at my desk, as if expecting me to join their conversation. I pretended not to hear them because I didn’t want to hang out with them. Besides, I liked neither soba nor sake unfortunately, but I didn’t want to tell this in case the director could hear it.

Perhaps, the mouse had noticed that I wasn’t at the dinner that night, and he was asking me now. While I was grateful for his kindness, I replied to him, “Thank you, but I’ll be busy at lunch time, and I’m the one who should thank you.”

***

10th August 2019

It was the day of the Suginami summer festival. Our chorus group performed on the stage of the local council. The theme of the festival this year was “The Start”.

Rica came to see our performance. From the stage, I soon recognized her in the back row of the audience. She was wearing a white short-sleeve top and black pants; quite similar attire to mine. Her dark hair was also tied up just like mine. No surprise that some members of my group poked at my shoulder, saying “I saw your sister! You girls look so much alike!” after the performance.

Of course, we look alike because Rica and I are identical twins. But I don’t know why I avoid telling people that I have a twin sister. Though we have the same appearance, we are actually chalk and cheese in personality. At least, I’ve always felt so since we were toddlers. For example, Rica has never experienced insomnia, so if I can’t sleep it’s because I’m not tired, according to her.

“If you’re really tired, you must be able to sleep,” she says. “You know about sleep deprivation torture? Even under such conditions, our brains try to sleep if they really need sleep.”

But there are conditions in which our brains don’t function to keep us healthy. They are called mental illnesses, aren’t they?

While the other chorus members went to the nearby restaurant together for lunch, Rica and I excused ourselves and left for my apartment.

“How was our song? Did you enjoy it?” I asked my sister, while walking under the strong sun.

She said that our song was very good with our natural voices.

“By the way, is the chorus master the one who played the piano?” she asked, after a pause.

“Yes, he is.”

“He really stood out among the many female singers. It’s like the women have joined the group because of that young, handsome teacher.”

I saw her point. “He is certainly a gentleman teacher.”

When Rica asked me if he was married, I felt amused. My twin sister mistakes me so easily.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” I had never cared about his marital status to be honest.

“So, he’s never mentioned his wife or children before?”

Oh dear. I feel I can’t join any group which a young handsome man leads until I marry.

“Are you still into ballet?” Rica changed the subject.

“Yeah, I go there every Friday,” I happily answered. “You know, people are so elegant and nice there.”

“I know, but…” Rica was somehow unhappy about my enthusiasm for ballet. “How about trying the other classes like jazz dance in the gym? I mean, you’ll meet more people there. Young men.”

I know what she means. She thinks only females learn ballet.

“Sure, I’m actually thinking about that,” I lied. I should keep letting her believe that my ballet instructor is a woman.

It was a hot day but Rica didn’t complain about the glass of wheat tea I made from the tap water in my apartment. She knows there is no fridge in my room. Unlike my elder sister Keiko, my twin sister never thinks that I’ve become insane. She always knows I have my reasons for what I’m doing and she respects that even if it’s a bit different from what other people do.

***

13th August 2019

My motto for my new period of unemployment is “Do not repeat March 2019”. I’ve been determined not to waste a single minute of my time on my anxiety like I did this March. I am going to fill my vacant days with valuable projects.

First, I’m going to do a job search only before noon every day. Second, I’m going to resume writing my blog, which I have procrastinated over the past three months. Third, I’m going to the gym every evening and enjoy my ballet and chorus practice. Fourth, I’m going to read a book every night before going to bed.

I sent my C.V. to three companies this morning and went to Ogikubo ward office to change my health insurance card to an individual one. I’ll be busy every day, so I should have no time to worry about my future!

***

20th August 2019

It was three days ago that the giant recruitment company, Leonard Carter, called me for today’s interview.

“Your previous company ITCM seems to be in the same recruitment industry,” the recruiter said on the phone. “So I thought you might be interested in our company. Our department director is from the UK. Where was your ITCM director from?”

“H…He is also from the UK,” I said with this weak voice.

“Sounds perfect!”

I was invited for the interview as a candidate for Leonard Carter’s office assistant position.

Don’t be a racist, Megu. A UK director doesn’t mean he is like Fred, I told myself while waiting in the spotless meeting room in LC this morning.

“Hi Megu, welcome to Leonard Carter!” Choh, who had talked with me on the phone, came in. She was a middle-aged woman who knew how to give a professional smile. After explaining the detailed role of the office assistant position, she began giving me some tips for the coming interviews.

“You’ll meet two people today. One is the office manager who you’ll be working with if you join us. She is a kind Japanese woman, so you don’t need to worry about anything. The tricky one is our department director.”

The tricky one?

“As I told you on the phone, he is from the UK and just like a UK person, you know…”

A UK person? I don’t know so many British people, honestly.

“He is a very happy person, you know. He’ll be coming in like this, ‘Haaai, Megumi-saan, how are youuu?’” Choh imitated her boss with this high-pitched voice.

“Oh, now I know what you mean.”

“So, naturally he likes people who’ve got such energy too. Well, may I just check your…” She suddenly stood up from her chair and came to me. “May I suggest a little lipstick? You look a bit pale.”

I gasped in my mind, but politely smiled. “Sure, but I don’t have any lipstick, actually.” I’ve never had lipstick in my life.

“You don’t?” Choh looked amazed. “You’ve forgotten your make-up pouch today?”

Her gaping eyes had the same astonishment as Keiko’s when she found out that I didn’t have a hand-mirror in my bag.

“Don’t worry. Let me help you.” The enthusiastic recruiter left the room and came back with her own pouch for cosmetics. Now I can’t escape. I quietly let her line a red colour on my thin lips. After the lipstick, she put some pink powder on my cheeks too.

“Look at you now!” Choh exclaimed, satisfied. “I mean, your face is naturally pretty, so a little make-up works very well.”

“Wow, thanks,” I glanced at my face in the hand-mirror which Choh offered. I looked like a drunken clown…

“Smile like you’re doing now when the director comes in, all right? He’ll like you.” She winked and left the room.

I felt like going home right away.

The department director didn’t come in like Choh had shown.

“Nice to meet you. Please have a seat.”

He had this severe aura and his manner was quite businesslike. I wondered if my recruiter had talked about a different person. Or possibly, he at once realized that I was not his type.

I was so nervous that my voice slightly shook during our talk. In his cold eyes, I could see that the judgement had already been made once I stammered.

“Well, any questions for me, please?” he asked, already starting to close this 5-minute meeting. I hadn’t prepared for that mechanical, quick conversation.

“Um…what are the things you see as important when you do your recruitment business?”

“What do you mean?”

Gee. He didn’t understand my English.

“I read on your website that your team keeps in touch with people for years until they find their best vocation. I was impressed by that.”

I was saying this from a job seekers’ point of view. No candidate would like to be seen as a convenient business tool by recruitment agencies, even if they are actually so.

“Yes, we always try communicating with our clients to satisfy their needs.” The director was, however, answering from the job agency’s perspective. Because I’ve worked at ITCM, I know that the clients which are hiring are like celebrities for job agencies. Karen once shocked me by asking me if I would like to go out for a nice Mexican Taco lunch with her. She was creepily kind to everyone in the office that time and soon I found that the office had a visitor, a very important client in Fred’s room.

After talking to the director, I talked with the office manager. After that, another recruiter came in to introduce some positions to me.

“If you’re also interested in a short-term position until you find a permanent one, I’ll get my teammate who deals with it,” he said before he left. One after another, recruiters came in to ask me if I was interested in the roles they had. By the time I was finally released at noon, I had got ten business cards all with the Leonard Carter logo.

As soon as I got home, I removed my make-up. I devoured warm noodles despite this hot weather. A job hunt is really tough.

“I failed a charming contest today—” When I wrote to Kim on Skype, I suddenly found the whole morning funny. “Unfortunately, the director didn’t like my smile. Lol.”

Kim was also laughing at my story about the recruiter making up my face. “Again, that’s something I’ve never heard before!”

Now I regret that I didn’t take a picture of my clown face to show her.

21st August 2019

Mick from Leonard Carter had already arranged a job interview with a global shipping management company in Nagata-cho this morning. I had decided to visit this company because I had time before my next job interview nearby in the afternoon, which had been set up by another job agency.

I was quite relaxed in the waiting room in the shipping company, hearing the occasional laughter from the next room where another candidate was talking with the company director.

“The director of the company is a very open-minded, nice person in his 60s.” Mick’s words were the other reason for my calmness. I imagined that he might be like the little mouse director in RA.

The former interview exceeded the scheduled time by nearly half an hour, but the director didn’t apologise for the delay when I was finally called in.

“Sit down,” the thin, tanned Japanese man busily motioned at me, turning a thick file on the table. “Let’s see…you are…Ishikawa Megumi-san.” His hands, which had been moving as though cooking in a busy restaurant kitchen, stopped. “Please introduce yourself first,” he directed without showing even slight interest. “About your job experiences, please.”

Soon after I began introducing my first job, his hands resumed the cooking and his irritable voice interrupted. “Haven’t you ever considered working in one place seriously for a long time?”

What?

“Many people work hard for one company throughout their life. Why can’t you work like them instead of keeping job-hopping?”

To be honest, I didn’t understand what I was being asked. That was not a question but a clear accusation. I had never expected such an attack.

“Well,” I inhaled deeply. “There was always a reason for each job change.”

Is he really an open-minded, nice person? I felt none of my reasons would permeate into this old man’s rock-hard head.

“After graduating from university, I worked for my first company for two and half years and learned basic business manners and Microsoft Office applications. People were very nice and I enjoyed working there, but every day was the same and I wanted to see a different world.”

Do I have to give him all the reasons for each of my job changes?

“…After one month of farm stay in Hiroshima, I decided to come back to Tokyo. I still didn’t know what I really wanted to do…”

The director glanced at his wrist watch NOT covertly. Of course, he wasn’t interested in the reasons for my job change.

“…Also, I wasn’t always hired as a permanent contract worker. I had to change my job when my employment contract was completed…” Doesn’t he know that there are many contractors’ positions in Japan today?

“I see. You wanted different work experiences.” He indifferently nodded and told me to talk about my strengths in office tasks in English.

I got so nervous and my voice shook. I told him that my strength was my organization skills.

“I keep files neat and tidy so that I can find what I want smoothly. Also, I’m good at time management. I don’t need to do overtime when I can do my tasks my way.”

“When you talk in English, you suddenly become fluent and confident,” the director said. He genuinely looked impressed, which was a second shock for me.

“Do you feel more comfortable when you speak English?” he asked, not being sarcastic or joking.

“Not at all.” My answer made him mildly smile. He probably mistook my response for me for being modest.

After some more talk, his attitude towards me began to thaw. When he asked me his final question, “Are you liked by people?” he sounded almost as if he was declaring, “You must be liked by people!”

Liked by people?

I was probably liked by the recruiters and the IT engineers in ITCM, but I don’t think Fred and Karen liked me. The mouse liked me but Namiko hated me. Why is this interviewer asking questions which no one could answer?

“I think so.” I chose to fulfill his expectations. “I’m a peace-lover and good at harmonizing.”

The director nodded with a big smile and I felt happy. See, I’m such a bloody peace-lover!

Thankfully, I had enough break time before my next interview in Onarimon. At the 7-Eleven cafeteria, I ate two rice balls and opened my bible, The Chimp Paradox. “How” instead of “Why”, the book suggested. Megu, don’t bother to think “why” that old director was so hostile to you at first at the interview. My brain had already created several hypotheses such as, “he was jealous of young people who had overseas work experiences because he had been a company’s slave for decades to simply survive,” although looking for the reason would benefit me nothing. Instead, I should try focusing on “how” I could enjoy my next interview with GISES.

It was an agency dispatch worker’s position, so I visited the GISES office with my agency recruiter. She reminded me of Yumi in ITCM. After the half hour interview, my recruiter said that she would call me soon about the result. On the way home, my flip-phone received a message from her. It said that I had got the job offer from GISES. When the train stopped at the next station, I called back to her and also answered the call from Mick.

“How was the interview this morning?” Mick asked expectantly.

“It was great,” I lied. “I learned about interesting marine vessel systems from the director.”

The impolite director wasn’t Mick’s fault, so I tried sounding happy.

“I really appreciate this great opportunity, but actually I got a job offer from another agency just a minute ago.”

As a professional recruiter, Mick congratulated me and asked the reasons why I had decided to take the offer.

“The salary we are offering you would be much higher. And, as long as it’s the agency dispatch position, you’ll have to look for a job again after the contract has terminated.”

He had a point. “Why don’t you work for one company longer?” I had a flashback of the criticism from the shipping company director.

“I saw the people in GISES as warm and trustworthy. The people who I work with are important to me,” I explained to Mick. “And, when my employment contract finishes, I’ll ask for your help again. So you’ll have another chance, right?”

We laughed.

At home, I reported to Kim that I got a job offer. Though an agency worker is seen as a second-class citizen in Japanese society, Kim in the US doesn’t care.

“So, they’ll allow you to go home early on Fridays? That’s awesome. You can keep going to your ballet class!”

She knows what is most important to me.

***

22nd August 2019

My first working day in GISES has been set as 1st September. I’ve got a one-week holiday but I have no plans. Staying at home alone for a week would make my speech problem worse. I have to go out, but where? My friends are all busy with their own lives.

All right, I’m going to renew my driver’s license at Tachikawa police station. Sounds exciting…

***

25th August 2019

I’m so excited because I’m going to see a dance performance with Kumiko this evening. Kumiko got the ticket for me. When the summer sun started to sink, she and I met up at Ogikubo station and first took the Marunouchi line to Shinjuku and then changed to the Yamanote line for Meguro. We had to stand up and change our seats on the train a few times because of my motion sickness and Kumiko’s bad ear. I needed to sit on the right of her and to turn my face in the direction of the train’s motion. It was Sunday, so the train wasn’t packed and we eventually found suitable seats.

“Did I tell you that Mr Kawai is also going to dance on the stage tonight?” Kumiko asked.

No, she didn’t.

“Is he?” I said, glancing at the shining purple necklace above her black evening dress. I suddenly regretted my casual attire, but he won’t see us from the stage, will he?

“Mr Kawai is a guest performer this year, so he won’t play a main role today,” Kumiko continued as if I had also known that he performed on the stage every year. “He played a hero last year and it was so cool!”

“So, is the performance like a story?” I thought it’s just a dance. “I like stories!”

Kumiko said she’s sure it’s a story. “I don’t usually remember those stories, though… you know, I’m also new to this Broadway world.”

“Broadway?”

“Yes. You don’t know? Our ballet instructor performs in the shows.” She sounded like it was common knowledge amongst his students. “Actually, his profession is not ballet—”

I remember Reiko once said that Mr Kawai also teaches jazz dance in other facilities.

“—He does many things including playing in musical theatres.”

“Musical theatres!”

He doesn’t only dance, but also talks and sings on the stage in front of hundreds of people?! Now I’m sure he is not the third type from my stutterer’s perspective. Of course not.

“Uh huh,” nodded Kumiko, as though reading my mind.

We saw several familiar faces in the lobby of the theatre in Meguro. While Kumiko chatted with some ballet madams who had also been invited to this dance show, I looked at the wall posters under the high ceiling. It was the 65th anniversary of this professional dance company, the posters said. The founder of the company seemed to be a famous dancer nationwide. Probably my cousin knows this person, because she has read all the comic series “Glass Mask: ガラスの仮面” and danced at Sanrio Puroland before.

Soon after Kumiko and I settled on our seats in the audience, one of our ballet classmates came to us.

“We’ve got these cancelled tickets. You can see the stage much better from there.”

Before I opened my mouth, Kumiko exclaimed. “That’s lovely! Look Megu, these seats are in the best row!”

“No problem. The ticket owners couldn’t come anyway.” The lady smiled and left.

Strangely, I felt uncomfortable with this nice offer. “Those seats seem to be too good for me,” I finally said, hiding my stammer. “I mean, we can’t fall asleep during the play, right?”

“No, we can’t,” Kumiko laughed and urged me to stand up. “Let’s go. I know we’re comfortable here, but we should politely accept this sort of offer, OK?” She really sounds like my aunty. “Come on, the curtain will open shortly.”

Under the dim light, I followed her to the central seats near the front.

The bell rang and the whole theatre became quiet. The seats smelled like the inside of a new bus. When the curtain was rolled up, I had this sudden difficulty in looking straight at the stage. Was this because of the bright white light above the stage? Were my eyes disoriented by those colourful costumes and the quick steps of the dancers? When our ballet instructor appeared on the stage, I found what was wrong with me.

“There!” Kumiko patted my shoulder, whispering. “Mr Kawai is there, wearing a white hat.”

I had noticed him the moment he showed up. How come she thought I hadn’t noticed him? But I just nodded to her.

Throughout the first scene, I couldn’t look at my ballet instructor straight. It was quite weird because I stared at him in Onami sports club to imitate his every single movement. Now my eyes skilfully avoided him on the stage as if he was too delicate to be seen. Though his silhouette had been deeply engraved in my mind, he wasn’t an exhibition which I could lightly enjoy watching on the stage.

At the short break, Kumiko and I chatted about how cool Mr Kawai was on the stage, but to be honest I had only seen the other dancers around him. As the scenes went on, I gradually relaxed. Without being too conscious of Mr Kawai’s presence, I enjoyed the story about a painter and his lovers. The bloom of their love was momentary and the rest was all agony. But I’m always fascinated by ephemerality. Shooting stars, cherry blossom, clouds in the sky and one glance which halts my time machine… I don’t seek eternity.

Every time our ballet instructor appeared in different costumes, Kumiko patted my shoulder. “Mr Kawai’s there, holding a walking cane.” She actually hurt a bit. But she became quiet in the last scene and I saw her nodding hard beside me. The scene was certainly monotonous. The tall, slender women in four different-coloured groups fluttered their fans slowly with the exotic music. I smiled at my friend who really did fall asleep during the performance.

After the show, Kumiko and I joined two other women from our ballet class for dinner. Since we all lived in Ogikubo, we chose a Japanese restaurant in Lumine Ogikubo. While we talked about fitness and our gym classes, one of the women, Sayaka, showed us a picture of herself taken a year ago.

“Mr Kawai teases me by saying that my size has become halved since I started to come to the gym,” she said proudly.

“Amazing!” We all praised her. “You must have exercised very hard.”

I started to imagine being acknowledged and teased by Mr Kawai for something I’ve achieved after making a great effort. I feel happy whenever I hear those women talking about him admiringly. I don’t know why.

Sayaka asked me how I liked tonight’s dance show, and I replied “I really enjoyed it. It was totally new for me.”

Yes. I saw a new world there. Our ballet instructor was a different person on the stage. Maybe he originally belonged to this world that I never knew about. After all, I was probably the same as Kumiko; I had been creating my prince who had Mr Kawai’s figure somewhere in my mind, even though I knew so little about him. Despite my restless time-travelling brain, I was living in the moment when I was in the gym studio on Fridays. During the lesson, my mind did not once leave the studio where Mr Kawai was.

Now I began seeing new things which will reshape my daydreams. I’m always a little afraid of seeing the end of the stories, but let it be. I don’t seek eternity, even if it’s a long-lasting hope.

July 2019< >III

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