8:30pm. I’m waiting in front of the Oyafukô Dôri Mister Donuts, bathed in garish neon light and serenaded by Nat King Cole.

Roll . . . out . . . those . . . lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer! Those days of soda . . . and pretzels . . . and beer.

For a Monday night, there’s a fair amount of pedestrian traffic moving up and down Oyafukô.

*

Anticipation of the long-awaited reunion with Mie had me as restless as a child on Christmas Eve. Waking before dawn, I laid on my futon, staring sleeplessly at the ceiling for an hour and a half before giving up on sleep and getting ready for work.

I left my apartment early enough to catch the members of the local fire station lackadaisically performing their morning radio calisthenics and got toe the office where the cleaning lady was sloshing a mop around.

The morning lesson was interminable. The students’ uncharacteristic reticence didn’t help. On the clock above the dusty chalkboard, the second hand moved as if it were weighed down with lead sinkers. The minute hand needed regular coaxing and encouragement to help it get through the hour. My afternoon break was hardly better. Nothing I did was able to jump-start time, to get the stalled day to rumble forward any faster.

I went for a five-kilometer run around Ôhori Park, then took a leisurely walk through the usually quiet and deserted castle ruins which I discovered were now alive with the pink and purple azalea blossoms and doubled back along the moat, its dark green still water dotted with plate-sized lily pads. The diversion didn’t have much of an appetite, unfortunately; hardly an hour was gobbled up by the effort.

Back at my apartment, I began unpacking my things and putting my apartment in order. I removed Mie’s articles. Her yellow toothbrush joined mine in a stainless cup by the sink, her pajamas took priority position in the top drawer of the wardrobe. I also went to some lengths to erase any sign of Reina having been in my apartment, picking up the occasional hair, putting the empty cans of chu-hi and beer in a bag for non-burnable garbage on the balcony. Last but by far not least, I tossed the package of Whisper sanitary napkins Reina had, for Lord knows what reason, left behind. In the remaining hours, I studied Japanese, looking up all the things I’d been wanting to say to Mie for the past six months, all the things I’d been wanting to ask her every day that has passed since she closed the door on me.

Back at work in the afternoon, I went to the lobby and sat on a bench butted up against the tinted windows and looked out at the still life below. White compacts and delivery vans were stopped at a red light. An old woman hunched all the way over like a candy cane paused for an eternity before attempting to cross the four-lane avenue. Arthritic, knobby hands clutching for dear life onto the handle of a small stroller-like shopping cart. Without it, she probably would have toppled right over. She took a step, a small one, bringing her closer to the shopping cart, then pushed the cart an arm-length away and stepped slowly towards it again, making her way across the avenue like an ancient inchworm.

Every time the phone rang in the office, I got a case of the jitters, worried that Mie was calling to cancel, that something preventing us from meeting had come up. Will she be held up at work and be forced to postpone the date for kondo, for another time?

Japanese often chime “let’s do it another time,” but you soon realize this “other time” is just another way of saying “never in a million years, buster.”

It was the last words Mie had spoken to me when she left my apartment eight months earlier. “Kondo,” she said and drove off never to come back.

Anxiety filled my thoughts, crowding out any of the elation I should have been feeling about seeing Mie again. It was to be expected, after what I’d gone through. Six months on, I’m still shell-shocked from the bomb she dropped on me.

*

8:40 and still no sign of Mie.

The air is cooler than I expected and the longer I wait the more I wish I’d dressed for warmth rather than The Sell. My inability to exaggerate or embellish upon my own accomplishments, let alone mention them, is one reason, I suppose, that I am so fussy about how I dress. I don’t dress for success so much as I dress to avoid the almost certain failure that my modesty invites. Clothes make the man, the lesser the man, the more he depends on them to help him along.

What is it I wanted my linen suit to communicate to Mie? That I’m too broke to buy something warmer? Nah, that wasn’t it. That, somehow, despite all the crap that happened last year, in spite of my former boss’s attempts to bury me, that everything has managed to work out alright in the end; that I’m not a complete failure; that I still have a fighting chance to get through this life with my dignity intact; that, more than anything, I deserve another chance with Mie. And so, in my effort to impress Mie, I now shiver in the chill of an early spring night.

A half block down the street a young man in a crisp white shirt and a black apron tied around his waist tries to hand out discount tickets for a karaoke bar.

Across the street on the corner, two young women dressed to kill fuss over a middle-aged businessman. He scratches his balding scalp, vacillating between options: going home to a frigid wife, or blowing money he doesn’t have drinking with the lovely hostesses. He scratches his head again, and then nods. The women cheer and lead him away by hand.

Several men and women, company freshmen judging by the uniformity of their simple black suits, huddle around a fallen co-worker, who’s splayed out and unconscious on the sidewalk. They try to lift him, but he’s gone all rubbery from the drink.

And then there’s a darling girl in a ponytail and a tight fitting red and white outfit emblazoned with the CABIN logo across her chest. She stands in front of a cigarette vending machine attempting to dissuade customers from buying other brands. Hell, it works for me. I’d give up Hope–my Hope cigarettes, that is–to share a cabin with her any day. And I mean it. She looks my way and waves. I look around to see who’s she’s waving at but find no one. She waves again. I wave tentatively back and she smiles.

A customized van with tinted windows, spoilers and bright blue lights under its low-riding chassis rumbles by shaking my fillings loose. The angry music blasted out from the van competes noisily with Mister Donuts’ cheerful playlist of Golden Oldies. As the van turns off of Oyafukô, a bôsôzoku motorcycle gang rumbles into the narrow street, zigzagging recklessly and revving their engines until they caterwaul like tigers in heat. A patrol car follows lackadaisically behind providing zero deterrent.

Some minutes later, a clapped-out pick-up makes its way down the street. A miserable ditty crackles out from a dirty speaker lamenting, “Warabi mochi . . .Warabi mochi.”

The first time I ever heard this mournful song, I was moved by curiosity to look up the meaning of its enigmatic lyrics in a dictionary only to be further confounded by what I found: bracken-starch dumplings. What the hell is bracken and why is the song selling them so depressing?

*

I check my watch again. 8:45.

C’mon, Mie. Where the devil are you?

Fifteen minutes is nothing, though, considering I’ve already been waiting a half a year for her. Six long, lonely months. I never gave up hope. Doubt may have gnawed that hope to shreds, but I haven’t given it up.

You’d think I’d know what I would want to say to Mie after having waited so long to see her again, but I don’t. What will she say to me? And how will she act? What are the odds of my getting her back? Do I even want her back after all this time? Now that I am finally here, it occurs to me that I never considered that. It has been too far beyond my limited imagination since she left me to think of the break up as anything other than my having been robbed of a profound and rightly deserved happiness. If only my future self would journey back to this present moment and tell me to open my eyes and take in all the beautiful women passing by, and, with a gentle elbow to my ribs, convince me of the very thing that has been nagging at me since my move: that, maybe, just maybe, I am better off without Mie, and that, starting at this very moment I should take the first step towards moving on with my life by standing the bitch up. Should the future me indeed pay myself a visit, I seriously doubt if I would be very convincing. Again, I’m not much of a salesman.

I step inside Mr. Donuts to get out of the chill, and am greeted by a cloyingly aromatic melange of the “world’s best coffee,” month old frying oil, and cigarette smoke. Through the unhealthy miasma a small table in the furthest corner comes into view. It’s the very same table at which Mie and I waited out a sudden downpour on Father’s Day last year. Though the donut shop is hopping, “our table” remains empty as if it’s been reserved for us.

I want to take my place at the table and relive that day, to hold Mie’s hand as I did then and talk to her about moving to Portland with me. I long to hear the words she spoke to me that rainy afternoon, that there was nothing more in this world she wanted than to live with me in America.

Mie had left her boyfriend for me the night before and was now mine–my girlfriend, my lover. And, looking into her warm brown eyes I thought I knew who the mother of my children was destined to be. Mie was mine, and as the rain poured heavily outside I couldn’t begin to imagine that I would ever feel as forlorn, confused, or as bitter as I have been all these months. It was inconceivable that the happiness I was feeling then would be so ephemeral or that four short months later the only thing that would sustain me through the autumn and winter would be the emaciated hope languishing within this miserable heart of mine, the hope that the red string tying us together and which had helped me find Mie was merely frayed, not broken.

*

O-Kyaku-sama. Anô . . . O-Kyaku-sama.” The counter staff calls me, drawing me back to reality.

Hai?

Gochûmon okimari deshôka?

Do I want anything to order? I tell her I’m waiting for someone and she makes a slight bow.

When I turn around and look towards the entrance I notice Mie standing on the sidewalk just outside the entrance of Mr. Donuts. She hasn’t seen me yet, so I wait a moment before exiting. She is as beautiful as I’ve remembered her, painfully so, and every little thing I adored about her rushes back to me, that tsunami of memories washing over me again.

How on earth did I ever expect to move on, let alone fall in love with someone else, when that woman, that unforgettable woman standing there, was the one who had broken my heart?

I have to suppress the urge to run outside and hold onto her so tightly that she’ll never be able to leave me again. Taking a deep breath, I take a step towards the automatic doors. As they open I softly call out her name, “Mie-chan,” but she doesn’t hear me. My heart is in my throat, pounding away madly, stifling any sound. I could almost cry. “Mie-chan.”

She turns towards me and says, “Oh-chan.”

It’s been months since anyone called me Oh-chan. Tears threaten to well up in my eyes. I take a step towards her, my hand extended. She takes it, the touch warm, familiar and comforting. It’s as if I had been holding it all this time.

Hisashiburi ne,” I say. Been a long time, hasn’t it.

Ne.” She looks me as if to take an inventory of this former lover of hers. “You’ve lost weight, haven’t you?”

“It’s not the only thing I’ve lost, Mie-chan.”

“You’ve gone and cut you’re hair, too. It’s so much nicer when it’s longer, Oh-chan. It’s so . . . ”

“Messy, I know.”

“No, no. It was curly . . . Adorable. I really liked it long.” I want to hold her and kiss her and tell her how much love her, how much I’ve missed her, how much . . . But before I have the chance, she turns to beckon a young woman over. “I’ve, um, invited a friend along. Yuki-chan. We work together. I guess I should have told you, but, well, she wanted to meet you.”

“Meet me?”

This Yuki-chan skips over to us, a bright smile on her pretty face.

Hajimemashite,” I say to her with a slight bow.

“Wow!” she says. “You’re Japanese is really good.”

After introducing us quickly, Mie says,”Ikimashôka,” so we leave, following her down the street past the cute CABIN cigarette campaign girl, the warabi mochi vendor who’s now standing behind his pick-up serving a customer, and an Israeli selling cheap jewelry on the sidewalk. The Israeli nods at me, and Mie’s co-worker asks if he’s my friend. I reply that I’ve never seen him before in my life, which the girl finds enormously entertaining. It keeps her tittering for a while just as it had done to Mie a year ago.

Mie leads us through a cracked tinted glass door into a well-known bar on the first floor of a run-down karaoke building called the Big Apple where the cheap beer and even cheaper women attract South American men and boys up from the Navy base in Sasebo like flies to warm shit.

We sit under a canopy of black lights and neon beer signs on precariously high stools around a narrow table that wobbles. Yuki is wide-eyed and bubbling over with childish excitement; she’s never been to a gaijin bar, she tells me and asks if I come here a lot. This is precisely what I’d like to ask of Mie because the thought of her hanging out at grotty gaijin bars like this all these months since she dumped me is disturbing.

“No, I’ve never been here before,” I reply. While it is a relief to learn that Mie, too, is a virgin of sorts, the unsettlingly vivid image of her hanging out here and flirting with men, particularly other foreign men, is now seared into my mind. I’ve never been the jealous type; this is a new emotion for me.

“It’s just like America,” Yuki says earnestly, compelling me to ask her whether she’s been. “Me? No, never. I haven’t even been to Tôkyô.”

“Yuki wants to go to America,” Mie informs me. “I told her she should go to Portland.”

“I wanna go, wanna go, wanna go!” Yuki cries. The girl wants to go so badly she can barely contain herself.

Mie asks if I’ve been home since . . . since, well, you-know-when . . . since we last met.

“To Portland? Nah, not yet.”

“No? I’m surprised to hear that.”

Me, too. Time flies when you’re having fun. “It’s been over a year now. Thirteen months.”

“Eh? Thirteen months? Aren’t you homesick?” Yuki asks.

“Sometimes, yes . . . But, not right now.”

Ne, have you got a girlfriend,” Yuki says.

The question was bound to come up sooner or later, but now that it has I don’t know how to reply with Mie sitting next to me. When I hesitate to answer, Mie tells her, “Oh-chan says he doesn’t have a girlfriend, but I don’t believe him.”

“No way!” Yuki says.

Whatever.

Yuki, I’m now told, doesn’t have a boyfriend, either, obliging me to register similar disbelief at the revelation. “Unbelievable! Yuki, you’re much too cute to not have a boyfriend.

I do try to be polite.

Yuki then says something that surprises me: there aren’t enough men in Fukuoka. And as if to refute any doubt she supports this dubious claim with statistics: “You know there is only one man for every eight women in this city? Maybe I should move to Tôkyô.”

Hearing this from someone as adorable as this Yuki here ought to be like music to my ears, but to be honest, all I really care to listen to is that sweet old melody sung once more from Mie’s soft lips that dear old Tetsu is no longer a leading character in her life pageant. Unfortunately, Mie seems to have lost her voice.

I take my box of Hope cigarettes and Mie’s lighter out of my pocket, remove a cigarette and light up.

“Ah, I was wondering where that went,” Mie says of the lighter.

“You left it behind,” I say handing it to her.

“Is it really okay?”

“Of course, it is yours, after all.”

“Yeah, I guess it is, isn’t it. Thanks.

“Don’t mention it.”

Mie removes a pack of Mild Sevens from her handbag, lights up, and before the two of us can become pensive, Yuki bails us out of the sinking mood by suggesting we order something to drink. Mie says she’ll get it and stands up leaving me alone with Yuki.

The girl is still somewhat gaijin struck, giggling like a teenager whenever I look at her. I don’t know why it is, but some Japanese just can’t help themselves when they meet foreigners. Given half a chance, they’ll rattle off an arbitrarily arranged list of silly questions which form a hurdle you’re obliged to clear before something resembling a true conversation can take place. And so while Mie is away fetching the drinks, Yuki asks whether I like sushi or those god-awful fermented soybeans called natto that smell of week old gym socks. She wants know whether I can use ohashi (chopsticks) or read the hiragana script, and so on until Mie rescues me with a Corona.

Mie shows Yuki what to do with the wedge of lime, then we clink the necks of the bottles together. “Kampai!

Natsukashii ne,” Mie says, remembering the times we drank it at her apartment last summer.

“Ne,” I say. Just looking at the slim clear bottle stirs up so many fond memories. The weekends spent with Mie in Fukuoka, the drives to the beach, the evenings drinking in her apartment, the wild drunken sex all night and the mornings nursing our hangover with Pocari Sweat only to do it all over again until Tuesday mornings when it was back to work in god-forsaken Kitakyushu. “Natsukashii ne.

Yuki asks me why I came to Japan, another standard question people here are always itching to put to me. The Japanese seem to like simple, predictable and preferably concise answers when engaging someone in small talk, communicating abstract ideas or revealing things too personal doesn’t quite go down well, so I brush the question courteously aside, “It’s a long story.”

“I’d like to hear it,” Yuki says. “Tell me, tell me, tell me!”

“Me, too,” says Mie.

It occurs to me only now that Mie never knew why I came to or what I wanted to do once here in Japan. Oh, I’m sure I must have tried to explain, but a year ago my Japanese was an embarrassment. To her, I must have appeared little more than a shiftless, albeit romantic, wanderer. How different I must have been from her Tetsu who had become a policeman, because, well, his father and grandfather and, who knows, maybe even his great grandfather had also been policemen. If Tetsu’s father had jumped off a bridge, I wonder if he would have taken a swan dive off it, as well? When I had asked Mie, somewhat rudely I later regretted, why on earth she had ever been interested in marrying a cop, she replied matter-of-factly: for stability. Mie often did that to me, offered an answer that would just stop me in my tracks. What about love and romance, inspiration, or even fate, I protested. In this economy, she explained, those are luxuries a woman can’t afford. Once, when I learned that Mie’s mother had had her learn the piano and cello, I asked her if she would do the same with her own children. Of course, she would. For shitsuke, she added and started thumbing through a tattered Japanese-English dictionary.

For aesthetic pleasure, I wondered out loud, in order to develop a deep and long-lasting love of music? Nah, don’t be so naïve, Peador. Finding the word in the dictionary, Mie handed it to me and pointed at the entry. Shitsuke, I discovered, meant “discipline.” As much as I loved Mie, as painful as her absence has been, it’s hard to continue denying what I had already realized but had difficulty accepting: the uncomfortable fact that I never really knew Mie and Mie knew even less about me.

*

So, I have to go into the long and tired tale of how Peador had wanted to be an architect and designer, but after finishing university, didn’t have the means to continue onto a master’s program thanks to a mountain of student loan debt accruing at ten percent and unsupportive parents who believed the school of hard knocks would make their son a stronger person despite his pleading that he it wasn’t strong that he wanted to be, it was employable. The reason I came to Japan, I then tell my small but captivated audience, was two-fold, that is if you exclude the burning desire to escape from my family and America: to save money for graduate school and, if possible, learn more about Japanese design and architecture. “You know, niseki iccho,” I say in conclusion.

“Huh?”

Niseki icchô,” I say again and pantomime throwing an invisible rock at two imaginary birds until I realize that what I’m actually saying is “two rocks, one bird.” Though this may be a far more accurate description of my experience in this country so far, isn’t quite what I meant to convey, so I correct myself: “Isseki, nichô.”

Yuki praises my Japanese, exclaiming how jôzu! it is, but, to be honest, I think she’s just dickin’ with me. Mie says she had no idea.

“The problem is, though, my train kind of . . . derailed, if you will. I wasn’t able to do any of the things I expected to do during my first year here.”

Ôen suru ken,” they reply, telling me they’ll be rooting for me, so I should “ganbatte!” I shouldn’t give up. I assure them that I don’t give up easily. I wouldn’t still be here today if I did.

After drinking the bar dry of Coronas the three of us switch to whiskey and waters. I know I’m going to regret it tomorrow morning, but I’m still hoping for a repeat performance of that first night ever with Mie, hoping that even if words fail me, then perhaps alcohol will succeed as it has in the past in loosening this ex-girlfriend of mine up.

It is unfortunately obvious, though, that Mie has her own ideas of how she’d like the evening to end. She never gets very personal, never lets on to what is happening in her life, whether she is still with Tetsu. Not once does she even drop a hint about our common past. Instead, Mie tries her best to sell me on this co-worker of hers, and even informs me that Yuki has an apartment of her own, a nice place not far from Tenjin, that I ought to visit.

Yuki seconds this. “Yes, yes. By all means, do come over anytime.” She writes her phone number on the back of a business card, and after making me promise to call her, excuses herself to stagger off to the restroom. Mie and I are alone for the first time all evening.

“I think Yuki likes you.”

“Humph, that’s nice to know.”

It’s hard to hide my lack of enthusiasm. I mean, sweet as the girl is, she just isn’t Mie. She can’t even begin to compare; this ex-girlfriend of mine set the bar too goddamn high.

“She your type?”

“My type?” I’m almost drunk enough that I could smack Mie for asking. “I think you already have an idea what my type is like.”

“She’s a good person. I think she’d make a nice girlfriend for you.”

“Do you now?”

“Yes, I do. I really do think you’d make a nice couple.”

“You really believe that’s why I wanted to see you tonight? So I could meet someone new?”

“It’s just . . . You sounded so . . . I don’t know . . . so sad and lonely over the phone.”

“I was . . . I still am sad and lonely, Mie-chan. But dating someone like your Yuki isn’t going to help me in that department.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? What are you? Stupid?” I drink the rest of my whiskey quickly. Some of it trickles out of the corner of the glass, runs down my chin and neck. I grab her hand which she’s done a fabulous job of keeping out of my reach and taking a deep breath to keep myself from exploding, begin, “I’m sorry, Mie. It’s been a long, long, long fucking time since we last met. I don’t know how you’ve spent the last six months, but, let me tell you, I’ve thought about you each and every day since you left me. And as sad and lonely as I’ve been, I’ve managed to carry this foolish hope in my heart that maybe, just maybe if I became a better person or if circumstances changed, if fortune deigned to smile rather than shit upon me for once, then you and I could be together again and everything would be alright. And here we are finally together again and you can’t wait to pawn me off on someone else.”

“That wasn’t my intention.”

“You know what your friend Yuki is?”

“No, what?”

“She’s a consolation prize. She’s a consolation prize when I want you, you, you and no one but you so badly I can barely look at another woman without being reminded of how much I miss you.”

“I feel sorry for you.”

*

Yuki returns finding me with Mie’s cold, dead fish of a hand in mine and scolds us for cheating, “Uwaki-wa dah-me!” On whom Mie and I are supposedly cheating Yuki doesn’t say. But, Mie takes it as a hint to stand up and give Yuki the seat next to me. Yuki sits then takes my hand and asks me if I like her, “Yuki-chan no koto suki?”

I smile sadly because it reminds me of the very words Mie spoke to me on the floor of her bedroom that first night nearly a year ago when we’d drunk ourselves silly on sake. “I love you. I love you so much I could cry,” I say to Mie, but it’s Yuki who hugs me and kisses me and tells me she loves me, too.

The past has been waiting for its cue to burst in through the tinted glass door of the Big Apple and spoil our reunion. I ought to give Mie credit for having known this and tried in her own way to keep the past as far away from the present as possible by carrying on as if our common tragic history no longer had anything to do with us today. But it was an effort that had been doomed to failure when she had extended the invitation over the phone. I am my past, the sum of my disappointments.

Mie tries to maintain a distance from me the rest of the evening. She chain-smokes her Mild Sevens, letting them burned half way, rubbing them out in the ashtray and lighting up again. She smokes as if to save herself the effort of having to talk with me on any level but the most onion-skin thin one. If a cigarette isn’t pressed against her red lips, then it’s a glass of whiskey, unloading the burden of conversation onto Yuki’s and my shoulders. Only when it behooves Mie to do so, will she gesture with a cigarette between those cold, rigid fingers of hers, or add an occasional point to guide the conversation away from her comfort zone, before retreating back into a grating silence that only makes me wonder why she asked me out in the first place.

Was it to prove to herself that she no longer felt anything for me, that even if her former lover were to stand before her she wouldn’t be moved? Or was she a sadist at heart, inviting me out only to marvel at the damage she had caused, to watch me unravel, like an arsonist watching a house burn to the ground?

*

When Mie stands to go to the restroom, I too rise to my feet and silently follow a few paces behind her. I’ve been far too patient with her this evening and have drunk far, far too much to stop myself from dredging the bottom of my heart and letting the pain that has been festering there finally come to the surface. I know it’s a bad idea and I know I really ought to wait, but then I’ve waited six months already and who knows when, let alone if, I will ever see her again. I stand outside the restroom and when she emerges, she’s surprised to see me.

“I want to talk with you,” I say. “Alone.”

Good God, I sound desperate. I am desperate.

There are times when I wish I could dislocate myself from the past, to look back at the things I did and say, “No, no, no. That? That wasn’t me. You must be mistaking me for someone else.” If I’d had a knife, big and sharp enough, I would have cut those bits of the past off, amputated entire limbs from my personal history. But then, what would I have had left? A past that looked like a daruma–an atrophied torso with grotesque knobs where the arms and legs had once been. I might still have my dignity in tact, though, which is more than I can say about how I feel about myself now.

She tries to slip past, to return to the carefree distraction her co-worker provided, but I grab her hand and stop her.

“I have to talk to you, Mie-chan. Anywhere but here.”

She makes another attempt to get away, so I pull her roughly to the fire escape in the back.

“I don’t want to marry you,” she says in perfect English, the first English she has spoken the whole evening.

“This isn’t about marriage. Goddammit, Mie, I love you . . . And, and all I’ve wanted these past months is to understand why.”

“I still love you. But I can’t marry you. Tetsu and I will be engaged next month. Our families are going to meet next week.”

“Why?” It’s as if someone has just bludgeoned me. Everything goes white. My knees buckle. “Why?” Why did you leave me? Why didn’t we talk more so you could tell me how you were feeling? Why did it have to end? Why? Why? Why? “Why, Mie-chan?” My heart is overwhelmed by an all-too familiar weariness. I want to just disappear, to exhale one last time and expire and be forgotten. I can’t take it anymore. My grip on her arm weakens, releasing her. Did I ever really hold her? Was she ever mine to begin with? I step aside to let her go.

She starts to walk away, then stops and says, “We had a baby, Peador.”

Tears fill my eyes. “A baby?”

“We killed our baby,” she said.

My jaw drops, the tears fall hard and fast. “I . . . I didn’t know. You never told me.”

“I tried to, but . . . ”

“But what?”

“But you wouldn’t listen to me.”

“I listened to you.”

“You only listened to the words, Peador. Not my feelings.”

“I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry. Mie . . . ”

“Apologizing won’t change anything, Peador . . . And neither will crying.”

Mie walks back to the table leaving me alone to dry my eyes and regain what little composure I have.

Back at the table, I gather up my blazer and bag, and say good night as calmly and as pleasantly as I can. I search Mie’s dark eyes for a trace of the woman I fell in love with a year ago, but she isn’t there. When she broke up with me, she had protected herself behind a chained door, now she has chained her heart shut, as well. As I turn away to head out the door, the two jump to their feet and scramble after me. God only knows why, but they insist that I stay, but I am beyond persuasion. Not even Yuki’s suggestion that we all take a taxi back to her apartment can dissuade me. It’s an offer I know I’ll regret not taking, but as desperate I was to see Mie again, all I want now is to get the hell out of here before I lose it completely.

Sadness grips my throat, I speak in short, difficult bursts to keep from crying again in front of her. “I’m sorry, but . . . I gotta go . . . Bye.”

Mie kisses me affectionately on the cheek, a soft kiss dampened by a warm tear. What is that tear for, I wonder. Is it a tear of sadness and frustration, or a tear of anger and exasperation? Did it fall for me or for herself, or for the baby we didn’t have? I know what I’m going to cry for. My tears will stream from these burning eyes for all the things I should have understood about her and all the things I should have done for her, but didn’t. I know that as soon as I have left Mie’s sight, I will mourn the devastating loss of a woman’s love and the demise of the hope that had kept me going all this time. I will drop to my knees under the weight of regrets of horrible mistakes I’ve made because they can never ever be undone.

I start running, turning off at the first corner, run as fast as my legs can carry me. Finding a telephone booth, I take the Lady Luck phone card from my wallet, and dial the only number I know.

Moshi mosh,” Reina says.

“It’s me . . . I need a friend,” I blubber into the receiver.

© Aonghas Crowe, 2010. All rights reserved. No unauthorized duplication of any kind.

注意:この作品はフィクションです。登場人物、団体等、実在のモノとは一切関係ありません。

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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