Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Early this ash-grey morning, while sipping hot chocolate at the McDonald's directly across from Iidabashi station in central Tokyo, I noticed a middle-aged woman talking to the person beside her, except that there was nobody beside her. Early forties, hair tied back in a pony-tail. I noticed her nodding, smiling, engaging in a friendly conversation, by the looks of it. But nobody was there. Only her. In her right hand she clutched a stuffed sheep. In front of her, on the counter, the latest CD case by the latest Japanese boy-band balanced itself on its hinges. She was too old for this band, I thought, covertly glancing at the teeny-bopper pictures inside the CD jacket. The lady kept smiling and talking to the air, enjoying herself. As I walked down the stairs a few moments later, my hot chocolate drunk, my day about to begin, I snuck a glance upwards, to see if she was still chatting. She was, but her face looked pained, almost anguished, the kind of short but potent wince you make when someone tells you that they just banged their finger in the bathroom door. The kind of wince that lasts for only a moment or two, but this one lingered across her features. She seemed about to cry, or perhaps she already was, only silently. (Can one weep without tears?)