Low Tide

In the middle of the day, carried away by a wave of drowsiness, Strawberry falls asleep wearing his sweatpants and white undershirt. There’s a pillow arranged around his face to shield his eyes from the sunlight splashing over his chest. It’s difficult to describe what happens when I glance over at his sleeping form. Let’s just say: My mind registers his presence and is swept off into the ocean.

The cherries are blooming in Japan, a two-week event which alters the tenor of life across the islands as millions awaken to petals unfurling in one continuous wave. When the blossoms eventually do come apart, disassembled by the wind, they erupt over the roads in a manner not quite like snowfall, but something isomorphic to it. At times, the results can be spectacular. On one particularly memorable occasion, we drive straight into a gust of petals. The mountains adjacent to us appear almost a pixelation of mottled green, cinnamon-brown, and bursts of pink.

To celebrate my birthday, Strawberry and I do dinner and movie in Kyoto. The flowering cherry trees under the full moon are the visual equivalent of a song you can dance to: sultry, magnetic, but with a tang of sweetness that makes repeated tasting palatable. The movie ends right before midnight, and we have to sprint through the Gion district to make the last train. My skirt is hiked up around my thighs so my legs can move unobstructed. The soles of my sneakers strike the pavement like blows. Running like this reminds of how much I rely on my body, and on its trillion interacting parts. Eyes blinking in the darkness of night. The tension between muscle, bone, and tendons. Nerves aflame. Oxygen suspended in the blood. My hands, held against my sides and balled into fists.

In the mornings, we make coffee so thick and so strong that it reminds me of the Spanish hot chocolate of my childhood. Among other things, Strawberry has converted me to the worship of brewed coffee, and as a lifelong tea drinker I am less abashed by this than expected. Maybe adulthood starts when you begin to seriously configure your identity based on your beverage of choice. (This is tongue-in-cheek. Mostly.) Though he’s agreeable to most Japanese traditions, Strawberry has always been averse to tea ceremony, conducted with finely powdered green tea. He tells me, in his shy, charming way, that he thinks ceremonial matcha tastes like seawater (“like when the tide is low.”) It’s a comparison that would never have occurred to me. I imagine getting up from the bed, opening the door to his second-floor apartment, and feeling the froth of gentle, verdant waves lap against my ankles. A seabird carving a slow, wide arc over the surface of the water. Not quite holy ground, but something isomorphic to it.

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