An Unusual Evening
Usually, I leave my small apartment around six-thirty in the evening when I’m done with work. It’s a calm neighborhood with a lot of single-story traditional buildings showing off their facades made of charred wood. Usually, I’m quite hungry by that time, and I proceed by heading directly towards the closest LAWSON convenience store. Don’t get me wrong, I do prefer 7-Eleven, but the closest one is much farther away than LAWSON, and — as I said — I am, usually, quite hungry by that time. There are not many people on the streets during this hour — I meet only a few on my way to the store. In the store, I usually pick up an onigiri or two (or three — depending on how hungry I am), something to drink, and then walk towards the Shijō Bridge.
The closer I get to the bridge, the more people I meet. It’s not a surprise because there is a subway station on the side of the bridge closest to me. All the people that I see are moving either towards or from the station. Upon reaching the bridge, I always feel like I’m in another realm — it’s hard to believe that it’s so quiet only a few blocks away. It’s quite crowded here. The bridge connects the subway station with a neighborhood full of loud riverside restaurants, atmospheric bars, colossal shopping malls, and business centers. Usually, I make a stop somewhere in the middle of the bridge, taking some time to ruminate about recent events while looking at the water. The crowd noise is somehow calming and helps me think a lot. The hunger, usually, doesn’t allow me to spend too much time starring into the horizon. Then, I move my gaze to the riverbank under the bridge, where a few groups of young guys and gals always sit and enjoy the river, each other, and their youth. I finally cross the bridge and join them. I sit on the green grass and eat. I can’t really notice the color of the grass because of how the lack of sun makes the setting under the bridge a bit dark — I know that it’s green, though. It’s surprisingly quiet here; the people chilling at the riverbank do not make much noise. I really enjoy that evening routine; the routine I’ve been sticking during the last three weeks that I had to spend in Kyoto.
That’s what I usually do, but not today. Today, I’ve received a message. A message that means the plan is in motion, a message that means “no onigiri today,” and that I really need to hurry up. I direct my stare to the top of the laptop screen; it is T minus forty-seven minutes. I have to act fast. I grab my backpack and slide the laptop into one of its compartments with a single precise motion. Everything else is already packed; I’ve been preparing for this to happen. I stand up, ready to leave, and look around a small room that I have called home for the past three weeks. It is a small, simple room with barely enough space for a single bed, two stools, and a journal table so small that it can be mistaken for a stool. The light of the evening shines at the table through a window. “Goodbye, home,” I say quietly to a huge blue kimono decorating the wall behind the bed — a ridiculous detail that I somehow learned to ignore. I walk out of the room while keeping my head low to avoid hitting the door frame — it can be an extremely painful experience, trust me. My flatmate isn’t at home. That’s good, that spares me an unnecessary conversation. I lock the door and leave the key in the mailbox on my way out. I check the watch; I’m six minutes ahead of schedule. It has started, and I better get ready.