Episode from My Social Distancing and Naked Spa in Japan by Hidemi Woods
Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods
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My moving plan is still alive. The most possible property I’ve found and liked so far is the one located in the snowy countryside surrounded by mountains. It stands alone in the woods and there’s no house, building, or shop around it. It takes 50 minutes by bus to get to the closest town. So, it’s like the one in that scary novel, ‘The Shining’ by Stephen King. It’s completely secluded and away from people. Because of how it’s located, it meets my low price range.
If I moved in that place, I could finally get rid of this crazy society and concentrate on writing songs. Sounds ideal for me. There, only one road leads to the town, weaving through the mountains. If a landslide or a snowslide occurred and blocked the road, I would lose the way to get food and might die there without being found. I’m terrified at the thought of that.
Am I left with no choice but to stick to this mad society and live among people, after all…?
Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods
It happened a long time ago when I lived in Tokyo. My partner and I had dinner at a restaurant one night after we hung around the mall. We came back to our apartment that we had rented on the top floor of the building as our home and the office for our record label.
When I tried to turn my key on the front door, I noticed the door had remained unlocked. It was weird. I may have forgotten to lock the door when I left, which was highly unlikely since I was fussy about locking and couldn’t leave without making sure that the door wouldn’t open by trying the knob for a couple of times. I got in feeling dubious, but our apartment didn’t look unusual. Then my partner suddenly said, “Why is the cabinet open?” My heart began to beat fast with overwhelming uneasiness and I hurried into the bedroom that had a balcony. The tall window to the balcony had been smashed broken. It was a burglary.
I called the police right away while my partner was gingerly looking into the bathroom, the closet, and behind the drapes to see if the burglar wasn’t still hiding. Those minutes were the scariest as too many movie scenes flashed back to me. Thankfully, there was nobody. The police arrived quickly since the station was ironically only a block away from my apartment. Such a location apparently wasn’t safe enough to prevent burglary.
The policemen came in and looked around. As they saw the messy rooms, they showed sympathy saying, “It’s played havoc, huh?” It was funny because my apartment had been messy as it was long before burglary. But probably thanks to it, the burglar didn’t notice an envelope that held a few thousand dollars for the bills and was mingled with scraps of paper on the table. Instead of cash, a dozen of Disney wrist watches that was my collection, a cheap wrist watch that was my partner’s memento of his late mother, an Omega wrist watch that I received from my grandparents as a souvenir of their trip to Europe decades ago, and one game software were missing. Actually, those items had been the only valuables in my office apartment. Other than those and litter, my apartment had been quite empty. The reason was simple. I was near bankrupt at that time.
I had started up my music label with my partner and it had grown steadily as business. A person I had trusted offered substantial financial support and I took it. I rented this apartment and hired staff with that money. Then the financial supporter tried to take over my label and threatened to suspend further finance if I refused. Amid horrible disgusting negotiations, money stopped being wired into my account. The label came to a standstill for lack of funds. I laid off all staff and saw what took eight years for my partner and I to build from a scratch crumbling down. The blow was amplified by anger and self-loathing from the fact that I was deceived by a person I had trusted. Despair and emptiness led to apathy. I stopped doing or thinking anything and had played a game every day.
In hindsight, if there hadn’t been burglary, my partner and I would have kept paying the costly rent for the apartment and playing a game until we spent all the money that was left. But something clicked when I saw the very game software I had played every day picked among other many games to be stolen, and the glass window of my dream penthouse apartment smashed. It marked the point where I hit the bottom but also was a wake-up call. We moved out the luxurious apartment immediately and rented a cheap studio apartment in a small two-storied building.
That move left some money in my bank account. The deposit of the penthouse apartment was returned, too. Also, I received an unexpected insurance payout. The expensive rent of my former apartment included a damage insurance. The insurance company assessed the damage based on the report I submitted to the police. For some reason, they calculated the payout more than the total price of what were stolen. I discussed with my partner about what to do with the money. We decided to go to California. A new start form zero. And that was to be the beginning of all these, everything that I do at present. My works have been taken to the world by that decision, made by the burglary.
I was about to go to bed yesterday when I heard the ominous spattering sound in my room. Spring shifted to summer all of a sudden and I had turned on the air conditioner. The noise was a water leak from it. Beneath the air conditioner sits my PC with which I work for my music. I usually put plastic bags on the PC as a covering after each use and the water was dropping right down to it. It was a dreadful sight. I completely panicked and couldn’t figure out what to do first. Then I tried to turn off the air conditioner with a stereo remote. And I tried to grab a floor cloth to wipe up the water but couldn’t find my slippers. The PC holds our new song that had been finally completed yesterday after seven years. I thought the water was draining away the song and my seven years. Thankfully, the computer didn’t get wet while the monitor got a few droplets from the edge of the plastic cover. What are the odds that a water leak aiming at a PC happens on the same day when a song gets finished on the very PC? Is this some sort of a sign? Sign for what? Not to tweak the song any further? Or, to wipe the slate clean and start all over again? I couldn’t sleep well from thinking about it and from the heat without air conditioning…
Next to my apartment is a parking lot. A loud noise of a car engine without a muffler woke me up early in the morning today. Sick people who enjoy driving a car without an engine muffler and with a booming car stereo are increasing here. I was able to go back to sleep but then the neighbor kids’ voice disturbed my sleep again.
The window of my room looks out on the front yard of a neighbor’s house. Kids and idle housewives were playing and talking loudly. Kids are my archenemies. They relentlessly attack me with their evil, highpitched voices and shrieks. When I first moved in here, there were few houses around. But soon, more and more houses were built, more families were moving in, and I got surrounded by kids.
Every time I move somewhere quiet, the area quickly gets booming and kids are running everywhere destroying my cozy living environment. Now that I’ve decided to move, the destination should be someplace quiet, kids-free, bugs free, and hopefully, people-free…
I have a strong phobia about bugs. My apartment is heavily armed by numerous bug repellers, such as electrical, herbal, you name it.
The other day, it was very cold like winter, and yet, a bug appeared in my room, right next to an electrical bug repeller. Impossible. A couple of weeks earlier, a light switch of the bathroom got broken. Combined it with the inconceivable way of the bug’s appearance, I took them as signs to move out this apartment. The last time I moved was also when I found a bug and a light switch of the bathroom got broken. It was the best decision as the move turned my luck. I’ve started packing my stuff even though I have no idea where to move. I’ve got a lot of cheap stuff as a result of sale-hunting and have little time to pack, so it will take a long time to move, anyway…
I enjoyed cherry blossoms in full bloom, taking pictures at a park. Because it was night, there was nobody in the park so that I monopolized the view in the quiet environment. One of a few good things living in Japan is safe enough to walk around a park at night. Then, I arrived at the supermarket at perfect timing as they had just started putting half-off stickers on the unsold prepared foods. I got tons of Chinese food and took more pictures of cherry blossoms from a pedestrian bridge on my way home.
It was caused by the low-pressure system and as I was afraid, my headache started. As the storm got stronger, my headache got worse. With the noise of blowing winds and a bad headache, I couldn’t sleep well. About twice a year, some kids visit and stay with my neighbors two doors down, and their running footsteps disturb me because the walls of my apartment building are too thin. Unfortunately, yesterday was one of their visits. Their relentless drum roll footsteps joined with the storm and the headache in the morning and I got up with the three-way attack. Although the storm subsided, I couldn’t go to the store today because I felt ill from the severe night…
I’m not good at being with people by nature. I always like to being alone and stay inside my room. Basically, any contact with others is uncomfortable. Not to mention phone calls, public places are dreadful for me unless they are near empty with few people. I hate to have a person standing right behind me at the checkout counter in a supermarket. Whenever I take a train, I search for a car that has the least passengers. My so-called ‘body bubble’ seems excessively large. I often almost utter a scream when a person bumps into or even slightly brushes me. Needless to say, chattering with others is excruciating. My apartment building has a communal spa for the residents and I use it everyday. The residents are inevitably acquainted with each other and small talk between them is rampant in the spa. I’m often caught up in it and desperately try to find closure of the conversation by sweating all over. To avoid an ordeal, I’m usually careful not to share time together with familiar residents as much as possible. When I see them, I practically run away. My partner calls me a robot because of my behavior.
The time of recent social distancing shouldn’t bother a person like me. Social distancing has been already my thing for a long time. At least I had believed so. I had thought it wouldn’t hurt a natural ‘social-distancer’ as myself. But I found I was wrong.
One of my favorite Japanese comedians from my childhood was infected with Corona virus and was killed by it in a matter of days. Until just recently, he had appeared on various TV shows and his funny face had been the norm for TV. The daily TV time in a Japanese living room has changed suddenly, completely. He was a nationally popular comedian who earned the monstrous TV rating. When I was a child, my family gathered in front of TV for his show at 8 p.m. every Saturday and laughed so hard together. Kids at school would talk about the show next Monday and laugh again together. When I was in my early teens, I danced his signature gig called ‘Mustache Dance’ so frantically in the dining room that my foot slipped and I fell hitting my face on the dining table. Those memories made me feel as if part of me was lost with him by his death.
Among my familiar residents in my apartment building are a mother and her daughter. They are athletes and rough, thudding around restlessly and talking loudly in a vulgar tongue all the time. I heard that they were moving out soon. Since I was bothered with their noisy manner and pushy conversations toward me at the communal spa, I felt relieved that I could reclaim the quiet bath time. One evening during the days I had waited for them to move out, I saw them at the spa. They left for the locker room while I was still in the bath and I intentionally took time in there to avoid meeting them at the locker room, as usual. After giving them enough time to clothe and go home, I stepped out to the locker room, assuming they were already gone. On the contrary, they were still there, standing side by side courteously toward me. They had been waiting for me. The mother told me that they were moving out tomorrow and this would be the last time to see each other. She said politely, “Thank you so much for all these years. You helped us in various ways.”
I had known them since I moved in nine years ago. The daughter was still a small child back then, who was running and shrieking around the locker room. She is to be a freshman in high school this spring. She occasionally talked to me about her school days or her passion for skiing. The mother once broke her foot at her workplace and she had been on crutches in the spa. I got out of the tub to open and hold the door to the locker room for her every time until she stopped limping. When we were late together at the locker room that went black after the spa’s closing time, we would clothe together under the light of my pocket LED lamp. Those memories flooded back to me all of a sudden at the last time I saw them although I had thought it would evoke nothing as I had been looking forward to getting rid of them. While I was looking at the daughter’s liquid eyes that were staring straight at me, I was overwhelmed by inexplicable sadness and my eyes began to be filled with tears in spite of myself. I clumsily said goodbye and returned to my apartment. A robot couldn’t say goodbye well.
I found tall wooden shelves discarded at a garbage dump of my apartment. It was as good as new and I carried it into my place. The shelves seemed to be a product of someone’s moving-out. I cleaned it and made it my new shoe shelves.
I felt so good seeing my shoes arranged beautifully on the shelves. The pitiful thing is, though, that almost all the shoes cost less than $20, mainly $10, and about half of them are worn out and have holes and cracks…