Loneliness Is My Norm hr635

The nearest grocery store from my home is a 25-minute walk away. That small local store carried a sale on eggs at one dollar for ten. I walked there with my partner to get them. Since my town is so small and rural, there are usually almost no pedestrians on the streets. Except that cars are passing by sparsely, I hardly see anybody. But on our way back home from the grocery store, I saw a woman standing by a field and watching wild flowers. It was rare to see someone on the street. As I was getting closer, I perceived her looking at me with her face filled with a big smile that was totally familiar to me. I knew her.
She used to be a resident in the apartment building where I live. We often came across and shared some time together at the communal spa in the building. She is much older than I am, but we somehow got along well and chatted heartily every time we saw each other at the spa. About six years ago, she moved out of the apartment to the different one in the same town. I unexpectedly felt so sad because I had regarded her as if part of my family unconsciously since we met and talked almost everyday. However, when I saw her for the last time and she tentatively hinted her suggestion to exchange contact information and invite me to her new place, I just chickened out and dodged a reply. I wavered tremendously but didn’t have courage to step into a new friendship. We parted without even asking each other’s names. The spa had become quiet ever since. Occasionally from nowhere, a thought about how she has been doing came up to my mind while I was taking a bath with no one to chat. I regretted my decision not to be friends with her. I missed her more than I had thought.
And I saw her again after those years by this incredible coincidence. I jumped for joy to have bumped into her like this. Her big smile and loud laughter hadn’t changed a bit and she told me how she had been doing. After we chatted for a while, I sensed the time to say good-bye again was approaching. And I was swallowed by one single thought: Should we exchange contact information this time? I ran through a scenario in my head. If I asked her info here, she would expect me to get in touch later. Then if I got in touch with her, she would invite me to her place. Then if I went to see her, she would expect me to invite her back in my place next time. Then if we found little left to talk about, we would be distant gradually. Then if it broke off, I would regret my contact exchange of today retrospectively. While I was trying to see the future, she also tried to judge my feelings and tentatively brought up a plan to see each other again, like deja vu. The time to decide had come.
I had missed her. I had wanted to be friends with her. I made a wrong decision last time and this could be the second chance falling from the sky. On the other hand, I had too many bitter experiences about friendship and wanted to add no more. I felt harsh loneliness every time I lost friendship. The closer my friend and I were, the harder it was to be estranged. I tend to have high hopes and expect too much for someone I make friends with, that usually leads to painful disappointment when she or he doesn’t meet my expectation. I had had many friends and lost them. For me, getting along well isn’t enough to build friendship. I need to respect someone as a friend. People change. Once I can’t respect my friend any longer, my friendship is over. I also need to be accepted as who I am. That’s why most of my friends left me when I decided to become a musician. I wonder how I could ever start a new friendship as long as I know how I would feel when it ends. Disappointment would be huge this time all the more because I like her. I couldn’t bear the loneliness it would bring.
Since I was a child, I have struggled to escape from loneliness. I had searched for someone to get along, thought I found one, and realized I didn’t. Repeating the cycle had accumulated loneliness. I reached the point to afford no more loneliness long ago. But in the course of my life, I’ve got the solution. I think loneliness may be overestimated and it’s not so bad if you see it from a different perspective. Sometimes loneliness is freedom. Sometimes it’s self-esteem. It works for me to stop looking for the way not to be lonely, but accept to be lonely instead. To fend off loneliness, be lonely already.
I didn’t ask her contact information and neither did she mine after all. We said our good-byes without giving names again. We waved and resumed our ways in opposite directions. Immediately the blame on her crossed my mind that she should have pressed on our contact exchange. If she had cornered me and I had had no choice, I could have told. Why didn’t she simply ask me so that I could answer? No, I reconsidered, it was better as it went. I felt her kindness more than ever not to ask me and walked on with holding a lot of fresh eggs.

locked me up in my apartment

It’s been one of the hottest summers in history of Japan. Surely it’s the hottest summer in my life. The daytime high often reaches over 95 degrees and that has locked me up in my apartment. To make the most of a day like this, I placed an order of groceries at an online supermarket and had them delivered today.

They carried a special promotion to give a customer a box of laundry detergent for free any $50 or above purchase. I had calculated carefully and made the total $50.48.

After the delivery person left, I noticed the detergent was missing. There was a piece of paper instead, that said one of the items I’d ordered was sold out and its price was subtracted from the total. As a result, the new total got less than $50. I felt furious and was on the verge of calling for complaint when I recalled the delivery person. In the midst of the unbearable heat, he came up to my door, carrying heavy grocery bags and boxes, yet smiling and being courteous. All I had to do was to receive them, and still, I was complaining about a dollar or so. I wonder why the smaller money is, the more persistently I pursue…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

low price always has its reasons

I shopped at the discount supermarket that I’d recently noticed its existence again. Their usual prices are at the level of special sale prices at other supermarkets. They also have their private brand at even lower prices for beer, noodles and wine. Meat is cheaper than the half-price one at other stores. I get the meat there with further discounts because of the imminent expiration date, so that the price is unbelievable for meat.

It’s open 24 hours and I can go there any time I want without worrying about its closing time. It’s a perfect place to shop for me if not one particular thing – the music played in the store. They play Japanese hit songs annoyingly loudly. Their problems are they sound like a patchwork of fragments from hit songs of U.S. that were popular ten years ago. Their Japanese lyrics are particularly horrible with childishness. I try not to listen to them but it’s loud enough to beat any defense like earplugs or portable music devices. I don’t want to be contaminated, so I have to leave the store quickly each time. Being unable to enjoy shopping leisurely is the catch of this otherwise great store. The low price always has its reasons…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

lucky or unlucky

When I left for Costco yesterday, it started raining slightly. I thought how unlucky I was. I could have returned home but I didn’t want to waste my time to have prepared for going out and went on. By the time I got off the bus to walk to Costco for the rest of the way, it had stopped raining. There seemed a big downpour during my bus ride. I may have been lucky after all. On my way home, I missed the bus. I thought how unlucky I was, again. But by taking the next bus, my subsequent connections for the train and the buss went incredibly smoothly. I may have been lucky again.

When I went to bed that night, I felt numb in my left arm and I feared that I would die from a stroke during my sleep. Thinking how unlucky I was, I fell asleep…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Rainbow Town

I like to spend my free time at a shopping mall. The first mall I had ever visited as a small child was called Rainbow Town. When it was built, people made noise about it because it was the first underground mall in western Japan -probably the first mall either on the ground or underground. The neighbors and the relatives of my family asked, “Did you go to Rainbow Town yet?” as daily greetings. My grandfather was fascinated by the concept of a mall. He often talked with wonder about what an artificial town was like and how it could exist underground.

 Since the mall was located in the city next to ours, my grandparents and I finally went there one day by train. Although the destination was a mall, our purpose was sightseeing rather than shopping. My grandfather kept talking about his concern over sufficient air in the underground mall, while my grandmother got up early in the morning to fix lunch for all of us. We were headed for a mall as if we were going to NASA. The mall was crowded with cool, urban shoppers, and had a stream and a big fountain along the walk. I had never seen so many shops and restaurants gathering in one place. My grandparents were amazed that the mall was so bright with full electricity and decorative with water. They also couldn’t believe that there were restaurants, which used the fire to cook, though it was underground. My grandfather reminded me over and over that people and cars were passing through above us.

 Because all the benches were taken, we sat on the rim of the fountain for lunch. We had my grandmother’s handmade rice balls and Japanese tea from our canteen there. Right in front of us was a nice restaurant where many customers had their decent lunch and a good time. My grandfather said to me triumphantly, “Do you know how much they have to pay in there? They’re stupid!” We left for home without eating or buying anything at the mall. My first mall experience wasn’t so good, but I love a shopping mall so much still…

episode from An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods

the supermarket turns into heaven

The nearest supermarket to my apartment puts half-off stickers to the prepared foods that are left unsold at 7:30 p.m. And sometimes, they put 75% off stickers to the ones that are still unsold after the half off at 8:30 p.m. But it all depends on the unsold amount and the 75% off sale is rarely fulfilled. When it is, though, the supermarket turns into heaven to me. It’s a risky challenge worth a bet.

I decided to go for it today and convinced myself that the main purpose was not to get the 75% off foods but to take a walk. This is my fail-safe mindset to protect myself from a bitter disappointment in case nothing is left at the store. I went there, and lost the bet. Their shelf for prepared foods was completely emptied. I kept saying to myself that I came here to take a walk, not to shop. But I had to buy some other mildly discounted items to console myself. I couldn’t shake off the frustration in any way. My fail-safe plan didn’t work for my greed…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me

Yesterday I happened to see a news program on TV reporting about a discount store, which carries the lowest price soda in Japan. ‘Lowest price’ is the keyword that always hooks me and I watched the report. Astonishingly, the reported store is located near my apartment.

I rushed into the store today. It existed on the site of a supermarket where I used to shop frequently but was closed for good four years ago. The building had been abandoned until the new discount store opened there last July. I can’t believe I had neglected to find it for almost a year as a person who is hunting for the lowest price constantly. While the building was the same as four years ago, the store had been transformed into my taste. The prices are incredibly low, some are the lowest in Japan, and the store opens 24 hours!

I had wanted an around-the-clock discount store for years. Since I decided to move out here, I’ve found fabulous shopping destinations one after another – first Costco, then this place. Is this a sign to stay put? I’m so confused now…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

heartburn again

I successfully got up earlier than usual enough to shop at Costco before it closed for the day yesterday. It was my first time to shop there in the evening and the store was a lot less crowded and easier to move around with its gigantic cart because housewives in large numbers had gone home. I bought huge squares of garlic bread with a coupon, which price was about a quarter of the one at regular bakeries in Japan. After shopping, I had a slice of the delicious pizza outside the store watching the beautiful twilight sky.

To go home, I need to walk for 15 minutes to the bus stop and take the bus to the train station before I take the train. When I was walking along the street toward the bus stop, I was passed by three buses in succession only several yards off to the bus stop. I thought I would have to wait for the next bus for a long time but two buses came in succession right away. This local bus line has the world’s largest services, I guess.

I came home and tried a piece of the garlic bread. It was so delicious but soon, I had heartburn. I had another piece for lunch today and had heartburn again. If it doesn’t suit my digestion, what should I do with the massive rest of the bread…?

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

faithful band member

A computer is a faithful band member to me. It plays exactly as I ask for and it’s a brilliant multi player. The best thing is it never quits the band. I have countless band members who came and left. Every time we failed an audition, somebody in my band wanted to quit and left. In some cases, they just quit because they wanted to get a ‘real’ job. I’m always a motivated person for music and quitting the band has never crossed my mind to date.

After all, only my partner and I were left as human beings in the band except for computers and we’ve stayed this way for years. And now, another member joined our band in the shape of a computer. When I opened the box, the letters on a leaflet caught my eye. It said, ‘It starts here.’ I hope a lot of good things start here, with this new computer. Well, as things start here, the payment also starts here…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

coming close to an end

As my work for our new song is coming close to an end, I’m preparing for the next song as well. I’ve already written the song but the long, time-consuming process of the arrangement awaits me.

For the arrangement, I need a new computer. The one I’ve been using now is seven years old and it’s too risky to rely on it completely. Its specs are obsolete, too. And I don’t know how long it will take to finish the next song. I’ve had my eye on a certain model of HP for my new computer and an online shop started the special sale for that particular model by reducing its price drastically over the weekend. I bought it yesterday and took delivery of it today. I got it much sooner than I had originally planned. I’m so excited to have a new computer but now I remember that I haven’t finished my current project yet on my old computer…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods