Friday, 28 September 2012


After being kindly reprimanded by their teacher for not eating their fruit, they all leaped on their plums, assuming them to be some kind of giant, purple grape. After gutting the plums of their stones, some kids began to bury their noses in the open carcass, sucking away at the flesh and coating their faces in sweet, sticky pulp. Others meticulously chipped away at the brittle skin, peeling the whole plum tiny flake by tiny flake. The girl next to me dug into hers, pulverising it with her fingers and pulling the dripping, yellow chunks sloppily towards her little mouth. I told them the skin was edible, but they didn't believe me. One boy tried it and consented that it wasn't bad. Another explained to me that while the skins of smaller grapes can be eaten, these ones cannot. Finally, the half-eaten remains of delicious plums lying mutilated in thirty-odd little bowls, the kids began queuing at the sink to slough the juices off their skin.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


I first met her where we always meet: in the changing rooms at my gym. After berating me for dripping water on the floor, she nodded towards the shower cubicle where I'd hung up my towel and my right foot was already resting inside the door and asked, "Are you going in?"
"Yes, I'm going in."
"I want to go in."
"Yes, I always go in there."
I picked up my things and moved, perplexed by the interaction. Minutes later, I opened the glass door to persistent knocking. Naked, soap in my hair and the water running on my back, I was handed my red, rubber locker key.
"You forgot this," she laughed at me. "You should be careful."

She is often in the pool, her gristly, ancient limbs working hard to tunnel through the water. She is old, like everyone else, and her tiny arms are all muscle and bone. When she swims she veers brazenly from lane to lane. Sometimes she stands up midway through a lap to talk to a friend, seemingly unaware of the swimmers near-ploughing into her back.

She knows everybody there, and she arrives with a flourish of high-fives. Her locker is second from the left, on the top row of the back wall near the showers. Part of me wants to use it one day, but I would never dare. In between her many activities at the gym she swans around in a pink towelette dress and a Minnie Mouse head-band. Bit by bit, I think I'm falling for her.

Monday, 7 May 2012



Today I saw my mother for the first time. That’s not to say I hadn’t met her before; I grew up with her, of course. Today I was leafing through photos and I found one of the more recent ones of my mother. She is standing in our garden with my brother. She is squinting in the sun, smiling but tired, and she looks proud. For the first time I saw her as others must: all limp hair, crooked teeth and middle-age. For the first time I saw her as something less than beautiful. 

I think that until today my image of my mother was immortalised, as is the way with the dead. When I looked at her picture I could see only her gentleness, her soft skin and her bravery. I could smell her, hear her, feel her beating heart through the coarse fabric of her favourite sweater (which is now mine). Every picture was a collage of all her most admirable traits. I couldn’t see for love, and now there is only sight.

Monday, 2 April 2012


It seemed smaller, in the way places do when you haven't been there for a long time. Funny; I always thought that was because I had physically grown in the time between visits, gotten taller. But here I am, the same size, and the temple in Koenji seems smaller.

I walked to the back and stood by the wall in the sun, shadows from the ferns clearly demarcated on the mossy ground. The earth was soft and black under my feet, like fudge. I thought about how long I could stand there pretending to be a tree.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


On my lunch-break yesterday I found the last of the dwindling sun and, resisting the urge to curl up like a cat and fall asleep in it, I closed my eyes and opened my ears. At first I was struck by the quiet, so uncharacteristic of this place, then I began to notice a cacophony of different sounds, rising in almost-harmony like an orchestra tuning before a performance. For once I stopped and listened, and this is what I heard:

footsteps clattering down a side-street; the squeak of an opening door; the rustle of plastic as a man opened his lunch; a child's laughter to my right, and a child's complaint at my far left; the harsh call of a crow overhead; the distant echo of another's reply; the sweeter, shriller call of a different bird in the trees ahead of me; the click of a car door; the wind rustling through the leaves; a joke from the men eating their lunch (deep laughter); the plastic wheels of a child's toy rolling awkwardly on stone; someone sweeping the dusty ground below (there will be water there in summer); a train rumbling in the distance; the station jingle bouncing off the platforms; and finally - voices from long ago, in a memory that felt much closer than it had for some time.