– memories bundled tightly
listen as the fugue plays out –
In a bar, an empty hook for her coat next to his. He’s willing her to come. They’ll stare when she enters, the salarymen. Stare at the English teacher who plays Bach on a keyboard in a Japanese-style apartment in Setagaya-ku. She should come. The heat of wanting and the heat of sakè. His hands on the flask, warming. Her hands, different. Deep in raincoat pockets. Door curtains swaying, stars swaying as she brushes past. Her coat next to his. Two cups on the bar. Sea urchin on the bar, rich, golden, her hands reaching. Mischievous child, says the English teacher, smiling, eating. Meat sweet with the ocean’s chill. Syndactyly, he says—the translucent skin between her fingers slung like a dorsal fin, elegant parabolas keeping fingers in check. He wants to understand. The keyboard, Bach. You can’t understand, she says. Not eating, not smiling. Advanced Conversation, Unit 3: Talking About Family. Fresh fish in the market, a father’s pride in his catch, in his salaryman son. Boats beached, nets on poles to dry, sea pink at dusk, black and still at dawn. Fading stars and his mother bent double, knife flashing against rocks. A sister, Little Fish, flicking strands of kombu, spiny fingers round a glass-bottomed box, her eye in the box, peering into rock-pool worlds. Mischievous child. Hands like dorsal fins. Syndactyly, he says, talking about family, the little fish who couldn’t swim. His mother rubber-aproned, strong fisherwoman’s hands, knife flashing. In the bar, Auld Lang Syne. Little Fish, brought to mind, looking through her box upwards through the waves to the sky, hands cradled by Ryujin, spirit of the ocean. The English teacher sips sake, unsmiling. She wants to understand. Japan, loss. You can’t understand, he says, reaching for urchin, reaching for her hand. You can’t.