14. Reversible Destiny

During the spring break, I took my family to Tōkyō for a week, staying at the Reversible Destiny Lofts, a concept apartment building in Mitaka.[1]

While the main reason for going was to provide my sons with a unique living experience, something I have tried to do with them every year. We also took time each day doing the usual touristy things, such as visiting Tōkyō Disneyland, the Ueno Zoo, the newly renovated Tōkyō Station, and the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.[2]

No matter where I went, though, I found myself looking for you. In the rush-hour hordes at Shinjuku Station, among the weekend shoppers in the warrens of Shibuya and Harajuku, in the lines snaking outside of Disneyland attractions, at the art museums of Roppongi, among the midday bustle of Marunouchi and Midtown . . . I scoured the city for you.

The thing was, I had stopped trusting fate long ago. Never once had it reunited me with that first Japanese love of mine, Mié, even though the two of us lived for decades in what was, and still is, for all intents and purposes a relatively small town.[3]

Yet, no matter how hard I looked I could find neither hide nor hair of you anywhere. Each evening I would return to the Reversible Destiny Lofts, defeated and convinced that destiny could not be reversed no matter how determined I was to nudge it along.


[1] The Reversible Destiny Lofts, built by architects and artists Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins in 2005, is a concept apartment building featuring two- and three-room circular apartments, with a kitchen in the center and brightly painted cubical and spherical rooms on the circumference. The floors are uneven and bumpy, treacherously so. There are hooks and poles throughout allowing residents to “play” with the apartment by hanging hammocks or bars from them. While not the most comfortable of places to stay, it is certainly interesting.

[2] The Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is highly recommended for fans of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

[3] For more on this, read A Woman’s Nails or A Woman’s Hand.


4. Enter Kana Sawajiri

It was an ordinary autumn day in 2012, but I still remember every detail of it as if it happened only yesterday.

Waking before dawn with the feet of my third son and namesake, Peadar,[1] in my face, I pushed myself out of the futon, and groped in the darkness as I made my way into the kitchen. There, I brewed myself a pot of tea, which I then carried to my shosai, that is, my study,[2] and wrote as I often do for the next two and a half hours until I could hear the sound of lights being switched on, followed by the sound of Peadar’s small footsteps coming down the hallway.

“Daddy, hold me.”

Seems the boy can’t sleep properly if his legs are propped up on my head. I sat Peadar in my lap; his face nestled in my chest.

“What are you doing?” came the muffled question.

“I’m trying to write.”

“Why?”

“Good question: why.”

“Why, Daddy?”

“I don’t know. OCD?”

“ABC?”

“Yes, ABC.”

Peadar began to sing the “ABC Song”, his face still in my chest, but when he came to the letter P, he paused, looked up at me and said, “Daddy, pee!”

It was too late, though. His already full diaper could hold no more, and warm urine dribbled out and all over my crotch.

“I peed, Daddy!”

“You certainly did. C’mon, let’s jump in the shower and wash up.”

“No! Bath!”

“You want to take a bath?”

“Yes.”

“Alright.”

“With bubbles!”

“You want a bubble bath?”

“Yes.”

And so, I carried little Peadar, “P2”, to the bathroom, where I set up large basin, filled it with bubbles and let the boy soak while I took a shower.

A few minutes later, my second son, Eóin,[3] popped his head into the bathroom and announced: “I gotta poo!”

“So, poo for chrissakes!” I said, and the five-year-old scampered off to the W.C.[4]

He returned several minutes later, butt-naked and stinking to high heaven, and announced that he now wanted me to wash him. Our “washlet”[5] had been on the fritz for some time and all three boys were now in the habit of showering off after doing their Daybreak Number Two.

“Eóin,” I said, “you are amassing a mountain of butt-washing debt which will eventually have to be repaid. With interest!”

“Huh?”

“In twenty years’ time, perhaps less, Eóin, you will be washing Daddy’s bottom.”

Eh!?!?!? Today?!

“No, not today. But someday.”

With muted reluctance, Eóin stepped into the bathroom.

Before long, my oldest boy, Micheál,[6] also joined us in the crowded shower. You could run the trains on the boy’s bowel movements. It was then as the three of us fought for a place under the stream of hot water that it occurred to me that the key to happiness was rather simple: having more testicles in your life.

 

After breakfast with my family, I dressed and left for work.

I don’t know many people who enjoy their commute, but I do. That time, like the early morning hours before my sons wake, is mine. Although it takes much longer than the train, I almost always ride the bus. It is less crowded as it swims against the rush-hour current, allowing me forty minutes of quiet time for reading and making notes and cleaning up what I had written earlier in the morning before one of my sons waddled into my shosai to announce a bodily function.

As the bus tootled along that morning, I was thinking about an upcoming trip to Kanazawa City on the Sea of Japan coast. It had been over a year since I had last been to the remote region and was eager to return.

Now, the reason I remember all that so clearly is that when I arrived at work, I found a lovely young woman about twenty years of age with shoulder-length auburn hair standing before my office door: it was you, of course.

Tall for the Japanese, at one-hundred and sixty-eight or nine centimeters, and wearing maroon Doc Martens, the young woman towered over my older colleague, the diminutive Professor Konoha, who was absentmindedly meandering the hall, muttering indistinctly to himself.[7]

She looked at the professor and suppressed a giggle. Noticing me approach, however, her posture straightened. She took a step in my direction, and, after introducing herself in a clear, confident voice, bowed smartly.

Hajimemashite, Sawajiri Kana des’.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Sawajiri Kana,” I replied in Japanese. “Sawajiri Kana. Kana Sawajiri . . . Kanasawaji . . . Kanazawa-shi . . .”

“Pardon me?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s just that I was thinking of Kanazawa City on my way here. Quite a coincidence, wouldn’t you say?”

“A coincidence?”

“Your name. Kana Sawajiri and the city’s name, Kanazawa-shi. You wouldn’t happen to be from Ishikawa, would you?”

“From Kanazawa? No. No, I’m from here, from Fukuoka. Born and bred.”

“I see. Never mind, then. Spend too much time at this university and you start going batty like Sensei over there.”

And then you laughed and when your face softened you really were quite charming.

“So, how can I help you, Sawajiri-kun?” I said as I unlocked the door to my office.

Stepping into my office, you explained that the professor whose seminar you were intending to take in the coming school year was going to be away on sabbatical and you were now looking for an alternative seminar. We chatted about options, what would be required of you if you did, indeed, take mine, and after a moment’s thought you decided. There was no hemming and hawing the way so many Japanese are disposed to do. I liked that about you.

“Well, then, I look forward to seeing you next term,” I said and held out my hand, but you bowed deeply instead and gave the formal greeting:

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”

“By the way,” I said. “I like your shoes.”

“My shoes?” you said, brushing your long bangs behind your right ear.

“Your Martens. We’re wearing the same brand and color.”

“We are, aren’t we, Sensei! I hadn’t notice.”

“You’ve got good taste, Sawajiri-kun.”

 

And that is how we first met. Had professor Yamanaka not been going on sabbatical the following year, we may never have gotten to know each other. And none of this may have ever happened.

 

[1] Peadar, pronounced “Pah-dr” or “Pah-dish”, is Irish for “Peter”.

[2] Shosai (書斎) is an office or library in one’s home, a study or den.

[3] Eóin, pronounced “Oañ” is Irish for “John”.

[4] In most Japanese homes the room housing the toilet is separate from the one with the bathroom. For clarity, I use the Briticism W.C., or water closet.

[5] A “washlet” is a hi-tech Japanese toilet with a heated seat, and washing and drying functions.

[6] Micheál, pronounced “Mee-hawl” is Irish for “Michael”.

[7] 168-69 centimeters is about five-feet, six or seven.