Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.358

Nearly four months have passed since I moved in my new apartment. While I’m still unpacking countless cardboard boxes, I’d been working for handmade soundproof walls in my bedroom/studio that borders on the neighboring apartment with my partner’s help. Since I overestimated reinforced concrete of which my apartment building was made, my life in a quiet environment solely depends on our handmade walls of flattened cardboard boxes, soundproof polyurethane and soundproof vinyl sheets. We’ve finished the whole four walls and the floor. To my disappointment, our soundproofing couldn’t resolve the clanging noise that came from some pipe. The source is still unknown but it’s a weekly thing that wakes me up every Thursday. Also the footsteps and other noises form the room above easily disturb my sleep. And a new comer has arrived. A flush noise in a drainpipe has begun to be heard since mid-August. Those seem to come from the ceiling of my room that is a week spot for handmade soundproofing. Now I have to resort to the last measure. Putting my bed into a big container made of many drapes and boards and sleeping in it, which I used to do in my old apartment before I moved out. It’s like Dracula sleeping in a little larger coffin. Although to sleep out of that coffin-like thing in a quiet room was one of my main purposes of moving in here, I’m about to end up being no better than before. All my enormous amount of effort and time to move didn’t pay to get a quiet life. It’s so hard to secure a good night’s sleep…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.357

Here, I make an embarrassing confession. I hadn’t been able to ride a bicycle without training wheels until the fifth grade. I always believe that riding a bicycle successfully for the first time should be like the one in the movie ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ where a father played by Dustin Hoffman jumps for joy and takes a picture of his son’s first ride. Sadly, parents in real life are too defective. My parents used to be farmers who worked out on the field from dawn to night. They hardly took a day off and when they did, it was a rainy day. During winter when their work was a little less hectic, they would bring crops from the field to a communal wash place by the small park near our home. They spent the rest of the day washing the crops by hand with their long booted feet soaked in freezing water. My father used a short interval between the field and the wash place to teach me to ride a bicycle. He couldn’t spare more time and I wasn’t a fast learner. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I became the only one among the kids of around the same age in the neighborhood who couldn’t ride a bike. One day, my mother took me to the park with my sister on her way to work. Because she told us to bring our bicycles, I thought she would teach me this time. But she spotted a couple of older kids in the park, asked them to teach me and rushed into the wash place. With the kids’ help, my younger sister by four years got to ride a bike without training wheels, while I couldn’t. The kids laughed at me. When my mother poked her head around the door of the wash place and asked them how it went, they said, “She’s no good! Her sister rode it first!” Much later, I was already close to my then-best friend Junko and took courage to ask her to teach me. She helped me in the park earnestly until it went dark. As it was time to go home, I tried one last time under the dim light of a mercury lamp. And I finally made it. Behind me, I heard Junko shouting for joy, “She’s riding! She made it! Hooray!” When I stopped and looked back, I saw her face flush with happiness. I miss her. More than I miss my parents…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.356

My once archrival at the private abacus school, Junko, was from outside the old families that dominated the neighborhood. Although we started the school at the same time and practiced an abacus sitting on the floor side by side sharing one long low wooden desk twice a week, I had never talked with her. I ignored her because I was a detestable brat from one of the ruling old families and looked down on her. Also that the neighbors always talked about how pretty she was contributed to my hostility toward her, since I was ugly. One evening at the abacus school, I had a nosebleed during a timed session preparing for a certificate examination. As an exam simulation, the timed sessions were serious battles with time, and of course, with other students. I couldn’t afford the time to treat my nosebleed but it was impossible to continue the session. I had to withdraw the session and was in trouble finding neither tissues nor a handkerchief in my bag. While I was in the mess, I felt sure that Junko must have been so happy to see me like this and to beat me on this session. But suddenly, I heard her abacus reset abruptly next to me. She put her abacus aside and began to rummage through her bag. She gave up a sure win on the session by withdrawing for me, and handed me tissues gently. I couldn’t believe how she could be this kind to someone constantly evil. Shortly after that, I began to talk to her and we became best friends. In her notebook, I often found a date written in the margin, which she said was the day I first spoke to her. She had cherished the day as one of her happiest moments. At elementary school, she would rush to me as soon as she saw me arrive at the school and help me carry my bag. We were so close. But because I went on to a private junior high school while she did to a public one, and I quit the abacus school, we drifted apart. Then I heard her family had moved out. I don’t know where she went and haven’t heard anything of her…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.355

At the private abacus school I attended in my childhood, my archrival was a girl named Junko. She was one of five other third-graders that joined the school with me. The abacus calculation association held a certificate examination three times a year and the official grade was given on passing. The smaller the class number, the higher the grade. After we learned basic skills for half a year, we started to practice timed sessions to simulate a certificate examination. Our first examination was for the sixth class that was the lowest grade. Out of six newcomers, only Junko and I passed. While other kids usually passed the exam after a few trials, both of us passed each exam easily on our first trial and attained the third class exceptionally fast. It was believed that someone who had reached the third class without a single failure would fail to get the second class for many trials. I was conceited enough to be confident to pass for the second class on my first trial. But the belief was true and both Junko and I failed the exam for the first time. Then, the struggle began. The second class was an impregnable fortress. We kept failing together exam after exam. Other kids had started whispering which one of us could pass first. Since no student of the school held the second class, I really got into it to prove that I was the best. On my fourth trial, I was warming up at home with my father’s help guiltily while keeping Junko waiting, who kindly dropped by my house to go to the exam together. The sly attempt worked and only I passed. For the first time, I held the higher class than Junko. With the whole school shouting in surprise on the announcement, Junko gave me a forced smile and said, “Congratulations.” I can’t forget that smile. I was burned out completely and quit the school. Junko continued, passed for the second class on the next exam, and achieved the first class eventually. It seemed I won one time, but after all, it was Junko who won…

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