Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Hidemi’s Rambling No.528

About six months after I moved into the apartment I now live in, I began to see this woman frequently at the communal spa. We just exchanged hellos for weeks and then started chatting about the weather. She is a lively woman who is around sixty years old and laughs a lot. I secretly nicknamed her ‘Aunt Hearty Laugh’ because of her signature laugh. We don’t know each other’s names, don’t talk about personal matters, but have a friendly chat every time we see each other at the communal spa several times a week. Since I regularly take a bath with this Aunt Hearty Laugh while I have never done that with my own mother as an adult, she is almost a stranger yet feels so close to me. Two years ago, her pregnant daughter stayed with her for a couple of months. She joined our chatting and I heard about her office work and the relationship between her colleagues that I had no experience of my own. During her stay, her baby was born and Aunt Hearty Laugh became a grandmother. I took a bath with her newborn granddaughter as well. Her daughter visited her with the baby every long holiday and we took a bath together. At every reunion, the baby’s change interested me. She got bigger, taller, started walking and talking, and gave me a high-five the last time I saw her. Two weeks ago, Aunt Hearty Laugh told me that she was going to move to other apartment nearby. She has her old friend living there and feels secure because she lives alone and is getting older. She said laughing, “That apartment has a spa with thermal springs. Come to take it with me!” She also added, “I’m a lot older than you are but who knows? We could be friends!” which arose a question in my mind. Do I want a friend? I’m constantly short of time for anything and can I spare any time for friendship? I like being alone and can she be an exception? I realized how perfectly balanced my friendship with her had been. I didn’t know that chatting at the spa several times a week was the best relationship for me. To overstep the threshold by visiting her is an unknown territory. I was both curious and terrified. Besides, she said that for just being nice and didn’t really mean it. If she had meant it, she would have given me her information to contact. But, what if she meant it and waits for my reaction? What if she thinks I will give her my information if I want to be in touch with her? On the other hand, suppose I gave it to her, then my gesture would say, “Invite me!” which is so rude. After two-week’s pondering, I decided to wait for her information as her invitation. The other day, I saw her at the spa and she said she was moving out the next morning. She didn’t give me any way to contact her. Neither did I. We didn’t even tell each other’s names until the end. We just said we would bump into each other soon in the neighborhood since our apartments stand closely, and shook hands all naked. She left. Surprising sadness welled up inside me…

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Hidemi’s Rambling No.527

The high school I attended held a mandatory summer camp when I was a freshman. The students chose activities such as swimming, hiking, cycling and so on beforehand. To spend the time in the camp together, my group of close friends at school decided to choose the same activities. We considered carefully which ones were the easiest and mildest, and chose archery and cycling. A couple of months later the cycling day in the camp arrived. We set off on each rental bicycle. Right after that, one of my friends, called Yone, fell. She quickly got back on her bike and we started again. Immediately, she fell again. We stopped to wait for her. She caught up with us by pushing her bike and said, ‘Sorry. Now let’s go!” But the same thing was repeated for the third time, her falling down, us waiting. We finally asked her what was going on and heard her astonishing confession. She said, “I can’t ride a bike.” We gaped. Being unable to ride a bike was nothing, but why did she choose cycling among all activities then? And telling us now? We pressed her for an explanation why she didn’t just say so when we decided on cycling. She told us that she couldn’t because we were joyfully talking about how easy cycling would be. In our group, she was the tenderest one, but also a pushover. She always had no opinion of her own and conformed to others. That was a given, but I never thought this much. We were talking about pushing our bikes and going all the way on foot with her when she said, “I’m ruining your plan for an easy activity. I can’t make you walk all the way because of me. Please ride on. I think I can manage along the way. I’m sorry. Sorry.” We mounted on the bike, not pedaling but walking while Yone kept falling and saying sorry for a million times. Her indecisive, weak-minded attitude has gradually gotten on my nerves. A girl of other group whom I had barely talked before pedaled back toward us. She had something to ask me. I answered and chatted, and we hit it off instantly. When I realized, I pedaled with her separating from my group. I stopped to wait at the foot of the downward slope and heard a scream. It was Yone flying down the slope on her bike and tumbling into a rice paddy. Other friends were chasing her and pulled her and her bike out of the rice paddy. Covered with mud, she was saying “Sorry” again and again. As a thoughtless teenager, I pedaled away with my new friend. When I thought about Yone again some miles away, the chain on my new friend’s bike suddenly snapped. While we were struggling to fix it covered with grease, Yone and other friends of my group caught up with us. By then, Yone was all over scrapes and mud like a cartoon. We ended up pushing a bike and walking together. A teacher came to us from the goal and reprimanded us, as we were incredibly late. On the bus heading home, my friends blamed me for being so cold-hearted that I had deserted Yone. But mud-caked Yone herself didn’t blame me but kept apologizing to me instead…

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