Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

A Breakthrough hr616

The day arrived unexpectedly that the spell under which I had been for a long time was finally broken.

Because my mother had nurtured excessive self-consciousness in me since my childhood, I had cared about how I look, how I behave, and what others think of me more than enough. I would be drenched in sweat from chatting casually with others as a thought I should look my best tenses me up abnormally. I’m now aware that this nature of mine was the culprit that cornered me with pursuit of fame and wealth although I became a singer-songwriter purely from love for music in the beginning.
On that particular day, I got in the communal spa of my apartment building as usual.It was an evening bath time for the regular residents and quite a few people were taking a bath there. Among them was this woman who had moved in about two years ago. My bath time coincides with hers every day and hostility toward her had gradually grown inside me. She is thin and beautiful, a little younger than I am. She is always posturing and self-assured. For some reason, she imitates almost everything I do in the spa, from the way of taking a bath to bath tools she brings in. Whatever she does gets on my nerves, such as her way of walking, washing, and talking. She practices beauty exercises in the Jacuzzi, and does the facial treatment in the hot tub. Those routines of hers irritate me immensely when they happen to come into my sight. Since I don’t figure out why I dislike her so much, I asked my partner one day. According to his analysis, it’s because she is the one I want to become but I know I can’t become. It sums up all envy. That explains it indeed.

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It’s common that people don’t wear a swimsuit at a spa in Japan. This communal spa also adopts the Japanese practice, and the hot tubs, the Jacuzzi and the sauna must be taken all naked. I’m not thin nor beautiful, and I know it’s no competition between that woman and me. Nevertheless, I hold my breath and squeeze in my chubby belly as much as possible spontaneously whenever I pass her by. It’s so silly of me to try to look better, even in vain, but I can’t help it.

And the thing happened. I was taking the Jacuzzi when she stepped in and joined me. I stepped out right away because avoiding her was my usual habit not to let her see my unshapely body. I was squeezing my belly and walking beside her on the stone floor toward my shower booth hurriedly because I was inside her sight. Then, right in front of her eyes, my foot slipped and I saw in slow motion my body flying in the air like in ‘Home Alone’. I landed on the stone surface with my buttocks and my left hand.
Before a scare or pain, it was embarrassment that came first. I stood up immediately as if the fall had been part of some sequence of motion. Although other users were all washing their body in the shower booth, the only one that was in the tub and witnessed what I did was, of all people, the woman whom I didn’t want to let see most. She jumped out of the tub worrying, and kindly asked me, “Are you all right?”. Oddly enough, my instant reply was, “I’m OK. I do this all the time!” although I had never fallen there before. Even in the case like this, I still tried to make face by fabricating an accident into my custom. I laughed and shrugged off, and walked back to my shower booth.

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I noticed pain. But it was nothing compared to the massive amount of embarrassment that overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe it really happened, nor could I imagine myself being any clumsier. I Home-Aloned naked before the cool woman whom I had regarded as a rival by flattering myself but in reality who had been way out of my league. I was literally stunned with an extremity of embarrassment. I sincerely wished to make time rewind. I sat in a hot tub dazed in shock and the woman joined in again. My mouth uttered weird words one more time, “I’m sorry my fall disturbed you. It’s a usual thing to me, but surprises others.” I was persistent to keep up appearances. She replied, “Oh, it’s all right, only if you didn’t get hurt.”
Back in my apartment, pain assaulted earnestly in my hand and buttocks. The palm of my left hand already turned purple and swelled. I dreaded to think about broken bones. But the embarrassment appalled me even more. I felt sick to my stomach with my outrageous self-consciousness. I wondered why I couldn’t admit I did the folly.
I’ve been clumsy all my life. I’ve been a comic who makes a blunder all the time. No matter how hard I pretend to be cool, it has never worked. I should have stopped denying that long before. The fall ordered me to accept it already. I felt as if I had looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in my life. The reflection of myself disappointed me but somehow relieved my burden. I came out of the illusion that pretending can change who I am. I’ve felt easy on my shoulders since the fall, walking around as my true self…

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A Trip after The Storm hr611

Although I had received “the last letter to me” quoted as written from my mother a few months before in which she wrote she wouldn’t like to see me or hear from me or receive any gifts from me or stay in contact with me any more for the rest of her life, I ignored it completely and made an annual visit to my parents as usual. She had sent me that offensive letter behind my father’s back and he doesn’t know about a broken relationship between me and my mother.
My father also used to be bad-tempered and attack me when I returned home once a year or two. But since he sold our family’s house, he has welcomed me in a good mood at his small apartment in an unfamiliar town and hasn’t criticized me. He seems simply happy to see me each time I visit their apartment. And I know that is exactly what annoys my mother to the limit.
To her, her new life is degradation. She was always unhappy when she lived in a big house with her husband to whom she married for his money. And now she has become even unhappier living in the small apartment without our family’s fortune. It’s easy to imagine how disgusted she is by my father’s upbeat attitude toward his new life. She must have sought revenge to make him equally unhappy and come up with that letter. She thought I would stop visiting them as she asked to. That would take away one of his pleasures and get him one step closer to unhappiness. She loves any kind of plot all her life but none of them is ever clever. This one is no exception that is too apparent for me to be fallen into. My decision to carry out a visit despite her letter implicated harassment to her because it would show her that her wicked plot failed yet again.
A week before the trip, a big typhoon hit the western part of Japan where my parents live. Much damage resulted from it including to Kansai Airport on which my flight was going to arrive. As the airport is a man-made island in the sea, its runways and facilities were flooded by a storm surge. On top of that, a tanker crushed into the only bridge that connects the airport to the shore and broke it. The airport has been shut down.
I hesitated about the trip. I couldn’t decide whether I should cancel my reservations for the flight and the hotel. Above all things, I wondered if this was a sign telling me not to visit my parents.
But I had to go at all cost because it was my mother who had told me not to come. I’ve discovered and followed the unshaken rule since I was a teenager -do the opposite of what my mother says and I’ll be happy and everything will go well. This rule has worked 100 percent and has never failed in my life.
Meanwhile, the airport partially reopened unexpectedly sooner than reported. Among most suspended flights, mine was one of the few that partially started re-operating. The damaged bridge to the shore returned passable by the limited lanes. I visited my parents as I had planned.
I knew it would be so awkward to see my mother but I had determined not to get angry at her or blame her on her letter. If I did so, it would be her achievement. Her purpose is always to make me unhappy with any blow she could think of. I should behave unbreakable, which would be my blow against her.
My mother met me at the entrance of their apartment as if nothing had happened between us. She desperately acted joyfully, uttering shallow flattery like I looked young or my outfit was pretty. Not only when my father was around, but also when there were only two of us, we never mentioned about the letter. She just kept on flattering and wearing fake smile. She even told me what she had never told before -tons of complains about her favorite, my younger sister. What surprised me more than that was the fact my mother had aged so suddenly. Her countenance had changed too. She had a face like a devil. With her aged shape and evil countenance, she looked exactly like a witch in “Snow White”. Looking at her sudden change, I realized that she regretted the letter. The moment she dropped the letter into the mail box, she became aware that she was old and helpless. Numerous unusual disasters that hit her region after the letter, such as crazy heat, a big earthquake and the typhoon, made her more insecure and anxious. She regretted that she had cut me off from her life because she threw away a thin rope by herself that she could have relied on in the future. It’s too late now.
On the train back to the hotel, I felt good as everything went well on my side. At the same time, I felt an enormous relief and found how nervous I was during the visit. As it turned out, it was a showdown rather than a visit…

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A Bloody Smudge hr610

When I was in the shower the other night, a drop of rinsed water from my body sponge spattered right into my right eye. I washed my eye in haste over and over so as no to get germs. It was one of those things that happen all the time in our daily life and I didn’t worry so much. I actually had forgotten about it by the time I went to sleep.
The next morning I stood in front of the bathroom sink with sleepy eyes as usual and saw my face in the mirror. In it, my right eye had a large smudge of blood in the white. My drowsy brain got electrified and I was instantly wide awake. It wasn’t simply bloodshot but a stain of blood spread in the half of the eye. It was ominous enough to frighten me badly. I remembered the water spatter in the shower, but it seemed too small to cause this big damage.
Is this a foretaste of some kind of a serious disease? Is a heart attack or something imminent? Am I going blind? Do I need to rush to the hospital that I hate so much and always keep away? Besieged by all kinds of sinister questions, I remembered I’ve often heard a bad reputation that the only hospital in my small town in the mountains has no good equipment nor good doctors. At the same time, I remembered a scene in some movie I once saw in which a man had the similar bloody smudge in his eye when he was about to die.
I sat at the table for breakfast across my partner with a mountainous amount of fear. As soon as he glanced at me, he stopped crunching cereal and turned pale. I asked him what was wrong and he answered that it was my eye. He looked into it for a moment then said that his eye sight became white out and couldn’t see anything. He started sweating heavily and claimed that sweat didn’t stop pouring out. He left for the bathroom in the middle of breakfast.
His reaction threw me deeper in terror. My eye with a smudge of blood must have been so horrible that he became sick. Since he’s a big fan of a TV drama ‘The Walking Dead’, he may have thought one of the zombies finally came to reality and appeared to him. The situation was reversed and he looked more ill than I was. About ten minutes later, thankfully, he felt better and resumed his cereal.
I was anxious all day long. I imagined I might fall flat at any moment. I might go unconscious or blind. Even if I kept surviving, I couldn’t go outside with this eye on my face especially because I foolishly care my appearance too much. With fear clawing hold of me, I spent the day moving slowly and quietly as if I was living in total darkness.
In the evening, my partner who had looked up my symptom on the Internet told me it was perfectly nothing wrong and would disappear by itself gradually in one to two weeks. That sent me the light from above with the angels’ choir. It was nothing! Suddenly I felt like I breathe again, and couldn’t feel any stupider. I wondered why I didn’t look up online by myself first thing in the morning. I had been dreadful all day and wasted the day just for nothing. As it turned out, all I needed was to wait for the smudge to disappear. I would pass the coming one to two weeks by donning this eye, avoiding acquaintances, trying to see as less residents as possible on the hallway of my apartment building, wearing sunglasses when eating out, and generally hiding away. While I was relieved and cheerful about that I wasn’t ill, another depressing feeling seized me as I thought about my life in hiding for the coming weeks…

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Japanese Millennials hr609

A big open-air rock festival is held annually every summer in the small town where I live that is enclosed by mountains. More than ten times as many people as the town’s population visit during the few days of the festival. People all over the country and even from overseas fill up the train station that is usually inactive and quiet. In front of it, an endlessly long line is formed in the heat for the shuttle bus to the concert venue. The attendance trend has changed in recent years. While a young attendance has been down, more and more men in their fifties and sixties come by their own. The reason mirrors characteristics of today’s Japanese youth. They have been getting poorer than the generation before and the tickets and the transportation for the festival cost too much for them. Also, they don’t like being dirty. It’s not appealing to them to watch concerts in the rain soaking wet and getting muddy in the open air. That attributes a less crowd on Japanese beaches, too. They opt for a pool where they don’t get covered with sand. I’ve seen young people’s behavior change everywhere. In restaurants, chairs and booths are disappearing and replaced by a Japanese-style space with tatami mats. They prefer sit directly on a tatami floor at a low table by taking off their shoes and folding their legs. In a restaurant that has a Western style without any tatami space, I sometimes see shameful people who take off their shoes and sit folding their legs on a chair as if a chair was a floor. Knives and forks are less available because they like to use chopsticks and suck pasta by making slithering noises. In a movie complex, less and less American movies are showing and Japanese movies are abundant instead. To make things worse,the majority of that small number of American movies is dubbed into Japanese, which spoils original actors’ performances completely. Up until a decade or so ago, almost all the foreign movies were subtitled. Since I exclusively see American movies with subtitles, which by the way I prefer without them but have no choice at a theater in Japan, the selection for the movie is excruciatingly limited nowadays. I sometimes see trailers of Japanese movies before the one I came to see and even a glimpse of it disgusts me. A main character is always a female high-school student or a child or an animal. Most are animated and a story is lukewarm and saccharine without any contention. I don’t understand what is the point to spend time and money to watch those. It seems that American movies, in which things are destroyed, people are killing each other, lives are at stake, emotions are exploding, are too intensive and strong for Japanese gentle millennials. Their taste for fashion is gentle, too. They choose somber, obscure colors with no patterns or accessories so that they look lowly. They seem peculiar to me especially because my taste is fancy and colorful. I like wearing clothes with bright colors and patterns and confusingly complex accessories. Although I’m not rich, I tend to have a glass of sparkling wine at a Western-style restaurant in a hotel. As my favorite restaurants and shops aren’t popular anymore and have been closed or remodeled into a cheap Japanese-style one by one, Japan has been getting an uncomfortable country to live in for me. Well, come to think of it, it has never been comfortable to me since my childhood. I had thought it would have been better by the time I became a grown-up, but it just didn’t happen. It was an illusion of a child and Japan has treated me the same way with different people…

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The Last Letter from My Mother hr608

My parents sold our farms, house, land that had been inherited from generation to generation and lost everything after they had failed their business. They moved out their hometown and started their new life in a small apartment in a strange city. It was a huge blow to them because my father had given up everything that he had wanted in order to inherit them, and my mother had married my father whom she didn’t love in order to get his family fortune. Although they had planned the similar life as theirs for me, I refused to inherit my family by sacrificing what I wanted to do. I chose a musician as my career and left home. That drove them to be eaten up with enmity against me and they had done everything they could think of to make me give up and come home. While I kept defying their attacks for a long period of time, they lost all the family fortune and had nothing left for me to inherit. Their battle against me was automatically terminated. Oddly, since they moved in their new apartment, they have become gentle to me as if they had been different persons. Their dramatic change of attitude toward me had often perplexed me. I had tried to explain that they became old, felt weak and had learned a little from their failure, which was why they mended their ways to treat me. As I hadn’t had a good relationship with them for decades, I slightly wished we were having a new starting point to build a better one. That was just about when I received an unexpected letter from my mother that crushed my wish so easily. To my great surprise, all that the letter contained was blame and reproach to me. She just kept on criticizing me at length, complaining how much I disappointed her, how much she bore a grudge against me, how much she felt chagrin at me being a musician, what a bad person I was. Although she had done innumerable cruel, heartless, thoughtless things to me over the years, she had the audacity not to mention one word about those. At the end of all slander, she concluded her letter by writing, “This is the last letter from me to you.” To summarize her long letter, what she wanted to tell me was that she didn’t want to see my face ever again and didn’t want me to send her birthday presents or Mother’s Day gifts ever again. She asked me not to stay in contact with her anymore. I had been treated unfairly by her for so many times but this letter exceeded all the spite that she had shot at me. The letter was out of blue and shocking enough for me to wonder if she was having some kind of brain disorder. Since I was little, she has had a strong tendency to tell an every sort of lie from grave to transparent, and to forget about anything inconvenient to her. For a person like her, it’s not so unpredicted that her old brain got murky. In any case, I was deeply shocked. I shouldn’t forget that things like sending this letter is the norm for her and I’ve gotten used to it already. She only did what she usually does again and I was the one who was fooled by her recent nice gestures. But I asked myself repeatedly if it’s impossible for human nature to be changed after all. My mother is a scorpion which ultimate goal is to make others unhappy regardless of its own profit. The fact that I have the same DNA in me horrifies me. A good thing is that I was mostly raised by my late grandparents. I may have grown up to be a decent person not to be like my mother. I will, and should, prove it by myself with the way I live…

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