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.

bath ducks bathing bathroom bathtub

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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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An Earthly Paradise hr596

When I lived in California, the apartment I rented had an outside Jacuzzi. I liked taking it at night, seeing the sky above. Under the palm trees, I watched an airplane’s small dot of light blinking and moving through the stars. It was the moment that I felt like a winner who obtained a life in paradise by getting out of not only Japan but also my family to which I had been a bound successor. Prices in the U.S. were extremely low compared to Japan back then because of the strong yen. It seemed to me that everything was on sale and I literally lived in a bargain country. Sadly, my life in paradise didn’t last long, though. The Japanese economy crashed and yen turned weak. Inflation had edged up in the States as well. Price hikes assaulted me in all directions. I became unable to pay the rent even if I had moved into a cheap motel. I was practically kicked out of the States and the plane brought bitterly-discouraged myself back to Japan where I returned to a life of reality in a teeny-tiny apartment. Time went by, and I had benefited from technological advances like the Internet and computers, and also from the fall of housing value in Japan. Those benefits let me live in a condominium that has a communal spa. I take a Jacuzzi there watching a beautiful view of the mountains with lingering snow out of big windows. One day, I felt so euphoric that I thought this wasn’t real. I thought I may have already died from that northern Japan’s severe earthquake or from the subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant, and must be in heaven now. That reminded me of the sensation I had felt in a Jacuzzi in California. I had never expected that I would experience an equally enraptured life here in Japan when I parted with it there. If I traveled back in time with a time machine, I could talk to my other self who was in despair on the flight to Japan from the States. I would say to her, “Years from now, you will get another chance to live in paradise!” I would tell her that she wouldn’t give up music and would have completed two songs back in Japan that had quality she had been craved for and entirely satisfied with. How easier the flight would’ve been if I had heard those words there. I was too hopeless to imagine so much as a speck of the possibility. I always find myself foolish in hindsight whenever I look back later. There are tons of things I have to say to my past self beforehand. The question is, what would my future self tell me now if she looked at me taking the Jacuzzi here. Would she say, “Embrace the moment. It’s the pinnacle of your life”? Or would she say, “Prepare yourself. It’s just the beginning”? I desperately hope for the latter…

 

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A Routine Thief hr593

I’m particular about almost anything. That’s why my daily routine is inevitably quite precise, especially for details in it. My routine includes taking a bath at the communal spa and exercising at the communal gym both located inside my apartment complex for the residents. One night, I found an unfamiliar woman in the Jacuzzi of the spa. This Jacuzzi has eight spots to sit inside and I have my particular spot I usually sit in. The spot isn’t popular, as other residents prefer different ones. But this woman was sitting right in my spot, which made me move to the other. The spa has a sauna that stops being operated early in the evening. I take it after its operating hour in the late evening as a low-temperature sauna since heat remains. No residents use it that way and I can monopolize it. One night, I found the same woman in the sauna, using it as a low-temperature sauna like I do. My days of a sauna monopoly are over. I’ve seen her more and more and it seemed she is a new resident in this apartment complex. I bring a big hook to the spa and put it on the wall of the shower booth to hang my bag of amenities from it. No other residents do something like that as they put their amenities on the booth floor directly. And one night, I noticed that new woman began to use a big hook on the wall of her booth. Now I was convinced it was no coincidence. She apparently imitates me. There are four tubs in total in the spa with different water temperatures and different tub sizes. I take every one of them. Other residents don’t take all, just taking a couple according to their liking. One night, the mimic woman began to take all tubs like I do. I exercise inside the hot tub while I’m submerged in the bath water, which no other residents do. And one night, the mimic woman even started exercising in the hot tub just as I always do. I sometimes have a chat with other residents when we share the locker room. And as she has become familiar to them, she also began to have a chat with them intimately and impudently while I still talk to them modestly. Before taking a bath, I exercise at the gym next to the spa, which is also one of my daily routines. The other night, I went in the gym as usual and, look, who was there, the mimic woman! She has started exercising at the gym and then begun to bring her husband there. They had used different machines beside me for several days, but her husband began to use the exercise bike I regularly use. Above all, she imitates my own timetable so that I see her every day, everywhere, doing exactly what I do. My spa and gym time was completely copied by her. Usually, it’s nice to find a person who has a lot in common with me. I would like that person and sometimes build a friendly relationship. In that respect, I should be pleased that I’ve got a new neighbor resident whose liking is the same as mine and with whom I have so much in common. The strange thing is, it’s not the case this time at all. This particular woman really annoys me for some reason. While I realize it sounds totally irrational, I dislike her so much. Every bit of what she’s doing irritates me and disgusts me. Her any behavior, the way of her talking, and even the tone of her voice get on my nerves. As I was curious what makes me loathe her, I studied her closely. She’s thin, pretty, and a showboat. She always has to be the center of attention. I’m jealous of her looks – that’s a given. And I’m indignant because she grabbed my routine that I took years to establish. But except for that, nothing is wrong with her. She’s just too much like me. I may be looking at myself through her. Now I see how I look to others. Does it mean I hate myself? Do others look at me as a loathsome person like her? I feel like they do. I can’t stand to look at my lousy behavior through her any more. Not to see her do my things, I had no choice but to change and reconstruct my routine schedule entirely…

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Checkout hr591

I got up early in the morning on the last day of my latest trip. The reason was simple; I was going to the hotel’s exclusive fitness club one last time before the checkout invalidated my free ticket. I passed through the heavy double doors of the club again and the clerk ushered me as a personal guide as it happened last night. Since the spa and the locker room don’t open until noon, there is a special locker room for a member who uses the pool in the morning. It was much smaller, but robes, towels and amenities were fully provided. The morning light liberally came in through the glass-dome ceiling and filled up the poolside. I had the large pool facility all to myself again, the whole morning through. It seemed as if the gorgeous pool was reserved just for me. I doubted if Bill Gates even had this scale of luxury. I saw my room through the glass ceiling and spotted my partner who was standing by the window. While I was taking a Jacuzzi on the poolside, I waved at him. He waved back and looked a little sad because he couldn’t enjoy this free treat due to his atopic eczema. On one hand I felt sorry for him; on the other hand, I enjoyed to the maximum such a luxurious, refreshing, and dreamy time that I had never had before. After I took a shower in the elegant shower booth, I left the club. It was about noon and I passed the members who were coming in. It is said that the gap between the rich and the poor is generally small in Japan. I had thought there weren’t so many mega-rich people in Japan as in the States until I came here. But now I realized quite a few mega-rich Japanese people existed, as I actually saw the members who apparently paid the five-digit membership fee. I hadn’t known that because they lived in a different world from me like in this club. I wondered if I could ever visit this club again and wished strongly for that. I came back to my room, packed in a great hurry and checked out. I didn’t forget to have expensive coffee and tea for free one more time at the hotel’s privileged lounge before I left. The receptionist was the same person and got familiar since I came here three days in a row. She knew I used the lounge for free and I felt embarrassed. When I left the hotel, I missed it more than ever now that I experienced the fitness club. I got to another shopping mall by train, bought a skirt 80 percent off and had dinner at a Mexican restaurant that we rarely find in Japan. As the mall is adjacent to Tokyo Disney Resort, I saw the fireworks of the park from the mall for free. I took a train again to Tokyo Station and looked around the shopping area while I was waiting for the bullet train on which I had booked the seat. Just when I was looking, half-off stickers began to be put on packages of sushi. I got one of those and had it on the bullet train with the leftover wine from the hotel that I had brought in a plastic bottle. Although I was exhausted from lack of sleep and swimming, I really wanted to do this trip over from the beginning. I pondered when it would be that I could take a trip like this one. While I recalled the heavenly sensation I had when I was swimming alone in the pool inside that fitness club, the bullet train ran through several long tunnels and sent me back in my town that was packed in deep snow. I took a cab to my apartment. It was a blizzard. I could see nothing but hammering snow out the windshield of the cab. With that near zero visibility, the cab was running into darkness at breakneck speed toward my accustomed world…

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Another World hr590

At the end of a glass corridor in the hotel, there were heavy double doors painted to imitate marble. It was an entrance to the hotel’s outrageously expensive exclusive fitness club although its appearance was rather like some shady bar. I mentioned the membership fee is expensive, but the degree of expensive far exceeds my definition of expensive. It’s a five-digit matter. I was standing at the doors holding a magic piece of paper that nullified the fee. It was given at the front desk when I checked in as I was staying here with a special low-priced promotion that included the free use of the club. I pushed the heavy doors open with my trembling hand. I prepared myself for a counter, but instead I saw a huge vase of flowers majestically sit on the center of a small hexagonal room. The club spares this space just to welcome a member. Walking into the next room, I finally found the reception desk behind which two clerks were standing. I handed them my magic ticket and they told me the club rules. Those were common rules such as no tattoos, no makeup, and a shower before a tub, but required my signature on the paper. Then, the clerk acted as a guide and courteously ushered me to an exclusive elevator at the back of the reception room. The elevator door opened to a member lounge and a member restaurant. Beside them, round marble stairs led to an entrance to the locker room. Along the carpeted hallway, several private massage rooms lined. Rows of lockers were surrounded by luxurious tables, chairs, and benches. Each locker had a display and the key was digital, by entering numbers of my choice on the pad. Inside, I saw a purple robe neatly folded. Up to this point, the place was already much more gorgeous than any club that characters of Michael Douglas had used in the movies. Since the club rule strictly indicated to wear the robe in the locker room area, additional purple robes of all sizes were abundantly stacked on the shelves, like at an apparel shop, not to mention fresh soft face towels and bath towels, which were all free to use as many as I liked. After my personal guide left, I removed my makeup at the spacious powder room section. All kinds of high-end amenity I’d never seen were arrayed with cottons, tissue and a hair dryer on the dressing tables with sets of mirrors. I was looking around restlessly like a bumpkin and went in the pool. It had a glass dome roof above and wooden tables and deck chairs, shower booths, a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a tanning bed on the poolside. On the edge of the big pool, there were wide round stairs to get into water that looked like an edge of a stage. Except for a pool side clerk who stood behind the counter and politely greeted me, no one was there. I monopolized the heavenly place, swimming, taking a Jacuzzi, looking out a night view of skyscrapers and streets. When I was leaving, a fresh towel was handed by the clerk. Next to the pool was the spa. It had both a Finnish sauna and a steam sauna beside a hot tub, a cold plunge and shower booths. I got in them repeatedly and used imported shampoo by an amount I never used daily. By then, I was dying of thirst and went out to the locker room area for some water. Beyond the powder room section was a relaxation section that had a circle of five or six robotic massage chairs. On the wall, I found something like a water cooler. I took a paper cup and my eyes popped out with surprise. What looked like a water dispenser was a free soda fountain! A wide variety of quality-brand soft drinks such as sports drink, 100% fruit juice and soda came out for free. While I was gulping down eight cups of all kinds, I was quite certain that I had somewhere died and was in heaven now. I spent three hours in total, which wasn’t enough to look at the gym, the indoor tennis courts, the indoor driving range and the putting greens. I wondered how happy I would be if I could live in this completely different world from the one I knew. I also duly knew I was only a visitor who had to leave since I can’t possibly think of a way to be a resident of that totally heavenly world…

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