An unusually chill gust of wind picked up a scattering of fallen petals and eddied them around Kayoko, prompting her to pull her long, black spring coat tightly around her body. She was hurrying along the path that runs north south through the large cemetery in Tachikawa, out on on the western edge of Tokyo’s suburbs, where the city begins to mingle with countryside and foothills, and the temperature is a couple of degrees colder than among the heat retaining concrete of Shinjuku.
She carried flowers, and after another thirty seconds, and a turning down a smaller path leading between two rows of graves, she stopped at her late husband’s memorial patch. The stone of his Buddhist grave was smooth and shiny, in an almost-black, angular, modern style. She placed the flowers carefully but quickly, and her mind clicked back to the day he had passed away, at the age of 54. He’d died in his sleep, she recalled, at around the date the doctors had predicted a few months previously, when it had become apparent that his terminal illness was in its advanced stages.
She remembered that on the day he died, rather than having her usual breakfast of cereal and coffee, she’d woken up early at their clean, newly built home and cooked herself a meal of steamed rice, salmon, and miso soup, with some freshly brewed, expensive green tea that she’d received as a gift from her sister the previous week. The tea had issued a woody aroma, which subtly occupied the entire first floor of the house for the rest of the morning, and its flavour had been luxuriant: burnt and nutty, with just a trace of bitter brackishness after it had been swallowed.
It was a remarkable brew, sipped hot and dark from one of her best cups, and it provided the perfect balance to the mild white rice and flaky pink salmon flesh. The main course was helped along by the warm bass notes of the miso soup, its stirred sediment whirling as she gulped it down quickly, straight from the bowl.
Kayoko now felt a lump in her throat as the vigorous orchestration of flavours, textures, and colours replayed in her mind, activating ghost senses. Such magnificent contrasts and compliments, and the cups, the plates and bowls, the chopsticks, all attuned and in harmony too. She rode out a twinge in her eyes and nose, her tear ducts overwhelmed at the memory.
Oh, for another breakfast like that! They implored her.
Then Kayoko remembered: she had ordered some more of the tea online and it had arrived the previous morning, she had miso and salmon in the fridge, and there was rice in the steamer, ready to be eaten… it wasn’t breakfast time, it was afternoon, but still… what harm could it do? She’d had her cereal and coffee hours ago, why not have fish for lunch? Yes, she told herself, she was free and could take the path of her own choosing.
She steadied herself, emotions swollen but in check, anticipation whispering at her pounding heart. She could almost smell the tea leaves. Her mouth watered at the thought of the sticky rice.
After taking half a second to rearrange the flowers so they’d be protected from the wind, she turned and strode back quickly toward the cemetery gates.