By Jay McKenzie
I don’t want to be here.
I sip my beer, elbows pressing into the sticky table. A man approaches. He’s suited, but a crumpled shirt and trainers soften the look. His eyes are red: he has a few hours of post-office drinking under his belt. A leer plays on his lips.
I think about it for a second. It would be one giant ‘fuck you’ to Carl: me, on his dream trip, sleeping with another man. But as he gets closer, my body turns away entirely of its own volition. Not yet, it whispers through the fug of alcohol. Not like this.
This was not in the plan: me, drinking alone in a backstreet tachinomiya. We’d saved. Nice hotels, the best food Japan could offer. We were going to splurge on our dream trip. His dream trip, I correct myself. But I thought a proposal could have been on the cards.
Then he left me.
A woman frowns and leans in closer to an older man in an unseasonably warm jacket. Another woman, wrinkled as though she needs a good iron, grins toothily, raising her glass.
I’m the source of entertainment for the patrons tonight. Drunk Westerner muttering to herself is something a bit different to the usual Friday night entertainment, I imagine. And I find that I don’t care.
‘Stare all you want. I’m not going anywhere.’
But I am. Again, my body is in charge of my head and it propels me out into the street. It bends me double and expels the liquid that’s been churning in my stomach. The vomit hits the pavement with a splat. One of the patrons - I think it’s suit man - executes a half-hearted cheer.
‘Screw you all!’
The hangover is brutal.
Sandpaper eyes, a bile-burnt throat and a rough sea of acid in my stomach. In a way, it feels better than if I’d woken up fresh.
I pull on tracksuit bottoms and a jumper, force my hair into a loose knot and jam my feet into chewed up trainers. They’re actually chewed up. Our dog Milo finds them irresistible. My dog. Not ‘ours’. Not anymore. I picture the heart-breaking expression on his face as I left him with my parents. Confusion as the other person he loves leaves him.
I shake my head and pick up my backpack, trying to ignore the weight of it.
The day is bright and crisp. A light breeze threatens to carry my hangover away, so I tuck my chin into my chest, determined to hold onto it.
It’s only a short walk to the Shinjuku Gardens: we’d booked this hotel for that very reason. I try hard not to imagine him by my side, concentrating instead on my shoes hitting the pavement.
‘You’re going to think it’s silly, ‘he said.
‘My parents got married there, under cherry blossom. I want to see it.’
I see his diminutive mother’s vacant stare, her neat fingers tearing a tissue into a thousand pieces of confetti. I struggle to link her to the laughing woman in bridal white surrounded by soft blossom in the photo that hangs on our wall. Hung. I smashed it a few days before I left.
I hate you Carl.
The gardens are more expansive than I imagined. I dither between pathways, questioning which way Carl would have chosen then getting angry with myself for even asking.
He’s not here, I say. You can go whichever way you like.
I let my feet carry me. I keep my eyes on them. I don’t look up to avoid the many other visitors.
I snap at anyone dawdling or blocking the path.
I don’t look up at the trees or the squat buildings hiding in the foliage. I walk and walk. The backpack is getting heavier and I urge my shoulder to enjoy the pain, the muscle smarting in protest.
I stop when my body tells me it’s time to stop. I’m panting slightly and last night’s alcohol oozes from my armpits. A wave of nausea ripples through me.
I’m standing by a lake. The water is pink with the reflection of the cherry blossom blooming above. Stray petals float like fairy boats across the surface. I catch my breath.
I put the backpack on the grass at my feet and reach in, pulling out the box. I don’t look at it as I unfasten the clasp. I focus instead on a petal, twisting and dancing its way to the water.
I open the box and tip it, letting the contents catch the breeze.
The particles rise, pausing briefly before they are carried gently across the rose-tinted water.
Goodbye Carl. I release the tears. I love you.