It was with a curious sense of heaviness in my chest, a kind of tightness, breathlessness, that I left the house today to go do some shopping. The utterly mundane—groceries. We eat pizza now at least weekly. It’s funny. Ironic. Frozen ones cost only half, even a third of the delivery price.
I caught myself wandering in my head, down the side street near our apartment with the temple whose bells used to sound so regularly, a gentle reminder of the time on the days when I refused to get up, sleeping in as late as I could, lounging persistently under the sheets until the futon refused to give me any more comfort.
And I realized something—I don’t wander much these days searching for hidden treasures, out of the way shops, or ancient shrines closeted secretly between a side alley and a beauty parlor. Part of it is of course due to the baby, and her rigid schedule—one cannot wander for hours, when a gap of an hour and a half is all that is allowed in leaving the house, and returning back to the quiet of the nursery again. One cannot wander freely when there are so many needs to be continually considered. One cannot indulge quiet reflection while gazing upon the passing scenery, while simultaneously checking to see that the baby has not dropped her juice, or if the sun is not too bright in her eyes. But perhaps the number one uncontrollable factor is simply that my own feet will not carry me so far—if there are wonders to be found, they are stretched out sparsely through houses that have been stretched as far apart as possible— wandering requires a car.
I find this to be a great disappointment. We lived four years relying on public transportation between cities, and either walked or rode our mama-charis for everything else. And after the first winter, skidding around on the snow, I largely gave up the mamachari for my own secure feet. Walking draws out the details, gives one an intimacy with the streets, its hidden corners, its shady groves, its mysterious grottoes.
For a time, I tell myself. For a time will I be constrained to this inactivity, this secludedness. But I am afraid, so terribly afraid that I have lost my vision, lost my feet.
I go out with a group of people I have never met before, and my husband, tired from a long day, stays home with the baby. We eat, we laugh, we go get coffee. The mood is relaxed, unhurried, unfettered by foolish things like schedules and responsibilities. For a moment, I remember what my life used to be. I recall life lived with an ability for impromptu adventure. But I have parked in a place with time limits. How very aware of me, to provide myself the means of escape should company become tiresome. It didn’t, though as I drove home, listening to a favorite song over and over again, I was struck by how very different my current circumstances are from my previous company.
In ten years, will I regard what I have written here now as infantile as I consider the things I wrote and did ten years ago now to be? Can I even acknowledge the immature past as a source of anything except lessons learned, and thank-god-they-are-done-with-now? And what of this present moment? It feels real enough, this yearning for mystery, and the persistent niggle that perhaps I should do more to reflect on the work that I swore to finish by summer’s end, and less time shielding myself from this state by creatively fantasizing. I like to think that’s how I charge my batteries. Maybe it is simply how I channel frustration.
So, I went shopping, and I did buy frozen pizzas. I also bought condoms, and felt my cheeks burn—as if somehow a person who has already borne a child has to be secretive about such things! But I spotted something in the deli, and with a sudden lightness, I had discovered a little something delightful. The tension fled. Afterward, with as little effort as opening a door, I got a video card at the movie rental place. I hardly even had to think; had I been putting it off so long for fear of miscommunication?
Good for grilling, it said. Not this time. My discovery turned into sashimi. And it was very, very good. And we watched a real movie, curled up on the couch together. It was a small, but somehow very satisfying deviation from the dull routine.
Handouzan still mocks me for my hesitance, the Yasugawa is listening to me sing the Anchor Song, and Sawayama draws me like a lure. They are far from me now, and at times, achingly so. The nighttime ride past Hikone-jo, changing with the seasons, I fly on the bicycle beneath me, and the lights on the dark water are magic; the trees wrap the place up and it is open to my imagination. I cannot forget these things. I will not.
But tomorrow, I may take up wandering again.