Archive for April, 2013
Kaori browses through the clothing shop with a sharper eye than previous. Knowing the garment is for her, that her mother is letting her choose it for herself, whets Kaori’s appetite to be involved. She gravitates towards several of the more expensive fabrics near the back, and looks at them longingly. She knows that her mother would not allow them; several are too bright and garish, something for courtesans to wear. Other fabrics have rather suggestive patterns on them. Eventually she meanders towards the middle of the store, closer to the plain, subdued silks.
“What of this one Kaori?” Her mother holds an amethyst-purple carefully brocaded— no, embroidered fabric. Kaori’s mouth drops, her dark eyes widening. Even still, Kaori admires the peach blossoms on it, carefully concealing the character for long-life amongst the weave’s imperfections. She closes the fan which had hidden her shock.
“It would be beautiful, Mother, if it had but cherry blossoms on it instead, in honor of Father.” Her usually clear voice shakes.
“You’re right, daughter.” Her mother turns to the shopkeeper. “Do you have this fabric without embroidery?”
The shopkeep considers a moment, “I have a brocade piece that is similar, madame.” He comes from behind Kaori and walks to the front, stopping two-thirds of the way. He brings back to the women a bolt that is as described, but lighter colored. “It is local work, or close to it, from the next prefecture over. Very fine quality, and not very expensive since it has not come far, it would make good clothing for her.” Kaori and her mother look disappointedly at each other.
“We’ll keep looking, thank you.,” she bows politely and leaves the shopkeep holding the bolt of cloth. Kaori wanders again towards the back of the store. She was buoyed by how much her mother was apparently willing to spend on her, and reconsiders several pieces that she had passed over. Here a lovely emerald silk brocaded in an abstract color, much like the man from outside had been wearing. There is a lovely pink, this one embroidered with a scene of a red bridge over a stream. She turns to bring her mother to see it, and there, hidden among bolts where she almost misses it, is an all-but depleted bolt of rich amethyst silk.
Kaori calls out, “Mother! Look!” and points with her fan. The shopkeep comes over quickly, eyes wide. He frowns at the scrap, partially hidden amongst full bolts, his pale skin creasing deeply. He points back towards the pink she had handled earlier. “That one is much better; look, these are tiny scraps, certainly not enough to clothe your daughter with. And the fabric is poor, it is blank, uneventful, surely you would rather a great work of weaving rather than something so plain?”
Kaori addresses the shopkeep directly. “This is the color we want, and it is blank like canvas. Should not our clothing reflect the greatness of our own character rather than eclipse it?” Her fan opens, quickly fans her face and hides it as she glares at him, a single lock of her mahogany hair flutters in the fanning. Her eyes lock on his chest; ready to fan away the man’s argument.
The shopkeep turns to her mother, exasperated he gestures one-handed to her daughter. Before he could speak Kaori mother’s fan was out, fanning from her bosom, a shield over the fruit of her labor; she cuts him off. “My daughter is right. You may hold what you have of the plain amethyst, as well as a yard of the emerald brocade in the back for the Inaba household.” She bowed while closing the fan as Kaori followed suit, her brother detaching from a corner, and the three leave.
Meeting people in real life that you only know as voices through your computer is always entertaining, in an emotionally masochistic way. Especially the ones you flirt with. There’s always this tension just before you meet, like waiting for lightning to strike. Will they look the same? Was it just the myth of photographic truth that I fell in lust with? Is there any truth to what they said? And it is like a lightning strike. In an instant everything is rendered true or false, black or white, electric or insulating. In the best case scenario they and the camera have in fact been truthful and the pull between the two of you is undeniably gravitational. But then what? Neither of you are skilled at being in person, after all, isn’t that why you’re meeting people on the computer in first place? So you orbit, two starts, tidally locked, rotating around each other but never actually making contact. And you aggrandize it in your head to make everything perfect and fine this way. You like the chase. You don’t know what you’re feeling. You’re need to be SURE they’re interested. You’re doing it for the joy it brings; to know you’re wanted. And maybe, just maybe, you never intended to do anything with them. But sometimes, it works the other way, and you get hot and bothered over this other person who you were both lukewarm over the other but in meeting and seeing each other, shallow people you both are, its more than just orbiting one another: you want to feel the heat that they can give off, like warming your face in the noon-day sun.
Falling in love at first sight is overrated. Also, a little unwieldy. I mean, what if you’re dating someone? What if you really love them? People say that it’s just lust at that point: that you’re not really falling in love with the person that just walked by, or that you’re not really in love with the person you’re with. But that doesn’t change the fact that you made eye contact, or brushed against someone accidentally and felt something. It always feels like motion. An uneasy sense like an elevator starting or stopping too quickly and your stomach falling through, but horizontally. Like something inside of you just pulled towards them and you didn’t move, or pulled back, or sideways, but not in the direction you were going. And then there’s this wobble. Say it’s a best case scenario, and you get to be around them a lot. There are these weird moments, first you don’t see them for a while, then they start coming around more and more frequently. You feel like a comet or an asteroid caught in the gravitational pull of a greater object, orbiting with extreme eccentricity. The odds of anything happening are about the same as asteroid-you getting captured by planet-them… either you never see them again and disappear into the dark void between the stars, likely to crash into something else or burn up in the heart of a star, or you crash into them and a sweaty, heated night of lovemaking ensues and then it’s over.
Kaori keeps the poem to herself. She does not think it is in good taste to question the subjects of the great poets, but does think the trend is silly. She goes back to watching everything around the road as her mother and brother talk. Peasants and the upper classes alike walk down the road; the wagons have the hardest trouble with the cobbles, axels frequently breaking. Kaori hears a loud crack behind her and turns, startled. A barrel, poorly lashed, has fallen out of a wagon and burst open; rice grains scattered everywhere. The driver quickly dismounts as he berates a young man who looks to be his son. His yelling is heard for a good long while down the road. On one of the dirt paths to the side of the new road, closer to town, another wagon is stuck in the muddy earth. Several men, the trousers filthy from helping, try to lift the wagon so that the animals can pull it forward. They succeed and one falls onto his face. Kaori pulls her fan from her sleeve and quickly opens it, placing a barrier between her and the peasant’s humiliation.
The sun as only barely moved when they enter the town. Kaori’s mother has made no attempt to engage her in conversation, so Kaori is not entirely certain why they are here. As they have approached closer, the conversation between her brother and mother has gotten quieter, or the sounds of the city have gotten louder. Kaori is uncertain. Her mother and brother walk side by side, even though her mother is leading. All around her men are moving barrels, pulling carts, shouting and talking. Quick “Hello-goodbye” conversations mingle with work orders and condemnations as apprentices and delivery boys alike invariably get something wrong, or are found idling by fires in the late morning chill. Kaori finds herself thinking of the small garden at home, the one that houses their family altar, so narrow is the walking space between the storefronts and the wagons. Her mother says something to her brother, who takes the lead and makes way for them through the crowd.
Kaori’s nose wrinkles several times at the smells around her, but her fan efficiently hides it from most people’s views. She is almost cut off from the line of brother-mother-Kaori when they turn into a silk merchant’s shop in front of someone heading the other way. Stopping abruptly he scowls at Kaori, his face softening quickly as he realizes he is seeing a young girl and not what he was expecting. He nods to her and ushers her in with a gesture. Kaori makes note of the brocade pattern on the man’s light green, silk clothing, bows in return and enters the silk shop.
Her mother looks over as she comes in. “Kaori dear, come look at this.” She looks over at her brother instead: he is standing in a corner by a mannequin, looking just like one. Kaori goes to her mother.
“It’s very pretty, mother.” She has looked only to see that it is a deep indigo.
Her mother looks at her and frowns for a moment, then takes a deep breath. “All right Kaori, look around on your own, pick something you like, something you’d wear. You’re old enough now to be deciding these things on your own.”
Kaori’s eyes open wide as her fan snaps open and begins fluttering in her hand. Her mother smiles reassuringly. The fluttering stops, the fan closes, and Kaori looks around the shop in earnest. A germ of an idea of what her mother wants is beginning in her, but Kaori ignores it to focus on the task at hand.
She picks up her writing brush and looks left out the window. It is open, and the scent of snow wafts in. In the garden her father’s favorite tree, an old cherry, has the first signs of flower buds. A bird sings. The fireplace behind her is lit, countering the frigid air from outside. She looks back at the paper before her, steadies herself with a breath, and begins writing.
Springtime snow fallen
waiting under the cherry tree
once again you are not here.
The wall was too high
no way I could jump over,
I long to see you again.
She sighs, sets the brush on the holder, crumples the paper and tosses it into the fire. She has only ever heard poems and songs of illicit trysts. No one has ever written of someone refusing these, or if so it is because they are dead. She chastises herself for thinking of such a silly reason in her poem. She must be more serious, more worldly. Being the second daughter (and third child) has not afforded her opportunities for such knowledge however. She looks once more into the garden, bundles up in warmer clothing, and heads to the stone bench under the cherry tree.
The snow crunches under her feet and the stone is colder than she expected it. She thinks she is a bad poet, that no one will read her works, that she will never be married, will die alone in this house. A bird hops towards her in the snow, chirps at her, flies away. The rice-paper door to the house opens and her mother steps out, she too is bundled.
“Kaori, what are you doing out here?”
“I am thinking, mama.”
“’One does not force inspiration, one kindles it like a lone candle.’”
Kaori sighs. “It is not inspiration that I need, mama. It is… something else; talent for one.”
“Come now! Your father says your poetry is wonderful.”
“Then why doesn’t he show it to people?”
“You know your father doesn’t like to brag, Kaori. To display such fine works to others unprovoked would be improper of him.”
She sighs again, heavier.
“Come along Kaori, I’m going into town and want you to come with me.”
Kaori looks at her mother, her eyebrows raised. Her mother has not asked Kaori though, so she simply gets up, restraining the sigh that desperately wants to come out, and bows to her mother. Smiling, her mother leads to the garden door.
Outside the door, their eldest brother waits for them. He bows to his mother and the three of them being walking to the town. Her brother leans over to her.
“Where did she find you?”
“I didn’t know she was looking for me. I was in the garden, under papa’s tree. If I’d known I could have hidden, and hopefully she would have walked out without me.”
“That’s what you get for thinking so much.” Her brother is smiling at her as he says this.
She frowns at him, taking in the view around them as they walk. The shaded spots under trees still have snow on them, but much of what is now under sunlight has melted. The water has soaked into the earth, turning many dirt paths to mud. Kaori and her family walk on a stone path recently put down. Cherry blossom trees mark the entrance ways to houses, and down the road a gateway marks the entrance to a temple. The fading red of the wood contrasts with the white snow nicely, another poem comes to her:
Poets talk of white,
the snow, the moon and the stars.
What about color?
Where has the green of trees gone,
the brown of their sleeping trunks?