Rainy season in the south of Japan
A cloud is a countable noun and I don’t know why. They’re hodgepodges of gas and liquid, never settling on a place or shape. They gather and split, rise and slide, mask and offer, and sometimes, they just go elsewhere. Clouds aren’t always so quick about it though. What’s been easing over us for weeks now in a soggy slurry can’t be counted. Not from where I’m seeing it.
Omaha, my trainer told me. Miyazaki is countryside. Omaha.
From the plane, a few months back, I saw what he meant. Rice paddies and pastures strangled by scrappy green with mountains shrugging behind and the Pacific’s knee-deep blue, lapping against the landing strip. There was city too; a stunted patch of squares for the sun to glint against. That’s where I’d live and teach English to housewives, their rambunctious broods, or their work-worn husbands, for the most part.
From the ground, the downtown’s streets are alley-sized, nicking between tall flimsy buildings. So many wires tangle high across the only sky we have. There are shops offering Chinese noodles, fat noodles, brown noodles, and curry. Convenient stores and shoe shiners and hostess bars. Pachinko and massage parlors. Cafés selling manga, coffee, or internet. It’s small and adorably bustling on Japan’s bottom where Fukuoka’s the big time and Tokyo seems like another country entirely.
Erika thinks so too. We have that in common.
Wrap me, she says, so I put a sticky arm around her.
We sit quiet in my room while the day is more a matinee for the dark, the way rain’s been falling. Our shoes dry by the door. Her shirts wrinkle in my closet. My green tea is gone and in her belly.
Do you want to take my virgin? she asks sometimes.
It’s 27 degrees Celsius. Centigrade. One of those. The crumbling indoor water park I want to see is 9 Kilometres away. I don’t know how tall I am here. I wonder why the world measures things different than I learned how.
Riding a bike while holding an umbrella is easier than it looks. Braking is harder. But I’m walking these days since someone stole my bike again.
I roll up my suit pants and wear sandals through the rain on my walk to the school. Old women pass me on bikes, zipped up to their noses in colourful rain suits. I check if it’s my bike they’re riding. Their bikes are better with open-umbrella holders, baskets in the front and back, special slips on the handlebars to keep their hands from cold or sun, cup holders, bells, mirrors, motors. They stare at me staring at their bike and splash by.
I miss the rain in Los Angeles, self-conscious and flighty. I miss driers, tacos, and rough live music.
When Erika and I eat fried, pickled, raw, sea-weeded Japanese things, we don’t say much. She says it’s the rain, but I know better.
The beaches close until July, she says. It’s dumb.
I’m glad I taught her that word.
A Jehovah’s Witness knocks on my door sometimes. She smiles and I smile and close the door.
Most Japanese don’t believe in god, Erika says.
No, she says. But they go to shrine and pray anyway. It’s dumb.
Even in the rain, women wear high heels, frilly dresses, and run wide-eyed across the street. They use umbrellas in the rain and parasols when there’s sun. But there’s only a grey glob now, dispersing itself all over us.
I look like boy, she says.
Study your articles, I say.
She looks like a musician.
She likes sharing an umbrella but water spills down my back and I hit her head with the spokes sometimes. She takes the bus home when it’s raining hard and I wonder if there’s a worse way to part.
She emails me a song she wrote and makes me delete it. I take pictures of her asleep, posing graceful, and show her.
You are jealous because I make art when I sleep, she says. You don’t understand my feeling.
She lived in Tokyo before, but there was the earthquake. There was a job she hated too. So she came back to Miyazaki and now there’s not much. She makes coffee where we met. She studies English to pass a test and move to America. She sketches what she sees while I write about what I can’t.
A typhoon comes. I brace for sirens, for torrents in the streets, for toppled trains and old women blowing by, bikes still stuck between their legs. Maybe mine. Chaos.
There’s more wind and rain and that’s all. The clouds keep coming in swirls too big and dull and wet to admire, spilling their stuff all over us. For a few more weeks they will, anyway.
Summer’s soon, with cicadas scoring its heat. Monsoon season follows and winter’s after, with its sun-caked cold. Spring brings the bashful cherry blossoms that bloom and blow away days after. Then I’ll leave too, before the rainy season starts again. I bought a ticket.
How can you ignore it is happening, she asks.
It’s not that hard, I say and kiss her quiet.
I don’t think so, she says.
There’s a lick of light, thunder mumbling after, and rain that keeps drumming clumsy.
Dumb, she says.
Joe is in Tokyo teaching, still, eating tacos, almost, and working on a book, but not as hard as he could be.