March 13, 2016

Running still

We're halfway through the trip now and the days are blurring into one another. When I'm with him I never quite know what the time is. I watch the light changing during the day and it's changing too fast. We sleep too little and wake up too late, and the sun is already gone by 5. We spend long evenings talking, watching movies or writing our diaries.

In Kumamoto, we ride onboard ridiculously quaint tramways with wooden floors and vintage curtains. Then we rush to the airport under a pouring rain, to catch a flight back to Tokyo. I fall asleep with his hand stroking my hair. He leads the way through Tokyo and we catch a night bus up north. At 6 in the morning, we're in Sendai and we find a ramen place to get breakfast. We sit there in silence, sipping our miso soup and green tea. I look up and he's smiling at me, and his smile kills me, everytime. I don't care that we've just spent 9h on a bus, that it is raining and freezing outside, that the rice is cold. I don't care that our bags sit in a corner and that we have no place to sleep tonight and that my hair is a mess and my skin looks grey from the lack of sleep.

It's strange, traveling with someone. In the rare moments I go out and explore on my own I feel my whole body moves differently and my energy shifts. I feel stronger, my stride longer. Not that I'm hesitant or afraid when I'm with him, there is just something different about being on your own and knowing no one is going to help you find your way back, or help you make a decision. I savour those moments because they remind me of that year spent on my own, and of the strength that was mine then. Traveling together also has amazing upsides. As long as my head is blurry from the jet-lag, he is there to steer me and take care of me. He lets me fall asleep in the afternoon and when I wake up he's been shopping and cooking and there's an amazing dinner on the table. As the days go by, we grow more and more tired and one of us is always dozing off on train journeys. The one that's awake keeps an eye out for our stop and finds out how to get to the next place. It's a dance of supporting one another, paying attention to the other's energy, and taking the lead when it is needed. We never ask for it explicitly. It makes everything secure, knowing that when you're too tired to make decisions someone will be there to relay you.

In Hiraizumi, we ride bikes around the coutryside, powered by a strong wind. The sun is shining and we sing silly songs as we go, and the snow is melting on the side of the road. At night, we find the onsen, guided by the eerie fumes escaping from the building. We go to different baths this time, I enter the women's bath, completely naked, my hair wrapped in a towel, and I clean myself with warm water and soap before entering the pool. I get a few curious looks, but their smiles are kind and I feel really comfortable, sitting around all these women in a room filled with steam. After the bath, we sit in the common room for a while, and I stretch while he practices writing kanji on his notebook.

He never gets upset. Not when we miss our train, not when we can't find a place to sleep, not even when he drops his camera and the screen breaks. One day I accidentally cut myself in the shower and as I walk in the room wrapped in my towel he pulls out his safety kit and patches me up without a word. I laugh because he puts a massive bandaid over a small cut.

In Tono, the snow fell right before we arrived. We find a minshuku (a japanese inn) with the most amazing room, and unroll the futons on the bamboo floor (this is my favourite thing to do). The light in the room is incredibly soft. We spend two days there, walking around and finding secret temples in the forest near the town. We walk between snow fields and the cold drains the blood from my hands. We keep walking in the dark, slightly lost (not that it's the first time), and we stay silent until we reach the town. That night, I am too tired and I get upset for no reason. He lies down on the bed next to me, close his arms around me and makes up stories to make me laugh. Leaving Tono, the train ride is very melancholic. I'm glad we came to the snow, he says. I can see his expression darkening and I want to say I know. I know we only have a few days left, I know you don't want to go back. I remember. But I say nothing, and hold his hand all the way to the next town.

In the madness that is Tokyo, we walk through crowds big enough to swallow me, and he never lets go of my hand. Because we will be on different planes flying home in two days, I am not really there. Instead I choose to live in other moments. The leaves singing in Hiroshima bay. The boat ride in golden light in Matsushima. The innumerable steaming ramen bowls. The way he looks at me when we wake up in yet another strange room. Following his steps in deep powdery snow. In Shanghai airport I start editing pictures I took of him, and as I work I can hear all the memories coming together and grafting themselves onto the pictures, and I can hear us, us from the future, laughing as we look at them :

« Hey, remember that time we ran off to Japan ? »

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