Osaka Memoria & Bina Historia
Sometimes the smallest things hold the strongest memories.
By Marcus Bird
I smell Osaka in the wind tonight.
Osaka was where she lived, and I’d take the train from the small sleepy town I lived in, somewhere in the middle of Japan, and I’d hop off when I reached Osaka Station, my heart beating with anticipation for the moment she’d come into my vision. I don’t know why it was on the wind tonight in Jamaica of all places, but it was there; the smell of the trees and flowers around her building, mixed with the sweet touch of the inside of her apartment. I stood there, in the dark nighttime, looking up to the sky, frozen in place. I had somewhere to go, I had something to do, but I couldn’t move, because I smelled Osaka on the wind, and I smelled her.
I saw us, walking together from her place to a small market nearby. She had plans for dinner, and I was smiling as she spoke, telling me what vegetables she needed to make it taste just right, and the twinkle in her voice as she told me she wanted me to enjoy the food. I watched her roaming through the supermarket, eyeing this ingredient and that, her eyes focused on the task, while I, a lingering shadow, observed from some distance away. The dinner was great that night as we smiled and chatted about nothing in particular, our heads light with the touch of red wine. It was cold, and that night she kept me warm in our embrace and I lay there, not wanting to leave forever.
I take a few steps forward, and I take a deeper whiff of the air around me. Yes, it is there. That sweetness that was both the smell around me and the moment; times we walked around a canal by a huge overpass near her place, watching trains streak by like illuminated snakes in the distance. There is an image of her that comes to mind. It is a cool windy September evening, and she is standing in front of me, in a summer dress, the wind blowing her hair around, her eyes comfortable with the promise of what we might have. In the background, green grass stretches as far as I can see into the distance. Around us, people walk and jog, children throw baseballs and people sit on blankets, but all I see is her, the summer dress she wears and the way she looked at me as the wind blew.
Now my mind is flashing to images of us in Tokyo, laughing as we run to catch a bus. We are late, and the bus is almost ready to go. I’m awkwardly holding my backpack, and she is lugging a small suitcase. I hear it clack clack on the sidewalk as we cheer each other on. She tells me we will make it, and I respond in a huff, agreeing with her. We make it to the bus on time, and laugh at each other constantly on the way to our destination. The bus ride is about two and a half hours, and I watch the evening grow into darkness through the window with her hand in mine. I can smell her against me, and feel her breaths against my shoulder. We talk sometimes, and sometimes we don’t. The bus dropped us near to a quiet inn, a Ryokan where an old lady gave us our room keys. We had a private room, outside in a quiet garden in front of a quiet enclave of tress. If you listened carefully, you could hear the running water of a river somewhere nearby. The room was cold and she kept me warm again, her hair spilling onto my chest as she held me, the laughter and memories of the evening before echoing throughout my consciousness as I vanished into her aura. I remember feeling there was love there, but I also remember feeling weak. Tokyo had me on edge, with its demands that left bank accounts near empty, and my mind a swirling maelstrom of doubt. Her smell, her warmth was one of the few lights out there. This trip was one of those escapes, a drift into the outskirts of reality that was just us.
We went to a museum the day after arriving at the Ryokan, and I remember getting annoyed with her as she walked around taking pictures. She was so dogged in her determination, so intent on taking pictures of everything, I felt ignored. At the time I didn’t realize that I was observing her being lost in everything around her. She was lost in the trees and time and space, lost in the beautiful artwork and the sun’s rays bouncing off the trees branches around us. Lost she was, in the slightly shaking blades of grass, silhouetted by a backdrop of the Japanese mountains. I felt she was ignoring me in these moments, but now I know, I wanted her to be lost in me.
The smell is still there and I’m standing on a series of large outdoor tiles that lead into my house. I take another whiff and I see her in her kitchen in the morning, laughing at me as I tell her she can’t always eat bread and coffee for breakfast. Just watch me, she says, and serves me the same thing. That was a day, a valentine’s day I think, when I was on the edge of reason for other reasons. Something was happening to me, I was feeling sick all the time. The stresses and demands of the Japanese life seemed to be getting to me. I had seen a few doctors and all of them simply told me I need to relax. You are probably depressed, one doctor said after I told him about some chest pains I was experiencing. I told her how I was feeling about her. The strength of my passion, and what it might mean for the future. That day I felt like a piece of meat on a chopping block, with the butcher’s hand held high, waiting for a customer to tell him which piece they liked best. My revelation made her quiet that day, and as we walked through some quiet back street after breakfast, she didn’t say much. I didn’t know what this meant. I always felt like I was putting myself on the line, but she was worth it, in my mind. Her silence was painful, and as we spoke later I —
My feet squelch on moist grass. I’m on the lawn, looking at the clouds. The garden is dark and the white walls look dull. I hear a car drive by somewhere in the distance. There is something I need to do, somewhere I need to go, but I still can’t move. The demands of a Kingston night are being drowned out by a smell I can’t touch, and by the memory of a woman I haven’t seen in a long time.
Then I remembered the panic attack. It was a night in Tokyo before I lived there, and I was with her, on a weekend excursion. We were with some friends at a large restaurant. They were nice people, but I was feeling a bit tense. Something was boiling inside me in a strange way, something I couldn’t place. In the middle of the meal, I suddenly felt hot, and I couldn’t breathe. Excusing myself from the table, I walked through a small entryway to the front of the restaurant, unsure of what was happening. On a balcony outside, I took in several deep breaths, and tried to stop my heart from racing. I didn’t know what this meant or why. Maybe it the demands of my new life were overwhelming, maybe it was something, else, I didn’t know. The touch of an arm on my shoulder let me know someone was there. It was her. This was a time before we really knew each other very well, and I fought with my mind as she looked on me with concern. I don’t want to lose her, my mind said. I told her the truth, and I wasn’t sure why I felt so panicked. She smiled and gave me a hug, and told me not to worry. Take your time, she said, and went back inside. Tokyo felt like such a raging beast at the time, with its circuit board architecture, bright lights and endless stream of people. I felt a little better sometime later, and thanked her for being so patient with me.
Our hotel room had an interesting retro theme and this was a talking point each time we went back into the room. We were in that moment feeling each other out, testing the waters and trying to understand it all. Walking around the city the next day, I let her know that seeing the constant stream of people around me was unusual. You’ll get used to it, was her gem of wisdom, and she was right. With her hand in mine, we drifted through faceless crowds on quiet streets and public parks. In one of these places, a shiny sculpture of a Komodo Dragon was on the ground, and I, not one to ignore a moment to capture on film, decided to sit on it. Take a picture, I said, gesturing to her while sitting on the object. Then, I fell to the ground, because the surface of the sculpture was so smooth, as I sat I simply slipped off. There I was, my long legs up in the air, with her in the distance laughing uncontrollably at me. She was laughing with her hand over her mouth, but it came loud and clear over the calm summer air. I told her to take the picture anyway, and laughed along with her.
The yard is dark and empty, and the occasional rustle of a bird flying in the night is all I can hear. I can still smell Osaka on the wind, but it is fading now. I take a few more steps forward, and I can feel it drifting away. I can’t taste that touch of her on my tongue anymore; the strong visuals and the flood of memories are getting harder to hold on to. The invisible cloud of Osaka that was hanging over my house is moving away to its next destination. I pace about a bit more, trying to hang on to the smell, to remember her, feeling so close to me in this moment. Then, it is gone, and I’m standing in the dark on a cool Caribbean evening, wondering where she is.
Marcus is the author of three novels, Naked As The Day (set in Tokyo), Sex Drugs & Jerk Chicken and Berlin Vanilla, all available on Amazon. If you liked this article please hit ‘recommend’ or please share the article.