Barefoot

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Letter (Wishful Talking)



Natsumi Sakai
17th November 2022




I want to ask you something

I want to ask you something. It’s about the objects hung on the wall. I think they are boxes. Closed. I have to clean your room now, and I need to put them off, but they are locked. Is there a key or something somewhere?

I sometimes wonder where you might be, but after a moment of thought, I always find it pointless and stop. You are not coming back. That’s the one sure thing and that’s all it matters. For that reason, I must get everything out of the room and welcome a new tenant. I wonder if you know that everything will be gone.

There is something about the hallway that is different now. I have no idea what your room was like before, but I know the colors of the shared spaces have changed. I suppose it does not matter so much now, we never really knew each other. Yet, I quite enjoyed our time. I don’t think we ever bothered each other.

Strange things life can give.

Apparently, I can take all the foods you have left. I’m quite happy about this. I can spend my money on other things instead. I suppose I have about a month free of sharing this place until the new tenant comes. That is also nice.

*

Today, my task at my part-time job is to sort out mosses. A box of mosses is given to me, and I have to separate them into two kinds: those of lighter colors and those of darker colors. I stand in front of the work table with a few other women who are my mother’s age. These mosses will be used to create small decorative, plant objects. They are often bought as presents, an alternative to bouquets.

During the break, the women chatted. Something about our boss, how his teenage son got a girl pregnant. Also some complaints about the low wages. And how our boss is simply thoughtless in everything. After the break, I work for a few hours until my shift is over. I give my greetings and leave.

At home, I open the cabinet and take out a package of crackers you have left. After gulping down a glass of water, I sit to eat them from their plastic wrappings. This will do for tonight.

*

Writing letters to nobody is a hobby I have. They are meant for no one. Rather than letters, they are an enumeration of lines on paper. Since they do not go anywhere, this writing goes against the very meaning of language.

This is something I do, once in a while, when I have time. In between coursework, job shifts, and social occasions. It’s a break to produce such useless things. The papers pile up, and when they reach a certain amount, I throw them away.

After finishing the small pack of crackers, I go to my desk to conduct this hobby. On the desk, there is a pack of A4 copier paper and a ballpoint pen. Talking one piece of paper and the pen, I begin.

*

Some mornings, I am awake early. My eyes open when the sky is still dark, and over the next hour, it whitens. At such times, my body hurts from a lack of rest. Absentmindedly, I stare at the metal railing of the balcony through the rectangular piece of glass. I close my eyes for a few seconds, but they then open again. I cannot return to sleep. I stare at the empty clothesline, at the other windows and roofs outside. It is quiet and still.

It is still five when the sky is completely light. I move the upper half of my body and then take a breath. I lean on the wall and think of saying something, but then I stop. I wait, dully feeling time as it passes.

Where do these empty times go, I wonder. Will they pile up to amount to something, and then would I find that it is taking up too much space? And then, because past time can’t be thrown away like paper, it will have to stay.

*

A package came by post, addressed to your name. I informed the landlord, but since your whereabouts are a mystery, the package is still here. It is left in a corner of the kitchen table. It is a small cardboard box, about the size of my two palms. It is not heavy or light, but it is probably filled since it barely makes a sound.

I suppose the package is lost to the world. It cannot go anywhere, and it will not be opened here. For how long it will be here, I don’t know.

The package stays, and I leave the room. While listening to people in the lecture hall, half my mind is on the package. Not that I am pondering upon anything, my mind only lightly lies on the brown package. I do not talk about it, the package is lost to the world.

*

... sometimes, I think about it, you know, at night. And when I do, I’m swarmed by fear, and I just cannot sleep…
…it’s important I suppose, to think about what to prepare...would you leave for your children, for example…
…my cousin…takes care of her father in the retirement home…
…I sometimes consider religion...not to actually believe...but…
…hmm, this pancake is nice…

*

I have a small piece of hand carved wood. It’s a rough and simple shape of a person in hiking gear, about 5cm big. It was my father’s, I think. I am not sure if he made it for himself or if he said he gave it to my mother. I think, when I was around six or seven, I found it in the attic and I was told I could have it. Or, perhaps my father brought it down when he was cleaning the attic. I am not sure. The carving remains with me, but its edges have rounded and it is losing its shape.

There is a keychain of a bluebird, made of glass. Its make is quite sketchy, the black color of its eye flows into the neck a little. It was given to me by a classmate in fifth grade. Unwillingly, I think. Yet, it looks quite cute.

I had a friend in first grade. At the end of the year, when summer was going to start, she held a golden locket in her hand. I was walking in the wooden hallway, she was at the bottom of the staircase around the corner, with her mother. The tiles of the staircase were cream and dull pink. Her mother was asking her why she wasn’t giving one of the lockets to me, and she said she didn’t want to.

*

…well, my grandmother died, and on the same day of the funeral, I hand my driver’s license test, and uh…I was…
…and this piled up together was not…
…and I feel like something, something…
…but this, this…
…might help…
…yeah, yeah, I like this but I might need help…
…it’s said that in ancient, ancient men…
…she refers…
…are you going there, this evening?...
…yeah…I don’t know, I don’t know…
…there’s no difference between men and women…cause I don’t think she was…

*

The laundry drying tool that’s shaped like an octopus with its many legs, on the balcony across from my window, has two pink rubber gloves. It’s there, every time I look at it. It doesn’t seem to be used, it is just there, drying. The bright pink, turning in the wind.

I never see this neighbor standing on the balcony. Although, I suppose I don’t see many of my neighbors in the first place. At noon, this place is quiet. I sit at the window and flip through pages as a mere formality. I then abandon the task.

When counting, it is easier not to picture numbers, if it is only for counting’s sake. There are times when such things are needed. I then picture short, black ink lines on white paper. They are repeated and make row after row. And then, a field full of these lines is made.

*

In the white hallway, I walk. Aside from the low-pitched sounds of machinery from afar, it is quiet. There are no windows. Fluorescent lights illuminate the place. Each step makes a muffled sound, with the shoes covered in plastic. This is another workplace, it’s the type that takes anyone - people work for a day and never come back. One shift is from 8 am to 8 pm, with an hour lunch break and a 15-minute break in the afternoon. Throughout the day I have moved between different conveyor belts, placing plastic containers in larger ones, placing caps on containers, and so on. Due to spending the whole day standing, I walk with sluggish legs. And then, through the self-opening glass doors walk to the train station.

In the dreams I often dream, I am running. My legs would be light, but not from joy, it is because I am being chased. Something changes its shape every time but, something is chasing me and I am running for my life. There is never time for clever decision-making to throw them off track, I just run forward.

For some time now, I have been waking up in the middle of the night. Like rising from the water, leaving the road I was running, the upper half of my body automatically springs up. When I open my eyes, I find the window across from my bed.

*

Sitting at my desk writing, I think about the rocks at the beach. The beach nearby has many large rocks and some sand in between. These dark gray forms sometimes have streaks of a lighter gray. They make a jagged silhouette from afar. And then, from there, the concrete makes lines. The intermittent white paint reflects the sun.

Slowly filling up the page. I describe fragments that lead to nowhere. Questions are repeated and the same answers are written down. Over and over, through the same path, again and again. Still, there is no end to it, despite its futility.

Like dropping into the bottom of a lake, everything becomes further away. The words disappear into the murky greens and browns, and in the dim comfort, breathing becomes steadily more difficult.

*

With a loud cracking sound, a thick branch breaks off from the tree. A large ‘crack’ sound, slightly similar to the sound of ripping paper. It takes a while for the branch to reach the ground. The branch was at a low part of the tree, so it takes about one-fourth of the tree itself away. The sun beats down upon the whole park.

The trees rustle in murmurs with the unusually strong wind. On the concrete staircase, lemon yellow with sun, a lizard appears. It looks around a little and quickly disappears. The playground equipment of a green camel is empty. In a nearby house, construction workers chatter while working. Someone they know got married. The stone bench is cool in the shadow of the trees. The bushes have a hole, big enough to fit a grown human, like an igloo. A few people are outside walking, with their dogs, to the supermarket, or to their homes. The buzzing sound of something or someone continues.

Cluttered in the corner, the empty cardboard boxes balance on top of one another. They have not been disassembled into flat pieces yet. The emptiness seems to look. Not that I am being looked upon, but it simply ‘looks.’ Nothing fills, and the air inside lacks any substance, yet its territory is impenetrable.

This is the room these boxes look upon, with its emptiness.

*

The window is open tonight, except for the mosquito screen. The full moon shines intensely inside. Tangled in the hands and flowing, yet forming rigid shapes on the wall. It stays, staining. Silently, it moves.

When morning came, the landlord called to tell me some people will come next week to restore the empty room. The boxes on the wall will be removed.