22 November 2015


The park that snakes the edge of Valencia is paved with stone, so when you run, you feel it. I brought my shoes with the expressed purpose of running: I looked on the map and thought the park was a place I could run. When the alarm went off though in the morning, at 6:30, I balked, fat again and bloated from stress eating and failure. And it was dark too, so dark for the morning. I remembered that time we were all in Torremolinos, now four years ago, and Yoko had wanted to take the kids to the beach to take pictures with the sun coming up.

Somewhere in my gut memory, the Spanish language floats around. I can remember it, bits of it, when I'm pressed, although so much has been supplanted by Japanese. The numbers are still there, and the things you say when you leave. The Spanish accent, when I hear it again, always surprises me and my first reflex is to laugh at it. I remember my sister and me on a train to Paris when the Spanish announcement came on and we laughed. We looked at each other and laughed. 

There are so many things to remember if you travel to Europe. When Paris got shot up, all the insufferable digital memory of my generation appeared: the digital photographs and the narratives of being right there. We all have been, of course — who hasn't been to Paris and taken the picture of the Eiffel Tower and had some story to tell about it. There was first the story of the trip I took with my little sister, my younger sister. That trip we said goodbye to each other in a way: she grew up suddenly. My story: we sat on the top of the tower, typical of our generation, amazed at how we had gotten there, buying into the lie of Paris like believing Disneyland is real. We sat and we looked out over the city, having the experience that is not at all unique, but which millennials like me think is unique.

Then another time, with the girls, with Mei and Naomi, when they were so young and it rained and rained and we soldiered on in the rain. We traveled those years because we had planned to go back to Japan and knew that Paris and London would evaporate if we didn't take the chance when we had it. We had a completely different imagined future, full of Japanese paid tours and university professorships at out-of-the-way Japanese universities in the mountains. Yoko getting older, her spine bending and me getting fatter, but happier, my polite Japanese developed from years of committee meetings.

No, none of that came true. The real future was me in Valencia for a couple of days, a conference to attend but starting the day by looking in the mirror and realising my hair was falling out, and that I was getting fat again and I needed to run in the dark. I set out, imagining gunmen in the dark streets and Europe falling apart around me; please, all we want is for our happy fantasy to go on and on. I ran into the park and back again, the sun coming up and the well-dressed Spanish runners speaking in that accent. I showered and went to my conference, bloated and angry about this year of failure.

The pictures hang on like a memory as I run out into the dark. The girls were so young then. I had ideas then that hadn't yet failed. The sidewalks were marble there too, shining in the darkness.

Yoko and the girls at the Eiffel Tower