November 14th, 2012

He had lived on Hokkaido for a few months, and now it was the time of the winter festival: lights dotted the houses, the walkways, the canal.

He had come on a Fulbright to study — well, explaining what he studied was usually the point at which people’s eyes glazed over. It was recondite from most people’s experience.

So there was the element of specialty, of expanding the frontier of human knowledge in one tiny area. But maybe 20 other specialists in the world would care. Maybe 30.

But the timing was fortuitous, because traveling to Japan meant a long flight in more than one sense: he was getting away from a woman.

That part had nothing of the arcane to it. If he could have brought himself to tell the story to his new neighbors, he would have bridged the cultural divide in an instant.

Because people everywhere fall in love at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons, with the wrong people.

It’s a miracle anybody gets it right at all.

The miracle of technology meant that her text had found him, even on the other side of the world: “Can we talk?”

He didn’t know.
Could they?

He put the phone back in the pocket of his parka,
looked up at the stars,
breathed the cold northern air into his lungs,
and resumed his walk along the canal, amid the pretty lights.

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