I’ll go to the park today. Now the air has turned chilly and the gingko trees are all gold. For the last week it’s been overcast but today the sun has shown himself, chasing the clouds from the sky to leave only a few wisps draped in the heights of the clear crisp blue. Yes, I’ll go to the park. At this time people will still be at work and in the shops along the way they will be drumming their fingers on quiet counters. Children will be coming back from school. Boys and girls in pairs, their yellow caps and their red backpacks, tugging one another along in games of tag. Or with their bicycles the middle school girls, swinging their schoolbags and always looking straight at you, stepping aside with a polite bob and picking up their laughter when you’re past. Their bright eyes, their neat, soft bangs, flashing their first earrings as they walk. They must think I am ancient. They must think I am ugly. I will not look at them. I will go to the park. There will be no one, only the pigeons dawdling for the evening. In the summer the hydrangea blooms used to make spots of gentle colour in the park shrubbery. There are no more flowers now. I will lean back on a bench and close my eyes and there will be no sound, no cars, nothing except the wind. In the distance a dog barks; on the gingko trees, the leaves are beginning to fall.
Every cocktail is an alluring new possibility. You form the words that you may have seen once in a book or heard in a movie – martini, mule, Milano – and as the bartender tumbles mouthfuls of golden intoxication from the little hour-glass cup wedged between his two fingers into your glass, the room lights seem brighter, the shadows by the wall more enticing. With this you might leap on the bar and tap-dance its length, or swivel your stool to the woman two seats away and take her on a night drive; with this tomorrow will be sunny and you a person you had never known before. The bartender completes the drink with a swirl of the stirrer; confidentially the ice cubes clink, whispering of wonders of flavour, and—you drink. Maybe it’s bitter. Maybe the alcohol is stronger than you expected, or maybe it cloys in the back of your throat, diluted with too much liqueur. So what? You simply rise and pay the bill—and then it’s the next bar, the next cocktail, the next shining jewel to take down from the shelf. The streets twinkle with the innumerable lights of bars, and you have as many cocktails to try as your legs will walk straight. In the bottom of a cocktail glass is something far more potent than alcohol. In its uncountable variety, in its glittering enchantment, what we find is hope.
What the hell am I doing?
“Can you use this to study Japanese?”
Yes. Yes, you can. Continue reading