Coming home is a funny thing. One minute I was travelling, shouting Hey I’m Having A Blast in Kyoto across the internet, and the next morning I was back where I started, with a few postcards and a suitcase full of dirty clothes, and it’s like I’d never left Tokyo at all. It’s been a week. It was a little shocking to suddenly have all this non-travelling everyday-time on my hands. Buckets of time, really, sloshing around and spilling over into empty afternoons that I don’t quite know what to do with. And I have all these photos from Kansai. Hundreds of them filling up my hard drive, and I don’t know how to even begin to make sense of these memories.
Instead, I’ve made a few stabs at life back here. Spring-cleaning. Groceries. Dragging myself down to the lounge to socialise with the newcomers and mentally reconfirm how much I hate small talk. I’ve been inhaling words of all kinds, too – Asterix, stories about the sea, a curmudgeonly essay at which I find myself nodding, the first manga I’m tackling in Japanese, several beautiful writers. Maybe if I drink in their sentences deeply enough I will be able to write beautifully, too. But the important thing I wanted to tell you is that I’ve been eating avocado toast.
I love avocado toast. It is difficult to overstate how much I love eating it. When I lived near Islington two years ago, Chapel Market sometimes did five avocados for a pound, which is ridiculous. In my first year of university I ate avocado toast obsessively, almost everyday, every other week, and then some. Nigel Slater’s version from Real Fast Food asked for sliced onions but I couldn’t be bothered and have not been since.
Two of my favourite foodies, Charlie and Masterchef Kent, also love avocado toast. This is a grand total of two people I’ve convinced, but I’m working on it. Their reactions were something close to rapture; I should start a church for this. Slices of bright, pale jade fruit on toast. The bread is important – something with body and integrity, a nutty or wheaty loaf. Nothing soft or insipid. Drizzle over a tablespoon of the best olive oil you have to hand, sprinkle over some flakes of sea salt. Maldon, if possible. If you must, a grind or two of black pepper, though these days I skip it. Unlike some conversations, this never gets boring, ever.
Avocado toast any time is delicious, but something about last Wednesday was quite special. That afternoon around three I walked home after completing an errand. The rain had finally decided to swan off elsewhere, and the air was limpid, with that freshly-rained scent. I had an avocado waiting, and tea time does not wait for the world to stop turning – so straight home and off to the kitchen it was. Dokidoki was there too, and she sniffed her bread before deciding it was probably safe to eat. She drizzled some honey atop and waited in front of the toaster.
While the toaster whirred I sliced the avocado, twisting the top half to separate the two halves. I drew lines in the seedless half, scooped them out onto the chopping board. She removed her toast and I waited for mine to brown.
“What are you doing with the avocado?”
“Just toast, then olive oil and salt.”
“Hmm…. so simple. Mind if I copy that?”
“No, not at all.”
There were more words but I don’t remember them. Small talk. She finished her toast and honey, and left to take a nap. The mid-afternoon sun stole into the kitchen and caressed everything it touched, all mellow and golden with soft purple shadows. It was a warm light but the air was bracing. Somewhere downstairs, there were people in the lounge getting to know each other. Small talk. The avocado was delicate and buttery, the olive oil grassy. It tasted like London, almost like I was 19 again.
I didn’t take a photo that day, but even if I had I still couldn’t give you that afternoon, that particular slice of toast. It’s not just that the camera’s a tricky creature to master. I’ve been thinking about all the pictures I took in West Japan, and all the ones I didn’t take. What is the best way to remember the voices of the people who look at me from these photographs, how do I remember the way their hands moved and the things they did for me when they’re only images on a screen? This is a problem. I just don’t want to let the present slide away into the past, and the past into something forgotten. Even eating this toast, it’s an act of remembering.
I’m home in Tokyo, but I think I left my heart in Kansai.
P.S. That photo of avocado toast above was one taken almost a year ago in London, and a less computer-savvy version of myself futzed around with Windows Photo Manager until it looked like it was floating in outer space. But, y’know, avocado toast probably tastes great on the moon, too.
P.P.S. Because I am a bit of a philistine, I also like avocado toast with soy sauce and mayonnaise, or sriracha and mayonnaise. Don’t knock till you’ve tried it.