If there has been one constant in the last 24 odd years, it’s been food. For over a decade I have not not cared about food, but in the last month there have been days on end where I’ve been ambivalent about eating. Cereal for dinner. Crackers. Mild dread at the prospect of cooking. It sounds trivial but understand: this doesn’t happen to me, ever. Even at my lowest points I have managed to at least seriously consider the next meal. And yet.
I never thought adulthood would feel this directionless, typed C one night. I knew how she felt and didn’t. Nowadays they tell you that adults don’t have it figured out and I knew this, drifting into work and paying taxes simply with the passing of time. Is this growing up? Or is this just losing sight of myself? It’s a letdown being here and still feeling some kind of personal disappointment that I haven’t found somewhere I want to head towards. I thought I’d already made my peace with being lost.
The other night I stared at my laptop screen for 6 hours, occasionally typing to friends and intermittently crying. I grew very familiar with my linen duvet cover’s wonderful cross-hatched texture. The light brown wood grains of the corner of my room seemed to blur together such that my room curved and softened. Hadn’t written for several weeks, slowly drifted off social media – it almost felt like I was maintaining a ghost of an identity. I felt dissatisfied with it, lonely without it. The world is as it is, still beautiful, but sometimes, for weeks at a time, it feels like there’s a fog curtain wrapped tightly around my brain. Eventually I fell asleep, woke up the next day and made a reservation for one at an izakaya on the other side of town – it’s one way to force me to leave the house.
I don’t eat out often, and when I do it’s usually a bit of a splash. Dinner this time was not worth the money – overpriced (for what it was) sashimi, greasy tempura, mediocre sushi neta. The raw firefly squid was interesting, and I liked the gooey, slimy feel of its innards dissolving in my mouth. But on the way I stopped at a greengrocer’s for a JPY210 punnet of strawberries, and with a small cup of sake (light and sweet, very girly) it proved far more enjoyable than the expensive dinner prior.
Autumn is usually my preferred season – I never used to care much for sakura. This spring though, I am oddly touched by all the pink in the air. For instance, the sakura trees bursting into masses of pink popcorn clusters, then scattering themselves to the wind and all over the asphalt. It helps that they grow all over the city, not just in the tourist-thronged areas downtown. The white-and-pink steamed mochi filled with sakura-an M served at his tea ceremony, soft and pliant, with a most delightful marshmallow texture. Ichigo daifuku, sakuramochi. I am pretty damn lucky to be living in Kyoto.
Come spring, work involves leading the occasional tour. Being a tour guide is one of the last professions I thought I would end up in, especially as one of those introverts who needs extended quiet time after a bout of socialising. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable if exhausting job. One of my favourite parts is the tea ceremony. M, our tea master, always tells the story of the Zen master whose answer to every question is: “go and drink some tea!” I’ve heard this story at least 5 times now, but it’s still excellent advice.
Earlier today I had a second punnet of strawberries, this time alongside a small bowl of condensed milk. The berries were mildly sweet but juicy, and my fingers were stained red, perfumed with the scent of spring and sugary milk. A bowl of strawberries doesn’t fix lingering existential dread, or days when food, photography and writing feel completely meaningless. It does taste pretty good though.