Yumi’s husband was the eleventh person she text-messaged the night his plum wine won gold at the Tasters Guild International. She typed, “Gold. Marconi’s.” This was 9 p.m. He wouldn’t show up. Marconi’s bar was crowded, with small lamps at every table illuminating faces from below. On the karaoke stage pink, white, and yellow lights colored the singers. She’d come with her husband’s coworkers, both her own age, but she felt guilty of the garishness. She could see it all through her husband’s eyes, and this was why he wouldn’t come. She remembered where she and Masato used to sit, and how he sang, “I see trees of green, red roses too,” how he closed his eyes, put his hand out over the crowd. Now, he’d close his eyes if she told him how much fun she still had here.
On stage, Taro sang “Wake Me up Before you Go-Go” and made the two women cheer every time he found melody. He got into it, charging the edge of the stage, his flat blocky face exploding with emotion. He loosened his tie. He cocked his hips. The women laughed and clapped. Yumi knew what her husband’s excuse was, that he didn’t come because he was strengthening the evocation in the wine. But the wine was fine. It did win an award. Maybe he wouldn’t want to see them like this. She stood up suddenly in the middle of Taro’s song, and cheered.
Though it was their celebration, they weren’t allowed to drink Masato’s wine. Time-Wines weren’t served in public places, moreso to protect the customers from theft and date rape and the establishment from lawsuits, but every staff member who knew about the Kuri no Yumi label celebrated their win tonight with “normal” drinks on the house, the kind, of course, that could leave you wasted and riding home in a cab—so Yumi wondered what the difference was anyway. That night, Yumi ripped out a steely version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” pointing the microphone out the neon-lit front window on every open beat in the song.
Yumi got home around midnight, knowing he wasn’t there either. She flipped on a long–neck angled black lamp, casting a warm brown glow on the wall. She dialed his cell, wanted to wake him up, but he didn’t answer. She sat on the sofa under the lamp, slipped off her shoes. They thumped on the floor and the silence afterwards bothered her. It bothered her everywhere. “Miss you,” she said brightly into the phone. It wasn’t the first thing she’d thought of, but it would keep the peace.
Their house had lost color over the last few years as Masato’s tastes had changed. He had the living room painted brown, put up framed, bleached bamboo rugs on the wall. She thought they looked more like framed Frosted Mini-Wheats. On the walls, traditional Japanese paintings— a goose landing over reeds, a snow scene—had replaced the smoky pastels of jazz scenes they’d had there for years. She found him adding pieces to the house, slowly replacing “her juvenile tastes.” The only piece left of hers, the only one he’d kept, stood on a table beneath one of the Mini-Wheat rugs. It was a red ceramic bull painted with purple and green flowers, something he’d picked up for her in Mexico in a shop when she had her head turned looking at a wall of wild, wooden masks. He’d returned later to pay for it. It was home when they arrived. Ten years later, staring at its loud redness, he said, “It goes with nothing we have.”
“It goes with me,” she said. It stayed underneath a track light like a performer.
She wanted to drink his wine.
She took out a lotus glass, smaller than a traditional sake glass, designed for perfect full evocation. She opened the wine cabinet in the dining room. The bottles were clear, the plum wine a golden color with four or five green plums nestled at the bottom. These were the wines he’d made for her: Borrowing the Chair at the Jazz Café which recreated their first moment together, and Return to Grandfather’s Home with Yumi, a wine with a specifically long evocation, nearly seven minutes of transport. He didn’t particularly like the second wine anymore, not since he’d come to San Francisco, since he’d discovered his grandfather’s shame after the War.
Letters from his grandfather in Japan to the American educational authorities in Japan found their way into the hands of a collector of Japanese Occupation ephemera, and now lay bound by twine in a safe. Masato paid more than he could afford for his grandfather’s shame.
She remembered the mistake she made when she’d told him that this collaboration wasn’t that significant. “So he rewrote the history in some children’s textbooks. It happened,” she said. “You wouldn’t have known about it if you hadn’t read about it in a book. It’s history.”“Yumi.” He looked at her, gravely. “That is the whole point.”
After that he never spoke about his grandfather anymore, and he certainly never was willing to return to his house, not even in a wine. He wanted to destroy the whole batch. She wouldn’t let him because in that wine, Masato told her he loved her. And she hadn’t heard that in person in a long time. When she drank them, he was there beside her for seven minutes at least—he said the damn words. “And the damn words,” she said, mocking him, “are the whole point.”
Tonight, she opened Moon Over Tokyo because she wanted to see.
Taro had pointed out that the judges had missed the flicker.
“It’s a full-on smudge,” Kichi said. “He’s not finished with the evocation.”
“The judges said nothing about the soldiers! They totally missed the details.”
Yumi didn’t care about the American soldiers, what she cared about was the flicker, the image of someone coming over the Togetsukyo Bridge. Probably a woman. He obsessed over that last detail. Only Taro got him to enter the umeshu, the plum wine, The Moon Over Tokyo Through Leaves in the Fall, because they needed something in the competition. He could work on further evocation for himself. The wine was already good. It had a seven minute transport, fully realized evocation, sound, visuals, smells— what more could one character add? He relented.
She poured the umeshu into a lotus glass. She looked at the painting on the dining room wall of two figures balanced on separate clouds, the woman reaching down. But you couldn’t see the figures in this light, just her own reflection, the reflection of a young woman in the house of an old man. She drank the wine.
The judges remarked on many things about Moon Over Tokyo — not the least of which was the body, the bouquet, those subtle notes of hickory, the smell of sweet liqueur—but they bowed down and worshiped the entire transport from the first moment to the last.
Yes, yes, the transport was amazing. Around her now was her husband’s best work. 1947, Tokyo. Dusk in Rikugien Park, north of the city, the pond reflecting the harvest moon, the drooping pines, their branches in the water, and she could walk down to the edge of the lake, hear yama-gare sing tzu…tzu…tzu flitting their chestnut bellies and black caps among the branches of the matsu pines—for a full seven minutes. Peace.
Masato Nakashita was skilled at giving peace, yes, at least to most people. She turned her eyes to the bridge that arched over a lily pond, the moonlight dappling the wooden planks, the trees, the ground beneath. Who was Masato trying to re-create?
The figure came from behind the taster, so you might not notice it if you didn’t turn. It came across Togetsukyo Bridge, blurry, unsustained, a flicker on the perfect image of dusk in the park. She could glimpse the figure only for a moment, a smudge, perhaps a woman. The figure moved quickly, sped up unnaturally from the edge of the bridge to where every taster would stand in the evocation, as if it were a sketch of something not yet finished. You are a problem, she said to the figure. To the judges, perhaps, it meant nothing, but to her it was something her husband cared about. It was frightening how fast the image came at her, how it seemed to smear everything else around it.
Yumi tried to make the present as important to Masato as the past. But then time had always been between them. At twenty-five years younger than Masato, she was a mere thirty-five. He would turn sixty this year, a birthday he dreaded.
“Sixty is an unfortunate label. Age is only good for wine.”
She felt obliged to say he didn’t look sixty, but then felt like she might be seen as covering, and by covering, admitting that he indeed looked sixty, so she said, “We don’t have to remember the day.”
“Good,” he said quickly. He seemed shocked at himself for saying it. “There were other days,” he told her, “more important things to do than watch a man grow old.”
He’d only begun to look old recently. Ten years ago they both looked young, and no one could really tell that he was that much older. You could say that Masato’s eyes and hair started giving him away a few years ago, but she knew that there was no aging like the aging of attitude.
Overnight, he didn’t want to sing karaoke at the bar, go out to parties with her, left her watching television by herself. He started scolding her for her behavior—she laughed too much, too loudly, that she was in her thirties, and should act more like a lady. He didn’t approve of her short skirts, her white school-girl tops. He didn’t want her moving with the fashions. His tone of voice at the mirror in the morning sounded more like her father than her husband.
“Do you have to spend all night out?” he asked.
The irony was that he now spent his nights at the winery, though she had tried to curb her own social schedule. Lately, she’d become used to letting her arm extend to the edge of the mattress, her fingers curling around the edge, spreading her body out to cover the whole bed.
She tried to get him to talk about the wine, especially this wine, Moon Over Tokyo.
“I’m not sure what will survive the fermentation. We will see.”
“I’m just interested. I’m not trying to steal a secret.”
He’d look at her, as if she were a child. “I don’t have any secrets.”
But he was very busy. Orders for Time-Wines, or piku wines, as they first started to be called, had exploded. Wines that evoked specific thoughts, specific vignettes, were marketable, he said with a smile. “As long as one can find the right moment, something universal and healing.”
Yumi had a list drawn up of the kinds of scenes she wished recreated. She wanted the day of their wedding, but he said it was not commercially viable.
True, The First Time We Made Love at My Apartment in Yokoshuma wouldn’t be a wine she would be willing to share with the staff at the winery. But maybe the Absence of Tourists During the Rain at Inokashira Koen, when he made her run through the fallen cherry blossoms to the lake, when she fell and skidded, and he pulled her by her feet to him; or Drinking Chocolate Shake, New York City Under the Saffron Gates in Central Park, where the fabric of the art installation came loose and swung for a day and people let their bodies become works of art as the saffron draped them in the wind and just their shapes remained, how he thought they were like people fighting to be seen. Couldn’t he fit these in between these more difficult, historical evocations? Why not shoot for 2005 instead of 1947? Who remembered that anyway?
Tonight, she felt like creating a wine that evoked a crumbling feeling, and the ticking clock, and the traffic sounds outside, and maybe a long list of expletives in her voice. Drink that.
But Yumi was not skilled in making wines. She was a travel agent. So there’d be none of that shit. She’d have to wait until he was finished with the wine to understand who it was he was trying to make.
Weeks later, Yumi still had the image on her mind, that flickering woman on the bridge. She found herself mulling it over even as she sold vacations to Guadalajara to couples who couldn’t afford anything but love. Masato seemed happier. He did come home two or three times a week.
He said, “The wine is coming along. I’m very proud of it. I think,” and he stopped at the stereo, played Ornette Coleman on low volume, a good sign. “I think it’s important.” He looked at her.
“It must be important,” she repeated from the empty couch where she curled into the pillows.
But important was obviously not what he meant. In his soft house slippers, he padded to her, from light to light. He sat down across from her. The lamp softened whatever features of his face she thought had hardened, made his blue polo shirt vibrant. She waited for him to go on because it looked like his thinking face, his fingers around his mouth, his eyes squinted.
She prodded him. “You’ve worked on it too long for it not to be important.”
He didn’t open his eyes. He was thinking.
“I’m not sure –,” he started and then stopped. Saxophone and drums in the background, low murmurs of music. She heard the clock ticking again, tried to focus on him, let him see that she was ready for whatever he wanted to share about the wine, about its importance.
She saw his eyes relax, his fingers relax around his mouth, his brow smooth. Finally, she thought, he was relaxing. Then she saw his lips purse and a bubble of air puff out. He had fallen asleep in the chair.
She watched him. Having him asleep in the chair was better than having him somewhere else, and she watched his eyes flutter, the same kind of fluttering you might get when you drank umeshu-piku. He looked around somewhere under those lids, maybe he saw someone there as well. Her hand lay near his on the arm of the chair. She hadn’t touched his yet, and touching it now would wake him, so she kept her hand close enough to feel, like a cup of coffee, his live body radiate heat, and the saxophone pulsed behind them. His eyes fluttered and she knew he wouldn’t notice her presence at all.
She made a tofu stir fry for the staff later that week on her day off. She took it down to the winery, tried to focus on Taro and Kichi, who were thrilled to see her. She joked with them, and tried to stay bright. She didn’t want to reveal that at night the figure on the bridge ran at her, threw itself across her other dreams, too, even erased them.
They sat around a work table. Other staff went off for lunch, leaving the four of them together. Masato noted aloud Yumi’s ingenuity, thoughtfulness ,and hospitality as she served them. She could see he was proud. She looked around for bottles in preparation. She glanced over their heads as she laughed at their stories. She talked about “new things” in her work or her house or anything that might start them discussing “new things” in the wine.
They did not talk about the wine, except to say that a new batch of Moon Over Tokyo had been set to ferment. Now, they waited. They had begun another wine: Sunlight through Cherry Blossoms. Taro thought this would be a hugely popular wine. They took his own memories of walking with his girlfriend in Japan earlier that spring. He was very honored to supply the base. Yumi almost forgot that Taro had a girlfriend who looked into his flat blocky face for love. She lived in Japan; Yumi treated Taro as if he were single.
“Did you sing to her?” Kichi asked, glancing sideways for his response.
The two women laughed. Some tofu dropped from Yumi’s mouth and it made the three of them laugh harder. She looked at Masato. He continued eating, reading a chart on his lap. Yumi told Taro that she looked forward to seeing his girlfriend, experiencing his beautiful memories.
“It is nothing like Moon Over Tokyo,” he said, grinning.
Yumi glanced at Masato. “It’s not as important…” she said.
Masato looked up. He said evenly, “You don’t know what is important.” He wasn’t unkind, just straight-forward. He corrected himself. “Very few of us know what is important. Walking along with the girlfriend through cherry blossoms makes a nice scene, a good wine. But sometimes we must strive for more.” He noted each of them in his glance, cleared his throat and looked back at his papers.
“Sometimes,” Yumi began, “I think we forget what’s important, though we’ve seen it before.”
He looked up and after thinking a moment, nodded. “Still, nothing in your collective experiences has any real weight. You have music and you have laughter and you have fun, but now you are part of something bigger, something you are creating that will be important.” He breathed in, held his breath, smiled, and slowly let it out. “It is never too late to learn. And change.”
Taro and Kichi nodded. “Yes, yes,” they said.
Yumi smiled and seethed. She began carefully. “Please tell how the images of Taro’s time with his girlfriend are different, and less important, from the moments in Moon Over Tokyo. I want to know and learn about importance. I’m very interested and intrigued by what you say.” She nodded purely for effect.
His eyes watched her. She trembled inside, kept humility on her face, tried to erase confrontation. Placate, placate, placate, she thought. It keeps peace. Still, the question might draw out—
“It will be most apparent when the wines are completed. I think then, young Yumi, that you will understand the weight of difference.” He nodded and stood, bringing his bowl back to her. His face came close to hers as he bowed, but his eyes did not look down at the floor. They stayed locked with hers. “We must continue. Thank you, Yumi.”
Kichi and Taro stood and brought her their bowls.
It was December and Yumi convinced Taro to let her taste the wine. Umeshu was at the half-way point, the toge, a point where they could check and see how the fermentation process and the piku were combining, how the images were layering, if there was good evocation and transport already. It would be an unfinished wine, though, because harmonics did not become sealed into the wine until the fermentation process was complete. And sometimes the wines did not come out the way you planned.
“Hmmm.” Taro considered like a teacher. “He doesn’t like anyone outside of the staff to sample the wine before it is finished.”
Yumi begged him. She started singing with him over the phone, “Why don’t they do what they say, say what you mean. One thing leads to another….” He laughed on his end of the phone. “Oh, Taro,” she sighed. “You are very funny.”
He sighed, saying, “I’m very busy, Yumi. I don’t know.”
“Taro.” She sensed he was moving out of the pink, yellow, karaoke memories. “I want to learn about importance.” She sounded as serious as Masato, almost mimicking his cadence.
She imagined his face thinking on the phone, weighing how much trouble he might get into. “You can’t drink it here,” he said, “but if you come I’ll have a sample ready for you.”
She went to the winery and when she saw Taro she wondered what it was like to be his girlfriend. Did he truly sing to her? Did he take her out to parties? What did they do for fun? She would have a chance to see at least Akina, his girlfriend, in the wine.
“Will Sunlight Through Cherry Blossoms have you in it at all?”
He gave her a small vial that she placed in her new pink purse with anime characters running across the leather.
“We only used my memories. Nakashita-san thought that one man’s memories would be able to pull all men into the evocation easily, since there was space for each man.”
“Yes,” Yumi said, but she thought how sad it must be for Akina to only see herself in the memory.
By now she was convinced that Masato was somehow having an affair with an older, more sophisticated woman and she believed strongly that this woman would be reflected in the image of the woman on the bridge, if truly it were a woman on the bridge.
At home, the afternoon sun was high and showed through the skylight in the dining room. San Francisco traffic buzzed and hummed in the distance. A breeze came through the window. A silver bowl of apples on the kitchen island reflected her body in wide strips. She poured the contents of the vial into the lotus glass, looked straight ahead, lifted the glass and drank.
The park at dusk. She turned immediately to Togetsukyo Bridge. Other people walked about the park now so it was more difficult to find the figure he would have been creating, and there was no rush of the body now. He’d synced it with the rest of the evocation. She watched, aware of time passing.
It was a woman. She wore a yukata, a cotton kimono, with maple leaves on the sleeves, which meant she was unmarried. She saw Yumi, or appeared to, as she would see any winetaster. The woman was young, beautiful, but she walked in that older way, her shoulders drawn in, her head down, her eyes flashing only to the sides, occasionally to the subject she walked towards. There was a simple beauty in this that Yumi found herself liking even more than she thought, this being the object of attention, the reason the woman came from the bridge. In the midst of all the other people milling about, one direct line flowed straight to her, pulling an important event closer and closer. This was already an improvement over the peaceful scene of Moon Over Tokyo Through Leaves in the Fall — it had an event, an urgency.
The woman pulled her hands from her kimono. She began talking but there was still no sound. Yumi tried to make out the words. The expression on the woman’s face was flirtatious, demure. She wanted you to follow her. And the images did. When the woman turned her back and started to return to the bridge, Yumi found herself walking along beside her. Again the woman was talking. Her bright red mouth moved, her eyes darted and connected with Yumi’s as if with a needle’s precision. Then the woman blurred, smeared across the park’s landscape, and smudged away and there was a strange pull, a yank from the middle of Yumi’s stomach, and then Yumi was back, alone and frustrated, in her kitchen.
She threw the lotus glass into the sink where it broke. She felt like one of the people who first tried the piku for memory loss because every memory of herself and Masato came back to betray her. She cried standing, holding herself up by her hands flat on the counter of the kitchen island and sobbed. She sniffled and opened her eyes. At least she was not maddened from the memories. She hoped that the feelings would just disappear.
They did not. She found them creeping up on her as she created perfect travel arrangements for happy couples at work. She kept the feelings low in her belly, feeling them seep upwards in her chest at times when couples would look at each other or talk in that coded way couples have — in those unfinished sentences, those looks, and when the couples reached out and took each other’s hands, a subtle unconscious gesture, Yumi turned to her computer to find a better deal for them.
She could not confront Masato about this, even though her instinct told her that he loved the woman on the bridge. She was old-fashioned, she was demure, she was quiet, she was painted up like a geisha. Masato was in love with history, with the past. And there was really nothing Yumi could do about that.
I am a modern woman, she told herself. At one time, he loved me because I was modern. At one time he loved the new things, the modern. Somehow, living with her in the house he had changed his tastes for more than just art.
Over the next six months she thought about what she might do. Options. She could become the woman he wanted. She could leave him and find someone younger. She didn’t think he would be changing anymore. He’d settled into his final personality.
She continued having lunches with friends, talking at breezy cafes about books and movies and going to her friends’ baby showers and wedding showers and walking in the parks by herself at dinner.
It was in a small park that summer when she saw something happen that made her decide to confront Masato. There was a black dog running through the park with a red leash flying behind it like a scarf. His tongue was out, his legs raced across the grass. She laughed when she saw him and she laughed more when she saw the young couple running after the dog, calling, “Shiloh, Shiloh, Shiloh, come back.” The man and woman were both young, in their twenties, and they ran as hard as they could, both racing for Shiloh, the man ahead of the woman. They called out directions to each other: Go that way, head her off by the bush; I’ll take this path and meet her around the lake; she’s headed towards the ice cream vendor! Yumi watched as they tried to catch her. The dog looked joyful. The couple did not seem worried. They laughed. Shiloh tangled herself up in children, playing with them and knocking them down, and licking their faces until the couple found her again. At that moment, Yumi burst into tears, not knowing quite why at first. She moved under a tree and hid her face with her arm.
She drove to the winery that afternoon. Her husband had been working feverishly on a new set of wines. She did not see him on the floor of the winery, so she walked past Taro and Kichi to his office. They called out, “He doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
I am his wife, she thought. I disturb him all the time.
She walked into his office, a small room with a shoji screen hiding a small sink, and a desk with no pictures on it. His coat draped over the chair, but he was not there.
Taro was behind her. “Yumi, he wanted to be alone in the Piku-ma.” The room of memory, where the piku was stamped, where it was copied for every bottle of plum wine.
She turned and looked at Taro; his eyes had aged. She could tell. The edge of his voice had gotten older.
She said, “He’s not alone, Taro. We can be honest about that.”
“What?” Taro said as she pushed him to the side and walked to the piku-ma.
The piku-ma had warnings on the sides of the doors about the delicate process, the possible contamination. She did not knock. She tried the handle and went in.
Masato stood with his back to the door. He leaned down over a microscope. The room was blue like sky all the way around. He looked up suddenly. “Yumi?”
She closed the door behind her.
He sighed as if destiny had been decided for him, or a decision at least. Five bottles of wine sat on a white table in the center of the room. To the left, the brain-scanning equipment, what gathered the images—as far as she knew. There was a black elastic cap hanging from wires. On the right of the room, other computers and imaging equipment. She didn’t understand it. She just knew that this was where the woman came from. This is where she lived. This is where Masato stood now with his arms open, walking to the table. He picked up a bottle and pushed a lotus glass towards her side of the table as she walked towards him. “I want you to see my masterpiece.”
He opened the bottle. “Moon Over Tokyo Through Leaves in the Fall has changed a bit. We have renamed this Another Tokyo in Fall Twilight, 1947.” He grinned. This other woman had made him younger, Yumi thought.
He poured her a glass. “Try it for me. I want you to see something special.”
He held the glass out to her. She shook her head. “I didn’t come to drink the wine.”
He sensed her uneasiness but insisted. “Drink the wine first and then we can talk about anything you want to talk about.”
She shook her head again. “Masato.”
“Yumi, it’s important to me. Please, for me. Drink the wine.”
But she didn’t want to meet the woman who could speak now. Oh, she had already imagined all the phrases, the sweet ways that a geisha could talk to a man, what she might be saying to Masato, and now, where she might be leading him, and what was that pull in her stomach? Would there now be a physical reaction to Time-Wines? Was he creating the wino-version of a cheap thrill? Was this the new direction of piku? Or was this a new product for Masato to enjoy?
In his hand, the lotus glass quivered. What was he doing with such a young woman anyway? She set her purse down on the table. “I don’t want your wine,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady. Why was it that she felt as if she were asking her father for greater privileges? She flushed with embarrassment.
Masato lowered his hand. “I wanted to share with you something important to me, Yumi.”
“I already know the evocation. I’ve seen her.”
He looked puzzled. “Her? I don’t understand. This is the first set of bottles opened with the new wine. It’s very changed from Moon Over Tokyo, though that was obviously the base.”
“I tried the wine in December, at toge.”
He frowned. “It was unfinished. I wanted you to see it when it was finished.”
“I don’t want to see it at all now.”
He was silent. “Did you notice the soldiers?”
“I noticed the girl, the geisha.”
“Of course, that is the main selling point. But did you notice that there weren’t any soldiers around? Did you watch the edges of the evocation?”
He lifted the glass again to her. “Try it now. See what I’ve created here. It’s a ten minute transport.”
“Tell me who she is and why you created her?”
He still seemed lost. As if he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“She’s a geisha,” he said, lowering his arm again. He sighed, probably the clearest sign of guilt. He was no doubt remembering the images of this affair.
“Is she also a real woman, someone you know here in San Francisco?”
He set the glass on the table, took a few steps back.
“I was hoping you would understand,” he said.
“Well, I’m doing pretty good for a kid, I think,” she said.
He looked at her. Boy, did he look old now and caught and guilty, and just a little bit angry. But she was angry too now, she could feel it rise up into her cheeks, into her fists.
He said, “You have missed the whole thing. How can one person see the same images as another and miss the point? We are like two people who have come to a mountain and I am breathing in the greatness of the view and you are looking at the hardship of the trail down. Our memories will diverge there, and I can’t give you feeling, no matter how hard I try.” He walked to the computer screen and opened a file.
She felt ignored, and so she repeated her inquiry. “Who is she?”
A picture came up on the screen of an old man, Masato’s grandfather. “Junro Nakashita helped create a Japan that never was.”
She waited for him to come back to the real issue. He distracted her with history lessons and stories. “I’m not interested in your grandfather–.”
He nodded. “Nor in anything that doesn’t have a movie tie-in, that doesn’t sell you a purse or shoes, or something that doesn’t have a musical soundtrack. I know. It’s a weakness in you. But now you will listen for a moment and even if you do not understand what I will tell you, I will have said it and given you the picture of the mountain.”
He talked for a long time about Junro and how he collaborated with Americans to rewrite Japan’s history during the Occupation. He stood for a while, and then he sat for a bit and she stood for awhile and then she got tired because the shoes she’d worn were not good for standing in and she knew that eventually he would have to talk about the geisha, so she sat down. He waved his hands a lot in front of him and she noticed how wrinkled the backs of his hands and wrists really were. When did that happen?
“I had a chance then,” he said in what she thought was his conclusion. She was tired, and upset and it was taking everything she had to keep all the tears in. “A Japan that could have been,” he said. “The soldiers aren’t there, Yumi. I erased them. The American presence isn’t there. I erased that. For ten minutes there is no Occupation, and I can build from there. I can create a whole series of wines that lets someone experience this new-old Japan. I don’t know how it would have been different. I can only think of ten minutes at a time. But one day, I will think of twenty minutes and then an hour.” He paused.
He was all caught up in himself, wide hands, wild eyes, eyes that reminded her of times he looked in her face and loved her. She didn’t want a wine to say it for him again and again—she wanted those eyes and those words for her now.
“Is she here in San Francisco? Did we move here because she is here?” She tapped her heels on the floor.
“Yumi!” he yelled at her and rushed at the table. “I am talking about something important! I’m reimagining history.”
She stood up now, backed away from his face. “I’m talking about important too. Where are you? What do you do at night? Why are you so concerned about the past? I’m going to grow old too waiting for you. Why are you making women in the wine? I don’t care about history. I don’t care about Junro. It’s in the past. Why are we here in America if you hate America so much…”
“I don’t hate America. You’re not listening to me. I can’t explain it well. But there is something new and wonderful about being there in that park in 1947 and being free.”
She thought of the dog, the couple, how they raced after Shiloh, how they cared enough to pursue and not get distracted, to not give up, how they planned, how they ran around every obstacle to get back to her. How they wanted something and ran to get it.
He lifted the glass again. “Just for a moment. See this other world.”
She took the glass from him and threw it on the floor where it shattered and spilled. “That’s what I think of your other world. You can’t even live in this one.”
She turned her back on him, crying, crying and wanting to make it through the door before he saw that she was weak and young.