This is a crowded weekend with the lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day today and Mardi Gras on Tuesday.
And of course it’s also Excerpt Monday time for February! For those of you who are new to it, check out the details on the blog: Excerpt Monday. All are welcome, published and unpublished.
I’m continuing with my little Tokyo travel adventure this month. I considered “Pieces of Paper” for the title based on this month’s installment, but it doesn’t sound Asian enough. The title muse hasn’t hit me yet.
Before the elevator doors slid open, I knew Scott was studying East Asian religion and was going for a doctorate at the University of Arizona. We were practically neighbors since I was from California. Had he come from Omaha, Nebraska, I would have grasped for some other shred of a connection. We were the closest people in the world at that moment.
We walked together through the lobby and once again I was thrown out into the city. A wooden foot bridge overlooked the river at the front of the hotel. A swarm of fish swam below, packing the murky water with their massive gray bodies.
I leaned over the rail to peer down at them. “I wonder what kind those are.”
“I think they’re koi,” he said.
I took my disposable snap and click camera from my jacket pocket, very aware that Scott was standing next to me. The wild river koi probably wouldn’t show up from here, even though they looked to be a meter long. My pictures never come out anyway. I took them as a tribute to the moment, for me and no one else. I usually lost them if I even remembered to get them developed. I never could hang onto pieces of paper.
“So, what are you here for?” he asked as I turned the plastic wheel to advance the film.
“I’m working in South Korea. I had to leave the country to get my visa renewed after a month.”
Boring, I was so boring. Scott was traveling to remote parts of the country and studying different religious groups. I was a geeky computer consultant. Those days, we were a dime a dozen. Road warriors.
“Collecting another passport stamp is pretty cool too,” I added.
There was silence as the rush of the wind picked up around us. The niceties were done. At any moment, we would have to negotiate the awkwardness of parting, so soon after getting over the awkwardness of hello.
He started first. “Well, I have to be somewhere this afternoon, but–”
“Yeah, I’m supposed to check into my hotel at 5:00pm and meet up with some co-workers later,” I said quickly. The words ‘Nice meeting you’ hovered on my tongue. “It’s a capsule hotel,” I said instead. “Those cubes stacked on top of each other.”
“Really?” Scott’s eyebrows raised a notch. “I heard those can be kind of–”
“Seedy?” I finished for him.
“Salarymen stay in them when they’re too wasted to catch the last train home,” he warned.
There was something so sci-fi about a capsule hotel. Actually getting to sleep in one was the highlight of my weekend jaunt. I smile now when I think of how adventurous I was then.
“I found one that allowed women. I even called ahead to make a reservation…I’m not quite sure how to get there though.”
The breeze whipped around us as I pulled out my guide book. I had to clamp my thumbs down on the pages to keep them from flapping up. Scott leaned in, shielding me from the wind with his shoulders.
His head bent close to mine. “It’s walking distance.”
He took hold of the book and I twisted my hair into a ponytail to keep it from flying into my eyes. I nodded as he pointed to the map, though I really didn’t have any sense of what was where at all. I was horrid with directions back in L.A. where the signs were in English.
“I can show you,” he said finally. I wanted to hug him.
He had taken seven years of Taiwanese and spoke it fluently. His Japanese was, according to him, rusty. Only two years there. I learned all this as we edged close to the side of a building for shelter as we walked down the street. By the time we reached the corner, my eyes stung from the dust in the air. He took hold of my arm tentatively to lead me across the street.
I’d like to say I went warm and fuzzy at his touch, but it was actually awkward. I had only known him for an hour and most of it was spent in silence, listening to a woman in a kimono chirping into a phone. Who knows where he was taking me?
Finally we reached another train station and he let go.
“It should be down by the corner,” he said. “Are you sure about this place?”
“It was in the Let’s Go Tokyo book.” The travel book was my gospel here. It was the only book in English I had in my grasp.
“Worst case, you can stay with me. My roommate is out of town.”
I gave him the eye. “Thanks, but I think I’ll be okay.”
The sarcasm was feigned. If there was even a hint of creepiness about him, I would have run screaming. This was a genuine good guy. An all-American, chivalrous Clark Kent. Of all the tea joints in Tokyo…
February EM links:
So, to kick it off, your hosts:
Joining us this week:
Danie Ford, Young Adult (PG 13)
Babette James, Contemporary Romance (PG 13)
Nadia Lee, Futuristic Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Contemporary romantic elements (PG 13)
Caitlynn Lowe, Fantasy (PG 13)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Debbie Mumford, Science Fiction/Fantasy (PG 13)
Erica Ridley, Historical Romance (PG 13)
Dara Sorensen, Historical Romance (PG 13)
Sara Brookes, Fantasy (NC 17)
Stephanie Draven, Fantasy with Strong Romantic Elements (NC 17)
Angeleque Ford, Contemporary, Interracial, Erotic Romance (NC 17)
Elise Logan, Sci-Fi/Contemporary (NC 17)
Emma Petersen, Erotic Paranormal Romance (NC 17)