Pieces of Paper

A short story set in Tokyo

A chance encounter brings a hint of romance to a young woman’s journey through the streets of Tokyo. This semi-autobiographical short story explores questions of identity and connectedness in the digital age.

Note: All of the author’s proceeds from the sale of this story will be donated to the Red Cross for the relief effort in Japan.

To my readers:

This book is categorized as contemporary women’s fiction and is not a romance. Neither is it set in the Tang Dynasty. There are no swords or warlords or even a single fight scene, so be forewarned.Read more –>

Publisher: Jeannie Lin
Release date: March 19, 2011
Length: 24 pages
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About the Book

The brevity of this story may lead one to think that I banged this out on my laptop over a sleepless night. That I was perhaps moved by the recent earthquake and tragedy in Japan to set a story in Tokyo. I can assure you that this is not the case and that this story has been written, re-written, pondered over and prodded nearly as much as one of my novels.

I first started this tale over two years ago before I was a published author in historical romance. It’s a semi-autobiographical work based on two days I spent in Tokyo back in 2002. So the story has truly been in the making for nearly a decade now.

I’m very happy to finally be able to share this journey. I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide where I might have stretched the truth and by how much.

Read An Excerpt

Yotsuya Station, Tokyo

I’m a child of the digital age, able to process megabytes of information as they scroll by. My eyes are like dual monitors. Life is moving fast, and I’m flowing with it.

I was moving fast right then. I rushed up the steps of the Tokyo metro station, weaving through the thick of the crowd. My navigational instincts told me that if I could get outside, if I can just see sky, I’d be able to figure out where I was. But my instincts sucked.

A couple years back, I’d discovered a knack for navigating digital infrastructures and solving problems—that’s why I was here. I was more of an idiot savant than a true programmer. In the real world of cities and streets, I was lost. Lost.

Out on the sidewalk, the roar of cars and people overwhelmed me. I flipped open my copy of Lonely Planet: Tokyo and huddled beside the stairway while a rush of foot traffic stormed by. The glossy map at the center of the book told me the hotel was close. I stabbed the red dot I’d drawn there with my finger and looked up, then looked down again, turning the map sideways. Nothing looked right.

I started walking with purpose even though I wasn’t sure where I was going. The metropolises of the world steamrolled you if you didn’t walk with purpose. The tea ceremony at the New Otani Hotel was scheduled for two in the afternoon on Saturdays for the price of 800 yen. My cell read 1:54.

The hotel was a forty-story hard-to-miss megalith. I missed it, walked obliviously by and had to double back. The glass doors at the front opened automatically as I stuffed the Lonely Planet into my shoulder bag.

The concierge spoke English in a clean, precise tone. “Welcome to the New Otani. How can I help you?”

Darn it, how did they always know? I wasn’t Japanese, but I was Asian and looked it. Yet no one ever mistook me for a traveler from Hong Kong or Korea. Even before I said a word, they knew I was American.

I brushed the hair from my eyes. “I’m here for the tea ceremony?”

“Second floor.”

He gestured toward the elevators with an outstretched arm, looking crisp in his black suit. I was sweating in my sneakers. Maybe it was the shoes that gave me away.

I checked my phone again in the elevator. 2:15.

At the end of the corridor, a sign on the tea room door reminded visitors to be respectfully quiet in observance of the ceremony. I stared at the sign and wondered if I should knock. Ten or fifteen minutes wasn’t a big deal in Los Angeles, between traffic and everyone being drunk on sunshine. Here, those fifteen minutes made me feel like an offensive tourist.

A woman in a purple kimono opened the door. Her hair was done up in an elaborate knot.

“Tea ceremony?” she asked.

Yes, I was unavoidably, unmistakably American.

I made an apologetic face. “I’m sorry I’m late.”

She beckoned me in and instructed me to remove my shoes. As I tugged at the laces, feeling more out of place with each moment, I noticed there was another person kneeling on the tatami mats at the other end. He was the first Caucasian I had seen in days. I shot him an apologetic look, but he simply waited patiently with his hands resting on his knees.

Copyright © 2011 by Jeannie Lin