I’m shivering from the cold in April.

This is awesome, by the way. Think if we keep quiet enough, summer will give it a miss and we’ll just go straight into autumn?

So! Today I met with my very sweet, very classy next door neighbor for our weekly English conversation practice. When we started meeting, we agreed on an hour for a pretty low fee because she lives across the street and my commute to her house takes anywhere between ten to twenty seconds depending on the time I take to pause and meow at the idiot dog next door who both 1) barks mindlessly at everything except her owner and 2) looks like the ugly end of a toilet brush.

Our very first lesson, however, ended up lasting two hours, and ever since then it’s fluctuated between two hours to three. We’ve developed a bit of a routine, though. When meeting time arrives, I skip out of my place, meow at the dog, skip across the street, ring my neighbor’s doorbell, and she opens her window and waves cheerfully at me. In the beginning she would tell me to wait and walk down to unlatch the gate, but now I just let myself in. This is either a show of the trust I’ve earned from her over time or a justifiable lack of desire on her part to open her front door and put on shoes and walk down the stairs and unlatch the gate when I have proven many times that I can lift the tiny metal latch by myself. It’s probably both.

Recently she started taking traditional Japanese dance lessons, and so she likes to continue the atmosphere of class by wearing kimono in her daily life. That said, yesterday when I was walking down the steep mountain drive to the train station, she spotted me in her fancy German car and paused to say hi. It’d been so long since I’d seen her in Western clothes I didn’t recognize her for a second – I had the split-second thought of, This fashionable older lady in sunglasses is awesome but why is she stopping? My landlady calls her Madame, and when I told her this, she seemed delighted, so that’s what I’ll call her here, too.

Speaking of madame – a few weeks ago she let me borrow this book of hers. It looked like a coffee table book, hardcover and huge, and inside were photos taken in New York City of all these women over the age of sixty. They were all glamorous and classy women with a vast variety of haircuts and colors, fashion tastes, and who spanned many ethnicities. Madame sighed, “I want to be like them,” and I assured her she would be in that book if she’d been in New York at the time.

I showed her photos of my trip to Tokyo’s National Museum and one of my favorite corners: the lacquer boxes. She told me she’d recently met with a living legend in Japan named Kitamura Shousai and he made a box for her. She smiled at me with familiar exuberance. “Do you want to see it?”

I nodded and possibly bounced in my seat while I waited.


My reactions to this were essentially, “WHOA,” and then five hundred photographs taken at every possible angle.

Madame loves dragonflies, and so he added those just for her. The box had these luminous shells seamlessly fused with the surface and when she encouraged me to run my fingers along the sides of the box, I couldn’t find a single break or bump to indicate where something added began or ended. Gorgeous craftsmanship.

Usually, we pause the English conversation around the hour mark and we go to her kitchen where she’s prepared tea and a snack of some kind for us to eat. Sometimes it’s mochi, sometimes some other kind of Japanese sweet or pastry. This time, instead of letting me help her, she said, “Please wait here,” and gave me a secretive smile as she hurried out of the room.

She returned with a small tray bearing a beautifully wrapped bouquet of flowers from her garden alongside a cream cake stuffed with strawberries, kiwi, raspberries, and a giant wedge of pineapple. In the center was a white chocolate disk with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” written in the center in dark chocolate. She sang happy birthday in English while she carried the tray to the table, and I valiantly did not squirm because of how incredibly kind and thoughtful she was to do that for me. She lit two candles and clasped her hands to add her power to whatever wish I made. I extinguished both candles with one mighty, legendary puff of air and then she applauded and beamed.

We ate, talked some more, drank some of the tea I brought her from Sweden, and about three hours after I’d arrived, I left to go be literarily productive at home.

The toilet brush didn’t even bark at me this time. ♡


So! Starting tomorrow, I’m going to give my blog…a gimmick! And by gimmick I just mean I’m going to write a short story every other Friday and post it here, starting tomorrow maybe if I finish the thing I’m writing on time.

I’ve proven to myself that I can do the talking-about-various-things-every-day thing, so now I want to raise the challenge level by having to write fiction by a self-imposed deadline.

Which means I should take back that cop-out thing I wrote above that included the word “maybe.”



One thought on “madame

  1. Pingback: gorgeous japan | A Light to Look to

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