Tokyo, 2004.

Without Yamaguchi-sensei’s exhaustive and exhausting criticism of her thrumming approach on the piano, she might never have met Nagisa. They weren’t in the same year and didn’t attend any classes together, but during those initial evaluation sessions in her second semester’s piano module, Yamaguchi-sensei happened to have addressed her technique so vehemently that Shiori, somewhat deterred, had agreed to drop by at least a couple of the university’s free student concerts, in the name of inspiration. It had been one of those days when she had solemnly sworn never again to touch the instrument. Ever. Finally satisfied with her attitude, Yamaguchi-sensei had noted down a list of the composers on the billboard, had asked her to pick whatever was to her taste, because she wouldn't improve without passion, after which he had sent her off to lunch early. Over one of the cafeteria’s pre-packed sushi boxes, she swallowed down her gut reaction of severe disappointment along with her highly wounded pride, choosing instead to study the names she’d been given, mostly out of obligation.

Two weeks later, a couple of days into February, a to her still unknown Ihara Nagisa was to play a Gershwin medley and seeing how one could never fail with Gershwin, if you asked Shiori, she had hesitantly found her way into the Music Institute’s smallest concert hall, just in time and as one of the few, she could tell when looking around. She claimed a seat on the front row, next to a young man she would later come to know almost as intimately as Nagisa, waiting for the performance to start.

The ironic part was how, as soon as Nagisa began to play, Shiori quickly stopped listening to the music completely. Not because she played it poorly, rather the opposite - and suddenly Shiori fully understood why Yamaguchi-sensei called her own playing some basic thrumming. In comparison. Nagisa played with a great freedom and a great strength, her sound was deep and all-consuming, resonating like a huge temple bell and blowing Shiori off her feet, despite the fact that she, naturally, remained right there in her seat with her back straight and her hands in her lap. This was all she could think of Gershwin as Nagisa played him, because never before had Gershwin sounded so incredible and instead of focusing on the music, she focused acutely on Nagisa’s fingers flying across the keys, reaching wide and hitting hard. They were slender and long, the truest definition of piano fingers Shiori ever found. She wanted to kiss them. Worship and adore them. Those fingers.

Not until Nagisa got to her own arrangement of the Funny Face Overture, at the very end of the already 30 minute long program, did Shiori realize that she was in love with the girl. The girl at the piano. The girl with the perfect hands and the expression of an almost melancholy focus. Not until that point did she realize that she wanted to run her fingers through Nagisa’s neatly styled hair, just to see the long, black locks come tumbling down around her shoulders, as freely as her sound and that was before Shiori had even heard the other woman speak a single word, but she felt that she nevertheless knew what kind of voice Nagisa would have. Light and maybe just slightly shrill, the kind of voice that could reach across distances and travel around any given room. The kind of voice that turned lighter than air when she moaned.

She tried desperately to breathe normally.

“She’s sublime, don’t you think,” the guy next to her asked when Nagisa had taken her bows in front of the still meagre audience and descended the stairs at the front of the stage. Shiori stared at her, couldn't possibly look away, she could feel her palms getting sweaty. Would the girl disappear back into the crowd now?

“Sublime,” she repeated somewhat breathlessly, allowed herself to be so impolite as not to turn towards him. He laughed and held up one hand, waving Nagisa over and an overwhelming nausea built up in Shiori’s throat when she understood that they already knew each other. Please, let them not be dating, please, please, let them not be dating…

“You’ve gained a new admirer,” he told Nagisa, the guy Shiori would soon come to know as Jun, and stood up so slowly that it was pure nonchalance, while she paused next to them. The girl. Nagisa. Shiori got to her feet as well, stepped a bit nervously from one foot to the other. Over and over, until she remembered how stupid she would have to look and stopped herself. Nagisa smiled in a wholly understated and wholly sexy manner, observed Shiori in silence for a long moment before speaking in the exact type of voice Shiori had imagined all along that she’d have, light and slightly shrill, lighter than air if you could make her moan, she felt sure.

“Thank you for coming,” she said. So simple.

And like this, it was actually because Shiori wasn’t an amazing pianist, because Yamaguchi-sensei didn’t pretend that she were that she met Nagisa who was amazing and sublime and altogether perfect. That she met and fell in love with Nagisa’s fingers, with her voice and with her hair. That she met and fell in love with everything Nagisa was. Like this, Shiori finally went from thinking she’d most likely never find a man to live with which was okay, too, she could handle her own loneliness - to believing and knowing with the greatest certainty that she’d die, if she couldn’t one day be allowed to kiss Nagisa’s lips, one pair or the other, maybe both. Like this, Shiori fell in love for real and also for the first time, still happily ignorant about the way this love would send her in exile for the rest of her life.

// foreigners

Feb. 27th, 2017 03:13 pm
travlinlight: (// no. 4)

"A cafe latte for Shirley, I've got a cafe latte for Shirley!"

Starbucks was otherwise always a hub of effectivity, but today it had nevertheless taken them seven whole minutes to prepare her coffee, long enough time that she had managed to write down the other woman's name on paper, in her favourite pen that could be neatly erased in case of errors, but it simply said Michelle right now in block capitals - like a temporary title sheet, until she came up with something better, something that weren't already taken.

In every way.

Shiori got to her feet, while Michelle who was sitting in a large armchair on the other side of the table glanced up from the jazz magazine she'd been in the middle of reading. "Wait, they said for Shirley," she hurried to tell her in English, as if trying to translate the barista's words to a more accessible language, knowing full well that Shiori still struggled with French, even after three years at its mercy.

"I'm Shirley," answered Shiori with a half-laugh. Wandered up to the counter and picked up her cafe latte which had a failed tree dripped into the foam. Had it been at a coffee shop in Tokyo, they'd have apologized wholeheartedly, regretted even this minor mistake. In Luxembourg City, however, the barista only raised an eyebrow at her, because Shiori clearly didn't look like someone by the name of Shirley.

"Shirley," Michelle repeated inquiringly when Shiori once again sunk into her own seat. In that one question, she undoubtedly sounded like the westener with the most Western name in the whole wide world.

"No one here can spell Shiori anyway."

Even as the Japanese baristas wrote her name in hiragana, although strictly it should be in kanji, simply because hiragana was easier to read aloud correctly, there was a homeliness to the characters, to the lines and the pressure of the pen that reminded her of Father's eggplant dishes on a Friday evening or Mother's muted conversations over the phone from inside her office at all times. Shirley, on the other hand, had been scribbled across the side of the cup in block capitals no prettier than Shiori's own and reminded her of nothing but the fact that she had a sloppy handwriting.

"I'd never thought about that, must have seen your name on the billboards too often." Michelle returned to her magazine. Only briefly did Shiori smile at her, at her eyes that were focused elsewhere, before she put down her coffee and leaned in over her notepad again. Politely refrained from commenting on how Michelle still pronounced her family name with the most marked, I-like sound you could imagine, despite the indubitably plenty of times she'd seen it in writing, despite all the time they'd known each other. Shiori Enomoto, she wrote, slowly and carefully beneath Michelle's already noted name. As a sort of reminder.

Like a schoolgirl's heartache in blue ink.

Still, it didn't look right, neither did it sound the way it should. The way it was supposed to.

She erased Michelle, was left with her own name, written in the lonesome and in reverse, along an uneven line of Latin letters. She sighed.

Supposedly, she'd have to start over, one more time.

I Picked You Up On the Way

You were no sight for sore eyes
But my heart is blind
And my soul needed the relief
So I picked you up
On the way
Home to my mom and dad's house
Where I lived then
For rent

The way home was long and winding
And my feet grew tired as we went
I was completely beside myself
Until you picked me up
On the way
You took my hand
You helped my steps along
Out into the world

Out into the wide
Out into the unknown

I first picked you up on the way
But you picked up me
At the end

( Translated from the Japanese )

The Sunny Girl

The sun has set on my heart
The sun has set in your hair
The sun drips down your cheeks
The sun rises upon your face
When you smile at me
And say the secret words
I love you
I love you
I love you

( Translated from the Japanese )


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