Reading time: 9 minutes
No Space, Ciudad de México, México
August 16, 2014 – August 31, 2014
I’m drinking a green tea cream from Starbucks. A green tea flavored frappé that quite arguably is made from matcha. I take a long slurp for inspiration. Or for reference, rather. I am attacked by a monster overdose of sweetener and ice. I am amazed at how bad this thing is. It cannot possibly compare to the frappé you told me you can get at 7 Eleven in Kyoto, obviously. Which is made with matcha from that city you told me that is famous for its tea. And with sweet condensed milk on top.
I wish I could have understood the name of that city and so I could recall it. How I wish I could even write it down in kanji.
My mom said it was a lovely afternoon, perfect to go out for a walk. I said “OK, let’s go for a walk”. My answer was mechanical, as all my answers have been this afternoon. This is because, as far as I can tell, I am in a kind of numb shock. Earlier today the ophthalmologist told me, after evaluating my latest test results that nothing can be done to fix my blindness. Not with whichever resources we presently possess. A retina, even when it’s detached, he explains, should have the texture of the membrane that sticks to the shell of a hard-boiled egg. My retina, however has the texture of a single sheet of toilet paper that is soaked in water and is completely detached. Any attempt to operate, even if only on the crystalline lens would result in the retina tearing up, and I would lose what little vision I have now (I would say my vision is between 10 and 15 per cent).
“What about a retina transplant?” I ask, but he says that hasn’t been invented yet. Funny, I would have sworn someone told me lately that it was possible.
The doctor goes on to say: But, there’s no reason to be gloom, that mankind and science make great accomplishments all the time, and that, who knows, maybe in the near future we will come up with a way to clear out the murkiness from inside my eyes with some sort of medicine or treatment that does not involve surgery.
So, we’re walking down the street. The wind is starting to blow cold, I’m glad I brought my sweatshirt along. Of course, I’m walking by my mother’s arm. Because I can’t really see the floor, or where I’m going and I could very easily suffer an accident. Also, right before joining them for a walk I packed a bowl and took two short but very strong hits, the kind that kick like an angry mare.
We pass by my aunt’s place and mom rings the bell, she wants her to come along. Why? Why does she have to come with? I tremble at the idea of mom breaking the news about my vision to her and having to discuss it inside a crowded Starbucks. And so, inside Starbucks we go. There must be a hundred and fifty people in here. But, of course I can’t see them, so don’t take my word for it. Maybe it just sounds that way. Unexpectedly, I think about the cicadas and how loud you told me their buzz is in the summer in Kyoto. I think about the recording you made of their noise for me.
After some twenty minutes we manage to order my tall, light, no whipped cream green tea cream. The others order other drinks or, whatever. We sit down at a table outside, the wind is just growing colder and colder, even though it was sunny just a little while ago. Ten different people are smoking cigarettes around us. And I catch myself trying to form sentences out of the fragments of all their conversations that I can hear sitting where I am. My aunt to my right is screaming something to my stepfather in front of me about poor business lately. My mom is screaming to my left her own contribution to the conversation. I take a long slurp of my frappe, a slurp that lasts almost a minute. I’m obviously doing this to myself because I want something to distract me and keep me from listening. This goal is attained marvelously, as I am immediately confronted with having to think of a way to cope with the brain freeze and the painstaking sweetness of the frappe that is also numbing my left hand, and I’m shivering.
I think of Kyoto. Snow in the winter, cherry and wisteria blossoms in the spring, the terrifying heat of the summer. I remember how five years ago I wanted to go there so badly despite the terrifying heat. I wanted to go so badly that when the government said I hadn’t been elected for the Japanese grant, I went into a depression that I don’t think I have come out of, I daresay. I felt back then that my life and my future had been taken away from me. So many things I wanted to do. So many things I wanted to see. I take another slurp. And suddenly, I start remembering last time Alanis Morissette came to Mexico City. How her boots looked great on her. How her hair was long and dark. How slim and well she looked. How she had completely worn off her post-divorce and was looking great again. I remember I lost my voice from singing along and crying when she sang Perfect: I had just been told I was not going to Japan after all.
I somehow manage to convince them to leave. I get up and take my mother’s arm. She runs into our dentist who turns around and says hi. Then she kisses me on the cheek, says hi and asks how I’m doing.
“I’m okay, thank you.” I say. Mechanically. I take another slurp. This thing is way too sweet.
For the next thirty minutes we stand in the middle of the crowd of 150 people inside Starbucks. As we listen to my mom, stepfather and dentist discuss all the different possible explanations there are for how my dentist got her credit card mistaken for another woman’s and used it for days. I take another minute long slurp and try to find the familiar aroma of matcha. I might as well try to find my own reflexion in a mirror. Why don’t we leave already? One of the things I’m most irritated by is having to linger on in a place after I have decided to leave. I think of Kyoto and Sei Shonagon’s lists of things that irritated her, lists of things that she loved contemplating, lists of things that infuriated her. I wish I could see the reverse side of the outermost layer of a silk kimono. As we walk home, they’re still discussing the credit cards; even though we’ve said our goodbyes to the dentist. I think writing to you would probably make me feel better, but then I feel awkward. I don’t think I can even accurately recall your features and yet we talk every day. I picture myself arriving home and sending you a message. The first of some twenty or so, for sure. I feel awkward because I know you’re probably busy and I remember what you told me, your trip to Tokyo. I picture you inside a bar, it’s so beautiful. It’s that bar from Lost in Translation. I remember one time, years ago, I was watching that film and I cried at the end. I was thinking of the things I wanted to do and see in Japan. The next morning I left for school at dawn and I was walking down to the bus stop, dreading the idea of the two hour long commute. I looked up of the sidewalk and saw the rising sun was very red. Just like honey, by The Jesus and Mary Chain ringing in my ears. Two days after that I was told that I was not leaving for Japan, and all that. Gosh, how I miss movies. There’s times I’ve thought that if there’s one thing I miss the most about seeing it is watching films. George Clooney slowly raising his eyes, all hope drained from his face as he confirms with fright that no, this is not a nightmare. I am awake, he says. He almost cries at the realization. Natascha McElhone’s eyes and cheekbones smile dangerously at him as she says “yes”. I’m taking another slurp and I almost choke on it because I trip over something while walking. I did mention I’m blind, right? And I’m still shivering. I don’t think I’ve drunk even a quarter of the content out of my Starbucks plastic cup. In my mind I compare the numbing cold and off-putting drink in my hand to that building you told me you passed every day on your way to university. How it was getting demolished, how one day it was gone, and how you watched every day as they built up a new one in its place. And how you took this as a symbol of the time that has passed while you’ve been in Japan. I think how my drink very slowly melting and sweating into the paper napkin wrapped around it is a symbol of how this afternoon is dragging by.
I’m doing my best to hold back tears which surprises me because I’m doing my best not to think of things that may bring tears to my eyes. I am dreadfully frightened at the idea of all of them interrupting their talk about the credit cards and changing the subject to my present state. When we get home I go into my room. I bang my hand against the shelf as I try to reach out for a Kleenex. I put my drink down and kick my foot into the corner of my desk for the tenth time today on my way to the toilet.
The theme music from Babel, Bibo no Aozora by Ryuichi Sakamoto is playing over and over somewhere between the inside of my ears and my brain. I’m trying to focus on mankind, medical science and the huge things they achieve every day. But I don’t really know what to say to myself, or to you, or anyone else for that matter. My thoughts swim in and out of focus just like the dull gray shapes I see with my eyes. I keep coming back to this feeling that something has been taken from me. Or that something happened that I missed it. This feeling spans out and covers every thought about my life in the last few years. I’m struggling to hold back sobs. Another long slurp. This shit is so bad I’m having serious difficulties finding a reason to keep at it.