The kettle freed the pressure from my walls. Morning ritual: whistle back at the pot, steep tea, stretch in bare feet, then hide my legs under the kotatsu. The electric kind was more practical on a mountain, although I still entertained fantasies of an old-fashioned charcoal pit in a quaint, smoky room. Never mind how burdensome it would be to haul fuel up and down a snowbound slope, alone.
My hands creaked. Unfinished pages by the teapot. To procrastinate one must lie, but there is too little air in the peaks to waste time with deceit. Survival occupied more of my mind than I’d prepared.
Curls of steam warped the cup’s rim. Ceylon was Maggie’s habit—I neglected sencha now, and didn’t miss it.
I faced the paper on the table and the bands of sunlight that screened it into gold and shadow. My limbs were taut like springs under a weight, but the kotatsu coaxed them into open warmth.
I held my spine straight as I drank, eying the loose book with caution. The words would come, though I didn’t see them yet: simply find the right slit in your fortress.
A tossed clock, the mirror broken from our sedan. Maggie bursting into fury while I withdrew in careful steps, away from a wild mouth and American impulse.
A man beaten on the side of the street, she leaning down to assist, me rounding the corner with a hidden wince of disgust.
“You don’t help each other in Japan?”