One week ago, I started packing up my beloved little shoebox apartment in the Jordan neighborhood of Hong Kong.
Five days ago, I locked the door to my apartment one last time, loaded a taxi with three giant boxes, three suitcases, and two backpacks, and sped off to the airport. As the city of my birth, my adopted city, the first city that has really felt like home since I lived in Los Angeles years ago, sped past my window and into my memory, I felt both sorrowful and free: It was time to let go of Hong Kong. For now.
In the weeks leading up to my leaving Hong Kong, I'd felt a gradual, desperate tightening of my grasp on the city. Every sight, sound, smell, experience was scrutinized; I wished and prayed for every moment to be burned into my brain. "Please don't forget, please don't forget, please don't forget," I said silently to myself about the language skills I'd learned over the past year.
Please don't forget, please don't forget, please don't forget. I hope I never forget our security guard's smile, the smell of the subway, the rumble of our elevator, the shortcuts in Yau Ma Tei or Central, the code to the bathroom of my favorite coffee shop, the spot on Jewelry Store Cat's head that is like an automatic "purr button."
I'd been holding on so tightly to Hong Kong, my Hong Kong, that I was exhausted. In that taxi ride, I finally let go. Hong Kong was my past, Japan was my future.
I didn't cry, I didn't mourn; Hong Kong just nestled into my chest as a dull ache. I miss it like you miss your best friend or your mom or your dad or your cat when you first leave home to embark on something new. You'll go far away, but they will always be there. Unlike when I left Los Angeles and I felt like a part of my story was slamming shut, leaving Hong Kong felt like an ellipsis. To be continued...
After Mr. Louise and I missed our first flight to the city of Fukuoka (you'd think we know how international mailing works by now, but we had to repack some boxes and mail a couple extra), we got on a later flight, and I didn't even watch Hong Kong slip under the clouds. I'd already left that morning.
By the time we landed in the city of Fukuoka, we were too late to catch the bullet train to our new home of Yamaguchi. This lateness was due in no small part to our plane not being able to land because the turbulence was so piss-in-your-pants awful.
The captain told us we were going to land, then he tried to land the plane in a storm for over an hour. Up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down we went. At one point a woman across the aisle starting yelping and screaming. I wondered if that would be the last thing I'd ever hear. I want the last thing I hear to be animals contentedly eating food — not the woman watching Captain America: Civil War going "Eee! Oooo! WHOA! Aaaah! Eeeeee!"
But we landed and couldn't catch our train, so we stayed in a hotel overnight. The next day we got on our train, got to Yamaguchi, and began rural life.
I've never lived in a small town before. I've never lived in what feels like absolute silence before. I've never lived in a place where the only place to find food after 8pm is the 7-Eleven down the street (admittedly Japanese 7-Elevens are marvelous and are more like little food shops or bodegas than the gnarly, sticky-floored 7-Eleven that I used to frequent on La Brea in Hollywood).
Sitting here in my new apartment, my husband at work at the local university (we moved here so he could complete his Ph.D.), it is silent. OK, not entirely silent. I hear the fridge, the train occasionally passing over the nearby tracks, and crickets. But oh wait — they stopped chirping.
Seriously, where did all the crickets go? They were chirping a few minutes ago, now they are GONE. WHAT DO THE CRICKETS KNOW THAT I DON'T?
Admittedly, I'm a little on edge right now. The sound of a big city soothes me. When I'd get anxious at night in Hong Kong and feel like I was the only person in the world who couldn't sleep, I'd listen to the cars and the garbage carts (late at night, people would gather garbage in Hong Kong with big metal or wooden trollies) and the drunks and I'd feel like a part of the night; not at odds with it.
And now, while I hesitate to say I'm at odds with the silence, it is forcing me to contend with MYSELF. Just ME, myself, and my THOUGHTS.
"Eee! Oooo! WHOA! Aaaah! Eeeeee!"
But I am happy to be in Yamaguchi. I miss Hong Kong, and I am comically jealous of all my friends who are still living there ("You went to Relax For a While? Did you get the salt and pepper tofu? The mango pudding? What did you eat? TELL ME, YOU SMUG BASTARD."), but I do not long for it. I'm not supposed to be there right now; I'm supposed to be here.
Plus, come on, you're all thinking it: "I GET TO LIVE IN JAPAN — FOR A SECOND TIME!"
I don't like to say I'm "lucky," as I like to think that to some extent I make my own future, but I will acknowledge how absolutely fortunate I am. I have the freedom, means, and physical/mental health to move to yet another foreign place. Not to mention a partner who I genuinely feel like is my PARTNER.
Forgive me if I'm rambling a bit, or if my contented, even joyful, acceptance of this new life doesn't come through. I've been "sleeping" on a leaky air mattress for four nights, and I'm a tad foggy.
But here I am. Japan: Round Two! DING!
1000 yen says I'll be a weepy, sentimental mess when it's time for me to leave Yamaguchi. "I found myself in Yamaguchi (sob, sob, snort)..."