I took my bike and newly acquired fishing rod and knife over to a spot by the mouth of the river this morning. I wasn’t really expecting to catch anything, but after spending an hour looking at the water and jerking my rod up every time I thought it moved, I actually caught a fish! There was somewhat dissheveled old guy there as well who did a lot better than me, but he said that he’s come there every morning for years, so I guess he knows what he’s doing. I got him to take a picture of dinner, pictured above. Mum, if you’re reading this you should show Grandad. I’m sure he’d get a kick out of it.
I talked to the old guy a bit. He was nice, and one of those people who don’t listen and just want to talk. He asked me where I was from, I told him I’m a New Zealander and 3 minutes later he was asking me about America. He was also a believer in the weirdly common idea that Japan is the only country in the world with four seasons. You get used to it…
More importantly though, he was telling me that his wife had passed away two days ago. When I asked him what happened, he said that she had being taking a nap on the tatami mats, and then suddenly stood up, as if in fright. He’d assumed she’d had a nightmare or something, but was surprised by how big her reaction was. He’d never seen her move so violently. This was all in the space of about ten seconds, but when they looked at each other, her eyes seemed terrified. She then took a step towards him, and crumpled to the floor, holding her chest. She gasped for a while and then she was gone. His eyes welled up a little as he was telling me, and he looked so broken and confused. I wanted to give him a hug, but wasn’t sure if he would appreciate it or just be embarrassed.
We sat in silence for quite a while, but I didn’t catch anything more. After three hours of fishing, I got up to go and asked him how much longer he’d be there. He didn’t know. “There’s not much point in going home, so I think I’ll stay here a while longer,” he told me in his heavy local dialect.
“Take care,” I said after standing up and collecting my things to go. I put hand hand out to shake hands. He took it and held it for a long time, but he didn’t look at me. He just kept his gaze on the ocean. His hand was warm and felt like leather, but I didn’t mind. I really felt for the guy. When he finally let go, he reached into his bucket, picked up a fish and handed it to me. I thanked him, but he didn’t respond. I left him there at the mouth of the river looking glassy eyed out to the sea.
On the way home, I took a detour and went to the supermarket, but it was closed. The streets had always been quiet, but I didn’t see anyone between the river, supermarket and home. I fried one of the fish in butter and put the other in the freezer. I’m starting to get really scared.