It is Melbourne and winter. Rain clouds bustle importantly across a grave skyline. I am dressed in a suit for some conference or other although it is just a pretext to be with this girl beside me. She is buried in a long woollen coat; she looks at the pavement in front of us as we walk; looks at me sideways and smiles. She is taking me to lunch.
And sure enough, down a small lane, so appropriately hidden, so aptly furtive is a small Japanese restaurant. And it is a strange thing but as we enter I know this affair is over as sure as I know I will get on that plane tomorrow and not return.
O, you say, how can this be that the smell of Japanese food can kill love? Who is this schmuck who will sunder affection on the grounds of too much sushi?
So shoot me! I didn’t invent the world. I’m sorry that its great moments hinge on its great littleness. I – who eat anything from anywhere and in situ and, yes, including in Japan, that straight jacketed incestuous land of sly grog and child porn – I lost love before the Miso soup. I’m sorry but this is just not the food of illicit love; it is the food of people with no cholesterol and gym shoes. It is not for those feasting at the table of forbidden desire. This thing between the girl and I is an affair, not Pilates.
But there grows in that restaurant this emptiness so big that all the sashimi in Tokyo could not fill it. Later, in my hotel, we try to make love like we did before but it ends in tears. I am such a whore, always capable of sex but I cannot kiss whom I do not love.
And, you are thinking, she sensed this and rushed crying away. No, she wept for her husband who was at home cooking her dinner. See how beautiful she was? For this I should have loved her again, for this I should have risen above the teriyaki. But I lay there while she showered and I was hungry only my old solitude.
The next day I get home and she texts to say she loves me. O how quickly we love what we can no longer have. Months ago I said to her, “I think I love you.” She looked at the wall. “Love is such a big word,” was all she said.
Standing in the arrivals terminal I read her text message over and over. I realise that there is a whole country between us. Who can say where love goes?
Well, time now for us to leave that man standing in the airport looking at his mobile phone; time for us to leave that girl in Melbourne waiting almost sick for his reply. And let’s all be very careful about what we eat.