You learn to shop carefully, always searching for where an item is made, avoiding places you know are not socially responsible.
The search is complicated by the lack of nearby stores, by the ubiquity of Amazon, by the certainty that the product won’t arrive for some time, and when you find one you like, you scroll down and see the magic buzzword “Imported” and you know from experience that is another way of saying China, and the search goes on.
My father wanted to take me to buy my first suit, said he knew a tailor who could fashion one perfect for my pending Bar Mitzvah, a nice wool blend, he said.
Mother about threw a fit. “Take him to the department store or even Goodwill, for God’s sake, he’s only going to wear it once.”
My father had learned that some battles are best left unfought, so he compromised and we went to the men’s shop and I wore that sport coat three times before outgrowing it, and donating it to Goodwill.
She surely should have known better. Selling sea shells by the sea shore is a short sighted career path. Anyone can pick up the shells on the seashore, selling shells is simply silly, and she should see that. But each day she sets up her stand, sets out the shells, and sits waiting to see who will shop for her sea shells. No one does, of course, but she is certain she will sell some soon if only to sailors shortly setting sail. So sad, really, but she certainly does not seem to mind.
It is a simple choice, she said, bicycles or a cat.
I wanted to tell her that there are no simple choices in the middle of a pandemic, and those that seem that way, to mask or not, to shop or not can be life or death choices.
I thought about the options for a few moments, remembered the cats I still mourn like children who never grew into adulthood and said, “Let’s get a cat, its safer by far and I will not be hit by a car riding a cat.”
At the coffee shop they chatter as if in some foreign tongue, conversations overlaid one on another on another, until all I can strain are snippets of words, stray syllables. This is true everywhere I have visited, and it promises good coffee, for I have found that when I can easily eavesdrop on others at nearby tables, it is because the espresso maker has gone silent too long, there are few present, and I will regret the coffee shortly after drinking it.
1. An older, silver-haired woman in neon green pants, a brown blouse and black shop apron stoops and carefully scrubs the alleyway outside her small shop.
2. Salarymen fill the tunnels of Kokkai-gijidomae station at 6 P.M., 7, 8, and in fewer numbers, 9, shuffling down the long corridors to the Chiyoda or Marunouchi Line trains, where they will sit stiffly, faces in books or papers, or they will hang from the straps another day complete, ticked off the schedule. They will dream of trading polyester suits for wool, and a desk not pressed against half-height cubicle walls.
3. Akasaka-mitsuke Station: the electronic sign marks the next train for Shibuya at 17:52. It is 17:54 and the face of the stationmaster is a mix of anger and frustration for such tardiness cannot be accepted.