Friday, 10 June 2016

Chapter three (segment one), 2017, January, Ulf

Who the hell decided hatsumode at a major shrine was a good idea? I mean, what's with this crap?

For the umpteenth time Ulf regretted that he'd allowed himself to be talked into visiting the Meiji shrine because 'that was what someone living in Tokyo did for New Year's eve'.

It was insanely crowded and he had long since given up on finding Christina among the mass of people surrounding him. In theory he could have called her, but the cell network was brutally overloaded and his smart-phone only served as a paperweight in his pocket.

Screw this! It was the first day off for Christina since they spent Christmas together, and for the rest of the winter break there would only be tomorrow as a free day. All the other she was booked solid.

Damn, they got her good this time.

Those thoughts didn't help. Ulf pushed his way a little further inside the compound and grit his teeth. While her schedule for all effective purposes created something like a prison, it also accelerated her fame towards the point where her career became stable. That magazine, Vogue, used her, and Ulf could only hope Christina used them in return.

The orderly crowd around him moved yet another few steps and he let himself be pulled along with it. It would be hours before he could escape so he could just as well pretend to enjoy whatever went for a New Year's celebration here.

He'd missed out on the last one as a result of tightened security around Christmas and New Year. It had been an institution for juvenile delinquents after all.

At least he was almost half a head taller than most of the crowd, which was a small blessing. He could see what was going on. If he'd been built like Noriko this would have been a world of coats, elbows and the occasional child.

Ahead of him there were people queuing to get to the shrine, queuing to buy snacks and drinks, queuing to buy their fortunes and queuing just to get out of the area. All in all it was a horrendous waste of time.

But I guess Christina would have loved it. She shines when she's surrounded by people.

Ulf smirked and followed the crowd forward. Another quarter of an hour and he'd be able to make his pick of a queue.

At least he wasn't cold. With so many people gathered human bodies worked like a giant radiator even outdoors.

Wonder if people felt this way during the cultural festival? Ulf grinned. If he was honest the festival had been nothing compared to this. There were literally tens of thousands of people around him.

A little later the quiet mob split into three queues, and Ulf chose the one that fed the stalls. Praying at the shrine could have been a fun and touristy thing to do with Christina, but he had no reason doing it alone.

It took him another half an hour to buy some of what went as fast food in Japan. It didn't taste bad, but Ulf really couldn't say that it tasted well. At least it was warm, which he welcomed.

Damn, I wanted you by my side tonight, he thought when a tall blonde made him look twice before he saw that it wasn't Christina.

I'm sorry Maria. I've fallen in love with another woman. To his surprise that admission didn't fill him with shame or regret any longer. His old life was lost, never to be had again. Accepting it had taken a long time, but Ulf understood that he had finally given up all hope of going home. Then how do I build myself a new home and a new life? Christina, what part can you play in it?

Bells started ringing in the new year. One hundred and eight times they would toll the desolate sound of melancholy longing that Ulf had come to associate with a country that just might become his new home.

Because going home would be even worse, he realised. As long as I'm here I can dream about Sweden as home. He bumped into a woman and they both bowed an apology almost as a reflex. See, I even behave like I belong here, he thought and gave her a faint smile.

Slowly bells rang out the old and welcomed the new, but he felt he was the only one listening to them. No, I'm not really at home here. Back home I'd never notice the church bells. But there was still something that had just clawed itself inside his mind. Yes, going home would be worse. I don't want to live in a Sweden where I haven't already carved out a space for myself.

With the back of his right hand he wiped away tears from his eyes. I miss her, Ulf thought. Standing with a half full box of food he allowed himself to be filled with longing for Christina. It's more than love. You're the anchor in my life that keeps me from going insane.

Suddenly he was afraid of them breaking up, even though he suspected they'd eventually go separate ways despite none of them wanting it. If he stayed with her he'd destroy the future she struggled for. Unfair, he yelled silently. What has unfair to do with anything. Get real Ulf! You only look the teenager, but you should know what life's about by now.

But the rational thoughts of a grown man lost to the needs of the him here and now, and with his phone in one hand he pushed himself into the crowd in a frenzied attempt to find her wherever she was. It was futile; he knew that, but right now it didn't matter. He only wanted to see her as soon as possible, to feel her close to him, to listen to her voice and feel how she loved him back.

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