Noah and I met up to see a show at the Blue Note sometime in December. It was the last time we’d see each other before he flew to the US for Christmas. In a small Italian restaurant, I took forever to finish the appetizer, a plate of slices of cold duck meat. The chef peered over my plate several times to check my progress, but I was in no mood to hurry because our conversation was so full and ceaseless. When we finally made it to dessert, he took out a Christmas present. The previous year, he gave me a wool blanket and a jar of peanut butter from the US, which were very thoughtful gifts to give to a good friend. But that year, the rectangular box was wrapped in sleek paper and tied with a satin string. I slowly removed the outer layer to find a purple velvet case. Noah had his elbows on the table and clasped his hands in Christian prayer in front of his chin. I raised the lid of the case, and in the dim light of the restaurant, saw the spark of three diamonds in a silver chain. I gasped, and Noah laughed with pleasure. I placed the necklace on my palm. I was entranced by the brilliance of the gem I had never possessed before. Noah broke the silence and made a short speech about how he was happy with his life because of the people he loved and wanted to make them happy, as well. I beamed a smile at him and excused myself to the restroom so I could put the necklace on.
It’d be years before I grasp a modicum understanding of the depth and weight of the word love in the English language. In the Japanese language, the Chinese character of love itself was as inactive as its tattoo on an American person’s arm. It was often combined with another character to be activated, such as self-care, patronage, passion, respect, affection, romance. “I love you” in Japanese sounded like a forced translation. So I took Noah’s word lightly as he had intended it to be.
Several years later, I’d lose one of the diamond earrings Noah gave me for my birthday five months after the Christmas dinner. Yet, I was apathetic about what precious things I let slip from my life. It was only a few weeks after I moved out of Jason’s flat and a few months before I lost a job. Impermanence was more potent than the words of Debeers.