September 2005 was a whirlwind. The company would pay the moving cost of up to 30 boxes, but there were just 17 boxes when I finished packing. I felt a pang of sadness as I dismantled my apartment, which I had decorated only a year before. It was a palace of my own, where I was free and independent, and it was also a cocoon I could come back to every day to recuperate.
My friends and colleagues threw farewell drinks and dinners every day. Some of them I’d see at my every visit to Japan, others I hadn’t seen since. I spent the last evening with Sachi and Mari, whom I met at Waseda and am still friends with today. After dinner at a restaurant, we returned to my hotel where I stayed for the last night in Japan. 10,000 yen room in central Tokyo meant a trailer-sized room with a coffin-sized bed, and we could hear a man coughing in the next room. We opened a bottle of champagne. Ditching thoughtfulness or modesty required from women like us, we talked and laughed loudly until midnight. When they left, I saw them turn their backs to walk away, and as I was closing the door, I saw Sachi raise her hand to wipe her eyes, and Mari gently placed her hand on Sachi’s back. Champagne had loosened the grip on my emotional rein. I fell onto the coffin bed and cried into the crisp pillowcase.