I finished work a little after six on Saturday evening. I considered giving my cousin another call, but it was still early in the morning for her. Better to try again in an hour.
In the meantime, Azami and I went out for a quick bite, dropping in at Gyoshu Danshiro Shoten, an Okinawan pub just down the street from my apartment.
Okinawa. Now there was a place I would not have minded being, Jean’s opprobrium notwithstanding.
For years I'd been operating sullenly on the soppy emotion "anywhere but here", but my melancholic longing for greener pastures had a destination, several, in fact, and Okinawa was near the top of that list.
A friend of mine had checked out of life in the fast lane and moved to the southernmost island of Yonaguni where she was now spending her days hanging out at the beach, and lolling about on the engawa deck of her house, plucking a kind of banjo called the Ryûkyû sanshin and drinking the local fire water, awamori.
I wasn't ready to live the life of an aesthetic just yet, but Ishigaki, the largest, most populous island in the Yaeyama archipelago located halfway between Okinawa and my friend's new home of Yonaguni, would have suited me just fine.
There the pace of life was slower--perfect when you had nowhere in particular to go and nothing special to do. When you were rushing from one commitment to another like I usually was, just doing nothing, absolutely nothing, as Jean had often reminded me, was a luxury.
A dip in the turquoise sea snorkeling among coral reefs and tropical fish, a bottle of Donan 120-proof awamori and a bucket of ice to ease you into the evening, and an old man strumming away on the sanshin, singing in the Okinawan dialect, "Nankuru nai sah. Everything's gonna be all right.” Sounded like heaven to me right now.
The waiter brought a chilled mug of Orion draught, uchincha (Okinawa-style jasmine tea) for Azami, and a small plate of tofuyo to our table.
In a land as crowded with delicacies as Japan, tofuyo still managed to stand out. Made with the Okinawan variety of tofu, it was first packed in salt to remove the excess water, and then fermented a second time in awamori, rice malt and red yeast until it took on a rose-colored cheese-like consistency.
I shaved off a bit of the tofuyo with a toothpick and popped it into my mouth.
Just then, Azami's cell phone rang.
“Moshi-moshi . . . ” she said. “Yes, he’s here with me. Hold on a moment, I’ll put him on . . .”
どなん (Donan Awamori)
© Aonghas Crowe, 2010. All rights reserved. No unauthorized duplication of any kind.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No. 6 is now available on Kindle.