The lights and sounds of Roppongi normally drove Sayuri crazy. Unfortunately, she couldn’t recall how she had stumbled upon the long avenues piercing through the Roppongi Hills and TV Asahi buildings. Nor did she know how she always walked beneath the imposing elevation of the Metropolitan Expressway #3, a large, loud toll-road that straddled Roppongi Odori and supported behemoth trucks traveling between warehouses and intended destinations.
Sayuri couldn’t remember anything before that morning. The few times she returned to her senses, she realized that she had strayed much too far from home. She was supposed to be in the sleepy Tokyo suburb of Fujimi, a good hour away by train.
Instead, she was in one of Japan’s most internationally infamous neighborhoods. On one side: the well-to-do socialites, the executives, the celebrities, and the politicians’ families that called affluent Roppongi home. On the other? The seedy underbelly that heralded a nightlife to only rival Shinjuku’s. Sayuri had heard more than one story from her school’s foreign teachers that told of male expats having every yen systematically stolen off their persons.
Where was she now? Did she care?
The occasional man in a suit bumped into her. Women with Hermès scarves and Prada purses scoffed when Sayuri refused to move out of their ways. If she walked much farther, she would find the Azabu police station. A crew of sharply dressed policemen held a small conference outside of their building. It seemed one of their vehicles had broken down, and the chief on duty made it his responsibility to go over the protocol with every available officer on the night shift.
It reminded Sayuri of the faculty meetings at her place of work. The principal at Inoshikara Elementary School was infamous for making his teachers stay longer than other faculty in Fujimi City.
Summer vacation was now. Sayuri’s excuse for staying sane and present was gone.
One year. It had been one year since the unthinkable happened.
She saw ghosts everywhere. Signs that she was never meant to forget the only person who had ever mattered. Calls to her maternal memory that begged her to come closer and find what she had lost in a senseless accident.
At the intersection of Roppongi Odori and another main thoroughfare was a large LCD screen playing the same five ads over and over again. A drink meant to rehydrate the body during the humid summer months. A child-friendly snack advertised by grown men and women. Programs by both TV Asahi and nearby TV Tokyo that dueled for the same coveted prime-time viewership. And a classic TV children’s show that had been rebooted for a new generation.
“Welcome to Azabu-Juuban! The home of a Tokyo legend!” So happened that another Azabu police car drove by at that moment, lights flashing. It turned toward the supposed seedy underbelly, a reminder that there were few in real life heroes who could transform and save Tokyo from itself.
Her son had loved that show. Every time they passed a capsule toy machine featuring the heroes of love and justice, he begged his mother to buy him a chance for his favorite. The blue one.
It was that faraway night he finally got the one he wanted. The toy rolled between his small hands in the backseat of Sayuri’s car as she attempted to navigate the rainy summer night.
Now, her phone burned hot in her hand. Every time she looked at the screen, however, she didn’t see any new notifications. Not even responses to the million messages she left her ex throughout the day. “Today’s the day. The first anniversary. I’m going to Inokashira Park and the zoo like we did that day. I wish you could go with me.”
But Sayuri wouldn’t drive home that night. She was too drunk on grief and toxic memories to get behind the wheel of a car. Ever since the accident that totaled her last car, she hadn’t bothered to get a new one, anyway.
Fuck driving. Only people with death wishes drove.
“Ma’am?” One of the Azabu police officers stood beside her. “Daijyoubu desu ka? Do you need assistance?”
She blinked away the evening haze, although her eyes could barely focus on the man writing something in his notepad. “I’m fine,” she said, meek. “Just looking for the subway station.”
“It’s right over there, ma’am.” The police officer pointed across Roppongi Odori. “See? Hibiya and Oedo Lines. Do you need an escort?”
The crosswalk light changed at that moment. “No, thank you.” Sayuri stepped off the sidewalk and into the flow of pedestrian traffic. Cars carrying diplomats and trucks carrying dollar store goods waited on the edge of the crosswalk for the light to change again.
Sayuri stopped halfway across the boulevard. Other people surged around her as if she were nothing but a speedbump.
She could stand there forever, she supposed. Eventually, the light would change, and it would be over.
Except when the light changed, she was honked at until the police officer zoomed forward and hustled her out of the crosswalk and to the other side of the street.
He insisted on passing her off to a subway station attendant who looked as if he would rather eat nails than deal with someone like her. When both attendant and officer asked where she lived, Sayuri muttered something about transferring at Ikebukuro. The attendant, in turn, muttered the possible connections she could make using the Hibiya subway line.
She barely glanced at him as she pulled out her pass and stepped through the Hibiya ticket gates.
Her thoughts oscillated between what to make for dinner and the horrors of one year ago. Passengers crowded onto the train, forcing her into the corner seat and staring into the crotch of a businessman who insisted on standing in front of her with his newspaper. The seat next to her was occupied with a young mother and her bouncing toddler daughter who carried a stuffed Totoro in her hand.
Bile surged into Sayuri’s throat.
One year ago. It was only one year ago. He would be four now. We would be…
She attempted to text her ex one last time. “I’m sorry to bother you with this. I’m having a hard time today.”
The fact her ex-girlfriend never responded was only the cherry on the shit sundae. A miracle. That’s what she needed. One strong miracle to bless her with a mulligan on her life.
Instead, she fled the crowded subway train in some nowhere Tokyo neighborhood on some train line she never remembered for the rest of the night. Because her memory no longer belonged to her.
The last thing she remembered before she completely dissociated from reality, was the image of a young female station attendant directing foot traffic to the two platform exits. She raised her gloved hand into the air and brought it back down to give the train driver the all-clear for departure. A female attendant. How about that?
The train powered through the dark tunnel. Sayuri didn’t own her body after that.