Danith and I have known each other for over thirty years, but we are in possession of only one photograph of us together in our much younger years. In it, I am still in high school. We are fishing from a pier at night, sitting on a concrete wall, either of us grasping a rod, and we are looking directly at the camera, a smile on me and an awkward grin on him. Our eyes are wide, and we are thin overall, especially in the face. Our cheekbones and chins and collarbones are well defined, and we have no age spots. We are so young, with so much to learn and to experience together, but we are also certain of our future in terms of professional careers, marriage, and family. We know where we are going.
Dark spots and dark circles now reveal our age. Our faces are fuller. My voice does not sound as soft or as tender as it used to. Customer service calls us m’am and sir. But except for having to squint now and then at small print and experiencing the occasional high blood pressure reading, in many ways, I still feel young. I feel that Danith is young with me.
After Daffy passed away, Danith and I traveled to Japan. For the first two nights, we resided in Kyoto, a city rich with beautiful ancient temples, all of which were spared from bombing during World War II. Kyoto is not as large or as metropolitan as Tokyo or Osaka, but because, at the time of our visit, there was a holiday — Senior Citizen Day — visitors packed the city. After an afternoon of traversing the Nishiki Market for local delectables and trinkets to bring back home and visiting the Ginkaku-ji Temple, where I made a wish at a well, Danith and I decided to take a taxi into City Center for dinner.
Once the driver let us out, we stepped into the throng of people. The lights shone brightly with the night sky in the backdrop. Order was in place, but so was chaos. Everyone had a destination in mind, the endpoints varying. Everyone was in a hurry, walking with great speed and resolve. Danith confidently and gingerly took my hand. Being Asian ourselves, with all the typical Asian features, we blended in almost seamlessly.
A little while later, though, we realized that we did not know where to go. We had entered shopping malls with restaurants and pastry shops. We had passed exits for departing and arriving trains. We had ridden escalators up and escalators down. We had strolled by many eateries, some of which being steak restaurants and Chinese restaurants and a random Italian restaurant. We repeated our paths. Many times we repeated our paths, and still our final destination remained unclear.
Each time I see myself draped in the sleeveless white pheasant dress riding up and down the escalator with Danith, I feel sad and sorry for us. We were trying so hard to move forward with the rest of the world, but within, we were isolated and small. Young and inexperienced. We were without our daughter. And we did not know where to go from there.