by Tari Gwaemir
"Spring letters and spring tears."
Their first year apart, when he was studying medicine in Tokyo and she was abroad in England, she wrote him constantly. Page-long emails punctuated with emoticons, typed in the dead of night when she was supposed to be reading Marlowe and Shaw (he wondered how she maintained her respectable GPA, but decided not to inquire about it). Brief, half-misspelled text messages sent to his handphone at odd hours of the day (the time zones separated them as effectively as the continents and oceans between them). Tattered postcards with worn edges, their return address half-concealed with exotic stamps, sent sporadically when she traveled to Cornwall, to Stonehenge, to the white cliffs of Dover ("they really are white, like bones," she wrote incredulously in a hasty scribble). He wrote back to her in pages and pages of typewritten letters on plain white stationery, posted in envelopes he borrowed from his father's desk.
By the second year, the deluge of words exchanged between them had dribbled to a halt. In the third and fourth year, he meticulously wiped the dust off the box where he had saved the postcards when he cleaned his desk once a week but no longer opened it. (At times, he even forgot why the box was there.) When he graduated from college, he did not know that she had returned to Japan several months before.
They saw each other by chance one afternoon, while passing through a park in their hometown. She was wearing sweatpants and had an mp3 player strapped to her wrist. He was walking home from an interview, feeling hot and stifled in his shirt and tie. Her head turned as she moved past him, and then they both jerked to a stop.
"Souichirou?" she asked, taking off her headphones.
"Yukino?" he echoed, his eyes wide.
They stared at each other, unable to speak: too many words and too long a silence. He attempted conversation, with a polite smile, "I received your postcards."
"I know. I have your letters somewhere, sitting in a pile in one of my bags. I kept every one." She studied him with a little frown on her face, with a sardonic arch of the eyebrow.
He continued smiling but she continued to look, her glance piercing through him and into him like a fine dagger. The smile faltered and faded. He said, "How...how have you been?"
She wrinkled her nose. "Me? Well, I suppose I've changed. Or I thought I changed." She waved her hand vaguely in the air as if to trace the trajectory of her transformation.
"Oh, I see."
They stood in the middle of the street, frozen in each other's gaze, while the other pedestrians swerved around them.
He thought back to the years of silence between them, and the days seemed to merge into a blur. He couldn't think. He shook his head, as if to clear it, but all he could focus on was her, the reality of her.
"I'm the same," he said with some surprise, "same as I ever was."
She looked at him with a familiar certainty in her eyes. "Yes, me too."
They stood there past sunset and far into the night, unable to move apart.