Our friendship was so special to me, I thought of it like a song. My favourite song. We kept it on repeat.
I glance around. We're all waiting to board the flight and we all know it should have started ten minutes ago. There's no reason offered for the delay. It gives me time to read the email I wrote again. It gives me time to decide whether to send it or not.
It was one of those beautiful songs, that was true, touching and eternal. Written by mother earth herself. A sound the earth makes, that water makes, that the wind makes in the trees.
I look up at the large Boeing 747 behind the glass windows that make up the wall. That's my ride, if I get on. Ground crew fuss around it. A mechanic checks one of the large turbine engines and two other people load the luggage into the hull. Generally, they get the bird ready to fly.
Even when nature was angry, it was still natural. The tsunami destroying our lands. The cyclone winds whipping up whispers I'd never heard before. You'd know that would always subside. That there would be another tomorrow. If you survived today.
The departure lounge smells of exhausted furniture and overly-polished floor. The fluorescent lights torture the passengers to stay awake.
An old lady in the chairs opposite stares at me. She's old enough not to be uncomfortable doing it. I try to ignore her but it's quite the glare. I wonder what she's thinking. Maybe she thinks my hair is unnaturally blonde. Or maybe she recognises a kindred soul, separated only by the chasm of time.
And then tomorrow arrived, and the birds sang, the bees were lazy amongst the flowers beneath the trees and you would be lying in the meadow, laughing about something whimsical. I can never remember what you would laugh about but it was funny every time. Then you’d stop laughing, rest your face on your hand and gaze at me, your black hair falling about your soft-brown eyes. I think back now and it was like a dream. A yellow-haze of memory, with wind swaying pampas grass and you chewing on the end of a piece of long grass.
First class and persons needing assistance are being called. Air stewards help the old lady to her feet. Her face is set to grim determination as she pushes off the chair and gingerly reaches out, hands shaking, for the handles of her walker.
My seat number is in economy. There's still time to get up and get out of here if I want. Just leave the airport, go home to Mum and Dad and conform. Find a man who may not respect me, have babies, and grow old. Perhaps be like the old lady. Perhaps that was envy in her eyes when she was looking at me. Perhaps she has only just got the courage to leave Tokyo.
I'm not sure I ever told you that I loved you. That is something I regret now. We were friends, best friends, but it was more than that for me. My parents hated our friendship. Wanted to know where we were going, what we were doing. They suspected how I felt, but never said it. I suspected you knew how I felt, but never returned it. And so the tune started to change.
The next passengers they call to board are seated at the back of economy, so I am still waiting. A queue forms. Travellers stand. Many are looking at their phones. Some look around, tired and weary. Carry-on bags punctuate the queue with green, red, blue, and black.
Sometimes you were too busy to spend time with me. One time you'd said that but then I saw you with Yamato and how you looked at him, and I knew then that we would only ever be friends. Our song turned melancholic then, like the blues. Where I'd heard the earth make nature sounds, silence descended. I noticed shadows more than light, and fallen leaves more than evergreen trees.
A gritty voice comes over the intercom and it is my turn to board. I get to my feet sluggishly and shuffle into the queue like a herded animal.
I thought about taking my life. I'm ashamed, but it's true. When you were the only good thing there, what can I say? But like the breath taken after being submerged too long, I surfaced. Spring reluctantly follows winter, and green shoots force through the languid soil, and so I carried on. That's what our people do, we carry on.
"Ma'am, boarding pass and passport, please," the flight attendant says. He has a red tie, a navy blazer and a serious smile.
I hand them over. He reviews them, looks me up and down, and then hands them back.
"Have a pleasant flight."
I nod and smile and shuffle into the metal tunnel that leads to the plane's door. I freeze a moment. People shuffle past me. Maybe I should just turn back, it’s not too late. But, no. I don’t want to be like the old lady, I don’t want a life of regret. And I’m not regretful. What I’m really trying to say is thank you. Thank you and goodbye.
I wish you the happiest of lives, Hana. Our song was wonderful for sure, but the vinyl has worn thin and the turntable has stopped turning. Thank you for the music. I'm going to escape, explore new cities and US states, and my soul will be free-flowering in these new soundscapes.
I stride to the aircraft door. The air hostess grins. "Welcome aboard," she says. She has a slender figure, I notice, and blush.
“Thank you very much,” I say back, trying to pronounce the words the way I’d learnt them.
I walk down the aisle of the plane and find my seat. I sit and buckle my seat belt. I press the send button on the screen of my phone to send the email and turn my phone to airplane mode.