Short Story: Hiromi – The Woman from Shinjuku

Source: Chinese Junk, Pexels

by LJ Frank

I write for my own sanity and for no one else. It helps me weather sleepless nights. I admit there are moments an act is needed rather than writing down a thought. Still…

Sitting in my compact office-library late one night I received a text message from a distant friend – Hiromi. She was private, and accepted counsel from few people. She sought the verifiable and was weary of purposeful distortion. 

Hiromi was among the first in her class at Sophia University, studying journalism and biology, and worked at one time briefly with the Asahi Shimbun, a well-regarded newspaper known for its journalistic integrity. It was a stepping-stone for an adventure of which I was not privy. Our careers were second to our friendship. 

Our distance created a trusting dynamic in our openness with each other with the exception of our work. She was originally from Shinjuku, one of the 23 special wards in Tokyo. It was place within the city she told me that was no longer recognizable from when she was born over fifty years ago. She grew up not far from the train station in an ever-changing neighborhood. She text to say she’d send me an encrypted email for privacy, though we both knew privacy died a generation or so ago. 

Ironically, we believed the best privacy was probably to have no window dressings – visibility is one form of privacy in the age of surveillance capitalism and where the Hippocratic Oath was being prepared for burial. And we agreed the Internet was merely a technological global tool – a much enhanced transformation of the local scholarly grapevine from the past, for good or ill.  

From an idealist’s view the Net has a democratic appeal though strategic disinformation can undermine it in the name of humanity and under the populist guise of the state of the nation and those of eloquent conspiratorial intent, though I’m fond of thought-provoking skepticism based on the actual facts not the alternative.

Evidence in the dramatic sense retains the quality of a vampiric mosquito that sucks the blood out of untruths. This too shall pass is ancient but is meaningless for those caught up in the tumult of the moment’s disingenuous propaganda and the instability affecting those who have little to show for their struggles, except merely to exist. 

Different paths didn’t deter our conversations. Though I admit an event in one’s life, no matter how far back, can feel like yesterday or last night and be a mere thought away if we decide to recall it or not. That is a feeling we shared with each other. I told her at one juncture that “technology seeps into my central nervous system and all aspects of my existence like a song that keeps playing in my head though sometimes it’s just static. And the noise of existence can be intellectually and emotionally disquieting even while sitting in a lotus position as I breathe in and out.” 

Hiromi agreed. In the process I found she had much on her mind, practiced Zazen while working for years in places like Macau, The Hague, Tangiers, Cartagena and Miami. I never knew for sure what her current job or project was, except for the hint in her text messages and emails we shared over time. I had helped Hiromi learn English in her early twenties and was her tutor while she was in college. We connected twice a year since those days, once as a new year approached and in the middle of every summer. 

Her last text message was the most urgent for she seldom used the word encrypted per se until the middle of the last decade. 

Hiromi’s email was philosophical: Sometimes we don’t know the best-hour and the best day of our life while we are experiencing it…until we reflect back from where we are in the uncertainty of the present minute. And then we understand better the idea of recognizing the specialness of a fond memory and not hurrying on to the next. Even when we are totally aware, it all passes by in a heartbeat…sometimes leaving only the mist of a thought.

I wrote back to her: “I don’t know where you are now or what you do but indeed awareness sometimes arrives a day or year that seems too late. Please be safe.

Hiromi’s reply came in the form of a text message: Perhaps it’s best to explain to you in person. I will text you the location and day.

Twenty-four hours later I received the following text: Please remember what we joked about – nothing seems to be as it appears. Please meet me where my boat docks in exactly five days from today. You have a passport and have been given a green light.

Oh? Your boat? What dock?

Attached is a multi-media message. Do you remember now? I will wait for you on that day, should you decide to take the chance ~ Hiromi.