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The Snows of Mount Fuji
They watched the mountain but did not care the distance.
When the snow rained, it poured and Mount Fuji was bombarded with speckled white and ivory. The extraneous elements would wash off and be carried into the lake below. The surface froze. And the pale leaves and stems of the Cherry Blossoms: they froze as well. She sat with her legs through the guarding rail, in a thin blanket, and her feet dangled below. She scooted away and came to his legs, draped in a burly robe. They sat on the balcony and spoke without words.
In the afternoon, they made love, and after that, she cooked and prepared a lunch for him. Chopped tomato, beets, arugula, and low grade sea urchin from market. They ate with reused plastic spoons—when there were no spoons—with chopsticks—when there were no chopsticks—with their hands. The cold blanketed his body constantly; he was always trying to keep warm with what thin sheets and covers they had. Any money they gathered and meandered for was spent on his insulin and their food and utilities. The lights would go out; they’d have new lights within the coming weeks. When the hot water was off in the winter, they ate as if they were in the summer. When a window was broken and the small efficiency they kept was covered with small frosty dew, they covered the hole with duct tape and electrical tape. They did the best they could. They were only sixteen, those two.
There were issues:
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple a’ weeks… The efficiency payment is coming—”
“We’re nearly unemployed.”
“We are making chump change. Waitressing and cleaning houses is not gonna do anything for anyone. Not at all.”
“We go to Shinjuku… we gotta see what’s there… for anything, to live.”
“I’m fine. I can go at this like you.”
“No. Fine is a lot of things that you’re not. You haven’t had any insulin in four weeks. We don’t know when, but your kidney is gonna give out sooner or later.”
“That’s my problem.”
“No, no, ----, it’s my problem! Why would you say it wasn’t?”
“I don’t know… If you wanna get to Shinjuku, see what’s going around with jobs, we’ll do it.”
“What choices, what other choices do we have?”
“You don’t want to do that.”
“No, but you do.”
“That’s not true. Where you are, I wanna be.”
“Where else do I have to go?” he said smiling.
“With me,” she said, rubbing her potbelly. In her early second trimester.
When he’d weakened more, she went to Shinjuku by train to seek work. Scarce for her. None would hire an American, even less would hire a teenager who could barely speak the tongue. Just janitorial efforts and minimum wage. She took what she could: a fry cooker at an international McDonald’s.
“I could’ve had that job back in Cedena.”
“Well, where else could you have gotten the McSushi?”
“True, true,” she said, laughing.
In the night, he showered to overpower the cold. They slept on an inflatable mattress and his back developed a creak. Unknown to him: how could she be so rested in the morning? On the nightstand, he left her a piece of warm cornbread to eat as he showered. Upon returning, he noticed a piece gone—her lips creased with a smile. He laid next to her and she came and kissed him on his chin. He turned and they stayed talking on their sides all night—small intervals of kissing here and there. He massaged her stomach with his fingers.
“What’s that musical we saw one time?”
“It was for Christmas. I wanted to see it ‘cause you still played the piano.”
“Yeah… I loved Neptune.”
“Music kept us up for a long time, right?”
“Here we are.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Who knows, chica.”
They kissed and went outside to walk in through the wakeful snow pelted in the ground. Towards the mountain.
In January, they ran out of money and spent several weeks living in scraps, going through fresh trash to find half-eaten food. When water and heat was turned off they went outside and gathered snow in buckets to heat and have fresh water. In the absence of greens, grass was collected and boiled and seasoned and eaten. It was now six weeks since he’d had insulin and he was frail and threw up in the mornings and evenings. Hospitals they took him to in the city refused to take an uninsured, homeless American: a bum. He walked around with soiled, yellowed clothes because of the inability of proper wash. They washed in the lake now. Hand soap suds over their clammy, grinding hands.
“Do you love me?”
“Do you love me a lot?”
“… If I asked you something, something that I am unsure of, unsure of the outcome, how would you take it?”
“If you knew I had the right judgment with something, would you go with it? It would hurt you now but change your life—could you do that?”
“What would it cost me?”
“Great pain and…”
“Follow me,” he said as she helped him onto the train, heading home.
The day breaks seemed to stay the way they were. The same faces of stone, lively winter, and trees as pale as clouds. She moved him out through a trail in a wheelchair, circling the lake, taking in the small moments. She cried and he talked, words unknown to anyone. Talking to cut the silence. The dirt became slate as they neared Fuji. A peak overlooking the lake is where they destined.
He parked his wheels and slipped the locks to halt.
“Come down here.”
She got her knees and looked up to him. He went into his pocket and took a wad of money. She said:
“What’s this for?”
“I went to a man in the city and sold all the furniture and items in the apartment. This is their worth.”
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
“I wanted you to get something out of this…”
“You think that’s why I came? To get something out of this?”
“But do this, what am I gonna do with money up here, buy a jacket? Be smart, don’t argue with me, take the money.”
“Why don’t I stay here with you?”
“I’m not selfish. My insides are already green. You—you’re good. Don’t waste it. If you die, so will Emily.”
He motioned to her belly, her third trimester. “Once she’s old enough, don’t tell her about me. Say I abandoned you. Say I hit you and… got drunk and… it’ll give her a reason not to miss me. But when she’s even older, you spoil our Emily. And I mean with everything. This is three hundred dollars. This is a third her payment for books in college.” They laughed through the tears and she took the money in her hands. Played with it through her fingers. “Leave Gotemba. Go back to Cedena and see your Momma again. Live with her. You’ll be safe there.”
“…I love you.”
They kissed and she began her walk down to the trail.
She did not stop at the apartment for her things. She took a train to the airport and got off. People would look off and on at her. Untidy and stale clothing. The air was still cold, as it would be. She stopped at a bench and gathered herself for her trip home. Breathing, she stood and turned for the Terminal A door. She could see the mountain out of the corner of her eye, but did not care the distance.