Saturday, 14 July 2012
ph: naoko sakai
We used to play this little game in Osaka, when we first became a couple last o-hanami season.
Whenever one of us caught a falling sakura petal, we won a kiss from the other. We only stopped running and catching and laughing and kissing long enough to breathe, hands outstretched to receive all the goodness that life had to offer at that moment.
One day, inevitably, the petals stopped falling. The blossoms were dying, falling brown to the ground and blowing away like so much detritus in the wake of my flight home to London. There were no more kisses then.
Part of the enduring beauty of sakura blossoms is that they don't last forever. They're a reminder to live in the here and now before the moment is past and gone for good, ichigo ichie. It's a lesson we learn once a year, every year, and we forget it with the same regularity.
I don't know why we held on to those days so tightly, trying so hard to make us something we clearly couldn't be. It was ever more obvious when we returned to our home countries and found nothing but fragile flowers crushed in a death grip when we opened our fists at the airport.
After all, Prunus serrulata, the Japanese sakura tree, flourishes in incomparable splendour for only a few days, never to bear fruit.
After a while, in February, he found someone else to catch petals with. And when their short blossoming season finally ended in April, he emailed me some weeks later to admit that he realised he had needed someone, *anyone*, not necessarily her.
I'll never know for sure whether or not he felt that way about me. It's not important. It was as real as it needed to be at the time, and that's all that matters to me.
I pulled out the box of mementos from under my bed. Polaroids, letters, the power stone bracelet he bought me for my birthday last year and that I wore with fierce loyalty for six months straight. No longer the instruments of torture they seemed to be when I first put them in there, safely out of sight and out of mind two months ago - they were just ordinary things again.
Amongst them was that one photo of us, standing amongst the cherry blossom trees in front of Osaka Castle, smiling wider than the Minato Bridge. Our happy ending, before we started writing the unnecessary epilogue that took the magic out of the fairytale.
It's been a year now, since our story began.
One year, two sakura seasons, three hearts left wanting; a thousand pink petals that slipped between my fingers and rotted away on Kansai soil, all leading up to that one email. That one moment when I looked up from my empty hands and realised that all this time there had been cherries growing above my head where the blossoms once were, ripe for the picking. And I would never look back...
...never again be someone's anyone.