We had gone to Ueno with the best of intentions, to take in some art and culture, but by 2 pm it was too hot to do anything but drink in the shade by the pond there. The lotus plants were fully grown now and spread out, standing tall, across the whole of the pond like a field of corn husks back home; in the middle you could just see the red and gold spire of the temple there, in the middle, rising above the lotus.

We sat on a rock under a weeping willow. Emi had told me once that ghosts often appeared under trees like that, but she was mosty silent now. When our beers were done, we took turns walking to the yaki-soba stand, past the rows of flea market vendors who sat on blankets by the side of the past, with their piles of old magazines and worthless jewelry lying out in the sun. I would walk past them to the old man running the stand, hand over a few coins, fish out the beers from the ice water. Walk past the vendors with the beers cold and still dripping.

It was much later now, and we were both pretty drunk. I was at least. Emi hadn't said anything in a while; I watched her off by one of the vendors, leafing through an old magazine. It had been very good between us, for a bit, but that was over now. It occurred to me that this was the last time I would see her. In a few months the lotus would all be dead and I would be gone.

I walked up behind Emi, put my beer against the back of her neck and she shuddered. I looked over her shoulder at what she had been looking at, and old ad for condoms featuring the pale outline of a woman who would be dead now. If she had ever been real.

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themercy (joined almost 12 years ago)

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