6:24am. I hadn’t been able to sleep until gone 2am, same old pre-travel nerves fizzing in my skull and preventing me closing my eyes. I lay still and let the sounds of The Watanabes seep through to my consciousness. There was the defiant bellow and snuffling cry of their son, whilst she hushed him over the whistle of the kettle. I could hear the scrape of forks against plates, papers rustling as Mr Watanabe readied his bag for his moped journey into work. Just a little longer, I thought listening as hard as I could and gripping the edge of the pillow, just a little longer let me be a part of The Watanabes.

9:49pm. The Watanabes insisted on accompanying me right up to the security gate. They were there right up to the point of no return, the divide that abruptly sloughed off the end of my Japanese venture. Watanabe had gone to Canada for 2 years and had returned for her job. She often half-jokingly said she regretted not being able to find a Canadian husband in time to allow her to stay in her dream. I wondered if she saw herself in me, a second chance to try and fulfil her dream. So perhaps I was not completely surprised as her face crumpled in on itself and her always  shining happy eyes this time shined with salt water instead. Neither was I overly surprised as the well in me began to spill over, rushing up in my chest and heating my cheeks, blocking my nose. Were we grieving at our parting or at one of the little sparks inside our most secret, hopeful selves sputtering out of existence? 

But, as I looked over her shoulder,  I was shocked to see the glistening streams cutting through the 6 o’clock shadow of her husband, collecting at the edges of his chin. He had, as always, his eyes widened comically and a grin stretching from ear to ear. He gave an exasperated laugh ‘もおおおいいいいいね!’ (mou ieee ne! = enough already!). 

A howl alerted me that their son had joined in. So we stood and lamented together. The she and he and younger and me. Perhaps I just conveniently acted as a cathartic release for some other stress. No, even that’s too cynical for even me. 

Although, of course, Japanese style, the whole thing was captured on their family camcorder. 

Saying goodbye to Japan. Saying goodbye to my attempt at an independent venture. Saying goodbye to The Watanabes. 

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