The cup warmed Christobella’s hands as she took a sip, letting the tea comfort her; it was her favorite brand of green tea. It had snowed yesterday, but the streets of Shibuya were already cleared up to let traffic flow at its regular frantic pace. “Shibuya is always lively, so many places to see that your head will spin!” Signore Yoshimura had told her long ago.
The lights of a nearby electronic billboard were advertising a new video game. A young Japanese woman, probably in her late teens, danced enthusiastically. She was dressed in a school uniform -skirt above the knee, no less-, brandishing what appeared to be a pink AK-47. “Happy lucky adventure, yes, yes!” The young woman’s voice was chipper and high-pitched, a cute doll wrapped in plastic. Years of living here and Christobella could still be surprised, or at least amused. Japan, never a dull moment. She smiled at the young woman made from a million tiny lights, now fighting what appeared to be a three-headed dragon.
Was the woman Satsune slept with a school girl? Christobella mused, taking another sip of tea. She did look rather young. Or maybe that was because Satsune looked old at her side. His arm around her waist. Christobella had seen them walking out of the love hotel one evening she was returning to their apartment from the supermarket. The tea started to feel a bit too bitter, Christobella set down the cup and pushed it away. Glancing outside the window, she saw the image of a smiling geisha on another billboard, she bowed while holding a vacuum cleaner that looked more like a spaceship.
Japan had been a land of contrasts from the moment she arrived. High-rise buildings of glass and steel sat side by side with small wood and stone temples. On her first day there, Christobella remembered a pair of geishas walking demurely on their wooden getas among the throngs of office black-and-white suits and skirts; a drop of color amid the monochrome. Both had smiled at Christobella with their snow-white faces. There had been less electronic billboards back then.
Satsune had been one of those contrasts that had seduced her. A man of quiet gestures and distant gaze, yet he would always have a compliment for Christobella that did not feel forced nor trite. Though a a serious business man, there had been something lyrical about him. As with Japan, it had been love at first sight. They tied the knot and made their perfect home for fifteen years. Until one day she took a left turn, instead of a right. The coincidence had been too perfect, she remembered thinking absentmindedly when she saw Satsune walking side by side with his lover. She would have laughed, but she didn’t. Not then, not now; it made her think of her parents. Another unhappy thought.
Her father had also chased after some young skirt back in Rome when she lived in her native Italy. Her mother, Vittoria, feigned ignorance instead of confronting him about it. After his death from a fatal car accident, she confessed to Christobella about her father’s infidelity, but only after she had switched back to her maiden name. Christobella was twice hurt. A father who went behind her daughter and wife’s backs; a mother who covered his lies for the sake of comfort.
Of course Christobella confided to signore Yoshimura. The older gentleman simply nodded once in silence, his brown eyes looking at her, holding some of the sorrow she did not, could not, feel. Back then, there had only been a deep feeling of being betrayed. How different things would have been if signore Yoshimura had been her father. Not only did her violin instructor, back then in his early 60s, teach her how to play, filling her head with wondrous stories about his country. He also spared the time to listen to Christobella; her fears, her dreams, her desire to visit Japan one day. Signore Yoshimura had died three years after she left, it was the only time she had considered returning to Italy. She would make the time to pay her respects at his shrine in his old home back in Rome.
Vittoria, you fool, she thought, alone in the apartment’s living room. Something tightened inside her chest. The telltale prickling sensation behind her eyes made her reach to rub them, but it was too late: she blinked and down rolled a fat tear over soft olive skin, already wrinkles adorning the edges of her eyes. They had phoned her all the way from Italy, some distant relative whose name she had already forgotten after she hung up. Her mother had died suddenly two days ago. Massive heart attack. She was 73. Twenty more years of life than her bastard father.
“Christobella?” Satsune had walked in the living room and was standing there, shifting from left to right. His voice was soft, almost tender. Of course he knew about her mother. “Do you need anything for tomorrow? I can have the chauffeur drive you to the airport.” He was not quite looking her way. Their divorce papers still had to be signed.
Christobella made no excuses for her father’s betrayal; she would not make them for Satsune’s. It had been her who filed the papers; that was that. They had settled terms quickly: she would receive a very generous alimony payment each month. He could afford it, seeing how he practically owned half of Shibuya’s buildings already. Satsune got to keep the apartment. She did not want it. Christobella had several planes to catch back to Italy to attend the funeral —her relatives could hold it off for a day, two tops. “Don’t bother. I’ll call a cab.”
The man who had been her husband for the past fifteen years nodded, standing there like an actor who just forgot his lines, then simply left without another word. Good, she needed to start packing. It would be a very long day tomorrow.