K tells me, as we cross the Azuma Bridge over the Sumida River on a summer morning last August, how she followed her boyfriend here from Ho Chi Minh City, but he dropped her shortly afterwards. She laughs. Below the scarlet bridge, sightseeing ferries ply the blue-brown waters to and from Tokyo Bay. She was shattered at first, then accepting. What can you do, she says, when the person you love falls for someone else? You can’t suddenly hate them.
She stayed in Tokyo, studying, and found a part-time job at the 7-Eleven in Asakusa, the working-class district where I live. Tourists swarm the big temple and large feudal-style gate. They take selfies with the twin statues of angry wind and thunder gods, in front of a 700-kilogram red lantern sponsored by the founder of Panasonic.
I barely know her. I asked her out for a stroll and a coffee because I enjoy running into her at the 7-Eleven, and we’ve swapped emails. She uses various names. K is a nickname. In one message she says, You can call me by my English name, Melissa.
She’s feisty and not the sort to take any crap. I like how she grins impertinently. It lifts my spirits when I duck in for provisions as I’m hurrying to work or coming home. When I reach the head of the cash register queue I say, How are you, and she answers, in an accent more British than American, I’m fine thank you. And you? She says it as a sort of cheeky challenge. The background music is often the 7-Eleven theme track, The Monkees’s “Daydream Believer”.