from Star Sign

Translated by: 
Laurel Taylor

It seemed that the two people perched on the railing of the second-storey balcony were looking at me, pointing, and I wondered if, from where they were, they could see me. The car heater was off and the cold was creeping in. A shiver started from the core of my body, and I hunched my shoulders. My right hand was pressing my phone to my ear, but for a moment, I missed what my boyfriend was saying.

The main road cut through the mountains and continued through the housing developments around the family restaurant where we’d stopped; its parking lot was packed with cars – people with nowhere else to go on New Year’s Day. I surveyed the green slopes on either side of the road. On one corner of the development – all evenly-spaced, new two-storey houses – there was an empty lot where they would probably build another house, and across the road was a brand-new, two-building apartment complex. Each building also had two stories, and each storey had seven balconies. The young man and woman sat facing me on the railing of the second-floor balcony on the far right. Their bare feet dangled into empty space.

The woman was wearing a pink track suit, and the man a black one, but when I squinted, it looked like he was wearing a kung fu outfit. Though I knew they were more than a hundred metres away, it felt like they must be closer, because I could clearly make out the woman’s long hair as it blew and twisted in the wind. I wondered if they were cold. The temperature had plummeted a few days ago, and in Nara, I’d seen snowflakes dancing in the air.

Rain clouds had appeared after noon, and though this whole area was covered with houses, there wasn’t a human shadow to be seen. I couldn’t even tell if there were people in the other apartments. In the absence of sunlight, the houses and the road and the mountains had become a damp colour. The woman climbed up onto the iron railing and grabbed the drainpipe. It was a quick movement, fearless. The man’s left hand pointed up at her face. She thrust out her free arm and pointed back. I turned toward the restaurant and looked at my friends sitting inside by the window. I suddenly felt afraid, all alone, watching the pair on the balcony. But my friends hadn’t noticed anything; they were busy waving down the waiter.

My boyfriend was with his family in Okinawa and would be back on the fifth, so I vaguely promised I’d drop by after that and then hung up. The two on the balcony hadn’t moved, didn’t even tremble. The only thing moving was the woman’s hair. I opened the passenger door and got out. After crossing the parking lot, I looked back and saw that the woman had sat down on the railing again, feet dangling, and then I went through the two sets of doors into the restaurant. I was instantly surrounded by the sound of laughing children and clinking silverware, and I felt like I’d entered a completely different world.


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