I’m on the flight heading back to Norway after spending six days in China. A break from the routines. I call it “runaway”. The phrase is certainly used with a metaphoric sense as I don’t have a good cause to justify the expression.
My life is good. It’s how I feel most of the time and how it’s considered by people around me. But a “runaway” of this sort is still necessary. The withdrawal from the family, the duties, and the routines. I might end up living as a wanderer if I didn’t have a family. I might never settle down. This thought keeps intruding my mind. That’s why I run away regularly I think. The idea is so tempting.
Those six days were spent entirely with my best friend since primary school. Strange, wasn’t it? Considering we’ve been living in two countries with distinctive cultures for so many years. Far away from one another physically, yet so close psychologically.
We had a four-day trip to a coastal town. It was the first time I wandered along a sandy beach in China, which I left when I was 16. It felt different from the beaches I have been to in other places. The smell of the sea, the colour of the water, the atmosphere, and the way the beach was enjoyed by the people there marked the difference.
I had a good grasp of Chinese, I still did. But it felt distant. I spoke the same language as the locals did, yet I felt foreign. The essence of language, by that I meant the cultural aspects attached to it were lost.
This journey was a collection of moments. Some were already fading while others were being transformed to something deeper. Like this one – falling asleep in a cafe.
We were wandering in a place that used to be a fishing village in old days. The noise and smell typically associated with a street food market was just too much for me. It felt as a relief when I found myself sitting in the charming cafe with a British touch. Apple-carrot juice was ordered for her and green-tea ice cream for me.
I pulled out the book from my tote bag and glanced at the cover. It was titled “Before the Coffee Gets Cold”, a novel by the Japanese writer Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The story was set in the-hundred-year-old cafe in Tokyo. The cover title caught my eyes and I picked it up from a vintage bookshop the day before.
– If you were lucky enough to be given the chance to sit in that magical chair at the cafe, you would be able to travel back in time and re-experience a special moment. You would meet someone you have been longing to see.
– How long does the moment last?
– Before your coffee gets cold.
– Can I change something?
– No, you may do things differently but it would not affect the outcome. The outcome would be the same no matter how you change the things before it.
– So what’s the point?
I read a few pages and fell asleep in the corner of the sofa.
It is so faint. No I don’t want to change anything. I just long to live in that moment again. It feels like a film, or a novel. the same protagonists, the same setting, the same tenderness and sadness. In the end, it all turns into darkness. The parting.
The mind slowly returned to the present. It was humid and hot. I felt thirsty.
“How long have I been sleeping, five minutes?” I asked my dear friend, who was reading an article on her phone.
“One hour and twenty minutes.” she said.
So strange, it feels like five minutes, right before the coffee gets cold. I thought, sipping her apple-carrot juice.