Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The mist was pungent, but not unpleasant. Other Americans who came before suggested it smelled faintly of rotting eggs. He couldn't disagree, but even across the room the pool's warmth pried open his sleep-filled eyes and cut through the morning mountain air.

He stripped naked, sat before a spigot on an overturned plastic bucket, and washed himself with soap and lukewarm water. When he finished, he stood over the pool and watched the steam that hovered in the room. The sun wasn't quite up yet, and the only sounds were the onsen's hosts preparing for breakfast by moving plates in the adjacent kitchen, and the water that trickled in through a stone lion's head on the opposite wall.

A shock of heat ran up his leg and into his hips as he settled into the water. Gradually he lowered himself deeper in until it came up to his neck. He closed his eyes and tried to let his mind go blank.

"What will I do," he muttered softly.

Pure meditation escaped him, and instead he saw flashes from previous days in his mind's eye: A beer can clipping steel as it dispensed from a vending machine; a sudden gust of wind across a grassy field that he wished would lift him off his feet; drops of rain collecting on a single red leaf until the rolled off and down onto his cheek; the gentle strokes of a woman washing the worn characters on a single headstone.

He propped up his arms on the tile floor and leaned his head back as he exhaled a rush of air.

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