Books: Brrm! Brrm! — Chapter 17 |
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At Heathrow, after queueing for a long time at one of thc JAL economy class check-in desks, Suzuki found that he had been elevated to first class. He had never seen the inside of a first-class lounge before and for a while he did not realise the drinks were free. In the front cabin of the 747 the seats were set alarmingly far apart, like thrones. On the first long leg to Anchorage he chose Western food, on the assumption that it would be the last he would see of it for some time. The air-hostess changed costume to serve dinner. In kimono she had the willowy grace of a Utamaro woodcut. Suzuki worked his way through the foie gras and the tournedos Rossini and the fruit tart and the petits fours. When the hostess saw how much he liked the Krug she brought a silver bucket on a stand and left a whole fresh bottle of it with him. Suzuki’s head swam. The North Pole was below him. Soon he would be halfway home. Across the aisle an old man was sitting on his seat cross-legged, eating a Japanese meal with flying chop-sticks and full sound effects. Another old man cleared his sinus passages resonantly all the way through the movie. It was A Room With A View. The beautiful Helena Bonham-Carter enunciated with exemplary precision. Suzuki turned up the volume as far as it would go, trying to shut out the sound of the man snorting. There was a time when it would have been no bother.

At Anchorage Suzuki bought perfume, as Shimura-san had advised, the duty-free rate being better there than at Heathrow or Narita. He bought little bottles of Chanel No 5 for the women in his family and for the woman of his own he would meet one day; perhaps soon now; perhaps sooner than he would like. On the leg to Narita he ate Japanese food, although when the hostess brought another bottle of champagne he did not object. He was going home to a cold reception. Shimura-san would shake his head. But how much did that matter? Suzuki would have the flat in Ochanomizu with the living-room so big that you could walk around the table without moving any of the chairs. His novel would find a public of some kind. He already knew how it ended: the Japanese man and the English girl jumping hand in hand from the balcony to die impaled in the fountain full of light.

He would wear a roll-necked sweater under his suit instead of a collar and tie. He would sit all day in the coffee shop and be the leading young writer of a new school, lost between worlds, like space. He would cope with loneliness, having known it at first hand. It would be his territory.

He felt his head fill with blood. The plane was sinking southwards to meet his homeland drifting west. At Narita nobody asked him to open his briefcase. So Suzuki carried his future through the barrier and onto the bus, and the bus took him between the long fences into the colossal city which even through his headache he was suddenly eager to see again, with the fresh eye of the homecoming stranger.