how could we know whether they genuinely favored us, or if we were simply useful to them? we had dinner with them more frequently than with our friends; extraordinary japanese meals where no dish was repeated: yam gelatin, pork belly, matsutake mushrooms, mackerel sashimi, fresh homemade tofu. the drinks, on the other hand, were always the same and served in an unvarying order: asahi beer, barley tea, champagne, sake from niigata which is famous for its rice, and shochu for dessert.
the air in their apartment gave the impression of being fresh, but i never saw them open a window. one of their two cats never failed to find and sit upon my handbag. days later i would sneeze and pull at my eyes, having forgotten to rid the bag i carried of lingering cat hairs. i cannot remember any music playing softly in the background, yet i am certain it wasn’t silent, either.
our relationship centered around food: lengthy discussions of its preparation, promises of inviting them to our place for dinners that never materialized, questions about where ingredients were bought, taking pictures of the delicacies arranged on the table. most people have a large shelf somewhere in their main living space, for books or music. but at their house, there was only a mammoth stainless steel refrigerator–a second refrigerator, superior in many ways to the one in the kitchen that the apartment came furnished with. there were only two of them and they were compact and slender, what did they do with all that food? perhaps they had guests every week, even every evening. they stuffed them with food as they did us, feeding off of the pleasure they took in feeding others, rather than in feeding themselves.