Karuizawa is an old summer resort in Japan very much like the Hamptons except it’s in the mountains. There is a coffee house in a pine forest near Karuizawa. John & I fell in love with the place, and found ourselves going there almost every day with Sean. To get there, you had to go cycling for about 30 minutes from the town of Karuizawa. But we loved going there. There was a big hammock in the backyard, and John, Sean and I used to spend the afternoon lying in it, giggling, singing, and watching the sky.
After John’s passing, five years from the time we were last there together, I visited the coffee shop again. It was as if time had stood still. There was the same stillness in the shop with only a few people sitting around. The scent of pine and aroma of good coffee was in the air. I had a cup of coffee and left. The owner came running after me and handed me a lighter. “Your husband left this the last time he was here,” he said. I looked at him and the lighter. “I’d like to return this to you.” I lit the lighter. The flame shot up, like it was alive. Then I remembered the day that John had left the lighter at the coffee house.
The three of us went there to spend the afternoon as usual. Right in the middle of our bike ride home, John remembered that he had left the lighter at the coffee house. I was going fast on my bike. He was shouting something to me from behind. “What?” I shouted. “I left me lighter at the coffee house!” John shouted back. “The one I bought yesterday!” I knew he liked that one. I slowed down and turned my head around. “Shall we go back to get it?” I asked. “Yeah, let’s,” he said. Then he changed his mind “Oh, never mind. I’ll get it tomorrow when we’re there,” he said. But tomorrow never came. The rainy season started the next day. It rained cats and dogs for several days without stopping.
Karuizawa was not fun when that started. John just sat in the hotel room and made collages. Then we packed and left for Tokyo, then home to N.Y.
We got busy with other things and, as fate would have it, we never went back there again. I was left with the lighter.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” JL