I am seven years old.
In the still of afternoon, I stop.
The scent of frangipanis hovers at the door.
Heat sticks to the windows like gritty oil.
I sink into the cool corner of the library.
Essence of ink on musty paper.
Just me and the book.
I am lost in the story.
A little girl in Japan.
Shopping with her mother in the twilight.
Streets lined with whimsical lanterns.
Colours ooze from the pages.
The girl wants to buy a pair of clogs.
The joy of shiny new clogs!
“It’s like a garden, or a room, or a dream that you keep on trying to find….”~Deacon Blue
I kept on trying to find it.
For 32 years I thought about the book.
Until all I was left with was the whimsical lanterns and oozing colours.
They hung on for dear life in my memory.
I wanted so much to be that little girl.
The delight of shopping for new shoes!
I don’t think that thrill has ever left me.
Time had a way of clouding over the details.
Year after year.
Page after page.
I forgot what colour the clogs were.
I forgot how the story ended.
Until eventually I could not even remember the title.
Every so often I fondly remembered it.
And longed for it.
But it was lost.
Lost in time.
Or perhaps I was lost.
It couldn’t find me.
It sneaked away.
Out of my memory at the right times.
Into my memory at the wrong times.
And then I searched for it.
With time the object of my search became sweeter with the pursuit.
I looked in bookshops and libraries all over the world.
I asked people, many people.
Until I eventually gave up.
If I couldn’t find the book, I thought I’d try to find some clogs.
Real ones. From Japan.
And so another little obsession started.
I came so close.
I found myself at 22 in an overnight stopover in Tokyo.
I was limited to the hotel shop. But I did find some clogs!
And they were outlandishly expensive.
So I baulked at the price.
In hindsight, I kick myself repeatedly.
Instead I came home with this cheap souvenir (now weathered with time).
A miniature replica on a keyring.
(And unbeknownst to me then, I had chosen the right colour).
Even the slightest fulfilment of an obsession is so satisfying, you see.
Then just a few weeks ago the book sneaked into my memory again.
It whispered in my head.
I thought I’d ask the world.
I put it out there.
My information was shoddy.
My memory was hazy and I could barely articulate what I was looking for.
One person out there knew about it.
Yes, they had seen it.
They vaguely remembered the author’s name.
They thought the clogs were red.
Yes, of course they were red!
With those leads I tapped in some words on my keyboard.
I had a title.
It was for sale.
I ordered it.
And a week later it arrived on my doorstep.
Brown paper package.
The search was over.
I finally found it.
Or perhaps it was with me all along.