Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sizzle and fade

On the Chinese calendar today is known as "the big heat" and as if human designations meant something to Mother Nature, today duly hit 36 degrees, easily the hottest day of the summer thus far. I did my longest run, 36 minutes, in 30 degree heat at 8:30am this morning. It's hot. Psychologically I have no trouble with being hot but my body is another story. I have rashes coming up itchily on all parts of my body; I sweat even in the cool; and I can't sleep at times. Air conditioned life is not easy either, yoyo-ing between hot and cold might be half the problem.

The news that another distant friend died reached me today. He is and was Tetsuya Umehara, a student I met possibly in Chinese class although may have also been some management class at university before I went to Taiwan. He was from a rich Japanese family, lived in a big expensive apartment on Nelson Street in the CBD. He was extremely intelligent but not given to much in the way of moral introspection. One frequent topic of discussion behind his back was how he treated his two off-and-on-again girlfriends, Yuki and Jessica. They were both good natured girls, both beautiful and both woefully treated. Please excuse me speaking ill of the dead. I remember having some distaste for his treatment of a mutual Japanese friend who he socially ostracised in a kind of Japanese group action against an individual, something I didn't understand.

But he was a good friend. He was easy with other people. I remember how a friend and I noticed his penchant for having tissue boxes in his car and called him Tissue-ah. After he quickly learned Chinese curse words, Chinese friends asked him to swear in Japanese, upon which they said it sounded like a dog barking. We all laughed. He didn't care. He would keep talking regardless. In Taiwan I got an e-mail from him. He was coming! He called me out and we ate; we went to a hot spring in Wulai, probably the best spa experience of my life. I was floating after it. And it became the hot spring experience I cruelly measure all others to.

He died almost a week ago. His Facebook profile (albeit edited) says: "Good night everyone!" in Japanese on the day that he is said to have died. People don't tend to focus on the causes of deaths. This was either a sudden health condition or his own hand. It doesn't matter.

Death was nice as a theoretical construct to think philosophically about, but as we age it's something that we need to adjust to emotionally and spiritually. I finished a novel, Norwegian Wood, just last week. It's written by Haruki Murakami, probably the most well known Japanese writer. There's plenty of death in it. In the heat, I can only ponder momentarily about the juxtaposition of real and fictional extinction.

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