The novelty faded along with the fluorescent-pink club stamp on her hand. She wouldn't miss either: She wanted to think and speak in English again; the thought of her Laura Ashley sheets in Virginia nearly made her cry. Jamie wanted to go home, but the router and server upgrades weren’t finished, and the planes weren't flying. The dreaded Y2K meltdown was four months away, but a premature calamity took down the air-traffic-control system. Tokyo’s airports could be shut down for days. Home wasn’t an option.
The Nokia on her hip shrieked like a psychotic sparrow, shattering the visions of planes, trains, and automobiles – a one-way trip to Dulles. Sam sputtered something vaguely coherent about needing her at the lab.
“Now” was not likely. The lab was in Chuo; Jamie was in Chiyoda. She had stolen away to Hibiya Park, where the fountain resembled Lincoln Center’s. She could be in Chuo in about 30 minutes. Her damp ponytail kissed the back of her neck as she walked across her substitute Central Park. Need a New York weekend; maybe next month? She wasn’t entirely sorry to return to work; distraction could be good. Jamie had miscalculated the benefits of her illicit afternoon. It wasn’t the first time things didn’t compute in Japan.
She had expected more from Tokyo – something restrained, but magical. Four years from now, her wishful thinking would be captured in that movie with the cute pouty girl and that boozy old guy – but that would be then. Today, Tokyo was hot, loud. Not magical.
Jamie liked to believe the homesickness had little to do with Mark. Theirs wasn’t some great love affair. There was no expectation of forever, just secret laughs and light beers. Outside the lab and away from the nightclubs, she wondered whether she really liked him; or whether she liked that he was as lost as she was. Young strangers in an old land, and all that. She figured them as sort of an emulsion, like a Saturday chef's vinaigrette that was slightly palatable. Their work worked at least. He could finish the upgrades, no problem. He probably relished working alone.
No souvenirs. Jeans are no loss. No shirts, no shoes, just service.
Bodies flooded the train station, a sea of sweat and smell.
I will never miss this.
She would transfer to the Monorail, ride on to Osaka airport.
The Nokia shrieked.
“Need you back here now! Mark’s gone!”
“Packed his gear! Went home to his wife! It’s just you now!”
The train arrived in less than five. She rode on to Kayabacho Station in Chuo, firmly in Tokyo’s grip, alone on the edge of a new millennium.