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The next day too, Miss Ohtani didn’t show up. My worrying intensified. As I thought about how best to explain my conduct, I started to see that although my failure to remove the envelope might in itself be a forgivable oversight, not everyone would consider my overall behaviour as entirely rational. Especially given how, in reality, I knew almost nothing about the Takarazuka woman. I imagined myself describing events to our human resources head, a 50-year-old single woman. The more I thought about it, the more idiotic I felt. Not about giving the envelope to Miss Ohtani, but about all my complex feelings toward the Takarazuka woman.
On the train home I buried my face in a book, hiding from the other passengers. Love is blind, yes. But need love be pointless, imbecilic, humiliating and self-harmful? If only Miss Ohtani could keep the matter quiet, I’d do anything to show my gratitude. Yet I couldn’t imagine anything she might want from me. That she hadn’t shown up for two days did not augur well.
Arriving home, I found an envelope made from pale yellow traditional Japanese rice paper, with a postmark indicating it had been sent from Okinawa two days earlier. My name and address had been written by inkbrush. The calligraphy was refined, its gracefulness studded with sparks of drama. Inside was a letter from Miss Ohtani, on the same handmade paper and in the same exquisite hand.
The letter continued through several pages, but its essence was something like this: Discovering my words among the flowers had been a great surprise, and Miss Ohtani was grateful I’d had the thoughtfulness to present them just before her annual vacation, allowing her the longest possible time to think before seeing me again at work. More than a year earlier she’d recognized that I was a true gentleman and highly sensitive to other people’s feelings. She understood how different I was from most men, particularly the other foreigners in our office. For these reasons, she’d always been extremely happy to receive flowers from me. While she’d never imagined I had any special feelings towards her, now she realizes I must have been distributing the bouquets in order to get a better sense of the true character of the women in our office. This, she presumed, I did in order to find a suitable marriage partner. She was overwhelmed with honour that I’d chosen her. Lastly, she presumed I must expect our families to meet before possibly making a formal proposal, and in any event it was her duty to consider carefully her parents’ views. Meanwhile, she would, out of respect for me, force herself to be patient, and would look forward, from the profound depths of her heart — from depths deeper than she had known existed — to getting to know me better. The letter was signed, “Takara Ohtani.”
I have not seen the Takarazuka woman since the day I received that letter, nearly six months ago. Nobody but Denny knew about my feelings towards her or my resulting odd behaviour. And he told no one. When we talked further, I realized that some of the things he’d said — like the drone-mounted camera — had been intended to hasten my understanding of the ridiculousness of it all. Denny has been a good friend.
And as for Takara Ohtani and me? I have no doubt whatsoever that we shall together live out our days in pure happiness.