My throat had become dry of attempts at conversation. Even now I couldn’t think of any new topic or question to try. I had to accept that Ayumi just wouldn’t talk to me. Of course I found it difficult, after all we’d only known each other a couple of weeks, and usually people are at their best on first impressions. But no matter if I was asking about weather, how her day was, where the closest metro station is, she’d give me the same solemn stare and barely utter a word.
So for our third week in residence, I returned the favour. When she would come home from work, and she would sweep past me to the kitchen fridge, I kept my eyes locked on my book and never said a word. She would grab food and then lock herself away in another room. Our interaction lasted only long enough for a bitter thought to strike out. How alone she must be.
I was reading Murakami when my voice were called out, “Shigihara, have you ever been to Brighton?”
In the time it took to process exactly who was speaking and what they had said, I found Ayumi’s expression directly on me. Her footsteps were so swift I’d barely registered her presence. Her patience laid easily in her stance while she waited for me to respond.
“No I’ve never been.”
“It’s a beautiful place. I can sit for hours on the beach. Looking at the pier and browsing the art shops they have there. That canvas is from my favourite,” she pointed at the Banksy image on the wall, “and they have the best food there. Some places even have bottomless coffee. If you get a chance to go I would take it. It’s only an hour on train from here. I go for at least a day every year, but haven’t made it this time.”
I’d heard every ramble. But nothing made sense, so I said the only thing that came to my mind, “Why are you telling me this?”
Her gaze had drifted to the Banksy while she was talking. Now it returned to me again, “what do you mean?”
“You never want to talk to me. So why are you telling me this now?”
It could have garnered a dangerous reaction. Instead she gave me something I hadn’t seen before. A smile. My body froze regardless of my safety.
“I’m sorry Shigihara, I was under the impression talking is something you do for yourself. Listening is what you do for other people,” and then after my silence, as though to prove a point, she added, “how did your article go?”
“I think it went well, thank you.”
“You came to terms with Murakami, I see.”
“Thought it couldn’t hurt to give him another go.”
She nodded, “that’s good. He was always a favourite of mine,” and proceeded out of the kitchen back on the routine I’d become accustomed to, “especially the line: deep rivers run quiet.”