A young woman sits on a bench at a Tokyo bus stop. She holds a baby close to her breast. It’s a cool winter day, and the pair has a blanket wrapped about them. Bus after bus passes. Buses for Shinjuku via Akebonobashi. Buses for Iidabashi Station. Buses that come from Shin-Okubo. Green buses with low ceilings and wooden plank floors, green plastic rings that hang to eye level.
The baby coos and gaas and fumbles with the soft, frayed edges of the blanket near her face. There is moisture in the air. Not enough moisture for an umbrella, but enough to let the chill wind bite through to bone. Even though the day is damp, there is no mistaking the water on this woman’s face: tears.
The woman and child have been here all afternoon. Occasionally a bus stops before them, opens its doors. The driver waits for them to ascend, but the young woman looks straight ahead. The baby coos. The tears continue their slow trickle down the woman’s face. The bus moves on without them.
Toward six o’clock the young woman will stand and walk to the corner. She will go into the grocery store and buy a daikon, a block of tofu, some miso, and a package of fresh shrimp. When she gets home she’ll feed the baby and change her diaper. She’ll put the baby in a playpen in a corner of the kitchen. Only then will she begin cooking supper, pass a crooked wrist across the holy oval of her face, and dry her dark, smooth cheeks.