I ordered chicken lasagna but the dish before me looked anything but. It had two rocket leaves curled up at the top, dusted in sprinklings of grated Parmesan cheese. Instead of tidy layers of pasta, bechamel sauce, cheeses and chicken ragu, my lasagna resembled a molehill with broken slabs of pasta piled on top of each other.
I glanced around. There was only one other customer. A young man with a tattoo on his biceps. He sat facing me at my 11 o’clock, nursing a hot pot of Earl Grey and reading a magazine. I hummed along to Misty Blue playing at the background.
I sliced through the side of my lasagna with the tine of my fork and took a bite. For something that was a visual disaster, I must say it was surprisingly tasty. I positioned my phone in front of the lasagna, snapped a photo and whatsapped it over to you.
“Enjoying a quiet lunch with some pasta and jazzy music,” I wrote, “what a treat!”
“I am in a bar in Tokyo, having my lunch and enjoying jazz music too.” you wrote back.
“Pray tell, is there a grey cat curled up somewhere on the cupboard, maybe?”
At that moment, my phone rang. You were laughing at the other end.
“Just so you know I am not making this up, I am going to pass this phone to the bloke behind the counter.”
The man behind the counter said that his name is Haruki.
I giggled. The young man looked up from his magazine, scowling.
“Did you hear what the man said?” you were back on the line.
“Oh..c’mon..you don’t expect me to buy that, do you? You guys are probably rolling on the floor laughing at my expense.” I smirked. I had made the mistake of confessing to you that the only other guy who I had ever been totally head over heels infatuated with was Haruki Murakami, the renowned Japanese novelist.
“Will you be back this weekend? I miss you.”
You sighed. “I can’t, babe. I have to tie some loose ends. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Can I fly over instead?”
“Not this time. I need you to hold the fort while I am away.” You sounded strangely muffled as though you had your hand over the mouthpiece.
Something inside me shifted; like the lasagna whose tidy middle portion had expanded during cooking and forced upwards like tectonic plates. Because as you said goodbye, I swore I heard a high-pitched lady’s voice very close to you gushed, “Ikimashou ka?” – Shall we go?