Denny’s, Sunday. Suzuki-san, Hiromi-chan and the kids. Daddy is nowhere to be seen.
The kids hardly see their dad these days. Most mornings I’m unsure whether he’s even been home. If he does warm his side of the bed for a few hours, it’s cooled again by the time the sun comes up. How easily we slipped into being mum and dad.
“Mama! Mamaaaa!” Mi-chan shouts, at exactly the pitch and volume that somehow plugs straight into my nerves. She’s coloured in a picture of a wiener on legs that comes with the kid’s meal. She’s coloured the wiener green. “Cute!” I say, in chorus with the other mums.
Across the restaurant from us, there’s a couple. Japanese guy, Western female. She’s tall and leggy, with brutally cropped hair, and hasn’t made much of an effort to look feminine. He’s tall – very tall, for a Japanese man – and wearing dark jeans and a dark sweater, the kind of clothes you’d wear to commit a highly visible crime.
They’re clearly a couple. They clearly spent the night together. But there’s an absence hanging over the table – of energy, of flirtation, or comfort. Neither looks happy. They look like they’re each tired of not being happy. There’s a sadness clinging to the corners of her smile, a resignation in their playfulness.
“Waaaaah!” says Yu-kun, Suzuki-san’s younger boy. He’s somehow slipped down into the high chair, to the point where the plastic cuts into his legs, and is kicking wildly. It’s only driving him further down, which is winding him up further. The volume increases and we three mums crowd over him, smiling broadly, coaxing soothingly.
By the time he quiets down, somehow, their relationship is over.