“You’re thinking of snow, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I say, “how do you know that?”
“You talk about it in your sleep.”
“Yes. Little snippets here and there. Brief descriptions of the world you desire to be real more than the one you live in.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know full well what it means.”
“Don’t play stupid with me. We both know this place plays second fiddle to what’s inside your head.”
Such an accusation hurts, and yet it’s deserved. As much as I try to remain present, I can’t help but be lured by the bright lights of elsewhere.
“It’s not that I don’t care,” I begin.
She cuts me off.
“I know you care, but how I wish you were less over there, and a little more over here.”
Looking at the birds in the trees, her fingers caress my waist as Hachikō barks.
“It’s just that the world around me has never lived up to my expectations, whereas the world inside my head is limitless. Perhaps it’s the result of a perfect childhood that promised too much.”
“Nothing lives up to a perfect childhood that promises too much,” she sighs.
“Once mine came to an end, I did everything I could to keep the magic alive. Retreating within was the best thing I could do because my mind seemed to be the one place they couldn’t get to.”
“They?” she asks.
“Yeah, they—everyone else. Those that never believed.”
Resting her head against my shoulder, I hear her belly rumble. Patting it as if she were pregnant, I see her eyes searching the courtyard for where best to grab some food. She wants donuts, but it looks like we’ll have to settle for noodles.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate you, you know that, right?”
“Of course, I know how it is,” she says with a shrug.
Leading her beneath the otherworldly oak tree, Hachikō stands on his hind legs and appears to be worshipping either the tree or the birds perched on its branches. The fur on his body is kissed by the yellow rays of the dying sun, and as he sticks out his tongue, his raised paws cast shadows at my feet that remind me of the silhouettes on my bedroom wall my dad would make when I was a kid. After reading me a bedtime story, he would tuck me under the covers before bringing to life the shapes of animals, some I knew and others which to this day remained a mystery. I knew they weren’t real. The proof was before my very eyes in my dad’s wrinkled hands, and yet how these eyes of mine would widen at the sight of the simple wonders summoned by mere shadow. Scratching the dog on the head, I raise my head and see the fractured sky through the many leaves and branches. The birds within watch me, curious as to my intentions. Meeko is none too impressed. She’s never liked birds.
“Dirty birds,” she growls.