Summer is the season for kissing. That’s what her friend Kikue used to say, Yoshiko suddenly remembered as she took in the strong fragrance of the summer’s night through the screen door.
Yoshiko had just turned seventy-five. She had never had sex and hadn’t kissed anyone either. She had never even once had intercourse with her older husband, who had died five years earlier. Both of their daughters had been conceived by artificial insemination, and she was still a virgin when she became a mother. Both daughters were now married, and she was thoroughly enjoying living alone in the house her husband had left to her.
In all other respects she had lived an absolutely normal life, marrying, having a family, and getting old. Even so, the moment she let drop in some conversation or other that “I have never had that experience, you see,” she would get a shocked reaction: “What? Why? I mean, what about your children? Eh? Artificial insemination? Why on earth would you do that?” Everyone would start nosily inquiring into the details of Yoshiko’s sexual orientation and sex life, and ultimately she got fed up with this and made sure to keep quiet about it. When she said nothing, everyone treated her
as an ordinary person. Yoshiko thought this kind of response from people was shallow, cruel, and arrogant.
She was just thinking it was about time to run her bath when her cell phone rang.
It was Kikue, who lived nearby.
“Hello, it’s me,” she said. “Won’t you come over tonight? My little sister just sent me a box of peaches, and I don’t know what to do with them. You were good at making that stuff, weren’t you? You know, that boiled fruit thing.”
“That’s the stuff. Come and make some. I get off work at ten, so come and meet me at the store. About an hour from now, okay?”
“Come on, you’re not trying to take an elderly woman for a night stroll, are you? Not that I mind, though.”
She’d come to know Kikue, who was the same age as she was, in a club at the local community center. Kikue had this wayward side to her that Yoshiko didn’t dislike. She had remained single her whole life, and after retiring from her job she’d been living off her pension and the wages from her part-time job at the local convenience store. Yoshiko had been taken aback by her working a night shift where she had to briskly carry around heavy cardboard boxes, but Kikue coolly boasted, “I grew up on a farm, so this is nothing. It just takes a kind of discipline.”
Yoshiko walked through the residential area to the store where Kikue worked, arriving just as Kikue was leaving.
“Don’t you have a date tonight?” Yoshiko asked teasingly.
“Don’t be silly. I go on dates only when it’s raining. Nights as pleasant as this feel too wholesome for kissing on the street,” Kikue replied primly.
Kikue had never experienced marriage, but she loved sex, and even now she was always chatting up men in the store, and she often went to bed with boys forty or fifty years younger than herself. She bragged about how even the manager was scared of her, calling her a nymphomaniac.
The two elderly women walked along the dark street together. In this residential area at night, with hardly a soul in sight, the noise of traffic echoed like the sound of waves.
Kikue took something out of the convenience store bag she was carrying. “Would you like one of these?” It was a plastic package of sweet warabimochi dumplings. “They were near the sell-by date and about to be thrown out, so I bought them. They’re nicely chilled and delicious.”
As they walked, Kikue poured some molasses syrup over the dumplings and put one in her mouth.
“You know, warabimochi resemble a boy’s tongue. That’s why I wanted to eat them. I feel like I’m kissing someone.”
“Really? Well, I don’t want one then,” Yoshiko said, and shrugged.
“Oh dear, I shouldn’t have said that.” Kikue laughed.
Despite being polar opposites, they really were very alike. When Yoshiko had confessed that she was a virgin, all Kikue said was, “Really?”
“Well, just one then,” Yoshiko said, taking one. Putting it to her mouth, she tore off a soft lump with her teeth and felt a rush of satisfaction.
“Such a passionate kiss!” Kikue laughed again, and their footsteps rang out brightly in the hushed night streets.