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Fiction #73
(published Early, 2002)
Leaves of Absence
by Marcy Jarvis

The first time Yoshiko left home, it was in a hurry, taking the train west across the Canadian Rockies and leaving behind her grieving Japanese-American family (sitting around the card table where they played Go to pass the time and forget), leaving the boyfriend who had dumped her, too. He'd gone so far as to drive her the two hours north to Montreal to see her off on the train; considerate, wasn't he? She looked around the Pacific northwest in a stupor for a few weeks before heading south, by Greyhound, trading a backpack of clothes for a bag of organic produce with a Mexican migrant worker along for the ride. In the desert, she accumulated new clothing from a giveaway shop called Ferguson's in Plywood City— the makeshift commune where she landed— including a ribbed lavender bodystocking which she wore once to a Halloween party, feeling very sexy and a little ashamed. This she left behind on the communal dining table — a slab of precast concrete, along with the New York Times Cookbook her jilting lover had given her. The cover depicted a Gauginesque lion and lioness on the prowl over which he'd written as a kind of goodbye - This is us.

She met someone new and together they drove east in a VW bug. The sign in the rear windshield read Where the Blue Winds Begin or Bust. They broke up after two days, the blue wind boy and she, and she wound up house-sitting for an heiress in a major Midwestern city. She went through a series of lovers whom she entertained in stylish luxury there— "a regular geisha," her friends said. They all came on strong but didn't amount to beans outside bed. She sat chain-smoking for hours in her cotton yukata — only her foolish friends called it a kimono - at the vintage aluminum and chrome kitchen table, contemplating her next move. When she skipped out, she took a pair of the heiress's HanesHerWay and some eyeliner but left behind the blue flannel sheets she'd so admired and had had great sex in.

She set up housekeeping in Greenwich village, a tiny flat over Zito's Bakery, taking in a succession of room-mates to make the rent and from whom she inherited: a drafting table, a wood-simulated computer stand and a small gate-legged table. Unused to the peculiarly American trait of acquiring furniture, these she, in turn, left for the next tenant when she hooked up with a blonde banjo player, going so far as to marry the man. They zigzagged the country playing folk festivals and rainbow gatherings until she couldn't take the intransigence any more.

Their first apartment was the second story of a chicken coop somewhere in western Pennsylvania — a real dump— where cats, after the mice the farmer'd poisoned, died and rotted under the floor boards. Such a contrast to the clean grass smell of the tatami mats she'd grown up with. Musicians filtered in and out, showing up for entire weekends, sometimes longer, to jam. She left behind a lot of wedding gifts, including two gigantic ceramic platters which exceeded the width of the coffee table and proved useless in bolstering her hopelessly un-Japanese hostessing skills, as well as a kitten who'd enjoyed its brief adoption.

In a last ditch effort to capture a little domestic tranquility, she swore off men and rented a cottage in the deep south. It was just large enough to accommodate the 12-foot-long harvest table (without any leaves - just a single slab of pine) she'd inherited from an elderly maiden aunt along with five thousand dollars in starting-over money. She quickly acclimated to the new environs; took up digging antique bottles and lived there for several years, a small eternity. When the tables turned, she left behind not only an old glass amethyst insulator on a window sill (a deliberate gesture) but also a balloon which had lost its helium and bobbed helplessly in one corner of the bedroom, having escaped her notice.

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