I knew not when I lost consciousness. The last image imprinted on my retina was darkness pure. The first to greet my refreshed senses was the mouth-watering scent from a working kitchen. Like a timid kitten I opened my still-sleepy eyes bit by bit and found myself in a soft bed, neatly and securely tucked in. There were noises in the room beyond the immediate. Driven by curiosity (and hunger), I left the warm comfort to investigate the sources of the deliciousness. At the noise of the open door, a small commotion stirred in the living room:
“You’re awake! Are you okay?”
I was surrounded by three concerning faces, all of whom offered me various things. An elderly lady with a kind smile came up and threw a scarf over my neck. Her husband (?) came up and placed in my hands a mug of hot apple cider. I recognized one of the voices and the gifter of a warm hug as belonging to Kinuyo, my Japanese landlord, but the others I did not. I was not used to being the center of attention and felt my shyness growing apparent as the hot blush swept across my cheek. Realizing my confusion, Kinuyo took me aside and explained that, worried by the power-out last night, she and the elderly couple next door came to check up on me and found me buried underneath a sorry pile of clothes and blankets. I was cold, but the clothes and blankets had shielded me from developing hypothermia. An ambulance was called, and the paramedics judged that I collapsed from fatigue and the cold, but since I was in no dire condition they left me in the hands of the kind strangers who called. They helped move me into Kinuyo’s guest bedroom and the elderly couple stayed to help her cook and to see if I would need anything else when I awake. Being a hermit by nature, I never had more intimate exchanges with my neighbors than the occasional polite nod of acknowledgement. I was therefore moved beyond works of their kindness to a stranger such as myself. They shrugged off my thanks and instead just urged me to sit down to a table full of homemade goods that included miso soup, cabbage rolls, roast beef, custard and pear dumplings. [To be continued]
What is it about food that draws out kindness in strangers? The smell beckons me. It is wise medicine for ones in need of warmth.