Silence throughout the house at 7:45pm. If I close my eyes I can almost recall my peaceful previous life. A life of unfettered choice. Of a lone wolf, walking the wilds of this world, hunting his prey as he sees fit and sleeping where he chooses.
As I open my eyes again, to floors strewn with a miscellany of toys and a fish tank that has somehow fallen into my pit of responsibility, I have to remind myself that I chose this.
Not so long ago I was content to drift along on the currents of circumstance - which is easy to do when you are constantly landing on new and inviting shores. But even the most exciting of prospects will eventually lose their luster if their shine resembles all others that have come before. I am reminded of a kid I met in a guest house in Malaysia; he'd given up a life of criss-crossing the Pacific as a deckhand on the boats of the super-rich to spend days at a time hiking the rain forest in Tamana Negara, his boots filling with leeches along the way. 'Another day, another deserted white-sand tropical paradise,' he said, wiping at the smears of blood on his feet. 'It gets boring.'
Akita and Matsumoto don't qualify as tropical paradises, but eventually I came to understand what he was saying. So I left my peripatetic, epicurean life with the English conversation school and threw myself into the unknowns of marriage and my nascent dreams of living off the written word.
Life has since become the greatest paradox I could ever imagine.
Free from all responsibility save the ones I choose to assume, I find myself a full-time prisoner. I thought I'd hit the jackpot when my wife told me she didn't mind how much or little I was working, so long as we had food on the table. What I failed to consider was the improbability of getting a shred of thoughtful writing in with a milk-swilling, diaper-dirtying, ear-grating newborn boy around. He took naps, of course, but they never seemed to last very long. Especially to a guy who types with two fingers and has the concentration span of a coke addict.
Fast-forward to now, that little boy is running around speaking two languages - though all he ever seems to say in either of them is 'Let's play cars together.' The kid is tenacious, I'll give him that. And that newborn has been replaced with a carbon copy, save for a less easily-satiable appetite and a stronger set of pipes. The only control I have over my daily life now is choosing which chores to do and when. 'I can't hold Seiji, I'm busy filling the laundry machine with the used bath water.' 'Sorry Yamato, I can't play cars, I'm washing the dishes so we can use them again tomorrow.' And for a few more moments, my life still belongs to me.
The teaching jobs I pick up now serve as a coffee break amid the chaos of working (or not) from home. (I keep mentioning to my wife how expensive rice has become recently.)
As for the ongoing pursuit of traveling the world with pencil and paper, I take my own baby steps when everyone else has finally fallen asleep. This evening was an absolute anomaly. And, ultimately, short-lived. But they'll all fall back asleep before long, and I'll fire up another cup of 10pm joe and continue down this road of freedom I've chosen.
Once I've finished the dishes.