Feeling a stream of warmth slithered through from her bottom, Yukiko thought she was bleeding, although she did not sense any pain. She could not see her lower body which was blocked behind a curtain. As the nurse motioned her to stand up, she went to the changing room and wiped her bottom with toilet paper. The fluid was colorless and odorless, she realized it was amniotic fluid.
A few drops of the fluid fell on the ground as Yukiko tossed the toilet paper into the bin. She pulled another piece of toilet paper to clean it up. The fluid that was supposed to protect her child was all wiped clean. Her baby, who has not even grown the limbs, had no hands to wave her goodbye.
Under the dim oven light, the mochi slowly inflated. Seeing its snow-white surface turned golden brown, Yukiko switched off the fire. The whole kitchen was filled with a toasted fragrance.
The new year rice cake should be brown in color with a taste of brown sugar, and pan-fried after dipping in egg wash. To Yukiko, this was a taste to be shared with the family; the fragrance of oil and egg together formed a sweetness that lingered in her memory. In recent years, her parents and other relatives had a habit to travel together during the new year. Yukiko never joined, as she preferred to stay home quietly with Hatuta. Without the festive feast, what came in handy was the frozen food in the freezer and all those unhealthy snacks. The past days were feeble, but those were also the most relaxing days of the year. The only dish she would make was the brown sugar rice cake pan-fried with eggs. However, this year, she even gave up on her only dish, as Hatuta was no longer with her since last month. Perhaps it was her who refused to let Hatuta into her life. She simply grabbed a random pack of Japanese mochi from the supermarket and let the grilled mochi be her company in the lonely new year.
With bare hands, Yukiko wanted to grab the freshly grilled mochi but it was so burning hot that she had to immediately rub her earlobe to cool down her fingers. Placed on a white plate, the inflated mochi looked like a piece of rabbit-shaped cloud, or maybe a cloud-shaped rabbit. It actually most resembled the embryo in her belly that she saw a few days ago at the gynecologist.
Yukiko was lying in bed, having her first ever intravenous injection. The tube was connected to her arm through a needle. She moved to adjust the position of her arm, but no matter how she tried, the needle continued to make her feel uncomfortably painful. As the doctor had an urgent patient to tend to, she had to wait for another two hours for her operation. There’s a novella she brought along lying by her pillow, next to it was the tv remote, but none of them interested her. All she did was staring at the overhead bright white light, wondering if the blurry spot in the lamp shape was dust or the dead bodies of insects.
She hadn’t had any food or drink ever since waking up in the morning. However, she didn’t feel hungry or thirsty; all she felt was pain in her lower abdomen. Her child paid a worthless visit to the world — not being able to speak, this pain was its only, and its last message to bid her farewell.
For the two pieces of mochi, she had one with soy sauce, and cooked the other one in hot water and ate with bean flour and sugar. The grilled mochi looked like a cloud, and now it had turned into a rain cloud.
Yukiko picked up the ultrasound she got a few days ago. She took a sip of her coffee, hesitating if she should tell Hatuta. Would he be happy? Or would he be confused? She had no idea, she couldn’t even figure out her own feeling. She wanted him out of her life, would he come back for her? Or, did she want him back?
Yukiko was trying to draft an SMS, but she kept deleting the text she typed. All of a sudden, she remembered she had already deleted all of Hatuta’s contact upon his departure. She put down her phone and had a bite of the soy sauce mochi. Perhaps she could send Hatuta an email. Giving the idea a little thought, she then had a bite of the grilled sweet mochi. The saltiness of soy sauce stayed on lips, but in her mouth, it was a mix of sweetness, fragrance, and bitterness; she couldn’t distinguish how the mochi actually tasted.
Yukiko stared at the ultrasound picture. In the picture, the gestational sac appeared as a lake in late night, the embryo was the shadow of the new moon reflected on the lake. She never imagined how fragile the shadow of the moon was, even the slightest wind could blow it apart.
“The doctor will be with you in five minutes.” Yukiko nodded to the nurse’s words.
She was lying on an operation chair; her left hand was still getting the intravenous injection, her right hand was connected to the blood pressure monitor, while her wide-opened legs were hung on some racks. She found herself a frog waiting to be dissected to extract from her a yet to be matured egg, merely to satisfy the human curiosity. Bathing in the vivid bright white light, she wondered if that was the sun shining on the lake. Would her body glitter like the surface of the lake? The sunshine was so bright that she wished there would be a cloud to shade her from the untimely illumination.
“Alright, the doctor is here.” Yukiko gently nodded again. The anesthetic came into effect; the sunshine had got dimmer, she was falling asleep. The lake, the moon, the cloud, and her ill-fated child… they all seemed to be once there, but they all seemed to be never there.
6. 混合調味料 B，平均沾在 (5) 之上。完成。
Two styles of baked mochi
2 pieces of mochi, some olive oil
A: Some soy sauce, 1 sheet of seaweed
B: 1 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of bean flour, 2 tsp of crushed sesame
Preheat to 200º.
Brush olive oil on aluminum foil and place mochi on top.
Bake for around 2 minutes until the mochi inflates and turns golden brown.
Brush soy sauce onto one mochi and wrap it with seaweed.
Briefly soak the other piece in warm water and take out.
Mix the seasoning B and evenly apply the mixture onto the mochi from step 5. Ready to serve.