Daisuke and I take a stroll through the magnificent autumnal beauty of Bath, packed with nostalgia for me, beckoning with novelty to him, producing an enjoyable blend of Pulteney Bridge souvenir shopping, stories of old dates and cameras dropped in the river, memories of pubs crawled through on my ceaseless quest to get through my masters degree, academically and emotionally. We take a long walk to the Royal Crescent, do yoga poses in the giant park before it, witness a hot air balloon getting prepared for take off in Royal Victoria Park opposite the golf course, meet an exuberant dog jumping up to stretch his playful teeth into my face, do some present shopping at Waitrose and have a cup of tea and a caramel square at the cafe next to it. This feels so familiar I am tempted to walk straight back home, review the vocab for tomorrow morning’s consecutive interpreting class, and prepare myself for a bout on the mat with mighty P.
We meet Lawrence and Tony and drive to Hedley Hall. I spot P.’s bald head through the window and know immediately it is him. Thinner. Paler. But when I stand in front of him, he is still a giant, still mighty if not mightier. Green eyes are blazing brazenly from the depths of his private battlefield. I have envisioned this moment, heard myself ask a dozen times: ‘How hard may I squeeze you?’ ‘Don’t squeeze too hard,’ he answers the question before it is asked. Maybe his powers have been elevated onto yet another plane, and he has already heard me. He does seem to be hovering in the clouds on a carpet of ki at the same time as being here. I double check his feet have not escaped. They haven’t.
During class, P. teaches newcomers. While I enjoy a rare practice with Andrew Miller, one of my literary heroes, he gets Daisuke involved and throws him on one of the girls’ heads. Later, he takes his hand and tells him straight-faced: ‘You must marry her.’ Then finally, my favorite pirate steals me from my partner. Here I am. On the mat with P. I used to go home bruised and blissed out from tusk to tail after these stormy bouts of rage, rapture, and wicked wizardry. In spite of him feeding me with home made chocolate covered figs and thinking up all kinds of handicaps to make it easier for me to win. This time, the handicap consists of him having to fight another much mightier opponent at the same time, a demon that has his insides in a vise, tightening his grip as we fight. We engage in bouts of pushing hands. ’Something I could enjoy.’ Yes. Every moment of it. And he still blows me away with his sudden bursts of sneaky ki that completely throw me off balance. I half-jokingly counter with ridiculous youthful backbends à la Drunken Master instead of admitting defeat, and draw larger green eyes from him. ‘Come on!’ I silently will him, simultaneously casting the evil eye at the demon wringing his guts, ‘I know you’re really holding the key to the fountain of youth in your shark teeth!’
After practice, we go to the pub. On the way, I see P. walking on his own, looking like he is no longer filling his large brown leather jacket - the one I wore last time we met, when I carried enormous chunks of firewood through his woodland like a Clydesdale, sweating happily under his instructions in wintery Bath. I take his arm and hook it into mine. ‘There ARE arms in these sleeves!’
At the pub, P. drinks a half of Kingston Press, nursing it forever. ‘I can’t drink anymore.’ But then he proceeds to order a whiskey and sips it to the end, making an inexplicable smile settle deep in my face as if punched into shape by golden liquid. I am star struck and thrilled to talk to Andrew Miller (Ingenious Pain), handsome, with lucid clear eyes that see in the dark like cats' eyes, and manage to perceive a picture of all this nobody else can see until he hurries home and writes it down. Andrew Miller giving me advice on publishing, what an honor. And what bliss! I get to practice aikido with two of my favorite heroes in one night and then have one on my right and the other across from me at the pub. Before we leave I grab P.’s shoulders and knead them gently, caressing precious moments of life, ichidaiji pulsing through my veins on wings of Kingston Press.
We walk back to the church. P.’s work - a church turned community welfare center, full of activities that enrich people’s lives. He points out the sofas, warns us not to sleep on the bean bag as we will not be able to get up, shows us the tea, the kettle, a bag of home made bread. And then we stand outside and part.
‘See you in Heaven!’ In Heaven? I am not sure I’ll make it there, but I’m in Heaven now, my friend, with your ridiculous green eyes shining a mixture of eternal victory, compulsive mischief, equally compulsive charity, and, yes, love on me right now. See you? I will, yes.
And so ends the last leg of our journey. After another brief stop in Hannover, and another farewell, Daisuke is moving on to Berlin, Salamanca, Barcelona, to discover new expanses of our richly laden European coffee table. He has been great company, a good sputnik, and, as always, an inspiring fellow student. I for my part am off back to Hawai’i, the country of aloha, to keep growing my new roots among hibiscus petals and night blooming jasmine, to worship Pele, respect Her land, and humbly import the message of ichidaiji. Aloha. Live, friends. Here. And now.