It’s at a winter market in Berlin that it finally hits you. You’ve just blown the last of your prize money on another pint of beer and a wooden Christmas ornament that nobody needs, one shaped like a dove with its wings spread. You’ve spent the whole night stuffing your face with currywurst. Now, all the fairy lights are sparklers going off in your head; you were cold a moment ago, so cold, but there is a furnace in your gut that's flared up suddenly. The froth on your lips is turning sour. You find an empty spot along the boulevard to sit down while the world spins.
A choir is singing on the steps of the church across the road. People walk by, children walk by, lovers walk by. O night, o holy night, o night divine. You put down your mug and take out your phone. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you type a dozen times over, riddled with typos, and then you laugh and delete everything.
People say he is the sensible one of the two of you, but on the day you tell him you’re taking a break from university, it is he who skips class. It is he who says, let’s go to the sea, Natsuya, and he rents the car and drives an hour and a half to Kamakura. You’re just there for the ride, with a bag of crisps and a six-pack of Coke in the backseat.
It’s not like I’m dropping out, you say. You are not looking at him. You are looking out the window, counting the transmission towers. The telephone wires cut the blue sky into jagged halves.
He drives on for a long time before he answers. When he finally opens his mouth, it is to say, I don’t need you to explain yourself. The sea is warm when you get there. You are dying to throw off your shirt, pull him in and forget everything. You have never wanted anything more desperately, but he stands at the shore, waves lapping at his ankles, and you hesitate.
I love you, you say, but I need to go.
I love you, he says, but I don’t know where you’re going.
You can’t think of anything to say, so you kiss him, and you kiss him again and his fingers dig into your ribs and you knock his glasses off with the bridge of your nose. The day after you leave, he cuts his hair.
When you wake up on rumpled sheets in your hotel room, the wooden dove is clasped in your hand. It is paler in the morning light. So pale, so delicately carved; handmade, the seller in the market had told you as he pressed it into your open palm. You remember how it felt then, closing your fingers around it. This dove does not carry an olive branch. It is not here for peace, and you think that’s what made you think of him.