New Year’s Eve, at the office, is a quiet one. For a starter, only half of the people who usually crowd the open space actually bothers to turn up, giving the place a library-like atmosphere which, personally, I like a lot. In addition to that, there’s the undeniable truth that, come two o’clock, technicians and engineers would start gazing above their computer screens, away from AutoCAD and towards their managers, waiting for the nod that, inevitably, arrives. Yeah, go home, see you next year.
Not for me, though. I remained there, looking at my laptop, finishing off one bit of work and doing my end-of-year review, waiting for 18.00. At that time, in facts, I planned to sneak into one of the meeting cubicles, next to the landline, waiting for a call. A job interview, from the other side of the ocean. On December 31st. As the interviewer told me, it’d make a good story to tell at dinner parties… If only I got the job, that is.
Unable to wait any longer, my review done, I moved in the cubicle at 17.30. Outside, the lights went off one by one, governed by motion sensors. All I could see, past the frosted glass of the meeting room, was dark. It seemed that, in the entire office, all that remained of the day’s activities was myself, my laptop and my notes, sitting next to a phone.
I wasn’t holding too many hopes for that job; it way too senior for myself, for my experience, but it was nice to have made it to the first stage. I applied half-jokingly, and wasn’t too worried about it; but now, half an hour before the call, I felt my breath becoming shorter and my heartbeat accelerate.
My mind has a funny way of bringing me back from the edge of panic. Seemingly at random, almost by its own will – can you be different from your mind? – it would bring me to someplace better, somewhere calm and peaceful amongst the midst of my memories. Sitting in the tiny room, with my laptop and papers neatly stacked beside the phone, I felt it pressing to go somewhere. I let it, and it took me back to Kyoto.
It took me to the Nishi Hongan-ji temple, to its beautiful wooden pavillion curving up towards the sky:
To the Yasaka shrine pagoda, overlooking Gion and its quiet alleyways:
To the delightful and delicate pavilions of Chion, Shoren, Nanzen and Tenryu temples:
And, finally, it made me glide past the statues of countless Buddhas, monks and depictions of spirits and kami:
Eventually, I “returned”. My breath was normal and pulse relaxed. Shortly afterwards, the phone rang. I picked up the receiver, smiled and gave it my best. It might not be enough, but I sure have no regrets. Happy New Year to you all.