Apartment stories.

April 5th, 2014, 11pm

Some say concrete apartments are too cold and makes them uneasy. Concrete apartments are my only choice. I love the simplicity and the clean lines. I stare into my walls for hours on end thinking of nothing, everything.

My building inspires me. I think of many things often and many things daily, walking down the corridor and riding the elevator up and down. It’s the perfect start and finish to my days and now, part of my routine.

I am so grateful I found this apartment.


Tonight the closing elevator doors are about to re-open for the first time since I moved into this building. My eyes light up. I’ve waited for this moment for a month. This is the first time I will see someone else who lives here.

I don’t have the time to imagine what this neighbor will be like, for before the doors fully re-open, in rushes a sharply dressed man.

He is not Japanese. A New Yorker, probably. I can tell by his hurried aura and it makes me nostalgic for NY. His brows are furrowed and he makes no eye contact. His arms are filled with shopping bags. He looks a bit angry.

I step back to give him room. He doesn’t acknowledge the gesture.

A thin, elegant Japanese woman jumps into the elevator a second later. She was running a bit to make the elevator with him but she is still perfectly put together. Not a strand of hair is out of place and zero wrinkles on her clothes. Her make-up is perfect. I can’t help but to stare — she is stunning.

She steps towards the man. The man doesn’t look twice towards her direction. He looks irritated.

Are the bags too heavy? Is he is carrying too many? That’s it. It has to be the overload of boutique bags, stuffed with over priced things he is stuck carrying that is annoying him. And that annoyance is the reason he is thinking of himself, rather than the woman who is with him.

He didn’t even hold the doors for her… like she’s not there with him. Non-existent.

I’m trying not to look at them but I can’t help it. I am curious. Curious with his expression. Curious how she will or won’t react. I am curious with their body language. Why are they standing so far apart?

She presses the “P” button.

Oh. They live in the penthouse suite.

We ride up. My building is only seven floors. The ride feels like an eternity.


I am on the penthouse floor with them. I forgot to press the button to my floor. I turn my head away. This is so awkward.

The doors open and the man finally acknowledges my presence. He briefly glances back at me eyebrows still furrowed, now a bit puzzled it seems but only for a quick moment. He snaps his head back forward, exiting the elevator in a rush, shifting his body to the side. He can’t fit through the doors with all the bags.

The woman follows his lead. She briefly raises her head and eyes to look back at me. She smiles a polite smile. Puts her head back down and rushes after him.

The doors close.

This time I remember to press the button. Back down I go. I wonder why they weren’t talking. Why they were standing so far apart. Why they weren’t even looking at each other.

I wonder if they still laugh at each others’ jokes. Speak in a secret language with silly phrases that make no sense to anyone except to those we create special bonds with.

Do they still talk to each other during meals? Do they whisper and laugh in bed every night until one or the other falls asleep? Do they walk down the street hand in hand? Did they ever do those things? Wait, don’t all couples do?

…and I snap out of it. Why do I even care? It’s really none of my business. Deep down, I know why I care, why I’m spending so much time thinking about the brief encounter. I do not want to be them.


I am back on the first floor. I don’t want to get off yet so I continue riding up and down. What am I doing? Why don’t I want to get off?

I know. I am waiting. Waiting and secretly hoping for another couple — maybe the couple in the penthouse — to get on the elevator. This couple will make me envious of them. This couple enjoys each other and loves each other and can’t get enough of each other so much, anyone around them can immediately see their love. Feel the bond and want it for themselves.

Seeing many couples who make my heart smile is one thing I miss about the US.

I miss the unabashed, unapologetic and sometimes overbearing openness. I miss the ability to wear emotions on my sleeve when I choose to. I want to laugh out loud and be as silly as I want in public.

It took moving to Japan to realize how freeing that choice of expression is, and how seeing that freedom of expression from others gives me hope, and in the case of love, validation, that I am not expecting too much from a relationship. Too much from love. That it’s okay to love like that. And that love like that exists.

That’s when I remind myself the Japanese culture is different. It is refrained with a subtlety that grows on you. Undoing the layers and understanding the complexity of my people and this country, requires time and a patience I lack in this moment. Or perhaps never had to begin with…


I am still riding the elevator and realize I need this illogical sense of hope and validation I get by watching others, more so now than ever before. Perhaps I finally miss the States? Or maybe — just maybe — that hope is necessary for my broken heart and damaged soul that are still destroyed, betrayed by the one man I loved so much I gave my all to, is still healing. I want to see unapologetically happy couples who seem as though they can’t get enough of each other. I want to see many and want to see them often as I do in the US — but not enough in Tokyo.

And I want a couple like that to live in my building.

Yiling, Christine, Sanna, Ragini and 18 others said thanks.

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Mona Nomura

Hi is my personal and creative outlet. Happy to be here.

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