Because it’s summer vacation and there is no school the next day, the nights are for fun. Movies. Drinks. Long ambling walks. Dinners at previously unexplored places. I, personally, favor uphill bike rides to meet friends at an izakaya for some midnight socializing. Because it’s 35 degrees, an ice cream cone from the conbini sounds ideal and I buy it from a slightly flirtatious college student, just as soon as I remember that I’m on bike, not on foot.
I figure I can ride and bike, so I position my bike in the center of the sidewalk and, balancing carefully, unwrap my prize. As I prepare to take the first licks, my keitai rings and it’s my father, calling from the States, so I must pick up. A keitai in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other means I can’t ride my bike unless I am feeling particularly stupid, which I’m not. I am, instead, sitting on it after lugging it, with my legs, to the side of the road with one arm outstretched and the other close to my ear. The cicadas, making their usual mind-numbing racket, drown out what my father is saying from all those miles away and in the end, I have no choice but to end the call – I am late to meet my friends, the cicadas won’t shut up, and my ice cream cone is melting down my arm. We agree to talk tomorrow when I am not late, tottering precariously and covered in chocolate ice cream drool. With one hand free, I now begin the long, one-handed bike ride uphill, slurping on my cone as I ride.
Three hours later, long after the last train has left the station, I’m whizzing home downhill on my bike; high on fried potatos, yakitori, gyoza, orange chu hi and silliness. The chu hi came to the table with an actual orange, sliced in half, and served on a metal squeezer for me to squeeze into my chilled glass mug of what looks like water instead of the slightly alcoholic beverage I ordered. Bob said he wasn’t so keen on the set up; what was the point of ordering an orange chu hi at a restaurant if the fruit squeezing wasn’t already done? What was I paying for, after all? Same thing with yaki nikku restaurants – why leave the comforts of home in order to cook raw meat in public? Sure, the raw meat, which is on the menu, is provided for you, but isn’t the point of going to a restaurant to have everything done for you? He had a point. I guess I could have bought my own orange chu hi at the convenience store for 130 yen, ready for my consumption. I could have had it along with my chocolate ice cream. It wasn’t a horrible idea – I’ve always loved the taste of chocolate orange.