It’s a quiet Sunday evening in Japan and a family are gathered around a table, singing “Happy Birthday” to their daughter. The cake in front of her is delicately layered with fudge and sat together in the very centre are two candles, a number “1” and “0”. On the edge there is a rich cream swirled all around, with fresh sliced strawberries sitting perfectly on top. Everyone is cheering except the only eldest son “Katsumi” who staggers upstairs, unimpressed by it all.
People are speaking a lot more about mental health and it’s great. Sadly it’s just not the way I expected. Society is leaning towards sugar coating the whole idea of it like it’s some misconception we fumbled across. A piece of gum found under a desk that had been stuck there weeks ago.
Growing up I was always told by my dad to “lose weight” “eat more fruit” “be more like so and so”... I came to terms with the fact that I would never be good enough, whatever that meant. I was far from confident and most definitely ate food for comfort. I absolutely hated my image and pictures were a painful reminder for me every time. My brother who I had been living with throughout my childhood also had joined the team and constantly made fun of my weight. There clearly wasn’t anything more amusing than to make me miserable.
The younger version of me didn’t realise. I always seemed to shrug it off as “one of those days”. I started to realise my love for sleep wasn’t out of laziness, it wasn’t solely because I was overly active that day. It was because I was emotionally and mentally drained; to the point where I just didn’t want to be awake anymore. I stayed in my room a lot, mostly because I felt the constant urge to be alone. To be away from everything. I felt even more miserable in school because I was the complete opposite of “the popular girl”. I was the quiet one and whenever I did speak it was to show I was present to the teacher taking the register. I lost my mother to her drinking problem aged 13 and I didn’t realise that played a big part until now. You always think you’re okay until you’re not. We had a very close bond. I remember never wanting to sleep in my own bed, she used to tell me that I had to sooner or later. Sooner came and she ended up actually wanting me to sleep in her bed. I’d wait for that knock to come every night. It’s sweet memories like these I long for. I used to sing to her like there was a live talent show in our living room and she’d always respond with an applaud and a warm smile. Even though I was honestly terrible at it. We used to bake shortbread biscuits and chocolate cornflake cupcakes together sometimes after I’d finish school. I’ve always had a love for cooking because of her, she let me be creative. She let me be me.
Sounds of dark, sinister notes filled the studio room. A song her fingertips have played one too many times. A glass of red wine almost finished, resting on top of the piano. With a perfectly round rim of residue sitting beneath. Her eyes frown as she plays. As if she had been told some concerning news, or was playing in front of her parents; who were narcissistic and always dismissed her. Suddenly, the music stops. Like a foreigner walking into a bar in a new town. Her face glances up as she takes a deep breath and swigs the remaining wine left in her glass.