There I was, at the train station, ready to board my train to Osaka. It didn’t bustle the way most train stations do. In fact, the shinkansen (bullet train) platform was quiet and uninhabited but for a few of us waiting on the late afternoon departure. I had bought the ticket the night before to make sure I would have a seat, and everything had gone smoothly.
Loneliness had begun to become comfortable after two days without my program in Tokyo. During those days, I traveled with tourist groups on buses to Mt. Fuji where I wandered—an anomaly amidst groups of friends and families on vacations. I had eaten alone and explored and located hotels in districts to which I’d never been. Things were beginning to feel possible. Yet, here I was, getting on a train to a place I didn’t know in the slightest. Even so, I got on.
Exiting the bullet train in Osaka was stressful. I ended up in a train station that had very few signs in English and I didn’t recognize the characters for the district to which I was trying to arrive by the end of the evening in order to check into my hotel. Luckily, my phone served as a hotspot, and I used my little mobile device to turn on google maps and, bless that app, it showed different platforms and departure times for each train station. In the dimly lit concrete structure, I waited, sweltering with my entire luggage, for the train.
The ride was short and daunting as I looked out over the foreign landscape. Everything, to me, seemed a bit dingier than it had in Tokyo, as if the sun didn’t shine quite as brightly. Every station at which we stopped didn’t make sense to me, unlike the stops in Tokyo which had all become very familiar. I began to feel homesick again—homesick and afraid. When my stop finally arrived, I was the only one to get off on it. The walls of the station were a wild pink shade and adorned with some kind of soccer mascot. I don’t remember the animal. Echoes of a crowd cheered in the distance, bouncing off the streets of the neighborhood in the quickly oncoming darkness of night.
When I found my hotel (I went the wrong way at first and caught the many stares of elderly people watching over their open-air shops), I went inside and found it intimidating in its dilapidated state. The floral wallpaper peeled from the walls and water stains marked the ceilings. The woman at the counter smiled warily at me as I approached. I asked for my key and she informed me that when I left the hotel I needed to give it back every time, and pick it back up on my way in, every time.
The elevator did nothing to raise my spirits. Lit only with a flickering light, I felt myself tense, recalling almost every horror film that feature buildings with elevators. It jolted upwards in a sudden upstart of life, carried me two and a half floors upwards, stopped, jolted down half a floor, and clanked open. The hallway was empty and the raggedly carpet beneath my feet was unwelcoming and foreboding. I struggled with the key in the knob until it clicked, and the door swung open. The room was huge—a really strange thing to see in Japan—but sparse. An old air conditioning unit screeched in the window, but I was grateful for the cool air.
A television sat atop a desk situated in the corner, and I flicked it on only to receive static and strange shadows of figures on every channel available. I thought to myself, “If any place were haunted, it’s this place.” I retrieved food from a convenience store, and ate it quietly by myself in my room, hiding from the world.
When I went to take a shower, there was only a bath mat, no towel, and so I air-dried in the cool air conditioning and felt myself sink into a sorrow so deep I couldn’t fathom going outside. I wondered if it had all been a mistake, to try this larger, solo trip and not simply stay in Tokyo for the remainder of my days before my flight home. I couldn’t imagine navigating those confusing trains again, with each platform changing destinations with the departure times. The following day I had planned to see the aquarium and Umeda Sky Building, but it all seemed so daunting and hopeless in this moment.
Living with bipolar is like this scene, where one minute I have the strength to persevere a few hours longer, and the next day, especially after a trigger like exhaustion or plans not going the right way, I feel so low I can hardly move. At least, that was the beginning of living with bipolar, and the symptoms can always seem so new even when you’ve experienced them time and time again.
When I called my mom, she answered with an expectant voice, hoping to hear only good things. I lied to her, told her that I was doing well and made it to my hotel. I told her that the hotel itself was a bit creepy but ultimately comfortable. I didn’t confess that I hadn’t even had a towel with which to dry off after a shower. The air conditioning continued to squeal in the background, and I wondered how much sleep I’d get if I wanted things to stay comfortably cool. I promised her I’d have a good day the following day, and that I’d tell her all about it when I could.
I hung up and went to bed, cats yowling in the alley outside my window.