A single beam of light slipped through into the room as the shoji (Japanese style sliding door) crept open just a few centimeters. I bolted awake. It wasn’t my own bed I was asleep in; I was staying at a friend’s family home for the night and was currently enjoying that first night of sleep common to hotel rooms, half asleep, half awake and keenly aware of the foreignness of my surroundings.
And that’s before you factor in the tatami floor and shoji.
I heard a scraping. A flash of it, hurried, earnest and utterly new to me.
What manner of guest had snuck into the guest bedroom in the dead of night?
What on earth produced such a rapid burst of scratching?
And with that her cold wet nose, shining eyes and panting mouth were face to face with me as I lurched back on the futon in surprise.
Evidently tiny dogs named after biblical figures are more than capable of opening sliding doors and scaring the bejesus out of me.
I suppose it’s to be expected. Staying in unfamiliar surroundings often leads to such moments.
Then there’s the danger that occurs from making familiar surroundings unfamiliar. Salarymen generally achieve this by getting blind drunk and forgetting what apartment they live in within your nondescript box of a building and thus stumble drunkly into your room only to discover that not only is the contents of said room foreign to them but so is the resident.
I’ve never forgotten to lock my door after that.
So when I eventually venture back to the UK from time to time you’d think I’d find some comfort in the familiarity of home. My old bed, the absence of endless crickets chirping throughout the summer, the double-glazing cutting out most of the outside world should all lead to a peaceful night’s slumber for my wearied jet lagged limbs.
But the door creaked on its hinges. It swung open with a bang. That familiar noise transported from tatami mats to Matt’s wooden floors. No futon but the opportunity to launch beneath the bed before I could catch a glimpse of my early morning visitor.
For *#%*’s sake… Rodney…
I shuffled away from my pillow to lean over the bed and look beneath, found nothing, wondered where the hell he’d got to (cut me some slack, this is a pre-coffee story) and then promptly saw him peek out from the other side of the bed before darting out of sight. I clicked my fingers on the right side of the bed hoping to lead him out to the door. Evidently my sister uses clicking as a signal for something else because I immediately heard a mad dash, crash and whump as he landed in the bed behind me. I turned to find him across my pillow, laying on his back, paws pulled up and a quizzical expression etched across his mug that that seemed to say,
“What? I’ve been here the whole time.”
And he had.
My bed, my futon, was back in Japan.
This one belonged to Rodney now.