Three months hence I was readmitted to the same hospital. My room number differed by only one from my prior stay. I was one room to the west. I wondered who was now on the other side of the wall, in my prior place of residence. I listened all day for some indication but heard not a sound. The room was vacant. One room further down was the room from which that sound had emanated. I didn't know who might be in there now. My health took a precipitous turn for the worse. I'd been reflecting of late on my life, and those reflections now, in endless succession, assailed my mind. Wasabi graters, or other such similar things, found no room in my thoughts. I took more interest, rather, in the experiences of fellow patients whose fates mirrored my own. I asked the nurse how many of us were housed in these private rooms. She told me there were only three others. I asked if their conditions were grave. It seemed they were. Over the course of the next several days, I learned from her the nature of their ailments. One had esophageal cancer. Another had stomach cancer, and the final one stomach ulcers. None seemed long for this world, the nurse stated, lumping their fates in a single prognosis.
I passed time gazing at the delicate flowers of the begonia plant on my veranda. The intent was to buy a chrysanthemum, the fellow who brought me the begonia had explained. The vendor had wanted sixteen kan, and he'd offered him five. Five was out of the question, so he'd upped his offer to six, but still no doing. It was a bad year for chrysanthemums, on account of the rain, so prices were high. As I remembered this story, I saw my mind's eye the temple fair, the boulevard packed with vendors, and the bustle of evening crowds.