Sensei, it seemed, did not share my interest in these diverse grave markers and the irony of their mutual proximity. I pointed out a round grave stone here, or a column of engraved granite there, and offered my opinion on all. Sensei listened patiently for a while, then finally said, "You've never thought seriously of the reality of death, have you?" I fell silent. Sensei said nothing further.
At the edge of the cemetery stood a single large gingko tree whose vast canopy blotted out the sky. When we were underneath, Sensei looked up into its high branches. "It'll be beautiful here. In a short while the leaves will turn and fall to the ground, carpeting it with gold." Once each month, Sensei passed beneath this tree.
In the distance, a man was smoothing the ground for new grave sites. He rested his hoe and looked our way. We proceeded on and turned to the left, emerging onto the main thoroughfare.
Having no particular place to go, I simply followed along with Sensei. He was more taciturn than usual. His silence didn't put me off, though, so I ambled comfortably at his side.
"Are you headed home now?"
"Yes. I've no other particular errands."
"Is your family grave site there?" I broke the silence again.
"Whose grave is it, then? -- a relation of yours?"
Sensei gave no further response, and I stopped questioning. After we'd walked a bit, he abruptly came back to the subject. "The grave is that of a friend."
"You visit your friend's grave once each month?"
"Yes, I do."