I was talking with Sensei, and in my mind I suddenly pictured the large gingko tree he had pointed out to me. Sensei's monthly visit to the cemetery, I reckoned, should be three days hence. My schedule was light that day, with classes concluding by noon. I turned to Sensei and asked, "Do you think that gingko in Zōshigaya has lost its leaves?"
"I expect it won't be fully bare just yet." Sensei looked me in the eye as he answered. For a moment, he didn't divert his gaze.
I continued. "Next time you go, may I accompany you? We can stroll the grounds together."
"I go to pay my respects. I don't go to stroll."
"But isn't it perfect for strolling as well?"
Sensei gave no reply. After a pause, he added, "No, I go in earnest to pay my respects." He seemed intent on separating his visitation from the idea of a stroll. Perhaps it was just a pretext for going without me. His behavior at the time struck me as eccentric, even childish. I wanted to press the matter. "We'll make it a visitation then. Take me with you. I can pay my respects as well."
To me, a visitation and a stroll were more or less one and the same. At this point, Sensei's brow darkened. A strange light shone in his eyes. He seemed beset by some ill-defined unease. One could distill it down to neither annoyance, nor contempt, nor fear. The memory of that moment in Zōshigaya, when I'd called out to him, came back to me in a flash. The look on his face was exactly the same.
"There are reasons ..." Sensei started. "There are reasons that I can't explain to you. My visits must be my own. Even my wife never comes with me."