Merci, Amy.

The neon lights of Tokyo pulsed like a living, breathing entity, casting a kaleidoscope of colors across the sweat-slicked streets of Shibuya. It was a city that never slept, a place where the lines between reality and fantasy blurred like the edges of a heat-induced mirage. The air was thick with the scent of sizzling meat and the tang of cigarette smoke, a heady mix that filled my lungs and made my head swim.

I found myself wandering those streets like a man possessed, driven by a hunger that gnawed at my very soul. It wasn’t just any hunger, mind you - no, this was a craving for the perfect banh mi, that glorious marriage of crusty baguette, tender meat, and crisp vegetables that could transport me back to the streets of Saigon with a single bite.

As fate would have it, I stumbled upon a little hole-in-the-wall joint, the kind of place that you might miss if you blinked. But the aroma of freshly baked bread and the sizzle of meat on the grill drew me in like a siren’s call. I settled into a corner table, my worn copy of James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” clutched in my hand like a talisman, the sweat from my palm leaving a faint imprint on the cover.

As I waited for my meal, I lost myself in Baldwin’s words, transported to the smoky cafes and narrow streets of Paris. But my reverie was broken by the sound of a voice, a lilting French accent that cut through the din of the restaurant like a knife through butter.

I looked up to see a beautiful Japanese girl, her eyes wide with curiosity as she gestured towards my book. She told me that she had just learned about James Baldwin, his time in France, and how she was utterly fascinated by his writing. Her words struck a chord within me, resonating with my own experiences and the profound impact that Baldwin’s work had on my life.

We talked for what felt like hours, our words flowing as freely as the beer and sake that we consumed. She spoke of her life as a Japanese person who grew up in Paris, of the constant feeling of being caught between two worlds, never quite belonging to either. She had only recently returned to Tokyo, and the sense of isolation and disconnection was palpable in her voice.

I found myself opening up to her, sharing stories of my own struggles and triumphs. I told her how Baldwin’s words had inspired me to move to Paris for a year, how I would sit at Café de Flore, scribbling chapters for a book that I knew I would never publish, only to burn them in the end. It was through his literature that I learned to seek out the most beautiful parts of life, despite the darkness that had once threatened to consume me.

As the night wore on, we found ourselves wandering the streets of Shibuya, ducking into countless bars and stopping in dimly lit alleys to smoke and bare our souls to one another. The city seemed to pulse with a newfound energy, as if it were alive and breathing in sync with our heartbeats.

Before we knew it, the sun was rising, painting the sky in shades of pink and gold. The birds began their morning song, a gentle reminder that it was time to say goodbye. We parted ways without exchanging information, both understanding that the magic of the night was something to be cherished, not tarnished by the harsh light of day.

As I watched her walk away, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for the serendipitous encounter that had brought us together. In a city of millions, we had found solace in each other’s company, two lost souls searching for a place to call home.

Amy, I hope that our paths cross again someday, perhaps in the winding streets of Paris or the neon-lit alleys of Tokyo.

Merci, Amy. Jusqu’à ce que nous nous revoyions.