82 degrees at 7:30 PM, and I decide to lace up my newly optimistic sneakers and take a walk around the streets of suburbia. I drop off a borrowed book at a friend’s house and receive a scarf made by Thai hilltribe women—the ones with the neck rings—a thank you for watering some roses for a few days. I continue on around the brand new houses, some are less than one year old. It’s quiet, the streets are empty, people either on vacation or having dinner.

Some houses give me an olfactory jolt: grilled fish, not surprising, but further on I enjoy the distinctive and complex aroma of spaghetti with a garlic tomato sauce. Myself, earlier I ate a cold salad of grilled sliced beef and udon garnished with cucumbers and tomatoes. In my copy of the August edition of Kyō no Ryōri (Today’s Cooking), the recipe rated a non-ironic scribbled notation of “Awesome.”

One house has a string of plastic Snoopy lights on the front bushes, an interesting garnish. A police car passes me slowly, checking out the fat gaijin. All the bourgeois hilltop developments get burglarized hard and often, so our development has increased cop patrols and some nights there is even a checkpoint at the two entrance roads to the neighborhood. The Japanese always blame these crimes on Palauans or other foreigners. Why specifically Palauans, I do not know. As long as “they” don’t steal my cookbooks (which contain years of dates and notes like “use more tomato,” “watch the salt,” “ohmygod so good,” and “eh, whatever”) or my crazy expensive bras that I order from England (the land of big breasts), I’m cool.

Sip of junmai daiginjo sake, excitement at having learned how to say “I try to exercise every day” in Japanese (the grammar is more complicated than it might seem, and it’s a lie anyway). Tonight is hot and marvelous. If I just had my man here, it would be perfect.