The machiya is down a narrow laneway, between other houses, wedged, and you come upon its door suddenly. A small, narrow door, for a small person. You open the door and find yourself, at once, in a room, dim and chill. It’s so cold, winter here. December.
At night it’s even dimmer, and chillier. You stay in your sweater, even your scarf. You climb the steep wooden stairs, to where the bed is. The bed is a mattress on the floor, on the straw tatami, you roll it out. It has a heavy cover, you unroll and lay it out. There is a glimmer: a single vase; a lampshade. There’s no sound outside; not one. No car, no voice, no cicada. You wonder where the black cat is, the cat you see mornings on the black-tiled, neighbouring roof. She sits in the winter sun, and she’s noticed you, looking at her through your window.
You get down onto the bed, on the floor. Then you are lying flat, and the heavy down cover is on you, like a weight.
You fall into the heaviest, deepest sleep. You sleep until morning, dreamless. You believe you sleep like this because you are on the second floor, elevated from the ground, yet on the floor, on the tatami mat, that means you are grounded, you cannot fall off the bed. You are surrounded by deep blackness, because the machiya is black and dark, and the winding alleyways around you are blackest deep, and every machiya around you is filled with blackness, and sleeping people. All the streets around are black, and all the laneways, and all the dim parlours and houses and merchant places, shops, and tea houses, and the entertainment machiyas where the kimonos in their reds and blues and golds are hanging, glimmering. And the river is black, and slow, and sleeping, and all the fishes. The fishes, you have seen them, reds and blues and golds, faintly in the brack waters. And all the dim temples under their bowed roofs are sleeping and shadowed or not sleeping, but they are quiet, they will not disturb you. And Kyoto lies flat in a basin, despite all its hills and slopes around and elevations, and all its stones and tiles and lattices and paths and streets and laneways and lanterns and its riverway, black, and the iron tiles on its roofs, bowed also, under which you sleep.