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Stepping out of her sandals, she placed her hands,

thumbs crossed, pointing upward at mid-chest, bowed and

entered the small waiting area. Milo removed his shoes

and stood, awkwardly waiting. She turned and bowed in

formal greeting, inviting him to enter the tearoom. In an

alcove, a shelf held a fluted vase with a single white


Smoke from the incense burning nearby drifted

upwards, permeating the air with the aroma of sandal-

wood. She indicated he should sit on the mat, on the floor

opposite her. He noted her elegance as she sat loosely clad

in her kimono. With willowy grace, she began the

”making of the fire.”

When the coals began to glow, she dusted the hearth

with a feather brush. She then added two pastilles of

incense to the burner placed on her right.

He enjoyed her every motion. She stood, bowed, and

left the room. She returned with an enameled tray bearing

rice, clear broth, broiled fish, and two bowls of vegetables,

softly speaking the name of each dish. The food was

simply prepared and served with sake. He had some difficulty

manipulating the chopsticks. Seisai remained

solemn, leaving him smiling and unconvinced of her


The meal was consumed without conversation. When

they were finished, she placed the bowls and utensils on

the tray, and left him sipping the last bit of sake from his

cup. He was light-headed, but feeling at peace, and pure of


Seisai returned with a water jug, tea bowl, teaspoon

and tea caddy, an empty bowl, a hot water ladle, and a

bamboo tea whisk, making a separate trip for each. Every

movement artful and flowing, he saw the rhythm and

grace of the ritual.

Removing the lid from the kettle, she ladled in a cupful

of fresh water. When the cha finished brewing, she

whisked it into froth. She poured the tea, filling his cup

halfway. Taking the steaming cup in her right hand, and

then shifting it to her left hand, she presented it to him.

Milo bowed his head, accepting the tea. The green liquid

was delicately flavored and a perfect temperature. He

sipped slowly, savoring the taste and sensation of it in his


Everything had been accomplished in complete silence,

but for three sounds. The first, as she placed the lid on the

kettle made a deliberate clinking sound. Then, while

preparing the tea, she tapped the tea bowl on the mat three

times. Finally, there were delicate bell-like tones reminiscent

of his guitar, as she struck the tea bowl with the

teaspoon. Drinking the tea ended the ceremony. Milo was

moved and honored. Sitting quietly, reflecting in the tranquil

ambience of the teahouse, he felt complete.

When he finished, Seisai slowly came around the table

on hands and knees. When she reached Milo, she sat

before him. With her head bowed, and holding it lowered,

she reached for his hands. He placed them in hers, feeling

her strong fingers and soft palms, and their warmth crept

to his heart. He closed his eyes and wished the feel of them

could be with him always.

In her fingertips, he felt her pulse lightly beating. He

could hear her quiet breathing and without conscious

effort, they began to breathe in unison. Milo felt as if his

body were getting lighter and would at any moment levitate.

Her heart began to hurry, and so did his. Their

breathing became more rapid as their hearts beat faster.

The pulse in her fingers became a forceful throb, and he

could feel and hear it throughout his body. She raised her

hands and keeping his firmly in her grasp, gently pushed

him backwards, and then opened his robe.

Her soft and trembling lips were upon his chest and

her hands caressed his face. He let out his breath in small

gasps and shivered. Holding his face, she kissed his forehead

and her tears rolled onto his lips where he tasted

them. In his last rational moment, he thought he’d been

drugged, but it didn’t matter. Overcome, he could but


An exquisite moistness surrounded him. He could not

tell where his own flesh ended and hers began. He trembled.

Their accelerated breathing resonated in the room. At

first almost imperceptibly, her movements above him

became rhythmic and subtle. Involuntary spasms overcame

him, and sounds he had never before uttered escaped

his lips. Seisai’s breathing came in subdued gasps and then

softly in an impassioned monadic song.

Immersed in her scent, submerged in the liquid fire of

their unity and waves of contractions, a cresting comber

swept over him, and he spent himself. Their ardor gave

way to bliss. They clung, stroking each other, whispering

endearments. Their lips touched, tasting of each other’s


He awoke to the patter of raindrops striking the

thatched roof. As sleep lifted, he reached for her. He bolted

upright and looked about the room. There remained only

her lingering perfume.

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A sure Candidate for the BOOK SENSE book of the year award.

© 2005-2006 Joseph Mastroianni


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