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
cup. He was light-headed, but feeling at peace, and pure
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
Everything had been accomplished in complete silence,
but for three sounds. The first, as she placed the lid on
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
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
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
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.