Sometimes in the Japanese autumn, when the days are still warm and the air is beginning to smell of persimmons and fallen leaves, my mind stumbles across a day nearly 20 years ago now, and I turn the memory over and over as I try to make sense of how the time since then has passed.

The memory itself has been worn down by the passing years, its sharpness smoothed and rounded, like a pebble in a mountain stream.

Nonetheless, I well enough recall that we were three young exchange students: me, an Australian-Canadian eager to escape small-town-Canada life; and a Canadian ironically transplanted from my high school to Machida, a stone's throw from my homestay in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. As for the third of our number, all I have now is a vague image of an American girl, all long legs and long hair and unbending values — but it could have been another.