We met once already. At TGIF in Yokohama. At night. I remember looking around the crowded train station. Guessing who she might be amongst the sea of people. A randomness about to become a certainty. We were texting back and forth. She said “meet at the east exit.” I walked towards the escalator at the east exit sizing up the ladies and considering possibilities. I typed “I am here”. She said “you wear brown shirt?” I said yes.
She was the petit dame in beret leaning against a pillar behind me. Now she is carved out and real to my consciousness. No longer a stream of transient electrons forming letters on my screen.
She wore a blue jean, white top, an Amy green jacket and beret.
I didn’t know if to hug or shake her. We didn’t talk for long on the language exchange platform before we agreed to meet. There was an awkwardness as we exchanged pleasantries. The tentative tendencies in familiar strangers. we walked towards the restaurant together. It was a cold night.
Despite our lean vocabularies; my Japanese and her English, we were able to talk and laugh. it required using google translate more than a few times plus a lot of wine.
She works in a clothing store. She wants to learn English because of her interactions with foreign customers. She likes to dance and coach high school cheer leaders.
We kept in touch afterwards. in snatches but I didn’t feel the urge to see her again.
Last week she sent me a text. “I quit my job today” it said. “Oh wow!” I replied.
I didn’t ask for more details. One do not make such decisions lightly.
The next time we met it was at my station. She took a three hour train ride from Tokyo. I saw her from a distance. The traffic light was red so I stood at the edge of the road and watched her walk towards me. I do not know why I thought she was petite the first time. Her cheeks were rounder than I remembered and there was a far away look in her eyes. She wore a tan pant and a red T-shirt with a black inscription that says “I am HUGE in Japan”. the light turned green. I crossed. This time We hugged.
I took her to a place I frequent. An underground Japanese restaurant. It was crowded, busy and noisy.
The drinks came faster than the food. I noticed the strain in her mood. She kept looking at the menu after the waiter took our orders and left.
“Why did you quit your job?” I asked
“I tired” she said. “Quarrel quarrel. Everyday quarrel. Customers quarrel with staff. Staff quarrel with staff. Everyday my boss ask me what happen What happen. I don’t know what happen. Am I supervisor? If he want know what happen pay me more money. I told him my boss”
I laughed at her sudden outburst. Following the logic in her point. She smiled and her eyes lit up a bit. But the distance quickly crept back in.
“Tired everything” she said. “I fight with my mum. I don’t tell her I quit my job”
“Oh wow!” I said “What happened?”
“Cannot explain” she replied.
I nodded thinking about the amount of effort it would take to relate the whole incident in English. I understand why she does not want to try though she wants to.
The food was taking too long. I already drank four cups of strawberry Chu hi with too much ice cubes. An hour and half and only the salad came. I was pissed. I asked for the cheque. At the register, we were charged for food we didn’t eat. i paid. The receipt has Japanese inscription so Only the numbers made sense to me. She stopped me as I was about to trash it and spotted the error. The cashier apologized, adjusted the price and gave her a rose flower.
We went to the family mart. I bought more cans of Chu hi. She bought something that looks like potato chips and a toothbrush.
“It is good that your house is near the station” she said as we rode the elevator. I did not lock my door when I left. I swung it open and the muffled sound of CNN wafted from the living room.
“This is America” I said “you don’t need to take off your shoes.”
She took it off anyway and walked with black socked feet to the living room.
We sat close on the sofa. I opened a can of Chu hi and chugged it. She mindlessly switched the tv station with the remote. I leaned forward to kiss her. Her hair got in the way and sandwiched our lips as they met. It felt coarse. I leaned back. we both smiled. I parted her hair from her forehead and tried again. No much luck. She made no attempt to help me but she responded when our lips touched. I gave up after a few more tries. She rested her head on my shoulders and I let it lie there.
I was lost in thoughts when I felt something moist and warm around my chest. I turned and saw she was crying.
…to be continued…