Monthly Archives: May 2012

Way up high

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K and I watched the sun set behind Tokyo Tower last Sunday. It was breathtaking.

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Huh?

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I went to a cafe near my work this past Thursday, and ordered an ice tea. I go to this cafe a lot and usually, when I place my order, I just say (in Japanese)

“Regular ice tea please.”

And they usually give me the small size and charge me 200 yen. The barista rarely asks if I want a different size, but if he or she were to ask me, I know what the Japanese for that is, and I know how to respond appropriately.

So on Thursday I don’t know what my problem was, but this happened:

Me: アイスティーストレトでお願いします。(Regular ice tea please)

Barista: 大きさは? (What size?)

Me: … (pondering, wtf did he just say OSAKA?) HUH?

Barista: (switches to nervous English) Do you want small? Medium?

Me: (dear self, wtf) Small

I felt really stupid after that exchange. Not only did I know WHAT he said, even if I hadn’t understood I should have been able to guess based on context. I don’t know, I thought the whole thing was hilarious, because I was so dead convinced that he’d said Osaka (the name of another large city in Western Japan) that my brain could only come up with the most basic response.

Huh.

first

They say you never forget your first love. Or is it first heartbreak? Whatever. They’re one in the same for me. And it’s true.

Fair Season Friends

2006

Summer 

Stars explode in the back of  her eyes, wind whips through her hair,

She looks into a galaxy full of  potential (through windshield from driver’s seat).

Wondering if  she has what she really wanted, turning up the radio, turning,

Grasping at his  arm, telling him to tell her all about it.

He talks about girls  that are not  her, she turns the volume dial again –up.

And she listens as well as that old twisted maple tree doesn’t, laying under it,

Heat stroke, sprawled out  in the sun warmed grass, goodbye.

Get back in the fucking car and drive it faster!

She needs to get out of here, maybe go to Tokyo.

He calls her, morphing her into one of those annoying people who can’t shut up,

Cell phone glued to her ear, can you hear me now? Gooood.

He wants to see her now, again, it’s like going to the doctor, something

She doesn’t want to, but needs to-do.  Scared of the real results.

He pretends that he cares when she really does, but doesn’t want to.

Spring

He pretends that he cares when she really does, but doesn’t want to.

At the same time he places her picture back on his shelf

Her smiling face looking down at him, he can she her from anyplace in his room.

He  can smile at her when he’s falling asleep, or over the shoulder of another girl.

They meet up in April, toes stuck in mud as they sit on plastic lawn chairs.

She tells him about a boy that broke her heart and he says he ‘understands’ .

They pause to drink Minute Maid lemonade out of crystal cups and sit in silence.

Kicking it Billy Joel-style, the ice breaks in his glass, moisture on the side.

Speaking together as one, laughing over old jokes, remembering what it‘s like,

Meaning so much to each other, as much as employees at Wal-Mart mean to

Each other, he hugs her, she turns her head, says ‘see ya,’ gone for another month.

Breathing in the sounds of May, sitting in a pool of  sunlight.

She thinks that she’s won this -the second round- a revolution.

Only to have him tell her, later on, how hot she looked.

Winter

Only to have him tell her, later on, how hot she looked.

She swears that it’s a different story this time,

A  book written by a different author, that’s the way she sees it.

Maybe snow piled up over her heart, maybe it’s frozen?

Blue tinged brain, her nose wont stop running and her smile is frosted over.

They throw snowballs at each other and put cold fingers down pants.

She swears it’s a punk rock strike!!! this time

Things will go her way or she’ll have someone sign a petition against

Another broken heart, she’ll start smoking Marlboro if she has to!!

She vows to dye her hair black (Herbal Essence style) if she must!

Until he reaches over and rips all of her barriers down,

Just like the snow plow slid through that stop sign — crash.

Taking out the barbed wire fence that was protecting the (empty) playground

Just like the barbed wire fence that was protecting her (full) heart

Fall

Just like the barbed wire fence that was protecting her (full) heart.

She listens to him just like she did in the summer,

Two seasons ago seemed so far away, just as far away as the pond

Surrounded by golden leaves, sitting behind the house that they slept in.

Her parents gone for the weekend, his smooth talking convincing her;

Break the rules, like the one kid from Malcolm in the Middle.

Crying for weeks after he left her again, breaking CDS that remind her.

Saying fuck it all and reading a book, then writing a book, about a

Girl who was better than herself, a girl who broke boys hearts,

Then meet one that was better than all the rest (him). Special dedication.

She called the book Reluctant Hero: never wanted responsibility

But takes it on because [he] must.

She sent  him a copy, he read it and loved it.

He finally called her and apologized for real. He finally said

What she wanted to hear all along, words that she couldn’t accept anymore.

speaking in tongues

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To be honest, I really don’t like speaking Japanese that much. I mean, of course living in Japan has forced me to use it, no doubt. But there’s just so much pressure that comes with it.

Who sounds the most native, who knows the most forms of keigo, who will order at the restaurant because they have the best grammar. I’ve never been good at languages, I failed math more times than I can count, and even though I played in the school band for years I never actually learned how to read music. I’m horrible at grammar in my own language.

Being married to K, people naturally expect that I’m good at Japanese. When I reveal that I’m not, that we speak in English, that I even find that I cannot comfortably use Japanese around him, I get scoffed at. How dare I not use him for my own linguistic betterment!

I think it’s ridiculous that us foreigners are expected to basically use our significant others, if they are Japanese, to better ourselves, but if they turn around and use English, regardless of what choice might be behind it, that they are the bad guys.

I like K in English. It’s as simple as that. And I don’t like myself in Japanese. Not only can I not express myself as fully as I would like… I find that I don’t sound like myself, the me that K loves, at all.

Today we took K’s parents out for lunch. We ate sushi and chatted. I have to speak Japanese with them because they don’t know any English. I’m always a little afraid, a lot self conscious, but they are such kind people that I can just let go, drop all kinds of horrible grammar bombs, and somehow, my mother-in-law can understand me. At times when I cannot understand what someone else is saying she has this magical ability where she can turn around and rephrase it so I can catch the meaning.

I am so grateful.

compass

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Every weekend K and I go exploring. We pick a direction and just go. So far we’ve found hidden shrines, festival-like side streets, and supermarkets packed full of grannies elbowing us out of the way so they can get discount meat. Some days we relax in the nearby park or go to the lake.

You would think that with only four cardinal directions that we would run out of options. All I can say to that is; thank god Japan has so many side streets.

I’m going to be disappointed if the summer heat forces these excursions to end.