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It started like any good date should

With me running happily down the hill to the train station. We messaged each other a thousand times, and he explained how to get to Shinsaibashi (心斎橋). I looked a thousand levels of shit, but I didn't have time after Komura-sensei's farewell party ended to do more than change shirt and jacket, dump crap in a purse, throw on a little makeup, and race back out the door. My hair started to creep up while I was on the train to Umeda, getting frizzy and wispy and wild.

One of these days I'll learn that my hair is a perfect indicator of the weather.

It started pouring outside, the rain blasting against the windows of the train, surprising me. I didn't have an umbrella, so I thought it would be perfectly romantic if he came and met me at the station with an umbrella and we had to huddle against each other underneath it.

[One of these days, all those thankless hours of sitting alone in the woods with the hum of distant traffic keeping my knight in shining armor away are going to pay off.]

I am a romantic in the sickest sense of the word.

He didn't have an umbrella. So we sprinted from arcade to arcade, pulling our jackets over our heads to keep off the water. After wading through flooding streets, we arrived at the Shinsaibashi Pig & Whistle. The Sannomiya one was alright, especially since I was there with that cute Oxford boy. (I mean, going to what bills itself as an "English Pub" is probably justified if you're dragged there by a Brit.) The Shinsaibashi one was wicked-creepy. It was filled with foreign men desperately trying to score with Japanese girls desperately trying to practice their English. (One girl was molested while we were there and left crying. All I could think was, 'What did she expect?') Eyes roamed my body, picturing the portions they couldn't see. I ignored it initially and gradually forgot about it completely.

Shinya got a Guinness at the bar, but I was too full from the four-course dinner at the farewell party, so I decided to go for something light and ordered a Kilkenny. (One of these days I'm going to get around to writing the beer entry that keeps circling around in my head.)

Then came the introductions. He introduced me to pretty girl after pretty girl, some he'd met that evening, others from his seminar class (his seminar class was having a gathering there--their homework was to go to the Pig & Whistle and practice their English).

And doubt came crashing into me and lodged somewhere between my lungs. It elbowed its way through my internal organs and smiled. My mind rushed to meet it. We are old acquaintances who have been long separated.

Am I just another nice, pretty girl? I mean, if I am, I can certainly handle it, but I totally thought Shinya and I were crushing on each other and now I don't know.

Doubt crawled through my body like warmth from a whiskey shot. I could feel the honest smile falling from my face. I shuffled through my pockets until I found the "Nice to meet you I have no personality" smile and wore that until I could find a better one.

Was it not a date? Were we just hanging out on Monday night?

Shinya tried my beer as I held his. I explained the virtues of ending with a light beer. He was impressed by my Beer Knowledge. I met more girls. They giggled and used their textbook lines on me. Doubt grabbed my hand. I squeezed back.

I don't think it's disappointment so much as the desperate desire to not be wrong. I don't want to have gone after somebody only to come out empty-handed. (That's one of my greatest weaknesses: I cannot be wrong.)

We grabbed a back table--I took the bench, he took a stool. I kept hoping he'd cross over and help me crowd my ocean, but he stayed safely on his side all evening. I drifted. Doubt laughed. The rain stopped. We talked. There were a couple of moments when we couldn't find anything to say. Doubt wondered aloud if I was boring Shinya. I had to agree. I asked if we should go over to where his friends were, but he said they could come over to where we were if they wanted to talk to us.

The fact that he said that is probably a good sign. [But it's so hard to tell.....]

We laughed at all the people from different countries using Japanese as their "common language." An eastern European guy near Shinya was trying out his Japanese on the two Korean girls on the bench beside me.

Finally it started to get late and Shinya's friends got up to head for the station. We tagged along. Nanba Station was closer than Shinsaibashi, so we headed that way instead. We took a short detour and checked out Dotonbori (sp?), the bridges everyone jumps off of whenever the Tigers win. The billboards there were phenomenal. They're bright and huge and right there and colorful and it's the ultimate in capitalism. You can smell the money. One of the girls in the group started talking with me in Japanese and we fell back from the others a little. Once we reached Nanba Station, she took my arm and asked conspiratorially how I felt about Shinya. I waffled around like you can only do in Japanese. She eventually asked in English, "Love? Or like? Which?" I responded in Japanese that I kinda liked him, but it was too early to tell. She laughed and smiled and said in Japanese that he's a really great guy.

"Yeah."

I had forgotten about doubt, but it hadn't forgotten about me. It was probably trying out my bloodways when it decided to get back into the game. The skin around my eyes tightened. We all bought tickets and said goodbye to Shinya at the wicket. He had biked there (he only lives 10 minutes away). He gave everyone else the same deep bow he had given me at Umeda. Doubt and I were unimpressed. Doubt held me. It was painful, but there was comfort in the familiar ache. Everyone went through the wicket. I stayed back a moment. Shinya gave me a final wave goodbye.

To think that hours and hours earlier, stiff and formal at a dull dinner, sipping cheap wine, I had thought to take that kiss regardless. Guess it wasn't the right time/boy/place/me.

I chatted a bit with his friends on the way to Umeda. We got off the crowded final train and parted ways underground. I turned to catch the Hankyu home. I had already missed the last connecting train, so I used the much-needed bathroom before the 12:10 pulled in. I messaged with Shinya and thanked him for the nice evening. (Doubt got a kick out of that.) Hypocrisy and deceit sneaked onto the train just before it pulled out of the station. One of my hands was tied up typing into my phone, the other was occupied with doubt, so the newcomers just had to wait.

The weather was nice--there was a cool breeze and the moon was high--so I decided to just walk home from 西北. I didn't really feel like taking a taxi. So I walked. Shinya and I continued to message each other, and he expressed concern that I was walking home alone in the dark.

This is Kotoen. This is Nishinomiya. I am 169cm tall. I am dressed in black. Nobody is going to mess with me. I'm the only girl I know in Japan who has been here a substantial amount of time and hasn't gotten felt up in a train. I've been leered at, but almost always through dark glass. Even when I first came to Japan, way back in high school, a drunk man leaned across me so he could look at the boobs on the girl next to me. The only people who noticed me walking home were cabbies trying to pick up customers. They didn't stop.

It took me a lot longer to get home than I thought it would. Mostly because I was messaging Shinya most of the time. It's hard to walk quickly when you're concentrating on a tiny glowing screen in your hand. I cut through Carolyn's development and headed up the hill that way. There was a red ring around the moon. Well, it was more of a rusty orange, but it was beautiful and strange. I stopped near my apartment to look at it, but a cop passed me and gave me a strange look, so I headed up before she came back around.

I entered my dark apartment and took off my clothes, but avoided showering. After half an hour or so, I got a frantic email from Shinya, asking if I had gotten home okay. Doubt closed the door on its way out.

I smiled.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Nov. 29th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC)
This is a very well-written post. (I can't say it's nice, because doubt sucks!) But Abby, you're awesome!

~Leo

PS: There are female cops in Japan? They allow that there? There seem to be few enough here!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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