A stack of unopened textbooks sit besides me, willing me to open them. They go unnoticed as I play with the teabag dangling from my rapidly cooling cup of green tea mixed with Australian honey, and dash of freshly squeezed lemon at the suggestion of my best friend, Nadia. This sore throat is unforgiving- I can barely utter a word. Google has just sent an unwelcome reminder of a list of things that I
should must do. I ignore it. Joining the gym can wait. I have already put it off three months. Okay, five months. Fine- a year and a half, but who’s counting? And, let it be known that in Samoa well-fed men are considered quite the catch, and I have every intention of visiting Samoa someday.
I need to return an unread book to the library. I should have read the chapter on “Surveys: Students’ difficulties”. Oh, the irony. Most importantly, I admit, I must e-mail Jamiee.
We met almost seven years ago in Japan in the coastal town of Namerikawa- our then home when we were both English teachers on the JET Programme. Built like a (beautiful) brick house, she was the first person I had ever met from New Zealand, although she sounded unmistakably Australian. I should delete that. She wouldn’t like me calling her…Australian. It doesn’t matter. She knows it’s written with love. I can’t believe it has been so long ago since we first met. Yes, it is cliché, but when I blink my eyes, the memories are still palpable. I can remember us biking along the meandering Namerikawan coast, and Jaimee shouting, rather aggressively, “Jenson, work those glutes!” Our drunken karaoke nights, she “singing” The Beatles “Yellow Submarine“, and I ending with a powerful rendition of Amazing Grace, and Jamiee enquiring, “Who died?”. A year after we met, I wished her sad goodbye in Namerikawa. It was a tight , final embrace. She was off to drink in Osaka one last time before returning home, and I was about to leave the comforting serenity of Toyama to have a quick rendezvous with my now ex in Shanghai.
Jamiee was gone, and Namerikawa felt empty- there were no more daily after-work phone calls, witty comments and uncontrollable laughter (mine, not hers). I was trapped in the eye of the storm- chaos was everywhere, but for me the resounding stillness grew heavier-unshakable. Namerikawa had forever changed. “At least there is Shanghai,” I comforted myself.
Weeks later, in Kansai, looking for the departure gate, I looked up and I saw a blonde haired woman with a Japanese umbrella (who else would have an umbrella as their carry-on?), and, of course, that broad (beautiful) back. I really should not have described her as… Australian, earlier.
Wearing, quite fittingly, a koala t-shirt, I run towards the woman, and sure enough, it was my kiwi. Equally shocked, she embraced me, and started talking, and I listening, about her escapades. It was like the months before, our enduring routine, only this time it would be our last. I insisted that we take a photo. Not before she insisted that I capture her with her red umbrella open. “Like the perfect geisha,” I responded. I quickly placed the camera on my luggage, set the timer, and we both gave our best Japanese peace sign.
The announcement was made. Jaimee needed to board her flight. We hugged, tighter this time. My friend was now gone.
Japan is cool- the eccentricity of Akihabara’s electronic district, opulence of Ginza on a spring Sunday evening, rotating sushi bars on the neon lit streets of Shinjuku, falling cherry blossoms at the Heian Shrine in Kyoto, quirky characters that fill Namba when the sun has set and moon is high, Naoshima and Yayoi Kusama’s captivating (and arguably lonely) yellow pumpkin sculpture silently sitting by the sea, the many matsuri (festivals) that charge the summer air with happiness and brilliant displays of light, and of course, the people- hospitable, kind and always gracious.
Instead of doing what I often need to do, I dream- usually dancing off to a happy memory etched in the past, or constructing an idea of a future utopia, but always, seemingly, evading the present.
I should really start my assignment, but ANA’s Cool Japan videos distract me. Natsukashii (懐かしい) or a beloved memories, of Jaimee, Japan, and my adventures are, for these moments, my present. I will begin tomorrow.
Jenson recommends: Reminiscing about the past can sometimes be comforting.
P.S. I also recommend, if you get the opportunity to fly with ANA, do it. The best airline service you will ever receive. (n_n)