Archive for April 2009

SQUATMASTER   Leave a comment

 held a few titles in my life. Writer, Intern, sometimes traveler… but now I can 
add a new one to the list:


I worried about using tiny toilets in Japan. Not because of my monstrous size,
 but small toilets are like little divas; they need lots of attention and they 
can snap at any moment. The mechanics of their use can be troublesome. The
 knobs to flush are really tiny, and if the bathroom is equally tiny, good luck
 trying to flush, or reach for the roll of toilet paper directly behind your 
shoulder blades.  I frightened 
myself with these images constantly before I came to Japan, imaging myself 
stuck in a bathroom unable to leave because I wouldn’t be able to grab any 
tissue. As time passed I realized I wouldn’t have to deal with this issue,
 because almost everywhere I went, there were no toilets.

Just holes in the ground.

These are the toilets of the future. Simple and to the point. You pee in the floor, 
you squat to take a dump, but you better aim carefully. The first time I saw on
e of these “holes”, I thought it was just a urinal, but then I saw a roll of 
tissue paper beside the smallest garbage receptacle i’ve ever seen. In the last
 few weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a cycle of eating that finds me 
at home should I need to use the throne. But the first time I saw the shiny
 porcelain toilet, gurgling in the ground, I new eventually we’d meet again.
 That was yesterday.


I’m in the bathroom, and I’m debating. I’m wondering if I should clamp up and wait
 five hours before I go home, or lose my squatting virginity. I stand in the
 shadows of the dark bathroom, looking through a stained glass. I laugh at 
myself and remember the term ‘Squatmaster’ from high school in Jamaica. When 
you need to use a really digusting public bathroom, you don’t sit on the seat,
 you squat over it to protect yourself from diseases and infections. I’d never 
been in a situation that required the use of this technique. Now, in Japan, I’m
 pacing around in a small bathroom with tiny blue tiles, figuring out my
 strategy. I said what the heck.

I stepped into the bathroom and shut the door. It was very small–no more than
 five square feet–and I stood there, figuring out the logistics. Number one, I
 have bad knees. I can barely dance much less squat carefully to get rid of my 
body’s excreta. Number two, there were any variety of unknown things that could 
happen once I turned around, and pulled my pants down. I crouched, feeling 
quite infantile. Then I smiled, because for millions of Japanese people, this 
was normal. My pants came down with a swoosh.

Then I realized, I should have hung up my pants. Overhead was a hook on the door,
 but it was too late, I’d already started. I felt a little panicked. Where my 
pants going to get smudged, or wet? I barely had space to move, much less 
manouver. I treid reach back for the toilet paper, but my hand kept hitting a
wall. “Dammit.” I said, trying to shuffle properly. I couldn’t move. Any 
movement of my feet a few inches to the left or right and my pants would be
 soggy with toilet water. Or I’d dunk a shoe in the toilet. I glanced up at the 
hook again and groaned.

My thighs were hurting now and I could feel it in my knees. This certainly wasn’t 
the sweet relief I’m accustomed to. I wondered if people squat and read. It 
didn’t seem likely.

I brought my self up into a half crouch, my entire body trembling. Making sure 
not to get my belt or pants wet, I slowly removed one shoe. Tiny beads of sweat 
formed on my forehead. My level of concentration was high; I felt like I was
 diffusing a nuclear weapon. I took off the other shoe, shaking like a leaf. I 
got my pants off and went back into the normal squat. It was a good thing the 
doors were small, I could hang up my pants easily.

I breathed more easily, but it wasn’t over. I was concerned about aim, because if
I didn’t aim properly, I’d be the obvious culprit and I could never some into 
the establishment again. I was skating on thin ice. I tried to remember my 
early potty lessons. All I got were a few blurry images of a smelly yellow
 potty from twenty years ago. The ease with which little kids do what they had
 to do eluded me, I almost laughed.

I grunted and shuffled forward. I was good to go.

After I was done, I hit another snag. Toilet paper. The toilet paper was on a roll in
t he corner of the bathroom. I had no space to move. I couldn’t turn around to
 grab it, and now my legs were really starting to feel it. I wondered how the 
hell people were comfortable doing this.

I took a deep breath. Above me were two replacement rolls on a tiny shelf above 
my right shoulder. Slamming my elbow into the wall as I reached up, I grabbed a
 roll. I paused as I held it in my hand. Wiping logistics had changed. The way a 
person cleans themselves changes drastically when you are stooping and 
trembling. I missed the comfort of my toilet.

I was wearing a long sleeved shirt,
 which made things even more interesting. One slip up and I’d be scrubbing the
 end of my shirtsleeve for a while before I came out of the bathroom. Thirty
 seconds later, I was done. No scuffs, no smudges.

I stood up and my thighs screamed with relief. I felt massive in the tiny space;
 this kind of thing was definitely not designed with me in mind. Images of small 
Asian men and women squatting on millions of these things popped into my head.
 Talk about culture shock.

I slipped my pants back on and did a proper hand wash. I never thought a daily 
bodily would function could double as a workout. This, I said to myself, will
 not become a habit.

In a Room, On a Beach   Leave a comment

April 16, 2009

I’m reading a Superman comic book at my workplace.

I sit in solitary silence, in the spacious Eigo Room. This is where countless students have been taught English. The room is empty. I’m sitting near the front of the class, away from the windows so no one can see me. The door windows are covered with paper, giving me an added touch of privacy. I close the comic book for a second and close my eyes.
In moments like these, I remember why relationships are necessary.
Many jobs have a monotony inherent to their inner functions. Twice a week you have meetings. You teach the same classes every Thursday and Friday. Happy hour is on Wednesdays. Your mind gets programmed to this routine, and your emotional expectancies are aligned to your job. But then, one day you go home and you get horny.

Or bored, idle or frustrated. You realize that your rigorous schedule is sapping a portion of your life experience. The work you do to ensure that you have a place to live and eat is also the bane of your existence. Some days might be fun, but they all won’t be. There will be days you want to toss your files into the air, throw your tie in the toilet and hit flush. Then you’ll want to run outside, smiling gleefully and run naked through a public park. You won’t do this, but you’ll think about what you want to be. Your’e still young, you say. There’s still time.

Maybe you’ll be  a rock star or a famous writer. Maybe you’ll spearhead a new tech company and be a billionaire in a manner of months. You could be a travel writer that does dangerous assignments, and joke in broken Portuguese with guys you barely know about that girl you slept with in high school.  Or you could take that really interesting route–TV personality. You could be the next Howie Mandel or Chris Rock, getting a thousand hits on a grainy YouTube video where you chat about that time you got booed at a comedy club in Philly.
Or maybe you’ll be a game programmer, like those MIT kids who came up with Guitar Hero. Maybe you could just be a bum after winning the lottery, sitting home idly buying whatever you feel like, and only date women in Paris, even though you live in New York. Maybe you could do all these things, but then you wake up.

You are at work, and you’ve been fantasizing. The voices around you coalesce into an onorous din. Closing your eyes doesn’t help, and thinking about escaping wont’ help you either. Someone walks beside you and taps you on the shoulder. “Hey, we have a meeting in ten minutes,” they say. You smile and nod, but inside you want to be in Bali, walking with a cute chick on the beach.

You want to be in Senegal, snapping pictures of dancers with crystal dark skin. You want to be in Germany, running your hand across the Berlin wall, snapping pictures with tall blonde people and asking questions from a five dollar phrase book.
Alas, you can’t. You are at work, and you have a contract.

The most you can look forward to are holidays and weekends, and you eye the calendar with anticipation as each day crawls along. You can plan ahead, and squeeze some trips into that three day week, or that five days of sick leave you never take. You sit happily and fantasize about that two day trip to Disney world you’ll take, but know you’ll probably just sleep in. You sigh as inevitability hits you. This office is as much your home as your actual one.

I’m not at this point yet, but sometimes I fear reaching there. A relationship can make that easier. You go through your day of repetitive activity, but out there, somewhere is someone thinking about you. She wants to feel your touch at night, and smell your body next to hers. She wants to have those fleeting moments with you, even if work is at 8 a.m the next day. For her, you will be a priority, and that might make things more palatable.

You’ll sit in a meeting and smirk inwardly about the comment she made the night before when you went out to dinner. You will blush when raw sexual memories spring up at not-so opportune moments.  You will let out a heavy breath when something happens and you get pissed off, but you know that your baby will be there to make you feel better. You will wake up at the crack of dawn, ready to work, knowing that under the stillness of the morning sky, when we come to life, she’s out there, and maybe after she brushes her teeth, a thought of you will pop into her head, and she’ll smile. This keeps you going.


Sumo Wrestler Mealtime   Leave a comment

April 15, 2009

I’m holding a small Japanese child in my arms.

Her name is Nana, and she’s the child of Shuji, a man I met a week ago who I spoke to for only five minutes. He invited me to come to his house today.
Earllier, I walked to try and find out where Shuji lived, somewhere in Maisaka. I took the main road, squinting occasionally as blasts of warm wind hit my face. Every now and then, and old woman on a bicycle would ride by, her face covered with a white mask. I was tired, but I wanted to go to dinner with Shuji and his family.
I’m walking for about ten minutes on the highway, and then I see a car pull over twenty feet away. I get a glimpse of the driver and I realize its Shuji. He gestures quickly for me to come. I hop into the car.
“I have some work to do, but I can take you my house. Is okay?” he said.
“Iku.” I replied. (Let’s go.)

He laughs as he tells me that he saw me walking on the road, and turned around to get me while he was driving. I feel fortunate, because I would have kept walking and probably gotten seriously lost. We stop by his house.
“I think my wife and daughter, they might be sleeping. Can you wait here? I check okay?”
I say okay, and let out a deep breath as I watch him disappear up a staircase. For a second I say, “What am I doing here?” to myself. I met the guy one week ago for a few minutes. I was peppered with questions about where I was from, and then invited to his house the next day. I wasn’t able to make it that day, but I ran into him after school one day. That day he said his English friend would be coming to his house, and I should come.
“We will have big party for you.” He said. His expression was firm, but he exuded a firm warmth.  He was well traveled, having lived all over the world. I thought about this, and then I heard his voice. He was on the staircase.
“Marcus. You come now, okay?” he said.
I walked up a narrow staircase and came to a small door. A flash of movement behind a stained glass in door revealed Shuji. The door opened to reveal Shuji speaking rapidly in Japanese to his wife. She looked at me and nodded.
“Can you wait in the car?” he said.
“Sure.” I said.
I went back downstairs and flopped into the car. In front of me, was the skyline of Maisaka. Small to medium sized houses, and a sea of powerlines. I saw Shuji with a small bundle in his arms. His daughter.
“You hold her. Okay?” he said.
I didn’t know what to say but yes. I opened the door and held onto his daughter carefully. She was adorable.
I felt an odd touch of something. Was it cultural? A person usually wouldn’t let a complete stranger hold their child in the front seat of a vehicle. She felt like a small bundle of heaven, and I was filled with a sudden desire to protect her, more so because of Shuji’s trust.
We drove to his house, which is also where his family business is. I had to stoop to get into the house, but it was warm and cozy. I met his mother and grandmother. “Hajimemashite.” I said. ‘ (pleased to meet you )
“Hajimemashite, yorushku.” His mother replied.  (please to meet you, may we trust each other.)
I was in a tiny lobby area. The floors were made of a firm wood and The walls were made from thin wooden beams and stained glass. Overhead, small pipes threatened to touch my head when I walked, and I kept ducking. Shuji appeared from the kitchen. “You can wash your hand here, then please, sit.” He pointed to a room to the left.
He would say, “please sit, please relax” many times that night. His father would also say that. Relaxing was a big thing in Japan, and he gave me insights into why Japanese people love reggae music. “In Japan, people work very hard. Very long.” He said, “Relax is very important. Reggae is very good for relax.”
I had to agree. After only three and a half weeks, I was starting to see the intensity of the Japanese work ethic; the school I worked at felt like an investment bank. Reggae music must be like a chill-pill for the Japanese I thought, which would explain their fascination with the music and culture.
I sat in a room with a Buddhist shrine in the left corner and a picture of his deceasd Grandfather above it.  A small table no more than eight inches off the ground sat on a set of tatami mats, adjacent to a large flat screen TV. Nana was sitting wth her mother to the left of the table, and Shuji sat in front of me. He said he had lived in the house until he got married, and I could see that if he hadn’t been married he would still be living there. I was starting to understand. His entire family had lived there, including his grandparents, parents and himself and his sister. I met his Grandmother as well, an old woman with a slightly bent back and kind eyes. “SHE IS NINTEY-ONE!” Shuji’s father would eventually exclaim.
As the night went on, I ate taksan tabemono (a lot of food) and a joke would be made that I eat like a sumo wrestler. “We Japanese people are very small.” Shuji said. “Normally we eat one bowl of rice. I like two. But you eat three!” I laughed as he said this. With me having to duck to walk through the house, I really felt like the large, imposing Gaijin.
When his father arrived, he spoke in  a bright, loud voice with a smile on his face. I thought he would have a great career in television in another life. He spoke very good English. “MARCUS! HOW IS THE JAPANESE FOOD? ISN’T IT DELICIOUS!” he said. I nodded, taking a sip of a new Suntory beer, called “STRAIGHT’.

This is the second outing of this kind I’ve been on so far, and I like these events. Here I feel welcome and I can relax a bit. My days have been a mixture of trying to understand Japanese, dealing with ways to adjust to the culture and working. After we eat, Shuji snaps a picture of us. The entire family joins us for the photo.

Most days when I’m walking in the city, I get stares, but no hellos. I traipse around happily listening to music on my Ipod, but I’m blocking out the world around me. I can’t just go up to people and meet them. I play video games at araceds and hangout at Gaijin bars to keep myself level.
This dinner outing is a godsend. The family is very sociable, asking questions about Jamaica, my traveling experience and school. I practice my Japanese with them, and Shuji’s wife laughs as she says I speak very good Japanese. At some point, Shuji points out that I’m the only black person in Maisaka, so I will be very easy to find on the street. This tickles me to no end.

By this time, the English friend, a young man and his mother, have joined us. The routine continues, with drinks for everyone and loads of food. When its over, I leave the house bowing profusely, thanking Shuji for everything.
I walk with the young man and his mother to Bentijima station, nearby. We chat for a while about living in Japan on the train platform. It is brightly lit but at least twenty feet above street level, and I feel like I’m standing in the future. I step on the train and know I won’t need to go anywhere tonight. For now, my head is clear and I can sleep peacefully.

Until tomorrow.

The African Nipple Pinch   Leave a comment

April 10th, 2009

Tonight my nipples will be pinched twice by a large African man.

It’s Friday, and I roll out of my apartment on my bike, blasting dancehall music in my ears, buzzed from cheap pre-gaming. Pre-gaming is a lifesaver for the monetarily conscientious social drinker. Drinks everywhere range from five to ten dollars (a world average), and to get buzzed it takes on average six to eight drinks. You could easily drop 80 bucks in two hours, when you could run to the 7-11, buy a flask of whiskey or rum, a coke for a dollar and do the same for less than one tenth of the price. For now, I’m the one tenth kind of guy.
I planned to head out around ten o’ clock. My evenings usually consist of a brief game of Street Fighter IV which ends with me calling the last boss a “battyguy”, and then I find a bar somewhere to chill and mingle.
I’m having an interesting time in the city, for a few reasons.

Firstly, I’ve never been in a culture like this one. Its not different in a way that makes me run home every night and weep before I wake up to go to work, but socially, I haven’t calibrated yet. I’m a roaming kind of guy. I like bars with people I can talk to, a variety of events to visit and enjoy and that sweet spot with cheap drinks that people flock to the most. Every city I’ve lived in has these places. In Hama town, I think I’ve almost found the three key things I need. Sure there is the sea a train ride away, hot springs and rivers and temples somewhere over a hill or valley, but I’m boring that way. Once the city satisfies my needs, I never leave.

I lived in New York for four months, and I didn’t leave the city once. In fact I spent more than ninety percent of my time in a twenty square block radius. During the day I worked on Spring street, near the waterfront. Ten blocks away at night I was always in Union Square and the Lower East side. Across from where I lived were restaurants and a Jamaican place that sold two patties and a soda for five dollars. In the Lower East Side there were tons of foreign women, dive bars and places with cheap drinks and relatively friendly people. I had my Karaoke night, a club I’d hit up on Tuesdays, my Wednesday pad Thai place, the Thursday dive bar where a beer costs a dollar fifty, and St.Marks and other cool streets on Friday through Sunday. In four months, I didn’t go to the beach in Brooklyn, see the Statue of Liberty, or even visit a museum. I had everything I needed and I was fine.

I want this in Hamamatsu.

I’ve discovered a few interesting bars, run mostly by ex-pat people, but I’m keeping the search going. Tonight I’m supposed to head to a place called Planet Café. They are holding a house music party there. On the website, are images of packed crowds with a sea of pale hands in the air. It looks like a fun spot.

I’m riding my bike and singing along to Mavado’s “I’m so special”, scaring the be Jesus out of old Japanese women in my wake. The alcohol is kicking in, and I promise myself I won’t drink anything else.
Friday night in Hamamatsu feels like a city. There are people everywhere. Around me are a sea of girls in cute skirts, guys with video-game hair of a video game and bright lights. As usual, when I pulled up to the crosswalk and wait for the light to change, a few guys take me in. They speak rapid Japanese, but I hear the word “Gaijin” popup at some point in their conversation.
They might find me interesting, but it’s really not that serious.

I ride low through a street with my video arcade spot. I get off my bike to navigate the bodies. I get more stares, but I’m watching the cute girls. I still haven’t figured out what to say to any of them, and I take a detour and head towards the spot I’m going to, No Name.
The funny thing about Japan is that my friends were all living vicariously through me before I got here. “Japanese girls!” everyone kept saying. “They love black men!” I haven’t proven this theory. I think there is a touch of truth to it, but to date not one girl has said hello to me on the street. This has happened to many of the ALTs I know who are white. Strike on that point.
Also, I’ve heard horror stories about guys who’ve said hello to girls on the street, and the girls report them to the police, and they get tossed in jail for months at a time. In Japan you are guilty until proven innocent, and even if you are innocent, you will lose your job, be banned from public arenas and probably have to move. Saying hello seems like it comes with a steep price.
I’m not that paranoid, but for now, I’ll just watch the cute girls wobble around with that awkard walk so many of them have.
I reach the bar and leave the bike outside. I go in, and its packed with people. I haven’t taken ten steps before I get ten hellos and ten handshakes. Its hard to believe that I’ve only been here for three weeks.

Femme Fatale is in the building. “Sit beside me.” She says. “Let’s talk.”
She jokes constantly about a scarf I’m wearing. The scarf is pink and white with a checkered pattern. Its turned frontward so the knot is in front of my crotch. It certainly has gotten her attention. She touches it, tugs it and keeps laughing at how it brings attention to my lower extremities. I try to stop her, but she’s very persistent.

Most of the people I’ve met don’t met so far aren’t the craziest dressers. The Ex-pat crowd here reminds me of DC. Mostly faded t-shirts and jeans. When I come in wherever I go with fitted pants, armbands and a scarf on my waist, people tend to balk. “This isn’t New York.” People keep saying to me. I’m not sure why they say this, I mentioned living in New York and having fun there, but I never said I was there for any length of time. It’s a stamp I’ve received, something to explain my fashion sense. But no one says anything about the Japanese guys who run around town in teddybear costumes, pants too tight for human circulation, and the hair that uses four bottles of gel per three days to maintain.
At the table with Femme fatale, are two faces I know and two African men. The conversation revolves around my scarf for a few minutes and then settles on the second-most popular topic since I’ve been here. Jamaica.
Tony, the owner of a club here, gives me a discerning look. “You live in Hamamatsu? This is the first time I’m seeing you.” He says in a thick Nigerian accent. He looks on me as if he should know me. He has the eyes of a business man, and the smile of a top-billed Vegas stage performer. I can tell he’s doing well.
The other gentleman’s name is John. “Just a Christian name.” he tells me, as if expecting me to be surprised his name isn’t Ubuku or something of the sort. Someone buys me a drink and I down it a little too fast. Jokes start flying around the table and I get teased a few times about childish things.
The Africans are getting excited. John is talking about me and Ghana. “I do not care.” He says, “You can go into the airport and they will not even need to look at your visa, they will say you are Ghanaian. I have been there, and that is how you look.”
“I claimed Ghana a long time ago.” I say to the group. “Since all the Jamaican slaves come from there.”
For some reason this makes everyone laugh, and it confirms to me that I, and everyone at the table are drunk. “He tells me that I look Ghanaian and he”–I  point to Tony–“has the name of my father!”.
This tickles Tony to no end and he grabs at my chest with a hearty laugh. He has massive hands and forcefully pinches my left nipple. “Hey!” I say in surprise. He laughs and does it again. I laugh too. I was a man pinch, the kind people do in locker rooms to piss you off or just annoy you. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

Femme fatale is at the bar. I’m really buzzed now, and someone else buys me a drink. Its Jim, a sleepy eyed American with a beard who’s lived here for a long time. I thank him and sip on it. Going to Planet Café is a distant memory now. I’m feeling the mental lull that comes with the rapid consumption of alcohol, and I know the only place I”ll be going soon is my house. I head to the bar and take a seat beside Femme Fatale.
I look at the crowd. It’s a mix of people I’ve been seeing for the last three weeks almost everyday. I rarely see a new face, or girl to meet in here. “I think I’m heading out.” I say with beer breath. “Everyone here is either married, in a serious relationship, or gay.”
Femme fatale takes this personally and gets upset. I didn’t realize that a close friend of hers was nearby, who is also gay. “You are talking too loud.” She says. “In Japan you have to be discreet.”
I didn’t get it. This was the same Femme Fatale who was on the dance floor, being dry humped by an openly gay man while a group of flaming Brazilian men cheered her on a week before.

The alcohol made me apologetic. So much so that she got up and went to another side of the bar. “You are standing too close to me.” She said when I walked over to talk. I was confused. She was basically toying with my balls earlier, with one interesting disclaimer:
“Your penis means nothing to me.” She said. “I could whip it out, take pictures of it and roll it around. It has no effect.” Now I was standing too close. The proximity a function her earlier statement. I was trying to be discreet. To make things worse, her best friend who is six foot three and about two hundred and fifty pounds appears by my side. “Aw, he just wants to apologize. ” the big guys says. I agree with him immediately. To do otherwise probably wouldn’t be smart. Femme Fatale has a nonchalant but friendly expression on her face. It doesn’t worry me.
I tried patching things up, for one reason. There is something in this city called “Dramamatsu”, and I got my first taste of it.
The city is small, and it will be impossible to interact with the same people and not have arguments, learn about people cheating or unintentionally offend people. Femme fatale knew everybody. I didn’t want to be on her bad side.
“I’m not angry with you.” She said. “You just have to be more aware of who is around you.” I grumbled a response.
I hate explaining myself these days, but I don’t’ like falling out with people over foolish things. A guy I knew told me her friend was gay a few days earlier, in front of a  large group of people. Femme Fatale was there too. This added to my confusion but these days I don’t sweat things–unless of course, I’ve been drinking and gain some added sensitivity in the right places.  “This isn’t New York.” She added, and then I gave up. I’m not from New York, and yes New York has a lot of gay people, but I didn’t see what that had to do with Japan. I nodded and did a kampai (cheers) with her and left.

People that mean nothing to me would never get my attention like that. I only do it with people that have meaning to me. Femme Fatale was cool peoples.

The next night, a girl named Megan would tell me that I left the bar, came back in and then told her I wasn’t able to play darts with her. I don’t remember this. I wake up the next day alone with my pants on one of my tiny chairs and groan. On my desk is plastic bag with Ramen and a little pastry packet. I vaguely remember buying it.
I sigh, put some water on the stove and prepare for another day.


Kaze No Machi   Leave a comment

April 2nd, 2009.

I see her in my dreams.

Outside, the wind blows like the voice of God on a silent morning. It is cold and chilly, and I am inside, asleep in my bed. I am dreaming of driving through Japan. There are three cars, one with my family inside it, another with me and some people I don’t recognize, and her. In the dream, she isn’t really there, just her presence, but in this dream I hear she is pregnant. I am happy for her, and she smiles as we talk to our essences. The dream is quiet and peaceful, and I wake up after hearing the wind roar outside my apartment once more.

I want to be happy for her, but I am trapped by fear. I have had so many dreams and phantom conversations with her, so much anguish and physical stress from just thinking about her, that any sort of communication is unbearably frightening to me. These communicades are not just messages, they are re-entry points into my life.; reminders of her beauty, and of losing love.

I had no desires to travel to Japan and be thinking of anyone or anything in particular. I wanted to come here, live peacefully and see what I could learn about the near future. My spirit doesn’t agree with me.

I hop out of my bed and feel the cold wooden floor greet my bare soles. I slide the curtains shut, drowning out the last of the sun’s rays on this cool Japanese evening. I press a small red button on a white remote that rests in a plastic holder on the wall. A small engine whirrs to life with a beep, and within moments, warm arm flows throughout the room.

“I want to be happy for her.” I say to myself in my mind. “I want to be happy she is living her life…. But I am so afraid.”

A lot has changed for me over the last few years in terms of my self-perspective. No longer am I thrilled by the notion of being liked or disliked. Rather, I am solidly aware of the concept of being loved or not loved.

The life one lives when one merely is interested in people that like or dislike you, is much simpler. The dark nights aren’t as longer, things are more ephemeral, and you have less to lose. In the world of love, the stakes are much higher. Some might call this maturity, or back home they might just say “you are at that age now.”

Before I left Jamaica, my Grandmother slipped in a comment about a “wife” during one of my visits. All my life, she has never mentioned a wife to me. Maybe I am just at that age, the age where a human being has an acute sense of their mortality, and this increased awareness makes them want companionship even more.

But is that what I want? I’m not sure if traveling halfway across the globe will help me find out that which I seek. I have never traveled to find love before. I have traveled in an attempt to save love, but never to find it. But what you generally don’t search for always seems to come back to you.
I toy with the idea of putting some green tea on the stove, and decide not to. I flip open my laptop and lazily browse the internet. Outside, is a windy city I am not used to and a new life. Nothing in my body desires love, it fears losing it too much. But my body and mind are desiring something more than sexual, more meaningful than being liked.

I don’t know why, but this feeling has been spinning within my consciousness for the last two years, as I go from place to place it varies, but it is constant. I live in the world of the loved, and there may be some dark nights ahead.

Posted April 2, 2009 by marcusbird in Personal Thoughts

Tagged with , ,

Taito Station   Leave a comment

I’m getting somewhat settled.

I sometimes try to think about the sense of Japan I had when I wasn’t here, the way I would imagine the trees and people would look, the things I would see and hear, but so far, the city I’m staying in feels like any other city I’ve ever been in.

I’m in bed for most of the day, mostly out of boredom, and sometimes I get lost in thought, floating through memories of past things. I have a brief Skpe conversation with my family back home, and then I decide to take a walk.

I’ve been trying to find a video arcade for the last few days, and today is the day to go. Its chilly and overcast, but I wear dark glasses. I don’t mind saying sumimasen all day long, but today, I want to hide my eyes. I want my thoughts to be hidden from the world behind my dark lenses.

I’m strolling quietly in a pair of skinny jeans and a biker vest that fits me perfectly. With my glasses and headphones, I feel futuristic. I know I stand out, but it doesn’t excite me. I wonder what the old Japanese man in his bicycle shop thinks of me. What does the lady in the car passing by think? Who knows. All I know is that the sounds of the city are gone, drowned out by the pounding of music in my ears.

I walk near my new hang out street, a small brightly lit street filled with cool stores, cheap bars and thrift shops. I take a left down a street I haven’t walked on before, and I find a tidy collection of small clubs and more bars. I remind myself that I have to return.

During the day the city rolls along like a quiet beast grazing in a large field. Everything happens as it is supposed to: Cars drive, people walk, lights blink. As I exit the alley, I notice a large ZaZa City sign, and I know where I am. ZaZa City is a large mall near the station. I shared a meal with the two Aussies there a few days prior.

I cross the street, patiently waiting for the light to change, and then I see it. Its called Taito Station, and I can hear that mish-mash of arcade noises that I used to love as a teenager. I go inside, and chuckle. Two small, very cute teddy-bear robot thingies are walking about on the floor. They aren’t moving in any particular direction, but they have sensors to help guide them as they “walk” around. They main an irregular but circular path near the entrance. One word:  adorable.

The arcade is a good size, and I see a small crowd of who I think are college or high school students. I take a street at a street fighter 4 machine. For 100 yen (one token), I play until the final stage, and surprise myself at how excited the game makes me feel. My legs are warm with anticipation and I feel the blood rushing through my arms and legs. I haven’t played a video game in a long time. I didn’t realize how good it felt.

After trying to beat the final guy a few times, I get a challenge from a young Japanese guy. He destroys me, and I go to play Dance Dance revolution. As I look on the machine, I smile a half-smile of pleasure and pain.

The last time I played DDR was in Barcelona, two years prior. Sitting behind me at the time was my girlfriend. I can still hear her voice. “wow, you are good!” she had said. At the time, she was holding my little Sony Cybershot, shooting video of me stepping on the colourful arrows that coincide with the musical beats. For a second, my heart flutters, then stops. The image fades, but I am reminded that love never goes away.

I step onto the machine and try to figure out the menu. I end up picking the easy game first, and awkwardly step to a few easy songs. Next time, I pick a harder level and have some more fun. I slip on my glasses and step in unison. At some point during my life I said I wanted to play Dance Dance Revolution in Japan. I had my moment. This time there was no one behind me, no beautiful face smiling at me and holding my camera, but I was there, stepping to the music, getting funky.

After my second game, I went to the 7-11 across the street and grabbed a small snack. The day was getting more chilly, and I decided to walk home. This city feels little like DC, but not really. DC is mixed. Even minorities are a majority in DC. Here, things are more homogeneous. People look similar, and dress similarly. Everything feels very quiet. I slip my ear phones on, toss my wrapper into the garbage, and start the slow walk home.

At the underpass, I run into Jeff, a guy from Boston who lives here. He is a large strapping fellow, with a very innocent face. We chit-chat briefly. There isn’t much going on tonight, he tells me. I nod and say I’ll probably see him later. My stomach feels a little off–I don’t think I ate much for the day–and I need some food. In a few minutes I’m back to my apartment. I open the door and I’m greeted by a gust of cold air. I close the door, and temporarily, everything goes dark.