Archive for the ‘Personal Thoughts’ Category

Officially a published author!   3 comments

I received copies today of two book with my published writing! J.K Rowling, Stephen King, Dan Brown… holla at me!! : D

My short story “Gaijin Girl” was published in the 15th edition of Yomimono , an annual literary journal published by author Suzanne Kamata. You can also checkout my interview with her, here.

Next, a book deal!

Loving the feel : D

Suzanne Kamata is the author of Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008), the editor of Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs (Beacon Press, May 2008) and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009)

面白い音楽だ.ヴィブズカーテルより.   Leave a comment

This song is super funny! I worked for Comedy Central in 2008 from a writing internship that had me writing and reviewing skits and parodies all day. I love seeing this developmental style of comedy getting bigger and better in Jamaica.

Rainy Day in Hamamatsu   Leave a comment

A day like today reminds me of Jamaica, even though I am in Japan. I can see the soft pallor of an overcast sky with the air smelling like freshly fallen rain running into my nostrils. Outside the signs of life are non-existent, save the occasional drone of a passing car. Today I felt like I was back in my high school, staring out at the world, wishing I could be in it. I want to be in the trees as an elf, sliding down house-sized leaves, getting sucked into the raging torrent of a small puddle. I want to explore deep caverns with quiet life; slimy things and wet places. But I’m not there.

I’m an adult, older and different. A little weather beaten and jaded, far from the round-faced little boy I used to be. Now when I look out things feel different; muted. The world isn’t that same mystical place with its fairytale landscapes and beautiful vistas. It harbours memories of the past that follow you wherever you go. But what is a memory but an unchangeable event from the past, a fragment of our life’s mosaic?

On these rainy days in Jamaica, the quiet wetness of everything gave me a inner comfort. Drops of water from the sky touching things made them slow down, giving them pause and clarity. Here is Japan, the trees outside are different but the sky and the rain are the same. As unchanging as rain and sunshine is, our lives change. The uncertainty of tomorrow is eclipsed in each rain drop as it falls like a glistening ball from on high, before exploding into a million pieces on the ground.

Today, maybe I will walk by a window and pretend I’m a foot shorter, with the bright eyes of youth and happiness in my heart. I might look out at those gray skies and see the fairytale again; the one I want to believe.


Posted March 4, 2010 by marcusbird in Living in Japan, Personal Thoughts

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Dark Nights on a Cricket Field   Leave a comment

I’m on a field with a cricket bat in my hands, and I’m waiting. An old tennis ball is thrown at me and I tense my thighs. It is a dark evening in the Caribbean, and as I hit the ball with a crack, I set off running. Strangely the field I am on is mostly empty, and as I come to a finish, I laugh as I see my grandfather doing a light job somewhere nearby. “Come sah. You can’t beat me.” He says with a laugh. I smile as I look at him, feeling a sense of familiarity as fresh as the first time I set foot in my grandparent’s first home when I was four. I still remember that sensation. The house was large and quiet, and the wood smelled fresh and sweet. It had an air of history, as my mother had lived at that very house growing up. I remembered my fourth birthday, when my grandfather took me to a large room in the house to show me a gift he had for me.

“Happy birthday!” he said, and revealed my present. In front of me was a yellow desk and a three legged stool. That day I was pristinely excited. I loved to draw, and I would spend many an hour on that desk drawing until I broke the stool with my weight years later.

On the cricket field, smiling at the fresh-faced image of my grandfather smiling at me, I have a sense of meaning in the moment. This I know, because I am dreaming. My  grandfather died in late 2005. My Grandmother is nearby. I do not see her, but I can sense her, in the same way I am able to sense the feeling of youth and family that comes with the mere thought of her. I see the smiles, I hear laughs and little giggles from my then-tiny body being tickled by her large, dark hands. Instantly, the field disappears and I am back at my grandparent’s home. It is also dark there but I am comfortable.

We speak about something, but the words are unknown to me. All I remember is the good feeling that comes with sharing a moment of quiet with my grandparent’s. “You don’t have much time left to talk with him.” My Grandmother says to me, nodding at my grandfather. I nodded, understanding what she meant. My Grandmother is alive, and it was as if what she said was directly in reference to my dream. Something about her words rang true to me in a familiar way, but not with the wrenching sense of danger on that scary day when I rushed with my family members to the hospital to see my grandfather alive for the last time. It was as if she was mentioning that this moment wasn’t forever and I should make the most of it.

It has been mentally challenging for me lately, thinking of the near future. Things have felt cloudy and uncertain, and though I am happy for all that I have and have seen thus far in my life, there are a few more things I desire. This desire is so potent it had kept me in my room day after day, as I toil away in my free time in an attempt to make these dreams a reality. To many, I must seem like a ghost, and I feel that way sometimes, sitting in my apartment in old clothes, existing somewhere between the sleeping world and that of the awake people.

In the dream, I am now on an island of some kind that reminds of me of a place I visited once on vacation. I can sense my grandparent’s are nearby at a hotel, but I don’t see them. In this part of the  dream I am with a group of people. They are suggesting I go to a show later. Another group of people, also strangers, are telling me about a party. These people I realize, represent my need to leave the apartment for a bit and merely clear my head.

I wake up soon after, my room cold from the wind of a Japanese winter outside, and my heart warm with memories of my grandparents. I’ve had a few dreams like this before, particularly at challenging moments  in my life. For now, I feel calm in the face of my quiet conversation with my grandfather, and for the next several days I will hold on to that image of me on a dark cricket field somewhere in Jamaica, laughing with him as he smiles at me, jogging in place, fresh-faced and young, with twinkling eyes.

2009 to 2010 and back again   Leave a comment


Me Jumping off a camel's back in Egypt with the Giza Pyramids behind me.

I’m piggybacking this blog from my good friend Jabari’s site. We often interface about our lives and our careers, and lately I’ve been talking about the power of looking back. Really taking stock of some things you’ve achieved in a year so you can get a good sense of where you are and where you want to be. He had a VERY impressive list on his site, but here are some of my key achievements for 2009.

I made the serious decision to move to Japan and learn the environment to pursue my goal to be a designer in Tokyo. I traveled to five countries: America, Jamaica, Japan, Egypt and Dubai.

I finished most of the work on my latest novel, Sex, Drugs & —-I created my website chronicling my time in Japan, called I had the great opportunity to go on the 2009 Summer
Billboard Live Tour with the legendary Maxi Priest, his son Marvin Priest and up and coming reggae artiste (my cousin) Beniton the Menace as the photographer and videographer. Started a web series called “Marcus Bird: Jamaican in Japan”. Launched my clothing line, the first product called Rudi, in late 2009. I wrote or finished 15 short stories based on Japan, Jamaica and the U.S. I worked for a few companies doing design work in Japan, France and Jamaica. I look on this and think its okay… but let’s see what I can do in 2010 : D

Posted January 7, 2010 by marcusbird in Living in Japan, Personal Thoughts

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A note on Frailty   Leave a comment

Yurakugai on a Saturday night in Hamamatsu is a mish mash of bodies going to various destinations. This street is the most popular street in the city center, and people congregate here to sing Karaoke, hang out by the 7-11, and pickup girls. I’m normally at the video arcade on early Saturday nights, playing Street Fighter 4 while blasting music in my ears. After losing a few heated battles, I took a break to grab at a drink at the nearby convenience store.

After I got my drink, I talked to a guy I always see on the Strip. Every Friday and Saturday I run into him. He is tall guy who looks like a fashionista biker. Tonight he is explaining to me his theories on picking up Japanese women.
“Most times I just say “We Will fuck” to the girls. And that’s enough.” He says.
I laughed in disbelief, but his expression seems to connote an element of truth in what he said. Two friends of his disappeared a few minutes earlier after spotting some targets across the street. I stood there for a few seconds, eyeing the crowd, thinking. Japanese guys often said getting girls was an easy affair; a few choice statements, a couple drinks at a bar and then off to a hotel or an apartment to take it to the next level. I waited for him to continue, but we would never finished that conversation.That was when I heard the noise.  

Behind me are a set of red stairs that lead up to popular restaurant above the 7-11. On the stairs voices shout and I hear the telltale sound of someone’s feet clattering down the steps. In a second,  I see man’s body coming fast down the flight of stairs. He is falling, and he hits the ground buttocks first with his feet pointing upwards. His torso snaps back and his head smacks the ground. The sound of his head smashing against the pavement sounded like someone took a baseball bat and hit it with all their strength on a concrete wall. I had never heard a person’s head hit anything and make such noise, much less seen in happen.

In the immediate vicinity, everyone froze. The man lay there, not moving. I swore he was dead. People across the street, drunk and chatting gaily had also heard the man’s head hit the ground. Then, people swarmed him. A few friends at the top of the stairs ran down, calling his name. People inside 7-11 and neighboring restaurants stood around the man, who was on the ground, not moving. He seemed healthy, with a broad chest, salt and pepper hair in a military buzz cut and thick hands. From his style he seemed to be reasonably well off. He wore a sports jacket with a black designer shirt tucked into stylish flat-iron pants. His wingtip shoes were shiny, though small. His face was clean shaven and he looked to be about fifty. As I stood there, he could have been anyone. Did he have family? Who were his friends? These thoughts flooded my mind. My heart raced and I knelt beside him. The friends were frantic, screaming at each other in Japanese.
“Don’t move him!” I shouted as they started lifting him.

I was buzzing with adrenaline. I squeezed the man’s hand to see if he would squeeze it back. He was fluttering his eyelids and was semi-coherent. The hand squeeze was a test from my limited medical knowledge to see if he had some spinal damage. A man beside him, who I realized was his good friend barked at me. He waved his hand and pushed me and someone else aside. More people clamored around and I slinked off into a nearby corner, watching the spectacle play out. I didn’t know who the man was, but I wanted to help him. Like so many moments I’ve experienced in life, I felt powerless.

It took a while for the ambulance to come, and the guy I was speaking previously to vanished with his friends. He was meeting his girlfriend at the train station I think. Some people, thinking the man was drunk, laughed at him and shouted in a comical fashion “Is there a doctor here?”. Other people smiled as they passed, thinking he had passed out. As I looked at person after person pass by, I was reminded of our frailty. The man on the ground had a few drinks and took a bad step. Now he was probably dying on the ground surrounded by strangers and inebriated gawkers. How easily could any of us take a bad step? An awkward fall?

My mood was circumspect. I felt bad that I couldn’t help the man, but did I really care or was that raw emotion? Was this man’s life any more fascinating than mine? I didn’t think so. I was whittling my life away at the arcade, hiding in a building like so many people do on the weekend, trying to forget about Monday. But something disturbed me about the sound the man’s head hitting the ground. It was thunderous, frightening and somewhat traumatic. In our lives of work and play, movies and escape, we can easily forget that we are flesh and bone, weak and breakable.

After the ambulance collected the man and I watched it drive into the distance, eventually blending into the thick Saturday night crowd. The sound of the ambulance faded, and the din of voices and footsteps filled the air. In another minute, there was no indication a man had ever been lying on the floor just feet from where hundreds of people were passing by. The incident was over, an afterthought. Life was going on. I sighed, took one last look at the spot where he lay, and went back to the video arcade.

Posted December 14, 2009 by marcusbird in Personal Thoughts

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Fuzzy Revelations   Leave a comment

There are moments I call “fuzzy”, when the world seems a little blank, I feel very far away from everything and the pace of life becomes a blur. This weekend was sort of like that. From place to place I roamed, not sure what was up or down, or where I was headed. In the process, I lost my ATM card and a pair of nice headphones. Monday morning, as I shuffled off to my work commute, I didn’t feel upset. The haze from the weekend was still hanging around like an annoying associate. The clarity that comes with waking up on a Monday morning simply wasn’t there. Later, I decided to check around. First I went to my bank. Sure enough, after grabbing a few thousand yen on Friday night, I had left my bank card there. But I was surprised that I hadn’t realized I left it there all weekend. This more than anything, proved my fuzziness. Then, at some point, on Saturday night or Sunday, my headphones disappeared. I theorized that they had fell on the carpet in the video arcade, possibly gleefully snatched up by a young teen just dying for a pair of black nondescript headphones with a little earwax in them for good measure. But I said, This is Japan.

I went to the arcade in the evening, two or so days after I left it. When I spoke to the attendant, he said they had some earphones. I saw him pull them out of a drawer. I sighed in relief. They were elegantly wrapped, and seemed more pristine than when I left them. I signed a paper and was soon happily listening to 90’s hip-hop. This is something that’s worth noting about Japan. Sometimes it’s a stream of chaos, a smattering of images and voices you can’t fully understand. But sometimes, when you lose a few important items and get them back. You can still smile. You can still hope.

Posted December 1, 2009 by marcusbird in Personal Thoughts

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Guiness Support and Freestyling with a Beatboxer   Leave a comment

Living in Japan can be tricky at times.

There are moments the Kanji (Japanese chinese-based characters) can overwhelm you, and you feel like curling up under you sheets and grab your teddy bear happily, wishing it was a flesh and blood person. (I don’t own a teddy bear).

But last night, I met a kindred spirit. He was a Japanese man, with a boyish haircut and a bright smile who had lived in Europe for five years. As I told him that I was Jamaican and that I had been living in Japan, he felt the need to buy me all the drinks I wanted. Not to insult him, I made sure to have three drinks as we spoke. He understood the pain and confusion that can come with living in a foreign country, and before he left, he asked me “Daijoubu?” (Are you okay?) at least FIFTEEN TIMES. In me, he saw someone on a search, a person far removed from all they know and love, thrust into a place that sometimes feels like a hot blanket across the sky…

I appreciated that in some small way. His connection with me was sincere in that odd way; I hvae no idea what he must have felt living in Frankfurt and Turkey for five years as a stone cold Japanese adult male. What pitfalls did he go through? What challenges did he face societally, sexually and otherwise? I can’t even imagine. But in me, he saw flashes of the past. In my calm smile he saw a hidden struggle; a person working on creating a shifting paradigm of life. He saw the Jamaican in Japan, and he knew what that was. I drank my guinesses happily with him and his sister, chatting in my best Japanese about what I do here, and what I plan to do next. Then, he left, saying “Ganbatte!” (all the best!) and asking me “Daijuobu?” one last time.

As he walked away, I sighed to myself. It isn’t easy to fit in anywhere you aren’t born is it?
After this, I headed to a club. Second Club. There, I watched a person called Dub FX do a spectacular oratory demonstration. Using a realtime recording device, he would lay down drums, snares, harmonics and vocals.

At some point, he callled out to audience members to perform with him. I felt the pull, and went. Alongside the “human beatboxer” from Australia, I did freestyles in a soft Jamaican accent about living in Japan, the DJ and a bunch of nonsensical rhymes that probably sounded really good to the Japanese people in the audience. I left my camera at home, which I regret, because I didn’t get to capture the moment.

“Where you from man?” he asked me later in his performance, when he asked me to come on stage again with him.
“Jamaica.” I replied, remembering the man who bought me a few drinks, and remembering that I was so far away from everything I knew, but I could still hop on stage…. and chat a little.

Barbeque, Beers and Salsa Piers   Leave a comment

Traveling can expose you to vistas you may never see anywhere else. For example, today I sat on a pier somewhere near Bentenijima, a town a few trains stops away from Hamamatsu, in the late evening. The water was dark and quiet, and the city lights far away, illuminated the blackness like a small box covered with fireflies. Every few minutes, a train would appear as a long snake, streaking across tracks in the distance, before disappearing into a tunnel. As I sat there, I spoke with a friend of mine, Emi.

 Emi was sitting in the darkness, her long hair like a veil. She was barefoot and wearing a floral dress, the patterns hard to distinguish. We were talking about life. As she sat there in the darkness, and me beside her, I felt an interesting sense of time and space. Earlier, I had come here for a Salsa barbeque. Through Emi, I had transportationto the event with a cool young Japanese man named Taka. He had been to Jamaica, on a cruise with his wife of two months, Marie. Meeting him was a notch in a long sequence  of introductions I had been flooded with since my arrival to Japan. The salsa crowd had been introduced to me by Emi, and I had marveled that first night the way everyone had looked at me, wide-eyed and curious, the question marks like invisible halos over their heads.

That night, many girls requested a dance from me, some so shy to touch my hands I could feel them trembling with every step we took. It had been a whirlwind and intriguing, a barrage of sensations doused with the indigo of the club’s black lights. But here, in the open, it wasn’t the same. My Japanese was hardly conversational, and I’m not a serious Salsa enthusiast anymore. I had danced for years in different clubs, but I lost my passion for it. As I approached the Barbeque area with Taka, we parked in a lot across the road. An old totem pole grabbed my attention, and I snapped a picture with it.

The park itself was a family center, with tables set up for groups to sit, and a rocky path lead to the beach nearby. I was quiet for most of the time, regretting that I hadn’t eaten before I got there. Everyone brought beef or pork to cook, neither of which I ate. I sipped Pepsi and slowly ate vegetables, grumbling at my ineptitude of foresight. Also, I didn’t know there was a fee for the barbeque. Someone brought a little chicken with them, so I was able to eat a few tiny morsels of food, but the barbeque had a price tag of 1000 yen, which I didn’t know. After paying for my meal and grumbling at the emptiness of my stomach, I heard there was a Salsa party afterward, at

a local venue. At some point during this Barbeque, Emi had arrived, looking regal in a black suit. She had taken some kind of exam for teachers, but seemed upset because she didn’t feel like she passed it. After the Barbeque ended, we took a group picture.

We walked over to the club, and I groaned. It was another 1000 yen to go into the club and all I could see beyond me were a sea of Japanese bodies. I started to feel a little choked; something that occasionally happens to me in a completely homogenous environment. Two things were working against me; prohibitive spending for things I did not want to do, and distance. Even if I wanted to leave, I had no way to get home. I sighed and made small talk with the Japanese Salsa crowd, who asked me repeatedly why I wasn’t dancing.

I didn’t feel like explaining to them I was hungry, and didn’t like Salsa dancing that much. I also couldn’t bother to say that I wasn’t in the best spirits to begin with. I sat in a chair, thinking about Japan. Even though this was a different country and a different set of rules of meeting people was essentially the same. You don’t need language to have fun. Cost doesn’t matter, the choice is whether or not you want to take what you can from what’s there. So far, I didn’t feel like taking anything. In the past I would have loved something like this, dancing the night away with a group of Japanese people, happily grabbing every girl that laid an eye on me. But in some way they all felt like obstacles; barriers in this new world. So I went outside.

I sat on the pier, watching mostly fathers and sons fishing in the nighttime. Everyone had a small flashlight on a string around their neck, and it was quiet, save the occasional laugh of a child. I felt a little sad and cold, so far away from friends and family, unable to have fun. It felt like a curse, this “wall” I saw in front of me. I tried to think of five years before, when I leapt at the chance to do anything involving fun, wherever I was. Had things become so dark? Was happiness so elusive?

I sat there for a long time, and soon a few of the Salsa group were on the pier beside me. They stood there like statues, chatting with each other while Emi spoke to me. They went back inside to dance, and I started chatting to Emi about life. She was searching for something meaningful in the world, looking at ways to feel better about herself and her life. I told her about choices and journeys, connections and ways of looking on reality. I told her an interesting yarn about meditation, personal psychology and the power of making decisions. It sounded good to me, and I started to feel a little better. In the midst of this conversation, with Emi and I sitting barefoot there together, I
wasn’t sure how to think of her. She was definitely become a friend, and I her confidant. I didn’t have the luxury of imagining anything else. After my brief time in Japan thus far, the idea of a young woman wanting anything from me even remotely sexual seems vague and unrealistic.

After our long conversation, we walked back inside. The party was in full swing, and I could feel the heat from the dance floor. Near the reception area, a tall Japanese man was giving massages to women, who had formed an eager line. I glanced inside. Bodies moved to and fro with amazing precision. Everyone was Japanese, and I looked at their long silky hair, twinkling eyes and smiling teeth. Then I sat back on the couch. Something in me wanted to dance, to reach out and lose myself in the crowd, but I couldn’t. A girl I met at the barbeque came over to me, telling me to come inside and dance. I told her I didn’t feel like it, and she didn’t seem to understand. My responses were protracted and awkward, and I sighed once more and walked outside.

Now it was completely dark, save the lights of a few vending machines. Emi asked me if I wanted to get an ice cream, and I said yes. She treated me to a cone, and I stood by a railing near the entrance for a while. Soon, a few people were leaving, and I got a ride back into the city. Two very genki women were in the car, and excitedly asked me questions about Salsa and Jamaica. They were fascinated to learn that their car was called an “S.U.V” in the states. In Japan, one of them
said, the car is called “4.W.D”. I laughed at this.

The girls in the car were cute, but I knew I would never know them much better. The gulf of language and culture was always there, too wide for me to cross. I came out of the car at the Hamamatsu station, where I had parked my bike. I thanked them and told them goodnight. I unlocked my bike and headed into the city, hoping to find something exciting to do on a slightly chilly Saturday night.

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.