I thought about leaving in the dark, short days of January because the program I worked for mandated that I make the decision to stay or the decision to leave during the short, dark days of January.
A couple things I did in Japan:
After lunch we cleaned. After work everyday, the whole town put on a musical in the shitty gym. It was exhausting.
I left the shitty gym, and the ceremonial things. I handed in my resignation in a tiff to a woman who kept telling me what to do, because of candy. That’s hard to admit. I refuse to elaborate.
Later in the year I couldn’t get the cherry blossom petals from sticking to my wet coat. I was constantly pink. It really annoyed my coworkers who would yell at me “Michael go downstairs, you are constantly pink I can’t concentrate.” Everyone was pink on the bottom of their shoes, where the petals stuck, but for some reason only I was pink on my body.
I made many mistakes as an American. America has trash problems that Japan doesn’t. Japan has fish problems, and I was constantly made to eat fish. The townspeople would come to my shitty house with barrels of fish saying “Michael eat this fish, there are too many big fish they have grown legs and built unwanted houses: they must be eaten raw. You are too pink, close the door.”
The next Monday my supervisor made me go around the office bowing, saying sorry for eating all of the fish they gave me. They didn’t think it possible.
“Sorry I’m American..No, I know it’s a great inconvenience. There is no excuse.”
That was after the Vice-Mayor took me out to eat sushi. He bought the best sushi. It was such good sushi it would melt in your mouth, which was problematic because he would ask to see the sushi as I chewed it and I would tell him: “Mr. Vice-Mayor I cannot show you the food as it disappears.” He grew very angry and wouldn’t speak to me in English anymore, even though he never did.
On my last night in Japan that came like a local news channel someone had switched to by sitting on the remote, my old Japanese girlfriend drove to see me after work.
She was tired. I had cried while drinking a beer near my luggage in the Genkan. We went to the top of the closest mountain and sat in the dark. It was summer and incredibly humid. The air was so dense that you could feel the buildings sway.
It looked like a toy town. The toy train cut through the lights of the houses like a drop of paint dried on a window pane when you are trying to spy on your neighbor taking a shower.
I told my old Japanese girlfriend that I could feel the town, that I could feel women making lunch for the next day. I knew in my knees that their children were studying near a candle, and making trouble in the kitchen.
She said “mm”, which in Japan means either yes, or you’re an idiot. I don’t know, many people in Japan said yes to me.
I told her again: “I can feel the old Japanese men, drunk, exhausted in the bath waiting for the next individual drop of water to separate from the tap.” Like torture.
She said “mm”
I told her the train looked like a drop of paint dried on a window pane, and she said “Sou, na.”
I told her I didn’t want to leave: she said nothing.
The water dropped from one of the old Japanese men’s taps. I could feel the wrinkled skin in my palms.
She said “mm,