The two cuties, freshman Office Ladies by the look of them (black skirt, black jacket, black stockings black pumps and white blouses) dropped their bags on the two seats at the table beside mine. Simultaneously, they glanced my way, shrugged and proceeded into the shop to place their orders. I was reading “Without Remorse” (one of my favorite Clancy books,) and checking this out peripherally. I didn’t dare look directly at them. I don’t like to look at Japanese people, to be honest. Despite my best effort at ignoring them, their behavior can sometimes ruin the sunniest day, the best stogie, the tastiest coffee, or the happiest mood. So, I endeavor to only look at Japanese people I know (Imagine the difficulty of that!) But, like a child pulling the wings off of flies, dropping lit firecrackers in ant colonies or killing cockroaches with a can of Raid and a lit match, sometimes I can’t help but torture, even if the subject is myself.
They emerged from within a few minutes later with frosty chocolaty drinks and took their seats beside me. I glanced up from my book and as our eyes met I saw neither fear or pleasure at my presence…it was indifference. I was surprised but hid it. It is rare here. Japanese people either are enamored with me, or terrified, or uncomfortable…but indifference? Plus they had the decency to sit beside me. (Decency is one of a few dozen words I’ve had to re-define since I’ve moved here.) Yep, they were just as nonchalant as they wanted to be, relaxed and enjoying the fine weather and…good conversation.
That’s when I realized what I’d missed.
The people seated at the other tables’ reactions to the fact that these two girls had the audacity, the bravado, to not only sit beside me but leave their belongings behind, as they would have done if I had been Japanese, had been mixed, ranging from shock to dismay. I can’t imagine why (-; Most had probably presumed what I would find out once the girls had returned to the table as the first words crossed their lips: though Asian and clearly acclimated to Japanese culture as much as any Asians born elsewhere can acclimate, they were not Japanese.
In fact, they were Chinese.
I love Chinese people! They ain’t afraid of shit! They’d sooner spit on you than run from you. I like that spirit. Don’t take no shit from no one! I glanced at them and gave them a little nod/smile. They went through the motions of being shy, the way Japanese do, brushing the hair out of their faces and casting their eyes down, but I could see it was an act. They’d been in Japan a while…long enough to study Japanese behavior and mock it for assimilation purposes, but it was not in their hearts. They were as shy as Lucy Liu in “Kill Bill”.
They occupied the table on my left, while the table on my right remained free, until suddenly…
I looked up. It was two of my third year students. One of them was Ms. Lacy Pink panties who wants to spend her summer hours thinking about moi.
“Hi!” I waved and smiled, and tried to return to reading my book quickly to indicate I didn’t want to be disturbed. The problem with patronizing cafes in the vicinity of my job is that sometimes you run into students. Usually they ignore me or avoid me if they see me after hours. But if, like this one, they have some kind of crush, or infatuation with English, or just adore me for any number of reasons (-; well then…
They came and sat at the table beside mine, the remaining available one…”What do you read?” She asked me, eyes sparkling, clearly unconcerned with the book…reading me. I got a little uncomfortable. I glanced around…all heads turned away in sync with mine like we were all sprockets on the same gear, which meant they were all watching me.
“A book,” I said, trying to keep it English and keep it simple. “A very good book!”
“Loco Sensei, do you have a girlfriend?” She said, changing the subject, or rather bringing the subject around to what was in her mind from jump. Her name is Mami. Her friend’s name is Naoko. Naoko was very uncomfortable. I felt sorry for her.
“Kankei nai darou!” (None of your business!) I said, but not sharply. She withdrew a bit, not expecting the Japanese. Usually I avoid using Japanese. Language is power and despite my improving Japanese ability my power still resides in English.
Naoko stood up, bowed, and said, “shitsurei shimashita,” sensing that they had indeed disturbed me. Mami didn’t. She wasn’t phased by my retort. But, when she glanced at Naoko and saw that she was ready to go, she stood up and said, “Loco sensei, dewa, mata ne!” And as she stepped away I could see her tensing up. She turned and blurted out loud, “I love you!!!” Then they turned and I watched the two of them hand-in-hand skip away. The two Chinese cuties beside me were watching too. I smiled at them again.
One said, “You are English teacher?”
“I want to learn English but I don’t have a chance…”
“Me too!” her friend said.
” You want to take English lessons?” I asked, wondering whether it was money or something else being offered.
“Maybe just be friends…” she said with a sly smile.
By the time they left I had both of their email addresses…and tentative plans to go to hanabi (fireworks festivals) come summer. They walked away smiling and sashaying and waving back at me…trying very hard to look like Japanese girls. I kinda felt sorry for them. Assimilation is a bitch!
And then, with my two-table perimeter, and my Clancy novel, and my Black & Mild Cigars, and my overpriced coffee, I was alone again, naturally.