i'll never quite understand what it is that tips the balance between being completely ignored by someone and then suddenly included in (at least the outer reaches of) their social circle. yesterday was such a day, momentous only because i had been appreciating the attractiveness of this certain fellow since i got here. i also realized i had no real hope of getting to know him. he's one of the cool twenty-something teachers, established in his social life, and with no real reason to learn english. except me.
a few days before, i was standing next to him at graduation, and though we didn't speak a word or exchange a look, i stole a few glances for fun. the office girls, giggling, told me that they had noticed (from across the auditorium, no less) that though he was taller than me, my legs were longer. this precipitated a discussion about whether i ever wanted to be a fashion model. ha.
i long ago accepted this as my permanent relationship to mr. cutie. there was just no reasonable way to make our paths cross. i was aware that, like many of the young teachers, he lived in a building mere steps down the road from mine. having no car, i walk by there several times each week and wish that i knew enough to engage them all in a neighborly community. but...the truth is they don't spend much time at home. i actually go to and from school at a reasonable hour, but as is typical in japan, they linger at their workplace for hours and are in the bigger cities on weekends.
however, circumstance (most likely in the form of miss suzuki) propelled us together. i was invited to join a hike with M5 or "meat five," the young teachers who often get together for meaty meals. they'd more accurately be called A(alcohol)5, because i think the food is just an excuse to drink. anyway, this same group also does some hiking to work off their high caloric intake. the leader, mr. cutie, seemed surprised that i was going...read "internally panicked," because he was going to have to pull out some of that rusty english and brandish it at me.
the hike was steep. i put those long legs to use and kept up with him quite well. the other, shorter teachers fell in step behind us. he was so friendly, and i was so surprised. i mean, this is someone who has literally said one thing to me, once (in seven months). i was expecting to just follow the group up the mountain and listen to them speak japanese. instead, mr. M (i'll call him) made a point to talk to me during the entire outing. he knew a lot more english than i expected. after he ascertained that i like beer, he made many broad invitations of joining the group for nights out, dinner parties, and more hikes, but i have enough experience to know that those things don't always pan out.
the hike was beautiful--rocky forest steps covered in filtered sunlight, and finally, a glittering view of the ocean on both sides of our vantage point. as we headed down, i was commissioned to teach mr. cutie english. finally i asked why he felt he needed to be in the "diet club" since he was already thin, to which he gave no response but said instead, "lauren is thin," and more faintly, "pretty." awww. did i hear that right?
i went home. i didn't realize they meant dinner together that night. miss suzuki texted me to meet mr. M outside his apartment and we'd pick up the rest of the group on the way.
so i'm standing in the cold outside his house. he comes around the corner and waves. he's still wearing a towel around his neck from the hike. i'm looking up at the clouds and shaking my head at how many times i've walked by this place with no idea i'd actually have a reason to stop. he shuffles some stuff from his car into his apartment and we slide into his Regular Sized Vehicle. it's a miracle! i can stretch my legs out entirely, and i relax knowing i won't feel carsick either. his fancy car is playing mary j. blige, and that makes me even happier.
during the drive, mr. M keeps referring to Miss Suzuki as Mr. Suzuki, and it makes me laugh every time. he just keeps talking, not realizing his mistake. he chatters to me and to himself. i ask if he went to the high school where we teach. "no, no! i'm from kuwana; i'm a shitty boy." he means "city boy." i guess i've been in japan long enough now, because this pronunciation doesn't even phase me.
at the korean house we drink beer and eat spicy food. he tells everyone that his mother used to call him bakatonosama or "foolish prince." i marvel at this new view of these teachers i've existed around for all this time. i actually feel young!
mainly it's nice to talk to them and feel like just a person speaking with another person, without the seemingly insurmountable barriers of language, culture, and persona at the office.
as the meal wound to a close, mr. M said "it's on me," and paid for my dinner!