i’m not sure exactly when my train stop became home, but that’s what i was thinking last night when i arrived there after a barbecue in owase (the site of last august’s Panic at the Fireworks). it was after eleven, and only one other woman had been nestled in the single car illuminated like a lantern, shooting through the lush japan darkness. we surrendered our tickets to a lonely station man sweeping up, and went our different ways. i unlocked my bicycle, easy to find but tough to disentangle from the hordes of other bikes shadowed by street lamps. once free, i glided into perfect smooth evening air deepened by all those smells i always go on about--dark flowers and the breath of sleeping children, late evening laundry, the ocean. i had been waiting all night to finally return to my stop, my home, and go to bed. not that the barbecue wasn’t fun, but the week was long and taxing (that’s a pun for my benefit--stayed up way too late the night before our business conference in tokyo working on my taxes. i nearly had a heart attack when it said i owed $5000, so i had to stay up figuring out where it all went wrong). the conference was so frustrating and useless, it temporarily set me back to my first rocky days in japan, plus my roommate snored (even through earplugs and a pillow over my head), so i didn’t have relief in sleep either. i was tempted to put a pillow over her head.
yes, there were good moments (shopping at american apparel, eating real mexican food and divine french cuisine, and finding a few japanese books i couldn't live without about a cat named hatchan.) but after that, i returned to mie, woke up early, took my written driving test, taught school in the afternoon, and then had several hours of meetings. so! taxing.
*aside* i would like to quote a japanese underground musician, shugo tokumaru, for the caption to this picture. brilliantly understated: "There's a lot of buildings and people in Tokyo, more than you think."
anyway, about the barbecue. i had been invited to the family home of a young student teacher. he is dark-eyed and quiet with a vaguely toady smile. i was afraid he might fancy me, but perhaps it's something else. i was to be the co-honored guest with jonathan, another english teacher from the area. he works with the student teacher’s father, who is also a teacher. i relaxed when i met his family; there was none of the awkward silence that can reign in situations with mixed languages and strangers. his mom was up-front about welcoming us to stay if we got wasted and didn’t want to make the trip home. ha! his dad was gleeful and interviewed us in both languages, thrilled to his toe tips and flushed cheeks when we understood his english. his sister (18) seemed real, no affected shyness, and his darling grandmother beamed like a beacon on my right. as is typical in these situations, they act as if feeding you enough will cure world hunger--i was stuffed with steak, roast, hot dogs, pumpkin slices, onions, shrimp, cow tongue, sushi, lettuce, beer, fried sweet potatoes, coffee, cheesecake, apple juice, chocolates, and that doesn’t include all the things i turned down! after six hours of food and company, they walked us to the train station and saw us off--making me promise i would dine with them again.
tonight i lost myself in my ironing. the steam was delicious with Downy and i felt quiet and calm with Loreena McKennit singing Dante's Prayer through my mind. i thought, this is home. i could be anywhere; i just happen to be here. and that was a good feeling.