Thursday, August 11, 2005
The place had already begun to empty out after the music had finished playing, but the young teacher remained seated on a stool, hunched over the bar. The joint wasn't the smallest he had ever been to, but the layout was a stretched-out narrow corridor, whose length forced people against each other. To move by, bodies squeezed and grinded together like the grains of sand bottoming out in an old-fashioned hourglass. While he hated the feeling of strangers bumping into him, he disliked even more adjusting his seating position just to accommodate another group of cocky foreigners chasing drunken women.
Lifting his glass, the young teacher slowly slipped himself another mouthful of whiskey and let it sit in his mouth as he thought of the word... foreigners. Though he was a 'foreigner' too, he avoided the company of most of his fellow ex-pats. They were all too loud and lacking in respect for the culture of their hosts, in his opinion.
They can all kiss my yellow Chinese ass, he thought as he swallowed the whiskey. The delay in swallowing it had made it warm and the young teacher felt oddly relaxed as it burned its way down into his gut.
"Thanks for coming out." A hand clasped his left shoulder, as he turned expectantly to see his friend, the guitar player. The guitar player grinned and the teacher nodded, turning to the bar and calling out to the bartender.
The bartender filled a mug, and passed it to the teacher, who in turn, gave the beer to the player.
"Cheers, mate." The two lifted their glasses in a silent toast before taking a drink.
"So has your rock star status spread from England to Japan, yet?" the teacher asked with a smirk.
The guitar player laughed and retorted. "Ah, that's still in the works. As you know, I'm still a part of the ultra lucrative world of education. I just can't say no to the money."
"Oh yes, I know all about that..." the young teacher answered. He couldn't contain his sarcasm.
The two men continued drinking and the teacher drained his glass. He waved to the bartender again, and in single smooth motion, the bartender refilled his glass again. The guitar player chuckled and shook his head.
"What's that? Your second double already? It hasn't been even an hour yet."
The teacher raised his right hand and stuck out his bottom 3 fingers.
"They all want me to come home, you know. My mom. My girlfriend. Family. Friends. And it's only what... July? August? It's all they talk about these days."
The guitar player nodded his head and paused before speaking. "That's understandable. So what exactly are you going to do? You made plans?"
The young teacher laughed and shook his head.
"I ain't exactly the most organized person when it comes to planning, ya know? I thought I'd chill here for awhile and save some money."
"Not a bad start, I guess."
"Well, you could have just as easily stayed home and made money bagging groceries."
The teacher scowled as he stared at his drink before he turned back to the player.
"I worked a bullsh*t job like that in high school and all through college. I promised myself I'd never do that again. There's no way I could have stayed at home."
The guitar player nodded slowly. "Everyone has their different reasons for traveling. But knowing what I do about you, I think that very few people think about traveling in the way we do."
"And what's that?"
The player crossed his arms and continued speaking.
"You're searching for something, but it's not the same kind of thing that other people search for and find. They're the lucky ones because it's so easy. They buy a new car and they convince themselves they've found it. They fall in love with some bird, get married, and they convince themselves they've found it. They get promoted at their job and they convince themselves they've found it."
"So what are we like, then?"
"Our satisfaction isn't anywhere as easy. You're traveling and looking for it, but deep down, you often have the suspicion you'll never find it. You want an answer to a question that has no answers, and yet, you and I are the kind of people that aren't smart enough to stop trying. We're still straining our eyes, hoping we'll find it. Even now we're still looking."
The player sighed and continued.
"Whenever you decide to go home isn't as important as this: if you do decide to go home, make sure you've finished trying to search for what you're looking for here first. And when you return home, don't fall into the expectation that what you're searching for will be there either."
The teacher lifted his glass to take another drink, but it was empty.
Riding home on the last train, the young teacher leaned lazily against the side of the train car thinking about what his friend had said, while his hand clutched a half-empty can of Kirin. He hadn't been so self-conscious in awhile, but the words the guitar player said kept coming back to him.
"...deep down, you often have the suspicion you'll never find it."
He closed eyes and briefly, the memories flashed. His grandfather. His father. The warehouse. Going to college. Volunteering. Graduation. Dreams. Months of unemployment. Moving back home. His mother scolding and berating. A disappointed girlfriend and friends. Unanswered prayers.
The teacher blinked his eyes and quickly guzzled down the rest of the beer, after which, he crushed the empty can with his foot. Reaching the station, the train stopped and the teacher lurched out on to the platform, turning his head from right to left looking for the trash. Spotting a bin on his left, he threw the can in with a light, underhanded toss.
If only all things were as easily found, he thought.
If only every struggling dream could be made real. If only hope was easily taken back as it was lost amongst the waves of an uncaring reality, where some people are broken and smashed like shells on the shore. If only disappointment and heartache were cured by an earnest plea to heaven or the prayers of the lonely. But it seems that divine fate ordains that only some people are given their happiness. That they are the ones who will search and find their answers, while others languish in the darkness, to cope with the hard facts of their particular lives:
That you were chosen to be forsaken, ass naked in the wind. That you were abandoned to face the wilderness with only bad luck, your tattered wits, and a mouthful of awful cliches like �follow your dreams� or �working hard makes you successful� or "always play a suited hand".
The teacher stopped to gaze up into the night sky, looking across the expanse, however, thick clouds had veiled the stars and the moon. Turning inward, he searched inside for a reaction to these thoughts, for a feeling to impassion him... but the hand of his minds' eye grasped and clutched the emptiness, scraping against the hollowed bones.
And his heart could feel nothing at all.
good somber tone... happiness inevitably comes and goes with changing circumstances, but contentment is simply a decision. unemployment, unmet expectations, and disappointments are tough, but consider your health, your relationships, your education- far more than many have. there will often be many with more, but there will always be far more with less. consider the broader context...
google - just trying to re-write all the prose I lost when the laptop I was using in Japan crashed and killed my stuff. =/
anonymous - thx for the comments. who r u?
i can relate. a recent conversation with my mom -- she will do ANYTHING to make sure i don't stay a third year in Japan... and yet, the longer i'm here, the more i love it.Post a Comment