Season 1 of Live from Locohama is drawing to a close. The end of the school year is a week away. Five more episodes at best remain.
And, today, it seemed like the students were on to me and my serial writing, and decided they were really going to give me something to write about!
Today I taught my last lessons for this school year with the two first-year classes at School A. Next time I see them they will be second year students and, ideally, each will take on the mantle of role model for the incoming first year students (a class purported to be worst than this year’s,) for they will have matured a bit during the upcoming two-week spring holiday and realized their solemn responsibility to lead by example.
Yeah, I know. Dream on, right?
But, I hold on to this dream because I’ve seen it happen. Some of the kids do indeed feel an obligation to the grades below theirs. Granted, some feel nothing but, by virtue of the school’s culture and the social constructs in place here in Japan, are thrust into the role of mentors. For example, for Sports Day, it’s not so much the responsibility of the teachers to help the lower grades prepare for the festivities, as it is the upper grades who’ve performed the dances and various other routines previously. And this dignified duty has successfully brought out the best in some causes I thought to be lost. So I hold high hopes for…
Wait a minute! You’re wondering what that picture of a knife and a gun above has to do with this post, aren’t you?
Well, that picture was taken while I was sitting here writing this post. Exhibits A & B above currently reside atop the stacks of shit on Takahashi-sensei’s desk. I had to wait (in a state of anxious zeal) until she and the other first-year teachers took their squabbling over how to best handle this situation into the conference room to surreptitiously snap that shot with my cellphone (and, yappari, the pervert-alert shutter sound reverberated around the teacher’s office for the longest thirty seconds on record.)
If you read my blog then you probably think you know who these items belong to. Back in episode 1 (wow, has it really been 21 episodes…time sure flies when you’re chronicling your life!) that our favorite Bi-polar child-star, Mika, saw fit to bring a knife to school and brandish it before her classmates.
But, you would be wrong on this occasion.
While Mika did show her ass today (literally, sat in her chair in such a way as to expose her underwear…Takahashi had to rush over and plead with her to sit properly, receiving a sharp kick in her solar plexus for her efforts) she was relatively tame today. Nope, it was the other first year class (the one ruled by Matsui kun and his iron glove, and his henchman Satou) where all hell broke loose.
I arrived a minute before the bell. I’ve begun this practice of arriving just in time to their class because I don’t feel like wrestling the two of them off of my nuts for the whole 10-minute rest period. But…to no avail. The bell to begin class means absolutely nothing to these two. Satou’s leeriness about being kneed by me has subsided and he was once again full on. As was Matsui. They’ve been studying my defensive moves and have adapted like a couple of pint-sized velociraptors. Easily weaving my maneuvers and garnering hungry handfuls of my jewels. The bell had rung a full minute ago but still they were on me. Takahashi had her hands full with a couple of other disruptive students. One had a Rubik’s Cube out and three others circled him and cheered him on as he tried to solve the venerable puzzle.
“Suwari nasai!” (Sit down!) I shouted at the two knuckleheads harassing my scrotum. And, abruptly, they stopped, turned and headed for their seats. I was as amazed as the other students. That was too easy. What did I miss? I looked around for booby traps or maybe a “kick my ass!” sign stuck on my back. Nada. Then, I heard some of the well-behaved students in the class giggling. I looked for the source. It was Matsui, of course, with a brown leather wallet in his hands, going through the contents, pulling out money! I patted my back pocket. Empty.
No the fuck he didn’t!
“You motherfucker!” I yelled, and took off after him. He was laughing and evading my capture with the speed and agility of a chicken. Man, I’m lucky I didn’t get my hands on him on my initial effort to do so. I definitely would be in custody now. I could have, but I would have had to make a total berserker of myself to catch him, jumping over students, tossing aside desks, and what not. Luckily I had the presence of mind to catch myself, take a deep breath, and remember that I was the teacher.
But, my wallet…
This kind of disregard for personal privacy and breach of the teacher-student covenant had to be addressed…and that right soon.
Matsui was watching me and he must have seen the emotions playing out on my face because he came over to me, handed me my wallet, and said, so sweetly “Honto ni gomen nasai, Loco sensei,” (I’m so sorry) brandishing that slightly naive, slightly simple smile of his. Like this was all beyond him and he was just a kid having a little fun at his teacher’s expense. No harm, no foul.
He strolled over to his seat, his eyes never leaving me (nor mine him) and sat down, Satou and his boys patting him on the head and congratulating him on this epic ruse; one that would go down in the history books. Total classic! And he couldn’t help himself but gloat a little, basking in the glow of their adoration and respect.
But, he kept a wary eye on me through all this. He knew he’d, once again, crossed a line, and he had the awareness to be scared.
Takahashi was oblivious to all of this, I noticed, when I could pull my eyes off of him. She was still trying to get the student in the back to put away his Rubik’s Cube. He had the top and two rows completed and was struggling with the final maneuvers. I used to be able to finish it in a minute when I was in high school. Fond memories of being popular due to this ability flooded me, and I smiled in the reminiscence.
When I glanced back Matsui’s way I saw him closing the knife pictured above and putting it into his desk. The girl seated behind him, Saori-chan, one of the few remaining well-behaved students in the class, was watching him do this with about as much interest as one might have watching a carpenter put a hammer away in his tool belt.
I was dumbfounded.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Well, the picture pontificating in my head was/is not the glimpse of the knife but the image of Saori’s reaction to the knife. It spoke to the normality of this act; to the utter un-newsworthiness of it. I mean, I’ve been here a while but I haven’t completely lost touch with the reality of the world outside of Japan. And a Swiss Army knife wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow back in my school days. But, I was under the distinct impression that here, in Kawaiiland, in the land of all that is cute and small and safe and…you know what I’m saying…I thought that here this kind of thing would send shock waves of repulsion and fear racing at tsunami speed around the entire school, across the entire fucking community, in fact.
Wrong, yet again.
When Takahashi finally got the student to put the Rubik’s away (I noticed that this coincided with him having finished it) and she came back to the front of the room to join me, I whispered in her air, “Matsui’s got a knife in his desk.”
She reacted the way I had expected Saori to react, but the damage was done. The image had already been uploaded, saved and etched onto my mental Flickr page.
“Honto ni?” (Really?)
No, I’m kidding, bitch, I said with a look.
She went over to his desk, got down on her knees the way waiters and waitresses sometimes do here in restaurants, had a little exchange with him, and began rummaging through his desk. She came up empty-handed, came back over to me with a look like maybe you imagined it, and for a second I imagined I had. A micro fucking second. I know a knife when I see one.
“Listen, he’s got a knife!” I snapped, trying to keep the urgency out of my voice for the sake of the students, watching all of this with the curiosity one might watch a street magician.
“I’ll check for it later,” she said a little dismissively, and started going through the motions of teaching a lesson. We haven’t been able to get through a lesson in this class in weeks. So, I did the same, but I kept my peripherals trained on Matsui. After a few minutes I relaxed as much as a teacher can when you know that a wily student seated near you was playing with a knife after having had an altercation with you a few moments earlier. The most comforting thought being: he obviously has brought this thing to school and brandished it many times and he hasn’t stabbed me or anyone else yet, so chances are he has a little self-control.
I walked around the room helping the manageable students with the lesson I had planned. I was helping a student near where Matsui was seated when I heard a loud pop from behind me. I wheeled around to see Matsui aiming the above-pictured gun aimed at a student seated across from him.
Columbine, and a dozen other school shootings, raced though my head. But only for a second. The sound and look of the gun cried fake, but the image of Matsui aiming it intently at another student joined the image of Saori’s apathetic expression on my Flickr page.
I swallowed my apprehension and walked towards Matsui-kun, and watched as his aim slowly adjusted from being leveled at the student’s head to being leveled at me. I sped up and just as it would have been aimed at my gut, grabbed his arm and wrenched the gun from his hand, his tiny index finger tight on the trigger.
I looked around, armed with this toy, at the students in the vicinity to see their reactions to this. More apathy: the possession of toy guns and Swiss Army knives had entered the realm of the prosaic here in Junior High School A. At least in Matsui’s hand it had.
So, I decided not to overreact. It was just a toy. And the knife was just a Boy Scout’s utility blade, good for cutting ropes and carving Matsui loves Saori in the bark of some hapless Sakura tree.
I examined the gun closely to confirm without a doubt that it was indeed a toy and then I handed it back to him. “Put it away!” I said. He just looked at me with those guileless innocent eyes of his, and smiled that warm, enchanting smile, and complied.
When I returned to the front of the room, I realized that Takahashi hadn’t seen any of that episode, either.
“He has a toy gun, too,” I said, softly, so only she could hear. Again, she looked at me incredulously. Oh Geezus! “He was aiming it at students!”
The bell began to ring and, half way through it, I watched as Matsui slid the gun out of his desk and was about to put it in his book bag.
“Look!” I snapped at Takahashi. She turned in time to catch a glimpse of it before it disappeared into his bag. She was appropriately aghast.
I grabbed my teaching material and headed for the door. I needed some air. Outside the door, Satou lay in ambush, and sprung at my crotch the moment I exited, shoutng for Matsui. Matsui came a-running, wrapped himself around my leg, and seated himself on my foot so that I would have to drag him in order to walk. The playful nature of this activity had taken a drastic turn for the worse, though. For them, by all appearances, nothing had changed, but for me, I felt like I’d been molested by a beloved Uncle, like my innocence was lost. I tried to go through the motions of fighting them off, but my heart wasn’t in it. I basically let them assault my balls. It took them a moment to notice I wasn’t putting up a fight, but once they did, they ceased hostilities and gave me very concerned looks.
Satou, not one for speaking, asked me was I ok.
I didn’t know what to say. I had started walking away from them when Takahashi came out of the classroom. On the down-low she showed me what she had hidden, wrapped in her teaching materials: It was Exhibits A & B.
“While you had him distracted I got them!” she exclaimed very excitedly, like she was cleverest of them all.
“That’s nice!” I replied as we headed for the staircase. As we descended I looked back. Matsui and Satou stood at the top of the staircase, watching me…looking as if they’d aged a year or two in the past few moments, prepubescent experience etched into their dour faces.
I thought, there stand the mentors for the incoming first-year students…
And yet, somehow, I remain hopeful.
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