Live from Locohama S1/E22: Loco was here!

As per my last conversation with the Silky one, I will be transferred to another school come April. School C. There was a follow-up phone call from him later that day instructing me not to discuss my pending transfer with any of my co-workers or students. I’ve worked three years side-by-side with these people. Some have even become my friends, in as much as we have good convos over coffee and a smoke in the shed out back sometimes. Tomorrow, as it happens every year, they will ask me if I’ll be returning in April with every expectation that I will. My answer the previous three times was “I don’t know. I think so. I certainly hope so.” This year I will have to look them in the eye and say the same…

Only, it’ll be a lie. I do know.

I don’t lie well. Not to people I care about, anyway. And especially not on someone else’s behest.

So, since monday, in addition to gearing up for the lie, emotionally that is, I’ve been kind of saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye.

Sugano-sensei is one of my smoking buddies, and one of the few teachers in the office that is actually totally comfortable around me. He studied abroad, and he’s married to a woman who studied abroad, and though he can’t speak English very well, he doesn’t see that as some kind of shortcoming or defect, like many here are led to believe it is. And though I’m pretty far from fluent in Japanese he doesn’t view communicating with me as a crucible to be avoided or alleviated at all costs.  He accepts our differences and acknowledges our similarities.

He’s truly a rarity.

Yesterday, when I ran into him in the smoke shed at our usual time after lunch I handed him a lighter I’ve had for years. It wasn’t much. I just wanted to give him something. Something that made me feel real.

One of the things about living in Japan that has significant side effects for me is a feeling of invisibility. I know that sounds strange considering that I’ve written extensively of  the annoying reactions people have to me, and the resulting behaviors. But, that’s just it: It’s not really me they are reacting to. It’s just their perception of me. Some hodge-podge of stereotypes and rumors, misrepresentations and misconceptions. Not me. Not Loco. Most of my life here I spend as a canvas Japanese delineate as they please, or in the only ways they know how, while the real me lies beneath their muck essentially invisible. The side effect being a certain sense of not being. Thus, sometimes I behave as if I am invisible here. Even when some people have given me every indication that they can see me or are at least trying to see me, the preponderance of the muck-slinging predisposes me, at times, to believe that even their efforts will ultimately be in vain. 

And something as simple as the giving of something personal addresses this for me. I envision my hand, reaching from beneath this muck, from this solitary place where I exist, out into the land of the Rising Sun…I want to thank him, yes. But, it’s really a selfish act. I simply want to feel alive. Sometimes, I need to be seen.

The only problem is I can’t tell him any of this. Cuz, actually, I don’t trust him, or any of them, enough to say “between you and me, I won’t be back next year, but I’ve been instructed by my company not to say anything so this has to remain on the QT, lips sealed, hush-hush. And, I wanted to say good-bye and thank you for being as close to a friend as I have in this office. So, here’s a little something to remember me by.”

Nope, couldn’t bring myself to do that. Been burnt a couple of times before and though I have a hard head, it’s not impenetrable. I eventually get shit!

So, instead… 

“What’s this?” Sugano-sensei asked.

“It’s a lighter…you never seem to be able to find yours so I wanted to give you this.”

“Oh, no, no, no, I can’t take it. It’s too…”

“No, take it. I want you to have it. I have plenty more. It’s nothing special. I used to use it back in America but I never use it anymore. Mottainai ne.”

He looked it over, then looked me over, and I thought for a second that some sort of recognition of its significance crossed his face. But, in an instant, it was gone, replaced by a solemn smile and a deep bow.

“Hontou ni doumo arigato gozaimasu!”  (Thank you soooo much!)

“Dou itashimashite,” (you’re welcome) I caught myself saying. I rarely use that phrase. I usually respond to all thank yous with Iie (Not at all) but his solemnity almost made me show the gravity of what I felt.

I had similar sessions with a couple of the other teachers today, but I had to split them up. If they were to talk, as I knew they would, and all of them mentioned they’d received affectionate trinkets from me, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out what Loco was cooking.

Tomorrow is my last day. No classes. just a morning meeting, a fancy sushi lunch and a bunch of sayonaras.

I’ll try to hold it together and lie on my company’s behest. And I’ll try to avoid feeling like I’m going to disappear, like I’d never been here.

Maybe I’ll carve my name in my desk, or spray paint it in graffiti on the wall in the smoke shed:

Graffiti Creator - http://www.easygraffititext.com

If you read / follow my blog, why don’t you go to my networkedblogs page here and click “follow.” (and rate me…I like 5 stars but I’ll take what you got) It’ll help me build up my readership and whatnot. Also you can catch my tweets at Locohama.


16 Responses to “Live from Locohama S1/E22: Loco was here!”

  1. 1 WC
    March 24, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Dude, if you’re skilled with a spray can, go with the graffiti! 😉 I’ve always been impressed at the level of skilled expressed in spray paint in random places.

    It’s really sad that they won’t let you say “Goodbye”. I think that’s a right and not just a privilege.

    As far as not being able to trust anyone to keep the secret… I totally know that feeling. Someone here told me hush-hush that they were leaving. I kept the secret, but heard someone else talking about it a couple days later. Sure enough, the entire company knew. And people weren’t even apologetic about it… “That’s the way it is.” -sigh-

  2. 2 Enrico
    March 24, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Nice post, probably in the next future you will have time to say them “Goodbye”.
    If you don’t trust them, follow the company instructions.

    We used to say “Trusting is good, but disbelieve is better” 🙂


  3. March 25, 2010 at 8:18 am

    “But, that’s just it: It’s not really me they are reacting to. It’s just their perception of me. Some hodge-podge of stereotypes and rumors, misrepresentations and misconceptions. Not me.”

    I love how nicely you put that. Never thought about it that way, but rings true. Well-written!

  4. March 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Sad to hear you’ll be leaving your school Loco. I hope your smoker friend realised the significance of your gift, but I’ve been surprised time and time again by the ability of people in Japan to read between the lies, so I think he probably did :).

    Why are they so strict about you not telling people you are leaving?

    • March 25, 2010 at 9:51 am

      Hey Mike, thanks for the shout. I’m sure he did, actually.
      You know, Silky wouldn’t tell me. It actually feels kind of dodgy. And I really don’t have a clue why. )-:

  5. March 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Bummer you have to change schools all secret like that. Is it your first time to be transferred to another school? Hope you can find a smoking buddy at School C!

  6. March 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I don’t know what it is about Asian cultures but they seem to get off on giving out the least amount of information possible. It doesn’t matter if it is trivial minutiae or life changing and it doesn’t matter if it is your place of employment, bank, or at home.

  7. 8 Ariana Deralte
    March 26, 2010 at 3:32 am

    I can’t remember when I was told this while I was in Japan, but someone told me that the biggest reason they don’t mention when someone’s leaving is to avoid obligating the people they’re leaving into throwing a going away part/giving lots of goodbye presents. The other reason is, of course, that if the people knew the person was leaving, they might complain and once the company officially had a complaint, they’d have to do something about it.

    Anyway, I was regularly told not to tell a student if I was a) becoming their permanent teacher rather than the temporary one they thought they were getting in place of their regular one and b) if they were being switched to a different teacher when I was their regular teacher. I always thought it was a stupid policy since some of the students got fed up and left entirely, but it’s ingrained enough in Japanese society that more often than not, they just went with it.

    Anyway, my sympathies.

    • March 26, 2010 at 7:16 am

      Ariana, thank you sooo much. That does make sense! I thought it was something along those lines but hate to have to guess.
      thanks again, You rock!

  8. March 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    As long as you take your blog with you it will all be good. 😎 Seriously, that stinks – sorry it has to be that way.

    • March 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks reason2 (-: Yep, new school, new material. Life is just material for my writing lol
      I’m sure it’ll be fine. Thansk for the shout!
      Moogie boogie, sometimes when a door closes I too believe it’s for the best. Eother that or it’s time to put these Timberlands of mine to work and kick it in! (-; Thanks for the shout yo

  9. 12 Moogiechan
    March 27, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Well, I hope that when a door closes, a fusuma opens.

    Good luck at your new school. I’m sure it will offer lots of material for your excellent story-telling!

  10. 13 Dustbunnies
    March 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    That really bites, the way your company is handling this.

    My company has the same policy. But their reasoning is that if there’s any change in the class schedule/makeup, they want it to reach the customer as an official communication; not as speculation or rumor from the teaching staff.

    They’re actually pretty good about this. Almost always they’ve given the customer at least a week’s advance notice, and I’ve gotten plenty of time to wish those at the teaching site a fond farewell.

    Perhaps your company has similar reasoning, but is too discombobulated to implement it well…???

    • March 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm

      Hey dustbunnies, thanks for the shout. That’s sounds like a good reason! Yes, and you’re probably right about the discombobulation too. (good word….never used it in writing before) (-;

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