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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Akiko's Tale

Akiko is an English teacher at one of my junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan - back in 1993.
It's May 24, and the two of us are sitting in the quiet teacher's lounge at this small school chatting.
Akiko is in her mid-20s, cute as a bunny with large soft brown eye and an inquisitive round-ended nose, about 5'-3", slim but packing a body that made me immediately stand-up and take notice.
She joined this school a few weeks ago at the beginning of the school year and I don't know her very well.
Anyhow, she tells me she thinks she met my girlfriend from Nozaki Junior High School. That means she knows she did.
Before I tell her about my girlfriend problems, she opens up and tells me all about her boyfriend problems.
It was her birthday on Saturday (it's now Monday) and her boyfriend in Tennessee in the US sent her a card and a set of earrings. But... she was worried.
Why? I asked.
The card used the words 'sweetheart' on it instead of the more usual 'love'.
She though the words 'sweetheart' carried less strength than the word 'love', as in 'my love'.
I wasn't going to get into an argument over schematics, but I told her that 'sweetheart' is still a term of endearment. 
She looked at me with those big brown eyes and stared.
I  continued: "That means you can use 'sweetheart' to anybody you like or love."
"Oh!" she said, but still wasn't satisfied.
She said she had met him (no name was given) about one-and-a-half years ago while studying there for six months. He had even given her a 'promise' ring.
I have never understood those types of rings and feel it's a scam by the jewelry companies, sort of like it's expected for a man to now be able to give his wife a diamond ring on their 10th anniversary to "tell her you'd marry her all over again."
It's like if you don't, you're a schmuck and her mother was correct all along about you being a bum who would never amount to much.
Akiko says Frank (there's the name!) has some problems back in the US. She's vague. Immediately my mind hits upon either he has no job or he's in trouble with the law.
My over-active imagination plots out that he's a bank robber on the run after his gun accidentally went off during a struggle with the bank security guard - that happened over six months ago when he needed to buy her that promise ring.
I glance over at her lithe hands and see the absence of a ring.
I was about to ask why, but I realize that the appearance of a ring on her finger would cause her more questions to answer from her family, friends and co-workers and students. It would cause her all sorts of grief at being 1,000 miles away, making her tears well up in her big brown eyes and plop down her alabaster cheeks.
The easy answer, since she is worried about their relationship, is the one I suggest  - to call up Frank and confront him with any doubts she may have of his loyalty to her.
Whoops! Mistake! Seems as though she already has!
On Sunday morning (Japan time), she called Frank in Tennessee. There's a 14-hour time difference (she says), so it was now 6PM on a Saturday night in the US. Unsurprisingly he wasn't home. (Uh... that's unsurprising to me).
Frank lives with his grandmother, which reminded me of that story about Little Red Riding Hood... only Frank was the Hood. Criminal, that is.
Akiko had phoned, and got Granny on the line. She told her that Frank had gone shopping with his friends. At the time, Akiko had simply said "Oh." and "Please tell him to call me when he comes back."
Monday morning and he still hadn't called.
Akiko looked at me and asked: "Do men go shopping with other men?"
I thought about it and said "Yeah, sure... why not?"
"At night on a Saturday?"
Hmmm. She had me there. Men go shopping on a Saturday night at the meat market looking for women to screw. Also going against poor Frank was that he was from Tennessee.
I just can't picture a redneck from Tennessee going shopping with other men on a Saturday night. It beats me why I pictured him as a red-neck.
Maybe because in the one and only time I was in Tennessee, I witnessed a knife fight in a McDonald's parking lot between a group of female Black teenagers who were fighting over some boy.
Whatever. Anyhow... a group of White rednecks pulled into the parking lot in their red pick-up truck. How do I know they were rednecks? Well, like I said, they were driving a pick-up truck. It also had a US Confederate flag stuck in the back window. And while all of that isn't really enough, what convinced me was the bumper sticker that red in large letters "True Blue American" with a 1/2 Rebel flag and 1/2 US flag and a second bumper sticker that read: "Let's kill'em all and let God sort'em out."
And if that's not enough for you, the driver steps down out of his cab and says: "Look at them dumb niggers. Always 'fugging' trying to kill each other! Iffin they keep it up, they'll ruin all of our fun!" And then he laughed. His friends joined in too.
It's amazing how an incident like that soured my impression of an entire State of people.
Back to Akiko.
So Frank went 'shopping' with his male friends.
"Why would he do that?" she asked me.
"What... do you think he's seeing another woman?"
She nods.
"Give the guy a break!" I yell a little too loudly. "I don't know him, and maybe it's true. But if you really love him, you've got to trust him! You love him, don't you?"
If her emphatic 'yes' wasn't enough, the tear welling up in her right eye certainly was.
I gave her a Kleenax (tissue) that I dug out of my pant pocket. I've been suffering from 'hana mizu' (literally 'nose water') for the past 10 days - and it's fortunate that I hand her a clean one which she eyes suspiciously before reluctantly accepting it to daub the corner of her eyes.
"Okay," I said. "So relax then. Give him a chance. Perhaps he did go shopping with his male friends. Or maybe his grandmother made a mistake about the shopping and friends part. Maybe he went drinking with the boys and was too drunk to call your or didn't get the message. Who knows?
"Well," she said. "I called him again last night (Sunday morning Frank's time), and his grandmother said he had gone to work.
Hmmm... so it did sound like the guy was ducking her a little. I was feeling her doubt now, but maybe he did have to go to work.
At least I know he has a job!
Maybe he's robbing banks. That would be neat - a 'tumbler's guy'. Or maybe not.
I tell her to give him a break and to call him when she gets back home tonight.
Okay... that's all for now. I'll tell you the same tale of woe I told Akiko about my girlfriend Noboko. And then in a third blog, we'll conclude with the conclusion.
Yes... the story you have read is 100% true. I may indeed have an over-active imagination regarding things, but the dialogue is pretty much bang-on. I tend to recall the weirdest things, but have no idea what I had for dinner last night. Wow... really. What the hell did I eat? See... not important! Relationship stuff - important!

Andrew Joseph

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