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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Resolution

(This past Saturday, during a dinner at Noboko's parent's house, it was revealed to her father that she and I were a couple. A couple of 'whats' depends on who you are asking. I spent all Sunday alone in my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Toichigi-ken, waiting to hear how her Father had reacted once his guest (me) had left.)  

It was just after midnight when the telephone rang.

I was sitting in the dark oblivious of the time or space I was occupying.

The shrill ringing awoke me from my stupor. It wasn't the double-ring of a long-distance call—just local. Only one person would dare to call this late at night! Noboko!

I stood up and reached for the telephone and promptly crashed back down onto the couch as my legs had no blood in them… I reached and grabbed the telephone on the very next ring…

"Moshi-moshi (hello - when answering a telephone)," I breathed heavily.



"Are you okay? I miss you! I love you!! Are you okay?"

"Yes. Me, too. Me, too. Yes," she answered slowly in English.

"Good," I replied in relief and said no more. I have learned a bit about Japan and the art of conversation.

"…" said Noboko.

"…" I retorted.

"Ah no," she began in Japanese… which in my experience had always been a phrase that was never any good.

"There was much discussion this morning about things," she continued. "About you, of course, but a lot about me and my poor behavior."

"What poor behavior?" I asked knowing full well that that was an ignorant western question.

"At first I just tried to blame it all on us being drunk," she explained, which made my heart break at her lack of fighting spirit, "but he wasn't buying that.

"He says he knew I was seeing someone, and had a feeling it was you, but when he saw us kiss, he was sure."

D'uh, I thought, but that was probably just the folly of translating things for my stupid benefit.

"He explained how such a relationship would hurt him and his position at work… and he went on yelling like that for a while," explains Noboko.

Uh-uh, I thought.

"Then my ma-zah (she slurred the word 'mother') started yelling at him."

I knew I liked that woman.

"What did she yell?"

"Well… it was about how I am old enough to make my own decisions, and how me dating you shouldn't make any difference to him, except that he should be happy for me that I have found someone to love, because I am past the marrying age."


Past the marrying age. It's true. Noboko was 27 to my 28, and while beautiful and smart and warm and funny, she was two years past that invisible timeline when all proper Japanese women should be married to a Japanese man and having kids.

Noboko, despite her youthful, elegant looks, was considered an old maid in Japanese society. She had been engaged previously... and no, I had nothing to do with her not going through with it, as much as I would love to have been the cause.

No, she was just not ready to get married or to get married to HIM, a Japanese guy I never met, saw a photograph of, know anything about, and who remains nameless.

Being western, I weakly shrug my shoulders in slight indifference to it all; glad she smartened up before she made a mistake.

But this is Japan. Being a woman, and being a 27-year-old woman... you don't get to screw around with tradition like that.

Part of what I loved about Noboko, was that she did. That she was willing to spit in the face of Japanese tradition, and do things her way... to marry when it was the right thing to do.

So why does Noboko sound so sad? I'm not asking her that, though. Maybe she's just exhausted from the mind-fug of the day. Or hungover. Just shut up and let her talk.

"…" she continued.

"…" I said in support.

"Then they continued to argue back and forth like I wasn't there," she finally said at last.

"What was the end result?" I had to ask. Wouldn't you?

"I'll see you tomorrow (Monday) after work."

We said good night and I hung up after I was sure she had hung up… like most people in love, there is that reluctance to hang-up first in case the other person says something else right at the end. It can't just be me who does that, right? I have never hung up first. Maybe I'm always the one who is in love.

It's now 1AM…. and then I started thinking about all of the things I should have said, or rather wanted to say but couldn't because this is Japan and I'm in a relationship with Japan as well as a Japanese woman.

I think I've learned the art of Japanese conversation too well.

She said she would see me on Monday evening... that's good right?

But she still sounded sad.

Was it because I have now put all the pressure onto her? OMG, I have! Sh!t. That wasn't the plan... I just wanted to force a confrontation between her and her father. I was so sure it was simply a matter of everyone assuming the worst of him... that he wasn't an ogre.

But, it sounds like he was.

Basically, I forced Noboko to choose between her boyfriend and her father. I'm pretty sure that in every romantic comedy or Shakespearean tragedy, the woman always chooses the guy she loves over her father.

T'was in a restaurant that they met,
Romeo and Juliet
He had no cash to pay their debt,
So Romeo'd what Julie-ette.

The thing I understand NOW, that I did not come to grips with THEN, was that simple fact that Noboko had previously been engaged and broke things off to do things her way.

I am sure she disappointed her father then... could she do it again? Would she do it again?

Or, would she continue to date me and defy her father? To be her own woman? To be the young old maid?

But she said she would see me tomorrow (Monday?) That's good, right? Or was it to end things?

I suppose that while I am in Japan, I am a glass half-full... but I'm really thirsty.

Ugh... and I have good-byes to say at the schools I visit from now on.

Grey skies are gonna clear up
Put on a happy face.
Brush off the clouds and cheer up,
Put on a happy face.

Andrew Joseph

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