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Friday, July 31, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time…

In a land far across the waters... in a land of ice and snow, there lived a brave knight who wanted to get married.

The women in his land, though intrigued by his smile, did not find him to be of interest for reasons unknown to himself, and so without delay, he sailed upon his magical metal ship that seemed to skim over waters, and arrived in a land never before dreamt of in his philosophies ... a land of the Rising Sun surrounded by a ring of fire.

And so... he set out upon a quest to find himself and the woman of his dreams... seeking an equal in intelligence and kindness... and if she hath a body - forsooth!

And upon arrival in the mysterious land ringed with fire, he began his search... a search that took him through many a realm, meeting many princesses.

While these fair damsels had never before seen his like, they shewed no fear and thrust themselves with reckless abandon upon his sheathed sword... and while he racked up the score, he was troubled that his quest was still unfulfilled.

Whether it was because he had lost faith in his warped ideals and was shewn the way or whether because it was foretold in some unread prophecy, while amusing the children of a small village he came upon the scowling visage of a woman he knew he must make his wife.

The children of the village, it must be said, were smarter than all the adults combined and quickly envisioned the love the knight had for their elder sister... a friendly young thing, but always aware that her beauty had long been the object of affection from many an unwanted suitor. And so, she became shrewish.

In an effort to bend her to his will, the brave knight sought audience with her young brothers and sisters, amusing them with his strange ways until they knew he would make a brave husband for their sister.

As only children can, they pestered the princess with tales of the knight's glory, praising him whether she wanted to hear it or not, until finally she relented... understanding that this knight must have strange powers indeed if he was to have her young charges willingly tout his good graces.

And so began the romance to end romances... never seen before in this land of fire and sun, and I'm afraid to say, never seen since.

But... despite her original misgivings about the young, handsome knight (I'm the knight, see), that his ego was too large, that he had way-laid more than a few villages with various accounts of raping the cattle and stampeding the villagers, she realized that those evil spoutings were the work of the unwashed and uninformed.

Now nothing was left in the way of their plans to wed - all but one, that is.

The evil Duke of Otosan had heard of the young princesses' overwhelming beauty with hair that perpetually smelled of apple blossoms, and not wanting to lose this beauty to the foreign knight who would undoubtedly take her to his far away land causing his island to lose much of its splendor—he decided he would thwart their plans to live happily ever after by any means possible.

But the Duke of Otosan wasn't completely evil. While it was true he wished to keep the princess away from the dusky stranger with the piercing brown eyes, it was not to fetter her for himself. No... he justified the breaking up of the princess and the knight as a means to maintain harmony in the land of fire... 'surely', he thought, 'the land would be in better hands if she were to marry a local firewalker, rather than the snowback she preferred.'

But the beautiful young princess discovered his plans, and she was sickened with Duke of Otosan's plans....

Marriage to a firewalker for the sake of the land?

It was true... the knight from the land of the ice and snow would not mix well enough with her people... and yet, as a princess of the realm, she did see the wisdom of the Duke of Otosan... that her actions could affect the kingdom.

The princess did have one ally, however, the Duchess of Okasan, who shared the ear of the Duke upon occasion.

The princess begged the elder Duchess to intervene on their behalf, but it was to no avail. The Duke was set in his ways... for the good of the village.

The princess was confused. The Duke had acted as her de facto father—she was found up high, abandoned as a crying waif in the blossoming crown of an apple tree. He wasn't always nice to her, but he had always treated her in a manner that allowed her to become who she was.

She should do as he wants.

But what about the foreign knight... this princes of semi-darkness... this man who loved her as much as she loved him... this man who taught her that love was more than a concept in a fairy tale... that it does indeed exist.

To marry him and bear his many children, or to at least practice having children many times a day and night as he could muster, she knew she would be happy - even if she left the land of fire for his block of ice. She would shiver and shake, but with him in her presence, she knew she would be protected.

She was so confused... her heart tugged one way and then the other... her brain jumping from one thought and then the other... and if she did the right thing no one would be happy except two people ... what's a young princess to do?

Do her duty? Be true to herself?

The story continues in a more common vernacular... mostly because I wrote everything below first, and then decided on a fairy tale intro...

Do you know what's funny? That above story was pretty easy to write... the thing is... I can't end it in a proper fairy tale way, so it's why I am back to blogging...

The thing about being in a long-distance relationship… and being in love.. is that sometimes you can't see the trees for the magic forest.

Keep in mind I am talking about myself in Toronto, Canada (the knight of the land of ice and snow), and Noboko in Kuroiso, Tochigi-ken, Japan (the princess of the ring of fire) and it's October of 1993.

I have just set up my very first e-mail account and I am happily surfing on-line. The Internet is a lot more interesting now (1993) than when I had first been on it in the late 1970s or early 1980s when it was pretty much just message boards.

Still… most of the so-called 'facts" on the Internet circa 1993 are bullcrap. It's like it's a glorified commercial/advertisement zone with no policing… meaning people and companies could make outrageous statements and claims and you could either believe it or not.

Some people think today that Wikipedia is full of crap (it's not), but back in the early days, the Internet was filled with ads for steroids, sexual enhancers and, of course, porn - some you paid for, some you need not be a member.

And while I had an e-mail account - aside from the company moniker at the end, my e-mail has always been what it is today - a mystery, man.

I have always been a bit of a mystery man to both myself, my parents and definitely to women. My mother once told me to always keep a bit of yourself a secret… and despite all of what you read here in this blog, I have done just that.

No one knows everything about this mysterious knight. It's why I wear armor. Sorry, but either that's because certain topics haven't come up, or because it's not important, or a little protection helps not freak out people who have different sensibilities or opinions... or maybe no one has ever asked the right questions.

You'll note I rarely offer an opinion that is so fervent in manner… and I think that's because I've been cursed/blessed with the ability to see multiple facets of any given point.

And so it is with Noboko… I see what she is putting herself through… and thus I see what she is going through… and I understand why and I commend her for her duty to her parents… but I also see that the same duty is making or made her miserable.

I wonder, however, if my constant phone calls back to her across the pond from Toronto to Kuroiso are making her even more miserable.

Should I let every thing go? Should I give her that out?

I don't want to. I was going to marry her, have kids with her (preferably in that order - though it's fine if you don't, too), grow old together… die in a fiery motorcycle crash together… you know, that whole tragic but ultimately romantic fairy tale ending…

But, am I too old to believe in fairy tales?

I repeatedly ask Noboko to come and visit me for a vacation in Toronto. Just for a couple of weeks.

I tell her she can stay at my parent's place (in my room - I'll even find another place to sleep if it makes her uncomfortable.) She doesn't need any cash - I'll cover everything here. Heck, I'll even buy her the plane ticket (one-way is ideal)… but every prompt is met with the Japanese equivalent of hemming and hawing.

Has my princess become the Queen of denial? Tut-tut.

A man - even a brave knight - can only take so much adversity before even he becomes worn out.

My phone calls become less and less frequent - now just once a week… though each still lasts over an hour. Which is killing my dad with the financial costs. Hey - he made me go to Japan.

It's now September of 1994 - one year since I left Japan… it's Saturday the 10th. I didn't even need to look that up a calendar.... it's a day when things changed... when things were forced to change.

On this date, my mother suffered a heart attack… and who knows how long it was before my father found her lying on the couch on the other side of my bedroom wall… but that scream he emitted… that was infinite…it awoke me from a deep slumber... it still echoes in my half-empty head today… it's the sound of a soul being ripped in half.

While I could tell you exactly what happened next—it's etched in my mind's eye—suffice to say that the fire department arrived minutes after I made a 9-1-1 call, but they were unable to bring her back… the ambulance arrived 40 minutes later… welcome to Toronto… and they brought her back…

I'm no doctor, though I certainly have played one in the bedroom, but even I know that 40 minutes of being dead… man… the brain ain't coming back from that amount of time.

Still… she's alive… in an electrical-spasm-shockwave-through-the-whole-body way.

It's a pathetic way to see someone - anyone… there… but not there… kept alive by tubes and machines… this wasn't my mother… she died on September 10… only the doctors wanted to wait until Wednesday the 14th to see if the brain swelling would go down… and if that would cause the electrical spasms to stop…

I don't know if the swelling came down or not, but the spasms indicated brain activity but not everyday functional human brain activity. In my family, we all have an agreement to essentially pull the plug when livable human life as we know it no longer exists. So we did.

Did she die on September 14? No… that stubborn mother of mine held on… her brain truly dying right at the stroke of midnight… or at least that's when the doctor signed off… September 15…

… Noboko's birthday.

If that ain't a sign, I don't effing know what is.

I called Noboko afterwards, wished her a happy birthday… and then told her about my mom… told her she had died on the 14th… to spare her… and talked about talking later…

But that was pretty much it, my friends… the problem was to decide when to finally end things with Noboko… October? Too soon after my mother's death… and I didn't want regrets that I was knee-jerking… November? My birthday… December… Christmas…

Heck… I decided to do it a few days after my birthday… my 30th effing birthday…

I called her... we talked... I told her we need to get together right now - RIGHT NOW!!!! - or if we can't, then we should get on with our collective life the best we each can.

I never saw, talked, smelled, touched or heard from Noboko again.

While it may seem that I quit on Noboko, I don't think I did… but I think I did finally giver her the final blow to allow her to get on with her life… to make some Japanese man happy. And her father too.

Regrets? It sounds like I have'em… but I don't. Truthfully, I think I performed perfectly with what I was allotted. I don't have any regrets. At least not as far as Noboko is concerned.

The only thing is, is now the diary is over. Thus endeth my story in Japan.

No… I'm not ending the blog. If I didn't end it after the first month of writing back in 2009, I see no reason to quit now.

It wasn't quite the "and they lived happily ever after" ending a good fairy tale should have. It was more of a Grimm's Fairy Tale story... a lot more painful, a lot more real, while still maintaining the appearance of the surreal.

Many of you loyal readers who have never kissed me or tried to kick my ass have wondered if I was married to Noboko and how she could allow me to write of our courtship in such a manner.... in truth, if I was married to Noboko, I wouldn't have broadcast it in this manner...

I have no idea if Noboko is currently married, single, divorced or even alive or dead.

I'm not sure I want to know… though I do hope she is alive and happy.

… but if she is… I bet she isn't as happy as she could have been.

"This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."

Somewhere it's The End,
Andrew "I guess I don't believe in fairies" Joseph
PS: If you don't know what the last italicized lines in the blog alludes to, let me direct you to read The Hollow Men poem by T.S. Eliot. In it, you'll find references to Bill Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, as well as to the 1899 novel Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) - which inspired the movie Apocalypse Now. Not including this blog, those are three things you should read, and one you should watch. Oh yeah… The End… as in my sign-off, because that's how a fairy tale ends… it's also a song by The Doors, which is used in Apocalypse Now… unplanned by myself, but despite my time with Noboko, I do love it when a plan comes together.

PPS: And who are the hollow men? I am. Noboko's dad. Whomever she's with now. We are the stuffed men, stuffed with straw.

PPPS: At least I won't have to write about this topic anymore... decreasing my likelihood of being sad... it sucks to have write about good times when you know it didn't end well.

PPPPS: Thank you all for being patient while I got this off my chest at my own damn pace.

PPPPPS: Lastly... the image above is a DC comic book I purchased last Sunday in Aberfoyle, Ontario at an antique fair for $2. I saw the cover of this romance comic from 1969 and knew I had to buy it. While Noboko wasn't blonde, and myself hardly a biker, the scene somehow was a reminder that sometimes love can win out. Or so I read.


  1. Andrew,

    I've read all of your entries on Noboko and my heart goes out to you and the 1993 you. I can't help thinking of Romeo and Juliet on a motorcycle, given the family issues. There was also death in a way, of some emotions -- killed off on both sides.

    If you ever hear from Noboko, please let us know, how she is and how you are about it. I can't imagine she has not Googled you. Have you not Googled her? From a Western point of view, I feel she almost owes it to you to let you know how she is doing at some point. I'm sure she suffered terribly, too, of course.

    I do wonder what it was like those last 9 months or so with the weekly calls? Were you close as ever and then finally you just could not take it any more (I would have done the same as you at the end, btw?) Did you feel her slipping slowly away, drifting apart?

    Thanks for sharing your feelings so openly. I also want to say I'm very sorry that your mother died in such a tragic way for your family.

    Best wishes going forward,

    1. Hi Steve - thank you for writing.
      I think she only would have Googled me if there was a reason to... lonely. I can only assume (and i really do hope) she isn't.
      I haven't googled her only because - to tell you the truth, I'd have to do it in Japanese and after 25 years away it is even more of a shackle than when I was there. LOL.
      Close as ever? Hmmm. Perhaps. I know what I wanted - and so I called to hear her voice. She must have wanted it too, because she kept picking up the phone.
      Do you know how you can 'see' someone smile on the phone? I could. and can depending on who I'm chatting with.
      I never felt her slipping away... but I didn't feel her getting any closer.
      Approaching 30 I did feel like the opportunity with her was slipping away for me. Does that make sense?
      My parents were married at 26... so I put undue pressure upon myself to at least try and be like my parents. They didn't put ANY pressure on me, BTW. That was all me.
      I would like to know how she is, yeah. But... I guess I could write to the house... but why? Opening old wounds? No... I don't want to do that to her, and this blog has done that to me, so no... it would lead to expectations... expectations that would just go unfulfilled. No.... just look forward.
      Yeah... I was thinking of Rome & Juliet. At least in our case no one died except the emotions... he who loves and loses still has the chance to love again.
      I appreciate you commenting on me being so open... I think that has always helped me cope whenever things have gone awry - and they have.
      It's my life. It's me... warts and all, y'know?
      My mother... you know... I'm in the same room now... the computer room, if you will, that was once my bedroom when she died on the otherside (now our TV/Living room...where I sit and watch baseball et al)... it was also the same room my grandfather died in back in 1991 of February. It only worries me because I am 4 years younger than what my mother was when she passed... and I am hardly as healthy as she was... but you know what... you live as best you can and have as good a time as you can. Right now, I live to coach my son's little league baseball team... just yesterday rolling on the ground to make plays to show them how it's done. At least I don;t look or act like a 50 year old. LOL!
      Steve - thanks again. Your letter and a few others I've received make me feel good. It was meant to entertain... to teach... not to lecture or preach... I'm happy I was able to capture your attention for a while.
      Thanks again!

  2. hugs from Alice, as always...

    1. Thank goodness your b-day didn't didn't fall on one of THOSE days. I'll always take the hugs, as always.

  3. Hi Andrew - I really like stories. I really do! Especially that of your 3 years in Japan. That being said, I'm really curious. Did Noboko make any attempts to call you (rather than waiting for you to call her) during this time period?

    1. Hmmm... that's a great question. I'm not 100% positive, but I'm pretty sure she called a few times. What sounds more likely, however, is that I didn't want to her to spend her money on the calls - PLUS... I knew what time I could call her to ensure she would be in. She didn't know the best time to calls because I would be out, whereas she, being Japanese, kept a pretty tight schedule. I called and I called at least once a week. I had thought that hearing my voice would weaken her resolve.
      She had already tried to break it off with me when I was leaving... to make it easier for both of us... but I was and am a stubborn stupid idiot who hates to give up... I'm fiercely loyal until I get insulted and then that person can eff themselves.
      I never got that from Noboko. I felt up until my mother died one year later, that I still had a chance with Noboko. But once she died, my world collapse was complete and it was easier to let Noboko go along with my mother. It was safe to say that I spiraled downward at that time for a while.
      Noboko and I would talk often and for a long time... I could hear in her voice how much she hated to say good bye. I'm sure she was crying softly during some of those calls, and when I thought so I would change the subject and say something stupidly funny to make her laugh. That's my superpower. Despite the passage of years, when I am forced to think back like you have made me do just now, I realize how powerful my emotions are. I can look back, however, but I can't live in the past.
      Viet Tran... thank-you for reading and asking such a thought-provoking question.