Let’s say we’ve never met. Let’s say you, or I, never bought a ticket that brought us to a fateful day. Fateful. I scowl at the word; it sounded so corny, and I don’t like being called that.
But let’s say I was never there, on a small red bus to Tokyo, along with twenty other over-enthusiastic tourists in Hawaiian shirts and straw hats.
I was minding my own business. You were, too, slouching and leaning against the cracked window, your sunglasses perched down on your nose. Your skin was too tan, your face too plain, that at first I did not take notice. And then you took off those glasses and looked straight at me.
I didn’t expect you to smile. I let you glance at me and formulate a first impression, as I was doing the same thing. My stomach lurched out of habit, and it was not because of the breakfast I missed.
I didn’t invite you to sit on my chair the next time we were on the wheels again, after a lengthy and fussy toilet stop. You smiled easily and said hi. I was flustered but I knew I did not look so clumsy. I just looked at you, and when you did not make an apologetic gesture or go away, we started talking.
It was easy talking to you. We had nothing in common, for that I was glad. You were a stranger on a strange trip, something I took out of sheer insanity. I did not plan on being fired. I did not plan on going to Japan. I did not plan meeting you.
You called me a misantrophe. I knew what the word meant. Dislike of people in general. Maybe that is true, I never really have a fondness for people. But the grace with which you said that made me smile, as if it was a joke.
Jokes are often the truth, though.
We spent nights in bars at Ginza, slugging down overpriced cocktails until I began laughing uncontrollably. You told me I loosened up, and I laughed more. At least I remembered that part, and the part in which I desperately wanted to kiss you – wrap my fingers around yours – ripped off your clothes – uncharacteristic thoughts that made me blush in shame.
We just talked, though. Spent the night in my hotel room, just talking under warm blankets. The warm air suited my mood. Sometimes you said something funny, and I remembered not having laughed in a very long time. Sometimes I was able to say my own jokes out loud.
I wasn’t myself, but I didn’t let you see that. Who knew, that girl back there might have been the girl I was deep inside, whom I never let out in public.
You were the best thing that happened to me that year. Between losing a job I was in for five years, between finding out my life was a big fat lie, you were the only thing good, even if just for ten days.
We did say goodbye, though. You were waving kind of sadly at me. I was smiling, but let that smile be my sadness. You took your duffel bag and slung it over your shoulder, looked back twice, before disappearing into the crowd. I turned on my heels, never looked back, poof, a shadow in your past.
Let’s say we’ve never met. Let’s say you, or I, never became friends.
Misantrophe. The word hangs in the air. I smile. And remember you.
6 August 2000 - inspired by the song in Lock and Key, a word I looked up in the dictionary