Today, at the train station, my brother and I were looking for a place to sit down and eat our lunch. We found a single spot on this rounded bench, and went for it. I originally attempted sitting on my bag, but was uncertain as to its ability to withstand the weight, so ended up sitting on the bench (at my brother’s insistence), with my brother squatting in front of me. We were chitchatting about the food as he opened up the bags (it was some dumplings and pork buns from this famous local bun shop, 551), and the old lady next to me readjusted her belongings a bit, and scooted to her left enough of army brother to sit down next to me.
He thanked her in a fabulous Japanese fashion (so proud!), and took the seat. As he had the box of buns in his hands, when he opened it up, he offered one of them to the lady. After some coercing, she finally accepted a half, and even one of the shrimp dumplings, as well (she seemed to perk up a bit when she saw the dumplings, and had no hesitation in the offer of one of those).
She and my brother continued a bit of chitchat about the fact that the buns were from the famous shop, as well as why each of them was there (This was all in Japanese, of course, so I understood the bulk, but couldn’t quite jump into the conversation due to the Japanese and the fact that we were on a rounded bench, so I couldn’t quite see the lady, unless I leaned way forward.). Eventually, after she learned that I was his younger sister, I heard the same comment I always seem to get here in Japan: that I am “cute”. While it is not exactly something we love to be called back in the US, it is actually a quite nice compliment here in Japan.
Then, as my brother explained about my living in Japan, she asked me how I liked it. I gave a half smile and wobbled my head a bit, but couldn’t bring myself to spit out any words – I truly had no idea how to answer, and I could feel something uncomfortable rising inside me already. Fortunately, my brother, perhaps sensing my hesitation-slash-unwillingness-to-answer, took over answering the question for me.
His answer, however, surprised me – he was quite open and honest with the woman. I, just in thinking about it all was already starting to tear up, but I felt a small sense of relaxation and relief as I listened to my brother share with the lady how I was not having too easy or good a time (and that that was part of why I had come down to visit him for the weekend). I had finished eating what I was going to eat, so I excused myself, saying it would be good to jump in the line for the bathroom before I had to go get on my train.
Once I reached the bathroom line, I couldn’t help it, the feeling was so overpowering: tears started pouring down my burning eyes, as I gasped quietly for air. I couldn’t quite understand what was happening with me. I had noticed that I was a bit borderline already earlier in the day (borderline tears, that is), but I hadn’t known why, nor had I expected something like this to send me into such a state as I was now.
I used the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and went back out to my brother, who was standing ready by my bag. I broke right back into tears when he asked if I was alright, and he just held me in a big brother hug for a bit, soothing me, before gently telling me that I had about 8 minutes before my train, so we’d do well to head toward the gate now.
He was holding a marigold handkerchief in a little clear plastic bag, and he proffered it to me, explaining that it was dyed with actual marigold, and the old lady and her sister (the one whose son is a pianist, and whose concert the old lady was coming to see) had wanted me to have it. They said that they wanted me to enjoy my time in Japan, and that they hoped things improved for me. They had wanted to talk to me, too, but had had to leave, so they left the well-wishes and the handkerchief with my brother to pass on to me.
Naturally, there were even more tears at this point, but with a slightly different edge to them. : )
As we hurried off toward my train, I expressed how my visit to my brother and his girlfriend was so wonderful, that, now that it was at an end, it was difficult for me to think about going back to my life, my town. I had gotten a taste of so much of what I had been missing these past seven-ish months, and I didn’t want to go back. Not that I had any intention of not going back – there was just a taste of dislike for what awaited me. I had finally started to be accustomed with my circumstances, it was hard being reminded of what had been wanting from my life. I know that I’ll be okay, and that I likely will very much enjoy these next few months – it’s just never so easy to go back to plain white bread when you’ve had all your favorites available to you. (That sort of idea, anyway)
Yeah… that’s all I have to say about that. : )