Tweny-five years ago I outsourced my motivation to the Japanese. I wore the Kansai humidity like a second skin and shaved my beard to get closer to the soup. I went to all kinds of extremes, even fell in love. Anything to avoid going to class.
Opening a bento was like taking the roof off a cheap apartment building, the kind where you can hear every word through the thin walls but understand nothing. I speak from experience: the woman in the next apartment had a screaming orgasm every afternoon at 3:00. My roommate took to accompanying her on the guitar.
I spent so much time in one noodle bar, an older construction worker became my official sponsor and paid for everything. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t communicate very well because we had very little to communicate other than respect on my part and kindness on his. The other people in the noodle bar schooled me in how to behave.
Their economy was booming then, and it took a lot of asking around to find where the homeless lived, over near the Osaka zoo, behind a fence: another bento box. I went there with a friend. We sat down on a bench and waited for someone to join us; it didn’t take long. He’d come down from the north 16 years before to work at the World’s Fair, he said, and never went back.
The only foreigner I met who’d completely mastered the language, modern and classical, was a drunk who went to sleep in the middle of an empty street. Flies, I heard him mutter, why do you always call on me when I’m not home?
Written for the > Language > Place blog carnival.