Have you ever met someone who thought that they were “God’s Gift?” Well, what if that was exactly what they were?
Despite my previous attempts to impart the English language upon the Japanese community ending in abject failure, thanks to Jun’s connections I was able to find new employment at another school: Koyama Eikaiwa. It was a small school with just a few students, but I soon found myself not only enjoying the work, but also excelling. Unlike in my previous teaching incarnation, rather than stuttering through my lessons like a faltering lamb, I felt my confidence grow with each class, until I soon discovered that I was something of an expert.
Yes, I suppose that you are quite right to scoff at such a claim. How could I have transformed from abysmal to prodigy in just a matter of months? But as you know I am not one easily given to hyperbole or false claims, and I mean it with all intended humility when I say that I had become perhaps the greatest teacher in all of Nagoya.
Of course you may argue that this is like being the best looking guy in a burns unit, but nonetheless, potential students added themselves to waiting lists and queued to join my lessons like the shoppers inexplicably do for that popcorn store in the Meieki train station.
The owner of the school, Koyama-san, marvelled at the Eikaiwa’s change in fortunes, a turnaround that had, he later informed me, arrested an inevitable slide towards bankruptcy and was now happily thriving. A saviour, he called me.
Now, I shall revisit my pedagogical successes at a later date, for they are not without importance being as they are the sparking catalyst of my inevitable downfall. But at that time it was not my virtuosity in the classroom that had filled me with such an effervescent happiness, setting my life upon a previously unimaginably positive path. No, it was the fact that I had fallen blissfully in love.
It had been in the first weeks of my time at Koyama Eikaiwa when I met Mari. Prior to my arrival at the school she had been something of an occasional student, but soon she began taking two lessons a week and then three. Her English was by no means excellent, but I felt that she had a gift for it, and with each lesson she joined there was a marked improvement. It did not take a genius to see that this improvement and enthusiasm was down, not to a love of the Anglo Saxon tongue, but to an Anglo Saxon man: me.
Feelings that I too shared.
To my shame, I must confess that before I met Mari I had dated a couple of my students, even slept with one or two of them following post-lesson nights out at izakayas and karaoke bars. Yes, I was aware of the stereotypes of the English teacher seducing his beautiful students, and I knew about the loosely policed moral rules governing relationships with someone over whom you hold the great power of education, but at that time I was in the first flushes of my newfound powers and I painfully admit I was perhaps abusing them. However after one such dalliance led to a student quitting the school – jealousy is an ugly thing to see in such a beautiful woman – I decided to put my philandering ways behind me. Yet then came Mari, and it was impossible to combat our chemistry.
Her work prevented us from evening meetings so our first date was a trip to the Higashiyama Zoo. She turned up looking a little worse for wear, and having downed a couple of Strong Zero chuhis on the subway to allay my nerves, I was a little more tipsy than I should have been. And yet we had a wonderful day strolling amongst the botanical gardens and watching the animals, the solitary moment of antagonism arising when I took offence at her comparing my handsomeness to that of a gorilla, but all in all we thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and agreed it would be a desperate shame to allow our status of teacher-student to stand in the way of a pairing that felt as if it were ordained in the heavens.
It goes without saying that we kept the flames of our love hidden under a bushel, but from time to time our covers would slip – a look, a smile, a touch – and it was not long before other students began to notice. But I imagine that, the occasional complaint or snide comment aside, rather than being cause for concern, mostly they were happy for us.
Sadly the same could not be said of my friends. Masa, Makoto, Ruka and Jun, those friends from whom over the previous months I had become near inseparable, were concerned by my blossoming relationship with Mari, though their objections laid less with the problems of me being her teacher and more with her being a Nishiki bar hostess. But despite these fears, or perhaps in spite of them, the love between Mari and I bloomed.
For the first time since I had arrived in Japan, as my dutiful scribe can surely attest, I was blissfully happy. But just as the night is darkest before the dawn, once the sun reaches its epoch, the light begins to fade. And on this occasion the darkness fell with the assuredness raven diving into the depths of hell.