Have you ever met someone who thought that they were ’God’s Gift’? Well, what if that was exactly what they were?
In the beginning was the word, and that word was…Well, I don’t know. I wasn’t there in the beginning. My story isn’t about the beginning. But if I had to guess? Hmm, ‘destiny’? ‘Curse’? Perhaps it’s just ‘coincidence’. I suppose I can probably ask soon. It won’t be my first question though. I expect I’ll ask about the meaning of life. Or maybe why ‘Kimye’ is so popular. No, my first question will simply be: ‘why me?’
In the beginning, my beginning, the word was probably ‘subway’. You see, the doors had just begun to slide shut when a besuited arm jutted through. They bounced apart and allowed a salaryman to bound between them and plonk himself into the seat next to mine. He reeked of stale alcohol and even staler sweat, and he was rapturously happy to see me. He leaned in breathing his noxious sake breath through his yellow teeth and spoke:
To say that I was surprised is something of a gross understatement and my jaw swung in the air-conditioned breeze as I gawped with muted shock. Then, following his eye line I noticed the lanyard that still hung around my neck, now little more than a reminder of a position I had briefly held. I sighed and smiled wanly. “Yes. Josh.”
No, that’s not quite right. I’m getting ahead of myself. In my beginning the word was more likely to be ‘escape’, because that was why I came to Japan: I wanted to get out of England. I wanted to escape the country that was, for my generation, becoming an empty place devoid of opportunity. If I wanted to make some money, I had to leave.
So Japan, a country in which someone with my limited talents – as I believed at the time – could earn a relatively decent wage on the virtue of little more than being born with an Anglo-Saxon tongue in their head. And so, on the back of a solitary Skype interview during which I wore a shirt, tie and Family Guy pyjama bottoms, I had a job for which I bade my loved ones, the few that there were, a fond farewell, and I boarded a flight for Nagoya.
And now I know what you’re thinking, dear reader, you are thinking: “this guy is nothing special. His story is no more remarkable than mine.” And maybe you are right. But what if you’re not? I’m not recanting this; my scribe is not hammering away at her keyboard, for fun. We are doing this because we all know that my tale is something that needs to be retained for posterity. Because if we don’t tell it, they who reject the veracity of what I say will have achieved their ends, and there will be no one left at all.
But I didn’t mean to get into that at all just yet, it’s far too soon. So, where was I? Ah yes.
I had arrived in Nagoya excited by my gainful employment. But alas teaching, I soon discovered, was not a strong point of mine and I stumbled through those first months losing student after student until, understandably, my employer politely, forcefully, gave me the geta.
Ok, now you are definitely thinking of turning the page, as my story is not only a waste of time, but also reeks of the depression of week old sashimi. But please, persevere, because it is now, on my way from that crushing blow, on the Higashiyama line, that things start to happen.
“Joshu? Joshu-san?! Gaburieru desu.”
“Sorry, no Japanese,” I replied to the salaryman with an apologetic shrug, replacing my headphones.
“Nihongo wo hanasenaika? Kuso!”
His irritation coruscated in brilliant blue eyes, and my repeated admissions of linguistic inability helped very little. It was when he grabbed me roughly by the shirt and I was ready to smack him in his putrid mouth that a young man on the opposite seat interjected.
“I speak little English. Maybe help.”
“Eigo shabereru?” the salary man implored.
“Gabrieru desu. Tsutaetekure.”
“He says his name is Gabrieru.”
“I got that much,” I confirmed.
“Kami no koe desu.”
“Jaaaa, he say he is voice of kami-san. Um, voice of a god.”
“Oh, of course.” Batshit nuts.
“Joshu-san ha kami no ko desu.”
At this our helpful Samaritan burst into hysterics, but the salaryman was gazing at me with such a look of piercing honesty that I was ready to believe anything he said.
“What was that?”
“He say you are son of god.”
“Stupid drunk prick,” I guffawed, feeling somewhat sorry for the deranged old guy.But he was still looking at me with the utmost sincerity.
“Honto desu. Joshu ha Christo desu,” and he held his index fingers in the sign of the cross over his chest. At that moment the train lights flickered and, for an instant, the ojisan’s face changed – into what, even now I’m not sure – but as it changed it sent something like a jolt into my brain, into my soul.
But as quickly as it came, it went.
Now he just smiled serenely, leant back into his seat and fell immediately asleep. I glanced over to our interpreter who caught my eye for a brief moment before looking away and staring intently into his smartphone.
I looked out the window behind him, just in time to watch my station slide out of view.
To be continued…