Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Dormitory farewell party

When last semester's farewell party rolled around, I wasn't particularly enthused. I'd been keeping on the fringes of dormitory life, after all, and while I certainly had some “friends,” I'd never felt especially attached to anybody there, so I didn't have any difficulties letting go. Life is full of goodbyes. My advice: Get used to it early. Never stop making connections, but understand that no relationship, romantic or otherwise, is going to last forever. You don't have to like it, but you do have to accept it, because if you don't, you're in for crippling pain.

So I went in this time with much the same attitude. Basically, I thought, I don't want to do this. Mill around for a couple of hours, make idle conversation with people I either don't care about or actively hate, and pretend to be sad? What a downer. And of course I'm obligated to go, which is even worse, because I can't even pretend that I had the choice but decided to be a good sport and come show my face. The only saving grace, really, was a couple of English Club girls and other assorted associates joining in the...festivities.

And then there were those fucking cards again. All departing ryuugakusei got one, and you had to go through them all and write some kind of heartfelt message for them, regardless of whether or not you actually knew them well, or even liked them, or had ever spoken to them. I sat down, grabbed the first card I could see, and sat with my pen poised over it. And I sat. And sat. And after five minutes I still couldn't think of anything to say.

I left, schmoozed, and came back. Ah – Tiny Chinese Girl. I've had class with her the whole year long, surely I can think of something nice to say to her. 1年間、お疲れ!」One year, over – that's reasonable enough. Ok, now something about having fun together in class. And, erm...she loves rollerskating. She almost joined the Chinese national team. So, good luck with rollerskating, and uh, studying Japanese and...“other stuff.” Boom. Done.

I pick up another and continue in the same vein. I gather steam, and start coming up with increasingly creative and off-the-wall ways of saying basically the same thing over and over. The trick, I'm remembering now, is to think of some small hook, any little shared experience or kernel of information about them, and pull on it. And after a while I start to notice a theme: I actually kind of do know these people. And I like a lot of them a lot more than I thought.

Eventually we gather to each make a short speech. As each person shares of their memories and emotions, I realise the party's true purpose. I thought it was so that our achievement could be recognized. I was wrong. As a bubble of sentimentality wells in my chest, I understand that it's to give us the opportunity to say goodbye.

My turn.

“Everyone, congratulations on one year!”

Applause. As always, I speak off the cuff.

“But even saying that...I can't think of it as a year, eh?”

Much has transpired, but I remember the day I arrived with alarming clarity. I feel like a different person, yet the intervening time is a blur. Time is all fucked up, that's what it is. My heart grew heavy.

Suddenly, in that moment, everything I've been feeling for the last couple of months hit me like a jazz piano. I don't want to leave Japan. I don't want to leave my English Club people. Even if we've fallen apart, I don't want to leave Mother Russia. And as much as it's tried my patience, as much as I've gritted my teeth against the drama and the immaturity and the Jesus Christ would you all stop screaming all the fucking time, I'm realising that I don't even want to leave this house. The practised manner in which I swipe my key-card and swing open the back door? Soon that won't be a thing anymore. My near-daily ritual visits to Cologne's mom's house will be behind me. Some new resident will start keeping his stuff in my room and sleeping in my bed, as if he owns the place. Hey, asshole, get out of there!

I try not to count my blessings, because what the hell is the point in being satisfied with what you already have? That's no way to live. But having spent so much of my life often feeling out of place and unwanted – I partly blame my parents – it's good for me, sometimes, to take stock of the people I have, and I've been one lucky motherfucker in that respect. When I want to achieve something, or I've been beaten down by something, I feel them swell beneath me. The rest of the time, I can see them form a circle around me. Even when I'm alone, I'll never be friendless.

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