Sunday, November 26, 2006
A Story
"So, what's his decision?" Mr. Tominaga, the company president asked me. A middle age man with a receding fore line. He sips his coffee after every sentence. Typical of a Japanese, this one has a penchant for very dark, unsweetened brew.

A countryman has applied for a job a few days ago. But as he was younger and his japanese lacks polish, our president was hesitant to offer him a significant raise. So my friend predictively tells me he will refuse. I am tempted to say to Mr. Tominaga, "Increase his salary by 500 dollars and he will be your man. Increase it by a thousand and he will profess undying loyalty. Increase it by two and he will bend the knee and call you 'ser'". But I said not any of these things, instead preferring to say simply:

"He will not accept, there is no reason to change jobs without corresponding change in salary".

"But you are here" Mr. Tominaga responds, taking yet another sip from his cup. I can't understand how the japanese can have such high life expectancy. Excess seems to be a common pastime here. Tobacco, sake, gambling, even woman in white shirts diffidently whispering "please sir". Everything can be easily procured, provided you have the money. And it is not the first time I encountered a drunken fool inside a train singing happily to himself. The crows in his eyes are too light, and his hair has yet any grey, but his breath is foul and his skin is turning yellow. I tell myself amidst his singing, He is yet too young, but soon he will receive the gift.

I pondered on my answer a few moments. So that was your plan, I think quietly. To make partners of us. Someone to talk to in my own language. A companion to do things together. To lull us into a sense of comfort so if another comes offering more, we will refuse because how can one leave the other? But my poor sacho does not understand. I journeyed to a strange land leaving wife and child not to seek comfort. It is not comfort I seek, but gold and yellow steel. Large enough to buy a small estate. Perhaps a mansion in the everglades. Perhaps a black car.

"No, he will not accept" I repeat. "The salary is most important. The job itself is no matter. He will pick trash and sweep the streets if the pay is high enough"

"I see" he told me. "But, are you the same?"

I inhaled, I do not like this line of questioning. I would have answered "no" in another circumstance, however most I know earns almost double than me. Envy is a sin, but they are men I trained a long time ago. Teaching them programming and japanese. I think it unseemly that the students would earn more than the teacher. I certainly don't lack any of my students capabilities. But I have a contract and so I cannot look for another job. Of course I don't want to get fired as that would make things more difficult. But if Mr. Tominaga will release me of his own. Perhaps if he becomes sufficiently disappointed?

"Yes I am" I heard myself say. For gold and yellow steel, i remind myself. I have no time for the feelings of aggrieved presidents.

The narrowing of his eyes told me everything I needed to know.

"The meeting is at an end. I have other things to do" he said abruptly.

It would be five more days before he talks to me again. Ignoring my eyes and hardly acknowledging my presence. Did I judge correctly I wondered. Until he summoned me the fifth day and asked my price directly. Its very un-japanese but there's no point in turning back. So I told him, and he agreed. But the relationship is not the same. However, it is gold I seek and yellow steel, so I put such things out of my mind.

So the days pass while I work. But winter is coming and everyday it gets colder. I was born under a bright sun, and have toiled under it for 28 years. With nothing but a thin shirt and in evenings none at all. My country has only two seasons it was said "Hot and very hot". Those who come back from cold countries like America hardly comes out of their air conditioned rooms. As if they will burn under that very same sun they walked under a long time ago. And as my body is not used to such low temperatures. I shiver at night and my hands grows numb. The cold is a constant irritation.

In addition, I wonder about the child I left behind. Does he still know my face? I myself hardly recognize the face of my own father. It was fifteen years ago when last I saw him. "Let me see my son" he said, but my mother wouldn't let him. He banged on the door and shouted our name. But our house stayed silent and in the end, he got tired and left never to return again.

And so I worry. My child is too young to remember me perhaps, but I comfort myself by the thought that a child knows his father, as only a father can know his child.

These things and the cold bothers me. So every night before i sleep, i say my prayers. The one that goes "It is not comfort I seek, but gold and yellow steel"
posted by Nezha at 10:38 PM | Permalink |