For a few days, everything was clicking together and making sense because my life had never been clearer. I was even taking so many photos everyday that there were too many to post on T.B. During that time, I honestly felt like I had been enlightened with a light shining down on me after such an internal struggle.
But of course, after feeling so unnaturally high, I had to inevitably crash down… and then two days ago, I did. It wasn’t due to anything in particular. There had been some good news and some bad news from the magazines I had been talking to, but that was to be expected. Or maybe it was just the accumulation of everything, making me realize that my dream, which now seemed like it was becoming a reality, wouldn’t turn out how I had hoped: I found out that I didn’t qualify for unemployment; the annual bonus I assumed I would be getting from my old job wasn’t coming; and while I was walking up the stairs to my room, I suddenly realized it had been four days since I had written a two-paged email to my dad about my decision and I still hadn’t heard back from him, which made me sad, and wonder why he had to be so angry all the time; and then I crashed- literally- for no good reason when I was skating to Shinjuku and almost broke my camera, which was slung over my shoulder. I stood up with some scrapes and pains and gravel wedged in me, and then checked my camera for damages. It was one of those days...
On April 7th, which was the following day, my photographer friend asked me to go with him to this big competition that he was a finalist in. There were around fifty other people in the audience, and we were all surrounding this big desk in the center of the room, which was for the judges, who were famous/established photographers. We sat there and waited… and waited... I decided to kill time by reading "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 1". And with a red pen, at the end of one of Orwell’s letters where he was writing about his first experience as an amateur tramp, I underlined the sentence:
"I am very proud of this adventure, but I would not repeat it.”
Finally the judges entered the room and walked down the aisle like kings. I noticed that they were all rather old… and wrinkly. One of them, I was able to guess who he was from the moment I saw him- even before he sat down at his seat in front of his name card- because he was pompous and badly styled. He had poofy, permed hair and was wearing all black, a grey scarf and dark sunglasses even though we were in the basement two floors underground. It was plain to see that he just had to be the most famous photographer in the bunch.
One at a time, the six finalists began their presentations… and then the judges would talk to them about their work. My Japanese was not good enough to understand the details, but, even so, I kept watching the whole thing, and it disgusted me. The first finalist, was behind the podium, and he kept apologizing to the judges in the Japanese way whenever they made a comment, and he had the biggest frown on his face the whole time as if he was a kid being punished by his parents… It was awful and so painful to watch, and I kept thinking, “Who are these guys to judge what is good and what is not? And why do they have the right to make this grown man revert into a baby just to satisfy their egos, especially the guy with the shades on with the permed, poofy hair because someone with that bad of a fashion sense, shouldn’t be allowed to judge anything.” While the presentations dragged on, even though it was rude, I got out my book again and began reading in subtle protest.
After three hours, it was finally over and I was starved. Fortunately, my friend won and I was happy for him. Afterwards, I saw some acquaintances of mine hanging out in the hallway and went over to say hello. There was this girl with them who I didn’t know. She was really nice, and stole me a beer from the judge’s table. I was so hungry/thirsty, that I drank it quickly. After we finished our beers, they said they were going out to eat… I wanted to join, but I felt like I should be home working on T.B. as well as be saving money, so I took a rain check. While walking to the station, I noticed I was already drunk from that one can of beer because I hadn’t eaten anything for 10 hours. On the train, I thought about this other girl who I recently started writing to. We seemed to have a good connection, so I decided to take a chance, and in one email, openly flirted. And, of course, she never wrote back. In a way, I wasn’t serious about her, but still, being rejected is always embarrassing. And as I sat there in the train, I began feeling lonely….
It was eleven by the time I made it to my station. At the supermarket, I bought a frozen pizza for 278 yen, which made me feel like I was worth 278 yen. When I got home, Yuki and Ian were in the kitchen. The table was full of beautiful vegetables and cheeses (I use the word “beautiful” because all I have been eating these past few weeks was instant food). They said they were making tacos and ratatouille from scratch, and that I could have some. While Yuki’s hands were covered in bacon grease, I asked for a hug because I needed one.
Dinner was amazing especially the tacos. Good Mexican food is rare in Japan, so I asked Ian to make them again for my birthday. Suddenly while I was fixing my second round, Ian and Yuki looked at me, and said, “Do you feel that?” “Feel what?” I asked. Suddenly I noticed everything was moving, and that it was another quake, and it was the biggest one since March 11th. After about ten seconds, it still didn’t stop, so we ran outside (Ian took his tacos with him). When the earthquake finally settled, we noticed that we were the only ones outside, and a homeless man, who was walking by, laughed at us. When we got back into the kitchen, Willy, our cat, was sitting on my chair like nothing had happened.
Afterwards, Ian and Yuki put on the last episode of Lost, which we had been waiting for a month to watch because the quake on March 11th had interrupted everything. Since I was still feeling low and wasn’t in the mood to watch, I told them goodnight and went to bed instead. After I got under my covers, I opened my computer and noticed I had one email from my sister. There was only one sentence and it was all in caps. It said:
“ARE YOU ALRIGHT????”
“Strange,” I thought. “How did she know that I was so depressed, and why, all of the sudden, was she so in-tuned with me right now?” It was as if we were twins and she could sense how I was feeling, but this was the only time it had ever happened*. Anyways I didn’t write back, but masturbated instead.
*After I woke up, I realized that she was talking about that earthquake from the night before.