Friday, January 06, 2006

The Moment of Truth, Take 2

Day Eleven. Hopefully, I'll get one more shot at this.
[And here I thought writing yesterday's bit up was tough. This is gonna suck.]

Up and out to face the day. While I was not hung over (a surprise considering how much I tried to drown my self-disgust in booze), the disappointment with myself was still there.

After making a stop at Ranpu no Yu for a bath, I headed over to the Izumo BOE to say hi to everybody one more time before I left for Hokkaido. I talked with Mihara-san for a few minutes and then headed out to Yotsugane Elementary to try and catch up with Ms. Taihei.

She wasn't there. Again.

Actually, it ended up that a bunch of the teachers in Izumo were at a meeting that morning at Big Heart, a convention center near Izumo Station. So, after talking with the teachers that were at Yotsugane that day, I cruised on over to the station.

Yes! The meeting's not done yet!

Then the doors to the main hall opened up, and out came a flood of educators. Man, some of them were in a big rush to get out of there. I searched the mass of humanity and saw more than a few familiar faces. Some of them recognized me (after a few puzzled seconds), most did not. I was able to get in quite a few hellos to teachers I knew. Then I saw Mr. Kawakami.

I mentioned him before, on Day Two. Mr. Kawakami is another of the very cool teachers that I was fortunate enough to work with in Izumo, and as luck would have it, I caught up with him. We decided to go and grab some lunch, so I followed him over to another parking lot, parked Lisa's car, hopped in his, and we were off to Taisha.

He had some thing to take care of back at home, so before going out to get lunch, we went and grabbed some coffee. While we were there, I got a phone call from Nina.

Nina is an amazing person. She is very dedicated to her job, and does an incredible amount of volunteer work, organizing clothing donations and different fund-raising events (including yearly Thanksgiving dinners which are delicious) for needy people in Southeast Asia. She does a lot to give JETs in Shimane a good name, and I am proud to call her a friend.

I had hoped we would be able to catch up while I was back, but it looked like it just wasn't going to work out. So we had a long phone conversation instead. While we were talking, Mr. Kawakami headed off to take care of what he had to do.

It was really good to talk to Nina about life and various goings-on in Shimane. We even got to have a bit of a bitch-fest about a certain someone in the prefecture who does as much to give JETs a bad name as Nina does to give them a good one. It was funny, because she was saying the same kind of things I had been saying before I left. Man, that guy's a snake. They need to kick his ass outta the country. Whatever though.

So I finished talking with Nina and Mr. Kawakami finished up whatever he had to do, so we piled back into his car and headed off to Taisho-an, a local soba restaurant. My quota of Izumo soba consumption while I was back in Shimane was far from being filled, so I was really happy with the idea. We ordered warigo-soba, which is (usually) a stack of three small bowls of soba that gets served to you with a bottle of soba tsuyu (sauce) and a small plate of toppings, usually nori (small seaweed strips), negi (green onions), and katsuo-bushi (dried bonito flakes). Good stuff. So good, in fact, that we ordered a few more bowls. Soba is very delicious and can fill you up pretty quickly, but it also digests really quickly, and you end up feeling hungry an hour or two later.

It was really good to see Mr. Kawakami and sit down to talk with him. He's an incredibly good guy and he's been a really good friend to me. Very cool. He asked me about my love life, and after a painful look crossed my face, I explained about the events of the previous night. We had a really serious talk about it, and I came to the realization that I would be much better off getting my feelings out in the open, no matter the result. Better to say it and fail than to regret never having said anything.

And with that, our lunch was done, and Mr. Kawakami gave me a ride back to my (Lisa's) car. And then I was off...to Hirata.

I sent off a mail to her saying that I was on my way out there (she lives in Hirata) and I would like even a half an hour of her time, if possible. Then I called up Yakabe-san and went over to his office.

We talked about the product he's working on developing. He calls it the Awapul Soap Shaker. I'm not sure I understand all the specifics, but apparently it's a plastic case that you put soap in, add some water and then shake it. You end up with more high-quality soap bubbles (awa). At least that's the idea. I wish him a lot of luck with it.

Then she called. "Dustin? Where are you now?"
"Over near the community center."
"Okay. I'll head over to the library and meet you there in the parking lot. I'll give you a call when I get there."
"Okay. See you soon."

Thud-thud. Thud-thud. Thud-thud.

Oh man, here we go.

So I let Yakabe-san know that I'll be getting a call soon and have to leave. He says okay, and we talk until my phone rings again.

"Hello?"
"It's me. I'm at the library."
"Okay. I'll be right over."

I bid Yakabe-san farewell and get in the car. I'm shaking. Dammit man, stay calm.

So I drive over to where I think the library is. Only, when I get there, there's no library.

STRESS!!!!!!

I call up Yakabe-san, and he tells me that if I cross over the railroad tracks, the library's on the opposite side. Oh. Less stress, but not by much. So I grab a bad with a couple of presents for her out of the car and head over to the library.

I look around the parking lot, and...there she is.

Here goes nothing.
[It's not any easier typing this up.]

The Talk.

Hey, how are you? Yeah, it was really good to see you yesterday, too. Sorry about being so out of whack yesterday. No, I'm okay, just a little tired. So how are you? Oh really? Thanks for taking the time to come over here and meet up with me. I just wanted to talk to you for a few minutes. How's work? Still busy? Don't push yourself too hard. Me? Aah, I'm glad to be away from Muroran and work for a while. Still adjusting to things, you know.

Hey, I have a late Christmas present for you. Yeah, I could have sent it, but I wanted to give it to you directly. I know I didn't have to. I wanted to. Anyway, here it is. Go ahead, open it. It's a bath set from The Body Shop. Cranberry aroma. Smells good, eh? I figured you could use something nice like this to help you relax after a long day at work, especially since it sounds like you're having quite a few of those lately. I hope you like it.

You know, there's something else I need to tell you. I know we had a conversation like this over the phone back in August, but I wanted to talk to you about it, just the two of us, face to face. You see, it's like this. I...I, uh, well...

Dammit Dustin! Pull it together! Say it, for goodness sake!

...um, the thing is, I really like you. There. I said it. I know we talked about how we didn't want to be in a long-distance relationship. I know we agreed to be just friends. I know that. But I realized while I was up in Hokkaido just how important you were to me. How a simple e-mail or a short phone call from you could make my miserable day not seem so bad. How I thought about you all the time. How happy I was with you and how freaking sad I am without you. Now, I don't know how you feel about this, but I needed to tell you how I felt. I like you, and I want to be with you, and I know if it's us, we can make this work.

[Now, if this were a romantic movie, this would be the point where she turns to me, eyes full of tears, says "Yes! In fact, I'll go back to Hokkaido with you! I want to be with you!" Well...this is not a romantic movie.]

She turned to me, eyes full of tears, and told me that it hadn't been easy for her either after I left. But, she got over me.

Ouch. But yeah...part of me figured that that was going to be what she'd say.

She told me that she was happy that I felt that way about her, although she didn't know what kind of appeal she had. She told me that I was very important to her as a friend, as a man, as a person, but our relationship was something more than that. She told me that she didn't want to bring love into it. She told me that she almost regretted coming over and spending all that time, just the two of us, at my apartment, and that if she'd known it was going to cause me this much pain, she'd never have done it.

I looked at her, tears in my eyes, and said, "Don't you dare say that. Anything but that. Don't say you regret the time we spent together. Those are precious memories for me, and no matter what happens between us, I will always treasure them."

We sat in her car and talked. About love and relationships, about work, about life. We both had a good cry.

Now, the other gift I wanted to give her was a necklace. Considering the turn the conversation had taken, it was now a little awkward to try and give it to her. But I figured, what the heck?

So I explained that I had bought a necklace for her out at Showa Shinzan at a glass museum. I was planning on giving to her as a boyfriend/girlfriend gift, but even though that wasn't the situation anymore, I still wanted her to have it. "Accept it as a gift, as a token of our relationship. A gift from me to someone I consider to be very special." She was cool with that, and accepted it. It's actually a pretty cool necklace. The setting looks like some kind of nice stone, but it's just glass. A special kind of glass that changes color depending on the way it catches the light. She seemed to like it.

We talked a little more, and then she gave me a ride back around to where I was parked. I thanked her for letting me get out what I needed to say, gave her a hug, got out of her car, and watched her drive away.

So ends the story.

And while we ended up not "getting together", I think we were able to clarify our relationship a bit. No, I'm not happy about it, but someday I will be able to deal with it.

Maybe.

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