An extract from a work of fiction tentatively entitled ‘Foreigner’ by Michael Gillan Peckitt
Finally I arise, turn on the TV, and the morning chat show is on, Japan’s morning serving of cooking shows and celebrities. The show usually begins with a starter of chefs and their food, maybe followed by the main course; an interview with the celeb de jour, for whom they prepare a meal and today is no different, the hostess explains to the latest soon to be has-been that the right way to make a meal of barbequed chicken. According to the host of the show, there is a wrong way to skewer chicken, it is apparently not enough that you stick a metal rod through the poultry’s backside, you must insert said rod in the proper way, to fail to do so would be very bad and result in ill-tasting chicken. The chicken does look good and I consider going back to sleep to dream of fried chicken. But no, alas I have to work today, so about that caffeine. I only started drinking coffee after moving to Japan a few years ago.
Before moving to Japan I found coffee to be one of the most inconvenient of drinks, a trait it shares with all hot beverages, I mean, you’re thirsty and perhaps really thirsty, so what is the point of drink you have to leave ten minutes to cool down before consuming? I do like the occasional expresso though, but not today, today will be all about soft drinks, and ultimately, the best reason to take up the habit of drinking coffee is to use the WIFI at Starbucks. Cola and cheese on toast, a breakfast that reminds of my student days, no essay could be completed without such necessary sustenance. I eat, shave, and find my keys, wallet and resident card. The iPhone is fully charged and I put on my headphones, although I am not actually listening to anything, the mere inserting of earplugs creates a sometimes necessary haven of solitude, a buffer between me and the world. What is it about the wearing of headphones that suggests to the native people of Japan ‘let’s chat?’ I leave the apartment.
It’s called The Land of the Rising Sun for a reason; the morning vista can be something special, a crisp blue skyline with the brightest yellow sun. If I were a morning person, I would like the mornings here, but I like my futon too much and have to work today, so it is difficult to appreciate the view. I enter my local conbini, a 711, to buy a drink and a sandwich, ‘Irrashaimase’ exclaims the cute girl from across the counter. I smile awkwardly and nod upon hearing her words and grab a copy of The Japan Times from the newsstand, fold the paper and present it and yield five hundred to the lady behind the counter. Arigatogozaimasu she says, and Arigatogaimashta I say as I exit the conbini. Since I am need of a good internet connection, I linger outside the train station, pacing up and down as I listen to YouTube videos and podcasts. There are many benefits to standing near a train station. You are outside, so there is good internet and a means of escape should, to put it kindly, troublesome individuals turn up, individuals such as The Newbie, who has just come up on the elevator and is making a beeline for the ticket machine. I close my eyes and focus on the sound of the talking head being emitted from my headphones and imagine a world where, since I had just barely noticed The Newbie, he did notice me
Alas we do not live in such a world and as he wave his aims to get my attention and begins galloping, releasing the hand of his latest Gaijin Hunter; a cute young girl, petit with dyed brunette hair, I wonder if The Newbie has some kind GPS tracker app that enables him to find me when I least what to seem him. I know I shouldn’t be unkind, it’s just he’s young, ever so eager, yet being fresh off the boat, completely clueless about Japan, and there is something about that combined with his average looks and the fact he always has a new cute girl by his side that makes his face eminently slapable.
He asks me if I had tried the latest seasonal soft drink ‘sakura cola’, essentially just cherry cola. I say I had but found it a bit too sweet – a lie – I actually quite like it, I just want this conversation to be over as soon as possible. A pause. If I were a social person this where I would speak, mercifully, I hear the chimes announcing an approaching train, quite literally saved by the bell; I shrug, stare at my iPhone and mumble:
Sorry I’ve got to go.
And then I scramble on a train.