Staying Perfectly Still
But look at this. My husband works 17-hour days, smokes over the screechy protests of his asthmatic lungs, rarely has time to eat anything but convenience store food, and of course has a high-stress job. I wake up to my bran flakes cereal and fresh fruits, walk the dog, do somewhat domestic stuff, then work till my husband comes home--I'm like the freakin' poster child for an overly long life, I tell you. The most stressful thing that happens to me is when the dog steps in his own pee or I insert a wooden skewer into my baking cake after an hour and fifteen minutes and it comes away coated in raw batter.
Of course I know that anything could happen. I could write the book on not making long-term plans for anything, even death. But my life right now has a way of lulling me into complacency, making me believe that I'll float right through the years without feeling more than a few lapping waves. And that's when that stubborn song pops back into my head, "If you die first."
It's actually a pretty short song, most often ending with "I'll pack up and move to Africa" or "I'll be really mad at you." But there are times, like this morning, when I wake up and I do allow it to weigh more heavily than usual. I once wrote that I'm good at settling in foreign places, at not missing what I left behind, at accepting new and different. But the truth is that it was so easy for me because I wasn't settling. After high school, for a really long time, it seemed I never stopped moving. I may have paused for breath for a year or two, but it was always me who left; I was never the one left behind.
But now that I've been in Japan for about five years--an eternity, to me--I'm realizing that I have to stop living like a transient, but I simply do not know how. Always at the back of my mind is the belief that I'll be moving on eventually. Before Japan, I never accumulated more than would fit into two big suitcases, because who the hell else was going to help me carry my belongings into my new life, onto trains, off buses, and up and down a million flights of stairs until my hands were chaffed and shaking from the strain? When I was living in Brooklyn, a call from a friend who'd spotted an abandoned couch outside her apartment had my roommate and I running over and, with the help of a homeless man, dragging that baby elephant (Why are couches so blood heavy?) all the way home. We then ended up circling it suspiciously for days, wondering why the hell someone would throw away a perfectly good couch. Unless it had fleas or something. But we eventually settled into it. And when I left New York, I didn't spare that couch a single thought. But now my husband and I have furniture that we actually paid for with our own money. I have more things than will fit into my two suitcases.
My concerns about tangible goods aside, there's that little problem regarding human relationships. There are people who need a lot of friends and others who are content with just a few really good ones. I fall into the latter category and have been this way since I was a little girl. This suited my migratory lifestyle because it meant fewer good-byes, but it also means that I've gotten increasingly good at forgetting people who were once important to me. And I'm beginning to get tired of finding replacements.
Although I've tried making friends with Japanese people, when your command of the language is as limited as mine, honest to god there's only so much you can talk about and only so far that the relationship can go. I also notice that I'm firmly placed in the "foreign friends" group, held apart from the "Japanese friends" group, the inner circle. On the other hand, to be perfectly cold, befriending foreigners is pointless because I've yet to meet a single foreigner who actually means to stay in this country. They're here for work or they're here for "the experience." Foreigners are not here because they love it and never want to leave. At first I took what I could get, which mostly meant short-term agreements and saying farewell a lot. But I can't be bothered to keep this up.
So now I'm down to a fistful of friends who I see less than seldom. And I have my husband. This is where the alarm bells start sounding. To calm them, all I have are my feeble survival plans. If he dies first, I shall get mad or I will pack up my things and move--probably, I will have to do both. I couldn't stay in Japan, because as much as I love it here, I don't think I'd love it half as much without him. And there's no where to go home to--I've somehow seen to that. Not Singapore, not Vancouver, not Des Moines, nor any place else I've stopped in between then and now. I'm even thinking of taking out that string of towns at the top of my blog because I'm realizing that those places were nothing more than pitstops in my wandering. They are not a part of who I am. I can scarcely remember anything about them now, in fact, because that is how a person like me moves on.