Saturday’s class was embarrassing for me. I wasn’t the dumbest, most bumbling student in the class, but I was in the running. My college career was not like this. I did no homework beyond what was required, I skipped classes, showed up drunk and late and slept through most lectures and filmstrips, and yet I still graduated with honors – magna, not summa (I would have gotten a perfect 4.0 if my bastard teachers didn’t deduct points for my lack of participation). Now I’m motivated and studying almost every day and even practicing out loud, yet when sensei calls on me my mind goes blank and I get tongue-tied and manage to blurt out something which is almost right but just far enough off that she has to correct me in front of the class, which I hate. Granted, I tend to blank and get tongue-tied even in English, and granted, most of the other students in the class have more Japanese experience than I do (which is to say, none at all), but I’m used to being one of the smartest people in class, or at least the one with the highest GPA to study time ratio. Yes, I have considered reinstating my college work ethic, but I really don’t think I’ll learn Japanese any faster if I drink more and study less.
I’m beginning to develop an Ed Gein split view of my nihongonosensei in that part of me appreciates her pretty face, kind corrections, and friendly teaching methods and wants to treat her well (i.e. have sex with her), while the other part of me looks at her tiny little body and wonders how many hamburgers I could render from it. Of course, she has the body fat of a #2 pencil, so I’d have to buy some lard to cut with the meat to make it palatable. And some Worcestershire sauce. Or should I use wasabi and soy in deference to her ethnicity?
I’m kidding, of course. I’d never grind sensei into chuck patties. I have no room in my freezer. Since I felt stupid for struggling in last week’s class, I checked with the institute to see if I could take some private classes. They cost three times as much, but I’ve decided to schedule an hour a week with the same teacher (it’s really not her fault I’m not learning any faster), at least until things are back to normal and I’m complaining that the rest of the class is far behind my level.
Note - I scheduled with the same teacher because I don’t want conflicting dialects to make the learning process any harder, and she really is an excellent teacher. I don’t have yellow fever. Sensei is cute, but also married and I don’t have any real interest in her beyond the class. Besides, I’m still in love with my dentist.
Speaking of whom, I wonder if it’s too late to fake an accent and give her a big hug the next time I see her and tell her that’s the way we greet our medical professionals in my native country, Afganipakisaudiranislavistan. Just a thought.
Anyway, class ended (not soon enough) and I returned home to pout. Somebody knocked on my door, which I’ve learned is never a good thing, and I opened it to find one of my building mates (I’ve grown to hate the word neighbor), a middle-aged black woman who gave me a quick but efficient sob story about needing to get somewhere and her husband was at work and couldn’t leave and she needed twenty bucks for cab fare and would pay me back the next day. Yeah, right. Still, I’ve always made it a policy to give everybody one chance to disappoint me and I didn’t want to stop with her, even though at $20 the rates had gone up. I gave her the money and she quickly thanked me and left.
With the way my building is designed, all the doors face the same hallway so you can hear whenever somebody knocks on somebody’s door. After she left, I thought about it and realized that she didn’t bother to knock on anybody else’s door; out of the eight apartments in the building, she made a beeline for the one white guy. Okay, technically the three people in one of the other units are whitish (the trash subspecies), but they’re not the translucent variety like me, especially if you count the color of the guy’s neck. I don’t think she was out to fleece me because she hates my snakebelly skin, I just think she entertained the popular misconception that all white people live lives of wealth and easy comfort. The fact that we live in the same building should tell her something about our respective income levels, but whatever.
It reminds me of years ago when I worked on a welding line in a factory at night so I could attend college during the day. I worked with a black guy I’ll call D (no, not Ddot). He was a nice, easy-going person and we usually sat together and chatted during lunch. Anytime the conversation led to a comparison of our lives, D always thought I had it better then he did – better car, nicer home, more cash for emergencies, etc. He would smile, shake his head, and give me a toothy grin that said “Man, white people have it so easy.” He wasn’t upset or even really envious; in fact, he seemed happy that his friend had it so well. Since he was such a nice guy, it didn’t upset me that he actually assumed I made a higher wage because of the color of my skin. We solved that one day when we received our paychecks and compared stubs, something most companies don’t want you to do. As with any corporation, they’d harvest our organs for sale on the black market if they thought they could get away with it, regardless of the color of our skin. Like I thought – we were equally underpaid.
One day I pointed out (not unkindly) that the reason I had a better car and house and more money was a difference in lifestyles. My money went straight to the bank, and from there to pay the bills for college and all my stuff, and then, on the rare occasions I had anything left, to pay for booze and movies and other entertainment. His paycheck went straight to the liquor store; by Saturday or Monday morning, depending on whether or not the dice rolled in his favor, he was broke and looking for the next paycheck. He didn’t accept my theory. Despite the fact that we worked on the same line and lived in comparable neighborhoods, he still firmly believed I had some economic edge, like in Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live skit where white people gave each other things like newspapers and bank loans when black people weren’t looking.
Also, this weekend I got a haircut. I cut my hair whenever I can feel it, such as when I look up and feel it tickling the back of my neck like bugs. At those times I get sheared so I don’t have to fool with the stuff. When it comes to my hair, I’m definitely more for comfort than style. I’m kind of like the anti-~deb (in many ways, actually).
It looked much nicer coming out of the barber shop. They always cut and style and comb and run their fingers through my hair (I view getting my hair cut like a nonsexual visit with a prostitute), and it looks nice and neat until I wash and comb it, and then it looks like a grenade went off inside my skull.
Anyway, that’s pretty much it for the weekend, except on Sunday my building mate dropped by to give me a quick thanks and to repay my $20. She didn’t try to chat or explain the reason why she needed the money. I suspect she was embarrassed at having to borrow it in the first place. I’d probably feel the same way. Oh, well. Glad I could help. After thirty-six years, this is officially the first time I’ve ever helped anybody who was apparently in real need (and not just a mendicant) who was grateful for the assist and paid me back when they had the chance. I guess I’ll be seventy-two by the time that happens again.