“Itte rasshai,” he said, right after we kissed.
“Itte kimasu,” I replied automatically.
A usual exercise in my Japanese for Beginners class was that the teacher would say a phrase or expression and all the students would give the response in unison.
‘Arigatou gozaimasu,’ she’d say. ‘Dou itashimashite,’ we’d respond. ‘Tadaima,’ she’d say next. ‘Okaeri nasai,’ we’d answer. These expressions were common and therefore useful to memorize, she told us. And then she told us about the situations wherein they were used. ‘Itte rasshai’ and ‘Itte kimasu‘ were said whenever someone left the house to go to school or work, she explained.
But R said it to me in front of the turnstile at the train station, just before I went past it to catch the Shinkansen to Tokyo.
I gave the expected reply without thinking, and smiled and waved goodbye before turning the corner to get to the platform and disappearing from his sight. I did notice him taking a deep breath after I said it, as though it was something more than a language nuance. But at the time I didn’t think it was important. At the time, I was mostly thinking about catching my train.
When I finally had some time free, I realized I didn’t even know what the phrases actually meant. I knew they were used together, but what did they translate to? I looked them up and somewhere on the Internet I found they were interpreted like this:
Itte rasshai – You’re leaving now, but please come back.
Itte kimasu – I have to go, but don’t worry because I’ll come back.
I’ve previously read about one’s significant other feeling like one’s home. I think that’s already romantic without context, but being in a long distance relationship now, it feels more relevant to me somehow. We have places we need to go and things we need to do, but at the end of the day, we come back to the person who feels like home.
Itte kimasu, Ryuichi. I love you.