Expression

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.

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“Oh. It’s me.”

was on the verge of getting mad at him. He’d said something, I now forget what exactly, but at the time I thought it was important to let him know my negative opinion of it. And it was in the middle of my now forgotten rant that he suddenly said, “Wait.”

I stopped talking. But he didn’t say anything. “What?” I prompted. And still, he didn’t respond. His video was backlit so I couldn’t even see his face properly. I couldn’t get a clue as to why he interrupted me. There had been a few seconds of silence already. I was getting impatient.

The next thing that happened was that a message alert popped up on the screen of my phone:

Anton Alvarez sent you a photo.

I furrowed my eyebrows. “Why are you sending me a photo now?” I asked irritably, wondering why he couldn’t just tell me what he wanted. We were already talking. Why send me a picture, too?

I tapped on the message alert.

“Oh. It’s me,” I said as I found myself looking at my face from a few seconds ago.

He’d taken a screenshot of our video call. “You look pretty there,” he said.

I didn’t say anything I was so caught off-guard. A few more seconds of silence passed.

He broke the ice. “So, what were we talking about?” he asked.

“Um…” I started, struggling to remember. I shrugged. “Nothing important.”

12:52:04

There was an audible silence at the other end of the line. Or, it was really from both ends as it wouldn’t have been a silence at all if it weren’t mutual. She didn’t know what to do. She was looking at the timer and so she knew, it had been at least three whole seconds since either of them spoke. She pressed ‘End Call’ as soon as the second timer turned into four. After all, the last statement they exchanged was ‘Good night.’ And for a phone call, that was as good as ‘Goodbye.’ The phone call was over. But she couldn’t ignore the four seconds between the last things they said, and the actual end of the digital connection. It was as though they’d left enough space for each other to say one more thing.

“I love you,” she whispered, staring at the extra four seconds on the timer on her phone.

“I love you,” he whispered, too.

Does He Make You Laugh?

In fact, it had always bothered me that Greg was never able to make me laugh. It wasn’t because he was serious all the time or that he was slow on the uptake. It was just that, whenever we were goofing around, it would always be me who was making the jokes, and him laughing, which didn’t make us a sad couple, but I did worry about it.

In movies, in books, and even in conversations with my friends, the characteristics of the “perfect guy” would vary, except for one thing — that he had to be able to make you laugh. Now, I’m not crazy enough to base my decisions on things I see on TV. I know I shouldn’t be making a big deal of little things like that. But whenever I saw other girls laughing at something their boyfriend said or did, it bothered me somewhat.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked when he noticed that I was staring into space again.

“Nothing,” I said. “I’m just excited about the play.”

We were on our way to the theater to see, I don’t even remember the title. It was his idea to see a play, which is a bit strange, considering neither of us was very fond of plays. But I was happy to be doing something other than our usual dinner-and-a-movie routine, and the fact that it was his suggestion made me all the more intrigued.

It turned out to be a play about the difficulties that come after college life, but the twist was that the characters were puppets, and it was like a parody of Sesame Street. It was hilarious. But that it was great wasn’t my favorite part. Throughout the time we were watching, whenever a character delivered a punch line, Greg would turn and look at my face.

“What? Do I have dirt on my nose?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I just wanted to know what the things are that you find funny,” he said.

I didn’t really understand what he meant, but didn’t think too much about it. We just continued on watching the play.

We were still laughing about something one of the puppets said even after the play was over.

***

“So? Does he?” my friend prompted when she noticed that my mind had drifted during our lunch.

“What were we talking about again?” I asked.

“We were asking if Greg could make you laugh,” another one of my friends explained.

“Oh, well… ” I started, and remembered how much I laughed when we were watching the play, and how Greg looked at me every time I did. “Yes,” I said. “He finds a way to make me laugh.”

END


Reminder: This is FICTION. I don’t know anybody named Greg. That was just the first name that popped in my head when I was writing this. And I actually saw Avenue Q with a bunch of girlfriends, so.