1. A Japanese tale

He came from the paddy field next to our yard, yes, the gray, dull apartment block I live in is located at the edge of the village in the arms of the endless rice fields, and in the spring Salim and I found it difficult to sleep because of quaking of the frogs looking for partners, which started immediately after darkness had fallen. The noise was loud and penetrating, we couldn't hide away from it even under our pillows. There must have been thousands of frogs in that paddy. In the summer the neighbours' children would collect frogs in the yard, Look Mummy, look! or rather "Okaa-san, okaa-san! Mite, kaeru, kaeru!". One of them little terrorists left this poor bastard in the staircase on the fourth floor, and when he finally dared come down in the early morning, the newspaper deliverer's heavy foot hit him and made him a paperthin bookmark on the third stair. And now the frog keeps staring at me every time I pass him, as if he wanted revenge. He is a
reminder of the all the things I have failed in, well I don't know his sex, but I still know he is a he, and he has decided to revenge to everyone living in our staircase.

Last night when I came home from work, the frog accused me of stepping down on everybody, just as he had been stepped, of bossing around trying to have it all my way, not caring about others' wishes. I quickly passed, telling the frog to piss of, and hoping that Salim, who had picked me up at the station, now coming 20 meters behind me, wouldn't hear it. But it turned out we would have a similar discussion inside our brown painted metallic front door with accusations flying around, hitting and breaking us down with the precision of the Lewinsky missiles, keeping us awake for a large part of the
night although the frogs have turned silent. And that frog stayed in my mind.

The small, wine red frogs attacked me like bats, they managed to grip my hair when I tried to pull them off me, they were wet and sleezy, I didn't want to touch them with my fingers, but no more did I want to be eaten up by them. They were biting me, it felt like they got small pieces of my skin to chew for every bite, my face would be spotty if I ever survived this attack, I was yelling, shouting, stamping my feet in the yard and none of the neighbours came to my rescue. The frogs started turning into jelly in my hair a while after landing there, a thick smelly jelly that wouldn't come of, and there was no end to the frogs that were attacking me. Finally I woke up in cold sweat, wondering why I was letting a dead frog into my mind.

But I felt guilty. I felt guilty about all the shit that had poured out of my mouth. But I also felt guilty of what I'd been accused of. The accusations that had punched me out only some hours ago kept ringing in my mind. Am I really that bad? Is it too much to expect to share a little more time than half an hour in the evening? Have I not been giving anything? Am I totally useless as a partner? Why am I here then? No, it can't be. I love him. Of course, I've even been accused of not knowing what love is. But that was wrong. It all went wrong from the beginning, ever since my arrival on this island. He expected something that I could not give because I did not know what it was. I still don't know what it was. I wanted something from
him that he was not able to give me. We had been apart for three deadly long months, and I wanted to get back that time, all that was missed in that time. "No, I wanted that, you just wanted to waste our time" he said when I had let those words out of my mouth a few hours ago. And then followed the long, bitter argument on why he was right and I was wrong. But the way we wanted to make up for that lost time differed severely. And we were both disappointed. I wanted to hold him, hey, don't be indifferent on me, don't give up now, I need you. But there I was, four in the morning, holding my pillow instead not wanting to wake him up. Sleep is holy, one of our basic needs. Don't ever wake a sleeping person up unless he told you to. It's like taking away the food from a hungry person.

He was so eager, he wanted it all immediately, he was an impatient little puppy. A very sweet puppy too. But don't push me, don't press me, it won't leed to anything good, I told him. He wouldn't believe me. Now he's had it proved to himself. I can and I want to change, but it's going to take some time, I told him. Patience, my darling. But he's not the kind of person who can wait, when he sets his mind to something he wants it right then.

I'm not giving up. I know I've been an asshole many times, behaving really bad. I know I'm guilty of most of his accusations. But I'm going to change. Now we're going to do it my way. He's tired of pushing me around. I still firmly believe that a relationship can develop into a happy, deep companionship when it's given time to develop. Nobody changes overnight. His long arguments would confuse me, make me forget what the issue was, what my opinion was and why. I guess I've got a rabbit's head, you know a rabbit's ears are just long pipes sraight to the brain. Blow into one of them and the air comes out of the other.

In the morning I woke up to march music from outside, completely exhausted from the fight and my body still tired from the mountain hike in the weekend, not wanting to get up. At eight, when the school bell rang the music stopped. A little later the junior high students started some sort of practises outdoors chanting parols accompanied by drums. Finally at the university I found myself in the wrong lecture hall although I went to the one pointed out in the syllabus. I was ten minutes late, but students were still getting seated and a large crowd arrived from somewhere indefinite. But there was a more interesting course going on in this hall and the program was in English, so I decided to stay. Sigrid showed up and we were both quite happy about discovering this course despite the shortcomings of the syllabus and the unwillingness of univeristy bureaucrats to provide information about courses.

When finally all the about 200 students were seated the lecturer went on speaking in Japanese, we knocked the Malaysian guy in front of us on the shoulder and had our fears confirmed. There remained nothing to do but to quietly slip out of the hall, though you can't really say slip out since the exit is near the lecturer's catheder. We went looking for the course we had intended to take and opened the door to the right hall half an hour late, immediately greeted by the professor with a distinct British accent in an irritated tone: "The two of you who just came in, did you take this class last week? Would you come up to the catheder?" Shaking our heads we wandered up wondering what our punishments would be. There were already two students standing at his desk. "Would you write your name here, and do it quickly
cause these people have been kept waiting here for half an hour, it's not fair to them hurry up. No stay here, stay here, I have to give you these things. Come back here so that I can give you these things." He was growing more and more irritated. We were assigned groups for presentations of some political thinkers' views on international relations, Sigrid for Hegel and I for Marx.

It wasn't Professor Covell's best day. Ten minutes after he had began his lecture, he looked up from the catheder embarrassed: "I'm afraid I have to go and wash my hands for this pen has leaked." The hot, still air in the room made me want to sleep with my head to the narrow table in front of me, but Sigrid punched my shoulder. "Don't be so Japanese!" I could hardly wait for the 15 minute break, which Covell kept calling the "interval". Five minutes before the interval he left the room again, this time to wash off the chalk of his hands after writing down "jottings" on the green board. It was just an excuse to get out off the lecture hall poor of oxygen. In the second period he would keep on going to wash the chalk off his hands after having written down on the board what he had just said. In the end he just kept on writing without saying much. Two minutes before the end of the lecture he'd wash his hands again and return to say that this is the end of today. When I asked him to sign that bureaucratic form with which I sign up for the courses and on which I have to get the professors' signatures or stamps to show that I'm allowed to take that course, which is something that only the foreign students have to do, he apologized for being so harsh in the morning.

Walking up the staircase I noticed the frog had turned. How was that possible? I thought it was like glued to the concrete, but the flatted remains of the creature with its legs spread out had turned 90 degrees to the right.

On the answering machine there was a message from Taeko at the Liberty English School. Douglas wasn't back from California yet, could I please step in for him tomorrow too? She had been trying to reach him, but he had not answered. That idiot, he could have let us know earlier that he would further extend his already extended stay in California. By now I had already been teaching his classes for three weeks. He sent a fax, but can't remember the schools phone number 333999. How can you not remember that number? I was overbooked. Tomorrow I was supposed to start teaching English at the Self Defence Force - the army - in the evening and I had already confirmed. Well, the choice was easy, I would earn more at Liberty. He definitely is messing up my plans that Douglas.

I decided to surprise the person I love the most with a good dinner. At least my day might turn out to be better than professor Covell's.

 
 

 

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