After work, in the parking lot, there was a newborn baby swaddled and facing backward in a minivan. His older sister is a sixth grader at the school where I teach, though I would not call her my student as I have never taught her. There is something aloof about the sixth graders, something that makes me feel out-of-place when I am around. But yesterday I looked at this new human, the exhausted mother, her belly still swollen, her hair mostly gray due to the lack of hair dying during pregnancy, and the intimacy was overwhelming and unexpected. In the few minutes of that interaction, so many clues about that family were revealed to me and I felt the privilege of catching a glimpse of who they were underneath their public facade.
I am not often invited in here, you see, but slowly I am convincing people, just by my continued presence, that I can be trusted. A wariness of strangers is commonly known but here in Hiroshima, a place first bombed then actively discriminated against, it is harder to penetrate than any other place we have lived, including the island. That is why, I think, that the kids have no desire to move elsewhere; it has taken them this long to be accepted by their friends and neighbors that uprooting would mean starting everything over again. Unlike in Goto where people were regularly transferred on and off the island, Hiroshima people tend to stay in Hiroshima. A fair percentage of the teachers at my work actually attended the school as students. I am constantly struggling to understand the system while they are working with people who were either in the same class as them or were taught by the other teachers (both of the vice-principals, for instance, were at one point homeroom teachers of the head of the English department, my supervisor). I have worked there for almost two years now and have had very little socializing with my coworkers, mostly because I have a family to take care of but also because they usually have plans with each other, such as attending a Carp game. (Yesterday, the shopping mall was deserted partially because of the rain, but mostly because everyone was at home watching the game, they are on a losing streak this season and which means every game must be watched for when they turn their luck around).
Last night I watched this movie:
I was surprised by how emotional it made me. The casual language aspect plus the fact that I am always on the lookout for good Japanese films was part of the reason I watched it (on MUBI, using my free trial). It was rom-com-ish but also had a subtly that lent itself to a short story form. When the lead character, Rinko, could not beat her string of bad luck and heartbreak, I just felt really sorrowful for her. It reminded me of the pain of one-sided love, of feeling like no one loves you, of my own heart’s scar tissue that still stings occasionally, like when it rains or when I watch rom-com-ish movies about heartbreak late at night.