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2005-05-30 12:03 p.m.

imaginary love

I wrote the following out by hand last night at around 12:30 AM:

So, I'm in Kobe right now, staying at another super-posh hotel for a JET conference thingy. I'll be here till Wednesday. My first impression was that Kobe is suprisingly small, just a suburb of Osaka, but I'm beginning to think that the narrow strip of land it's crammed into is actually quite long.

Anyway, before I really get into the business of this entry, I saw three movies in the last three days, all currently in theaters in Japan. They were:

Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events I've been waiting a long time for this one, and I was not disappointed. I loved it. They did a great job of combining three books into one movie, and though many plot points were modified I thought it was very true to the spirit of the books. I loved the music, too. The kids were a bit better looking than I had imagined, though. 4 stars

Kingdom of Heaven Liked it. It was on the formulaic side, though, and obviously carefully calculated so as to not offend anyone. I don't regret seeing it in the theater, though, so we'll give it 3 stars.

Closer Wow. Brutal. But I appreciate its honesty. Though I feel like you don't usually see break-up scenes like that in films, something about them really rang true to me. I've never had any breakups quite like those, and yet somehow they reminded me of things I'd actually experienced, anyway. I'd like to give this film four stars, but as it's just not the kind of film I can see myself watching over and over again, it'll have to get 3 stars.

Japanese movie theater culture is different. Outside of big cities it can be difficult if not impossible to find a theater (and it's not always easy in the city, either), and when you do it will probably only be showing two films. I saw each of the above mentioned films at a different theater in Kobe. And yet the theater always seems to be practically empty. Japanese people aren't moviegoers like Americans are, I suppose. And as opposed to the US, you pay full price for films shown during the day, but after 9 or 10 PM the price drops off. The standard ticket price seems to be 1800 yen, which is in the neighborhood of double (at least) the typical price in the US. Most Japanese moviegoers stay till the end of the credits, though, which I like.

Anyway, I spent all day Saturday with the Woman Who Talks To Fish. As I can't seem to come up with a more suitable nickname for her, perhaps we can just abbreviate that to WTF.

I don't know if I've mentioned it, but she and I have been keeping up a vigorous correspondence since we met in March, mostly through email-length cell phone text messages. Concerning our reunion, I had asked her if I should forbear in the event I felt the desire to kiss her. At first she ignored the question, but eventually she stated that she didn't want to discuss it through the medium of cell phone text messages. By the time I actually met up with her I was pretty sure the answer was "Don't even think about it," and my time spent with her confirmed that impression.

Though... Just as a day spent between two people developing a platonic friendship, the day went well. I like having her around, and she seemed quite relaxed with me. She was talkative, open, and playful (though not flirty); I really felt like this time I was seeing more of her as she really is. We had a nice time and it was a pleasant day.

She's so Japanese in odd ways... Like, she doesn't like cheese and is clumsy at using a knife and fork (I didn't think there were still Japanese people like that around, but obviously there are). And she's definitely all about context and subtext, as the Japanese tend to be (and as Americans tend not to be).

At the end of the day she said she had a present for me. She was reluctant to give it to me, asking me several times if I really wanted it before finally handing it over. It was a letter, with a handmade envelope similar to the last one. She said that if I read that, I'd understand. She made me promise not to read it until I get home to the Rock, as it was filled with "unpleasant things" (a description of a series of unfortunate events, perhaps?) which would likely keep me from concentrating on my meetings. I thought it was a little silly, but as she strenuously insisted, I agreed. A few times she seemed to regret having given it to me and asked me to return it. I refused. Once given, the letter is no longer hers; it's mine, and I'm keeping it. (I suspect she was just testing me to make sure I really wanted it, even if the contents turned out to be "unpleasant.") She said it's ten pages long, handwritten in script half the size she normally writes. All in Japanese.

I don't particularly mind not kissing her. Certainly my life would be much simpler without that. I don't know that a relationship between the two of us would have a snowball's chance in hell. Age, distance, culture, language: we've got all the classic barriers. Our tastes don't exactly match, either. When I asked her what she thought about Lemony Snicket, she said "Well... It was more realistic than Harry Potter." Riiight. (Though she did list Goonies and Back to the Future as among her favorite films, so obviously "realism" isn't that high on her list of criteria for a good film.)

To some extent I have this feeling that the blessing of being in her presence at all is all that the Gods have granted me where she is concerned, and that I should be perfectly content with just that. Seeking for more could only lead to ruin. She's beautiful and ethereal, like a piece of art that no one can touch. (Props to Sleater-Kinney for the simile.)

as the mist leaves no scar
on the dark green hill
so my body leaves no scar
on you, nor ever will

-L. Cohen

I haven't read the letter. I won't read it until I get home, as promised. I keep promises whenever I can. I don't know if I'll discuss the contents of that letter here; I suppose it depends on what the contents are. In the handwritten letter I wrote her I indicated curiosity about her life history, which I know very little about, so there may very well be a lot of that in there. I appreciate her being candid with me, though part of me thinks that rather than writing a ten page letter, a simple "Don't" would have been fine. As Lemony Snicket himself said:

"It is much, much worse to receive bad news through the written word than by somebody simply telling you, and Iím sure you understand why. When somebody simply tells you bad news, you hear it once, and thatís the end of it. But when bad news is written down, whether in a letter or a newspaper or on your arm with a felt tip pen, each time you read it, you feel as if you are receiving the news again and again. For instance, I once loved a woman, who for various reasons could not marry me. If she had simply told me in person, I would have been very sad, of course, but eventually it might have passed. However, she chose instead to write a two-hundred page book, explaining every single detail of the bad news at great length, and instead my sadness has been of impossible depth. When the book was first brought to me, by a flock of carrier pigeons, I stayed up all night reading it, and I read it still, over and over, and it is as if my darling Beatrice is bringing me bad news every day and every night of my life."

I feel like my life has turned into a shoujo manga the last eighteen months or so. It's just been one relationship drama after another.

Though perhaps that will change soon. As recently as two months ago my romantic radar screen was jammed with potential targets, but in the last few weeks they've all magically dropped off, somehow or other. I am without prospects. That combined with the fact that my younger sister and brother are both engaged to be married makes for a slightly weird feeling. When I take an emotional step back, though, it's fine. Now is a great time for me to be single and alone.

I wonder what's in that letter?

my shallow heart's the only thing that's beating,