The project I am working on went though a critical review session yesterday with the hotel people and, while wringing my hands under the table, culminated in the turning point of the design. With my design partner and I anxiously peering at our clients, wondering what they thought, and with me basically sitting there overwhelmed by all the arcane Japanese politesse that was flying between my partner and the reviewers, I kept repeating the litany in my mind: “I will not die if they don’t like my design. I will not die if they don’t like my design. I will not die if they don’t like my design.” I brought my hands out from under the table, picked up, for reassurance, the ball point pen I always use for sketching wherever I go, forced myself to sit up straight, and deliberately, and s-l-o-w-l-y, turned it over in my fingers, to give the impression that I was cool and nonchalant.
Probably the clients didn’t really care. They were all eyes for the brochure. After about five minutes of passing the mockups around, the leader nodded, looked up, and pronounced, “Ma, iijanai?”, which, translated literally means, “Well, good enough, isn’t it?”, but, which in the parlance of Japanese restraint means, “Looks great. Exactly what we were looking for.” There weren’t even any criticisms of the details. My partner turned to me and, tightlipping a restless grin, mouthed , “Fantastic.” It was like a key to a landslide. All the sleepless hours, all the grand visions of failure, all the intimidation of creeping under the shadow of the hotel skyscraper, came tumbling down and disintegrated like popping bubbles at my feet. And, much more than relief, I felt a sense of accomplishment that perhaps I haven’t felt often enough in my life. Good, honest hard work has its own rewards.
Needless-to-say, I feel pretty battered and torn. I tried to get up to go for my daily exercise, but the body had other ideas. I puttered about the apartment, dabbled in blog comments, read some more awful news. And ended up collapsing in my bed like deflated dough. And napped.
I just woke from the nap a little while ago. From a bad dream, actually. I had been dreaming about this beautiful blogger (with the familiar face of a woman I knew back in college… but it’s so unusual… I never have fantasies about blondes…) with whom I had exchanged telephone numbers for some not-too-hard-to-fathom reason. In the dream I gathered up the courage to ring her up. We talked about the topics we both enjoyed writing about, then decided to meet.
The next scene found us standing face-to-face on the street outside my apartment here in Japan, just at a you wish distance apart, mumbling to one another, but already beyond intelligible speech. This woman blogger was about to say something very profound (at least for me), when from all around us a hoard of Japanese children, mostly boys, started gathering. They didn’t speak or move their hands, just advanced toward us. My blogger diva, frightened, clung to me (can’t recall in real life a woman ever clinging to me out of fear), and I, so manly like, pushed through the crowd toward my house (yes, it was a house now). The children grew insistent, however, and a wordless moan rose up around them. The female blogger and I dashed into the house, slammed the door behind us, and threw the lock before anyone could get in.
I switched on the lights. The interior of the house boasted walls stripped down to the frames, moulting armchairs and sofas, and a chandelier that had crashed to the floor. Dust had settled over everything. We tiptoed through the rooms to my studio where my computer was located. I guess I wanted to show my blogger date my stuff. Instead we encountered the entire back wall of my room fitted with a giant 2 meter by 3 meter LCD flat panel monitor (lots of unrequited desires here, no?) on which was running a documentary, narrated by David Attenborough, about tree frog mating habits. My blogger lover and I reached out and took one another’s hands to comfort one another in the face of this monstrous horror.
I noticed that my usual computer desk was gone and that the room was occupied by three beds, and in each bed, wrapped in a bed sheet, facing the monitor, lay a different woman. Each of them sat up and I recognized them: my wife, an old friend from college, and a childhood victim of my puppy love. They said nothing, just stood there staring at me. Did I feel guilt?
The next moment my brother Teja (hi Teja!) walked in through the door, carrying a notebook PC (it wasn’t Apple, that much I am sure). He stopped, held out the PC to me and frowned. Playing on the screen was a news clip of me marching in the antiwar protests here in Tokyo last year. I held a placard with the words, “Out with Bush!” scrawled in black paint on its surface. When the clip was done, my brother lowered the PC and stood to join the women.
My blogger delight was gone. I raised a hand to make my protest when, out of nowhere, the doorbell rang. I tried to open my mouth, and the doorbell rang again…
I woke from my nap. The doorbell was ringing and I could hear the sound of the mailman’s motorcycle.
I slipped out of bed and trotted to the door, opened it. The mailman was dripping wet from rain. He handed me an envelope and asked me to sign it. Which I promptly did. I closed the door behind me and ripped open the envelope.
It was a new credit card from Master Card.