Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I am back!

And it feels really strange. Really, really strange. I still feel like I am a foreigner, but in my own city. Everyone is fat and tall in comparison; everything is enlarged; parks, roads, streets, people, except the quantities, people and buildings. I feel like Melbourne is a country town. My friends are all taller than me suddenly. I nod my head and bow on public transport. I am embarassed on behalf of my fellow Australians. Clumsy Japanese comes to my lips and sits beneath unpractised English. On the plane, I heard English below the level of true hearing, a bubbling understanding which gave way to Melbourne Airport, a throng of people with white faces and broad accents, a nuanced people, faces who resembled everyone I have ever known. I stumble over my words in my haste to get them out, a rush of words I haven't used in months. I left Kiyono. The world stayed together. I felt things settling inside me. Her emails are forlorn and sad. I miss her. Crazy girl, to bet everything on this roll of the relationship dice. I left telling her I need to piece my head together in a place where I don't need to rely on her. I haven't decided yet on the difference between need and love. She sends me pictures of the two of us to keep us alive. I have no money, no job, no plans and a bed at my parents house in the burbs. My head is still in a whirl. My brother said it took him a full month to readjust to Australia, and even now he seeks out Japanese company. Walking through the city, I felt a massive surge of relief at familiarity. At the mixture of skins and clothes. At not being the single white face amidst homogeneity. At being able to read street signs and menus and books. At being literate once more. At not being forced to near silence. I miss the thrum of Japan. The wattle is blooming.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Before the plane

It's the last night before I leave for home, and I still haven't chosen whether I want Kiyono in my life or not. This last week has been one of the hardest in my life. I hate the girl and love her at the same time; I need her laugh, her smile, her unaffected way of touching life which is so against the cynical boredom of my culture; I hate that I can't talk to her, and that even if I could we would have little in common; I hate her for daring to love me, I hate her for her devotion even when I hurt her, I love her for loving me when I hurt her.

She lives her life fine without all the abstractions that I love to think about, but I think perhaps I will not be able to respect her in the long run, if I can't talk to her about what I am thinking. Or perhaps I am the fool. She captured my churning thoughts with one line - you needed me here in Japan, when you didn't know anyone and when you are in Australia you won't need me anymore - and I stopped thinking for once and looked at her because she knew all the time and I didn't, rushing back and forth in my mind, pitting obligation and guilt and the debt I owe her for being my lifeline here versus our inability to talk, our inability to share the nuances of language which I love, the longing I have to wake up next to her against her deceptive simplicity.

This has been the hardest week of my life. I can't decide, I really can't fucking decide, I'm killing her and she's killing me; one night in Okinawa, both naked in the shower and I decide that the answer is a definitive no, that I don't love her so much as need her and that it would be unfair to continue, and she, blind, sobbing, rocking on her haunches, this mute expression of need in purest form; she worked herself into a frenzy and I spent the night and next day crying next to her hospital bed, crying at the strength and weakness of this crazybrave girl, this fucked up girl, this girl whose simplicity covers a deep, deep pain and the tears I mistook for love and I said the next night, I wept for you which means I care about you which means I was lying to myself so please come and let's try it in Australia and then two days later, aware of the gap between us, aware of everything that was wrong I flipped again to no and I can't write about what happened next. It's agonising, it's fucking killing me, I am glad I am leaving tomorrow; I am sad she won't be on the plane; I will be liberated from the sweetness and blood of her; I will miss our mute animal silences, our nest, I will miss how her body fitted next to mine and maybe on the plane I will change my mind again. All I am hoping is that once I am out of Japan and my head is clear that I can find out if I did love her or if it was need covered by self-deception, and how on earth to tell the difference and how the fuck they came to look so similar. This isn't the way I imagined leaving Japan, but then nothing here has been how I imagined it; it has been wonderful and terrifying, ugly and beautiful, frustrating and depressing, joyous and terrible.

I suppose it means I've been alive here and that it, far from being a dream, is one of the most real experiences of my life. Yesterday I was feeling like this whole thing was a waste of my life but today I feel older, like I've just had a birthday which actually meant something in terms of the passing of time.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The economics of lurve

If, indeed, all you need is love and if the world too needs love, just love, then it would seem that a rather simple economic principle is at work. The need for love is high, but sadly, supply of this valuable commodity is low. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says around 23% of people aged 35-44 were without a partner in 1996, up 7% from ten years earlier. Perhaps it would be downright stupid to spurn Kiyono; to hold out hopes of perfection in my partner which, inverted to make it truer, mean that I am looking for someone to perfect me, make me better. Perhaps I should just accept her offer, after trying to wriggle out of her devotion at every step. Perhaps it's fine to import my girlfriend. Sigh. At least she's not a Russian bride.

I can't get my linky-thingy to work properly, so you'll have to cut and paste the addresses below if you want a cheap thrill.

I love the internet. There is nothing it can't do.

Friday, August 12, 2005


...and then she sidles in the door and slinks up to me and my body has already given up the fight, relaxing, capitulating beneath familiarity and warmth and mad thoughts rush through my head stupid breakup lines - get out of my house although this one would be I'll get out of your house which has little impact, and it is strange, learning all her rhythms and moods, making middle ground between us and sowing it with a little time, only a little, always only a little but I simply cannot do it. It's impossible. I am a freaking wuss. If it weren't for the fact my plane is booked in two weeks, who knows if I'd ever escape her embrace.
I am trying to break your heart

God, I am bad at breaking someone's heart. I just can't fucking do it. I have made my decision - that Kiyono and I are impossible long term because of language, because I need to talk all the fucking time and put simply, her English isn't nuanced; my Japanese can't stand on two legs; we can't fucking talk with ease and jokes and the coccoon of shared culture. Finally, today, I was able to stand back from it, leave her apartment strewn with my junk, with my tshirts untidy in her laundy basket, leave the nest and write an article for the magazine on autopilot, the question of Kiyono thrumming like blood in my ears and then walking towards the train, doing battle once more with the wide open question of her; her messy apartment, two packs a day, step above social drinker; her warmth; the snugness with which I fit into her back; the unaffected sensuality in her kisses; the resentful mewls with which she greets day; she of two faces, day and night, she with whom comfortable silence stretches out into realisation of impossibility; she who sings karaoke with real emotion; her scars and tattoos and quiet silence; her kanji poetry, beautiful, inscrutable, frustrating; she who fiercely independent apparently needs me to live as a supplement to breath, who needs to know I am hers, she who I either don't know at all or know too much to fool myself any longer that this will work out in Australia or Japan or the fucking air in between and then it comes like that, between one step and the next, and the answer is simple and the answer is no. The answer is that I cannot save her and I cannot love her any longer and I am grateful, enormously grateful but the answer is that I am fickle while she is devoted like abalone to stone, unquestioning. She doesn't even know who I am and she doesn't care in the slightest; she doesn't know the first thing about me, she doesn't ask unless I tell her, but she is content with the way I kiss her neck, the way I coax her sadness out and she thinks this is love beyond all knowing.

Japanese romances are wide-eyed; the promise of romantic love pure and true and whole is untainted by Western cynicism but I, we, the world weary know that love is nothing but a word for a feeling.

Moving in with her was unsurprisingly, a rather bad idea; it makes it even harder and I don't think I've done anything to quoteunquote help her get some meaning back in her life; all it has done is make me her personal, portable saviour, her one-man meaning of life. This is quite intimidating. I never thought I had messiah tendencies, not even latent. What makes me feel so small is that she accepts that her fate is in my hands; she is the one who made this suddenly abruptly deadly serious and yet she is ready to be thrown away. I know what she doesn't, that life will go on, and she knows what I don't, that she has the power to make life not go on because if there is one thing I have learnt here is that the word love is a very very very dangerous word, a word with a currency all its own, a word that floats between languages to mean more than I ever intended.

I'm sorry, Kiyono. If things were different. If things were different. Things would be different.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


June 4, Hagamisha Festival
All visitors will be given toothbrushes that have been blessed to provide protection against tooth decay. @Hagamisha Shrine, Osaka

Damn. Missed it. I particularly like the seamless blending of faith and practicality.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

News, views

After living here for nigh on six months, I have a lot more respect for kindergarten teachers and all teachers; for farmers and salarymen, for the hard work that glues society together, this invisible interreliance and specialisation that lets me eat without growing it; travel without walking. Oh, and a corresponding decline in respect for managers and bosses of all hues. How did they fall into such a life? How quickly does the lure of power and responsibility dissipate into a small office, a small domain and jurisdiction in which their decisions take on the air of a parody of power, a large cosmic joke, pettiness, a scalable architecture of power in which they sit below looking up.


The plan was that I would come back to try for a job in journalism, refreshed by Japan and with a lot more wary respect for the Real World of hand-to-mouth work (and a strong desire to avoid meaningless labour at all costs). But there's new management; the entry-level positions seem to have vanished and I am kinda in the lurch. Meanwhile, all my young writer friends are making leaps and bounds, while my degree cools quietly under my bed. Fuck. Yet another part of my vague plan going awry. I didn't want to fall in love/get attached here. That wasn't possible. Then the triumphal return to vie for a job I lusted after, getting paid to make pretty and functional pictures with words. Nup, scratch that one too.


I've been Taking Stock of late, since I have no job to occupy my time (more on that shortly), and have found that there appear to be a couple of differences between pre and post-Japan Doug. First, I'm a horrible snob now. This is not entirely my fault; after meeting enough idiots, I tend to assume that every new white person I meet here is guilty until proven innocent; guilty of being stupid/sex obsessed/unpleasant. So I simply don't make any effort, even to the point of being downright rude. Second, I'm a borderline alcoholic, for which I blame my environment. I'm taking baby steps towards full alcoholism - two nights ago, I found myself itching for a drink, vaguely needing one. At first disbelief - is that really the tuggings of need? - but then it firmed and I found some wine and drank it. Partly this is because I can only communicate in broad strokes, nuance free, and when the world is lightly patterned and smoothed out with a beer or two, when I am tipsily effervescent, I find I can relax here. I'm going to have to dry out in Australia. One of my not so distant relatives was an alcoholic; the gene seems to have skipped a generation. Pesky genes. Never can tell where they will pop up


And last but not least, Kiyono. At present, I am doing nothing with my time bar freeloading at her apartment; I have no money. I'm in this tiny bubble of sleep, eating, drinking and making love. I'm still torn. I don't know what to do. She dampens the discomfort in my head and stills me; my mind doesn't go questing at night lying next to her. She cooks for me, despite my protestations. I have decided I can't stay, it is impossible on paper and impossible in reality; we are impossible long term, it makes no sense. We are from different worlds and all there is is a little time to make a nest before it is time to leave; we will live together until I can muster the strength to hurt her. Last week, I was wavering, thinking perhaps I should say yes come to Australia let's make it work but then I spent the day with an American girl who I had a huge crush on, the day before she left, and we talked sparks and fire and I kissed her because I hate might-have-beens; I kissed her so I can leave Kiyono. I know that's fucked up emotional accounting, but it worked, my head is clearer. So many people I know stay in stale relationships until they get the strength/opportunity to cheat; until they can make their outside actions match the desire inside, until they can make a stand to leave. I feel obliged to Kiyono; I love her; it would never work, it is impossible; I want her more than ever; I don't want her at all.

In the end, it's culture that will divide us. I don't understand her life, not really. And she would not understand mine. I've spent time and money on a university degree; this permits/requires me to talk politics/culture/big things; she started working as a hostess while her contemporaries were in high school; she has more money than I've ever seen in my life; I need to talk furiously and all the time. She is depressed and I want to give to her some human warmth, but I am an impossible dream for her, she must know this soon, she must.