I was a junior in high school, and I wanted to belong somewhere.
I decided to join the yearbook club and take a journalism class. In fact, I sometimes wish that I had been really good at journalism related writing because I think it would have been an amazing adventure to have become a travel writer.
But, that’s beside the point. I can live in my alternate reality later.
So, it happened that, in grade 11, I found a temporary home amongst the yearbook and journalism crowd. I can’t say it changed my life. It didn’t. It was just one of many things I did as a teenager.
But, there is a shiny moment on this link in the chain of my life: a little boy.
I was sluffing a journalism seminar in Hiro-o (yeah, that’s in Japan. Yeah, that’s where I grew up and went to school. No, I’m not Japanese). But, in order to sluff without feeling extraordinarily guilty, I had to come back to the seminar with something to journal about….so I took a camera.
I walked a few blocks up from the hotel to a park. (I happen to be quite familiar with Hiro-o). I saw an ordinary playground, ordinary squirrels, ordinary trees and an ordinary creek. I saw ordinary, Japanese boys and girls…their boxy red and yellow backpacks thrown near a park bench, all their little live’s worries tucked beneath those little latches…the children were running around, screaming, playing tag, eating ice cream, giggling.
I sat for a while, in a semi-creepy fashion, and watched the children play. There was nothing inspiring about them. I kept the camera tucked away.
Now, it should be known that I have long since lost the pictures taken that day. All but one. And that one happens to reside in my brain.
A little boy with almost beige skin and red hair. He doesn’t have the red hair you’re imagining though. Imagine a dark, deep red…but vibrant. He has tan little freckles smattered perfectly across his little nose – gray eyes that are staring right at me. He’s not wearing a uniform, like the other kids. His little sister is wearing a hijab, but she’s wearing short sleeves and pants.
He waves at me. He looks at me like he knows me. He flashes the most uninhibited smile; he seems to know exactly why I’m there.
I never learned the boy’s name. I took a lot of pictures of him with his sister – little red flames in an unexpected place. As I left, he waved goodbye. He yelled to me in Japanese (at the very top of his lungs): (また)じきにお目にかかりたいと思います。
I hope to see you again, soon.
—-> Now, here’s the point in the story where you’ve noticed that the title of this blog is the boy and the boy in Hiro-o. The reasons these stories even matter to me are as follows:
1. Both take place during my junior year.
2. Both take place in Hiro-o, which isn’t exactly a place I frequented.
3. Both include boys whose names I never will know.
4. Both include red.
5. Both stories were made possible due to the fact that I was (am?) ever trying to belong somewhere.
So, the other boy in Hiro-o….
It was after prom, and there’s no wilder or freer of a place for an after prom party than the clubbing districts of Japan. Especially when you’re a white girl. You look older. You attract men. Men following blonde girls into clubs = $$$.
So, we went clubbing (obviously, we’d changed into appropriate clubbing attire). I was imbibing any beverage that came my way. No one had ever warned me about date rape drugs. No one had given me “the talk” about the untrustworthy types. I just believed in everyone’s good intentions. Drinks were just drinks. Boys who wanted to dance? Just boys!
Apparently, someone knew something that I didn’t know.
No, don’t worry. This isn’t about to turn into a date rape story. Although, it might have if this boy hadn’t been watching me all night.
I’m not exactly sure where he came from, which obviously speaks to how much attention I was paying to my surroundings. He was 6’2, and wearing a red jacket. While I was mid-dance with a 20-something Japanese guy, he came swooping in – a look of fury about him. I can’t pretend to know why. I was dancing with my backside to the Japanese guy. I was drinking a drink he’d given me.
The red jacket took the drink and shoved it back into the Japanese guy’s hands. They got into an argument and the Japanese guy left. The red jacket didn’t leave my side for the whole night.
And, while we were in the club, he never said a word.
He smiled a straight-toothed smile. He held me around my waist. We danced. He brought me drinks. He kissed me once or twice, and he walked me out when I was ready to leave.
And, as I made my way down the alley, he yelled after me:
I hope to see you again, soon.