Friday, May 6, 2011


Last time, an unavoidable trip to the grocery store cut me off before I got to Cor, who has been in some ways the most influential Japanese person in my life.

Cor and I were conversation partners for a year, six years ago, but what is more, we were friends. And although our friendship skirted around becoming something more for nearly that whole year, it never quite developed, but stayed safe, predictable, and ultimately frustrating-- to me, anyway. I am sorry to say I lost quite a bit of sleep and time over-thinking it. If you've read or seen "He's Just Not That Into You," you'll get the idea.

But unlike that movie, where a man either takes center or exits stage left, Cor always remained somewhere on stage. When I left Japan, we kept up e-mailing just about as often as we'd met to wander the various districts of Tokyo, taking in the sights, sampling the food, and speaking Japanese.

I knew that I had no reason to expect anything from Cor romantically, but I still valued our friendship as if it were a major plot-line in the greatest novel I would ever write. So it was with the greatest joy and trepidation that I looked forward to seeing him again when I came to Japan again in 2008 to work-- alas, nowhere near Tokyo. We met, we walked a bit around the city as before, and all seemed right with the world. In a few days' time I would be leaving for Parts Unknown, of course, but I only thought of how easy it would be to come back to Tokyo for visits.

You, being older and wiser, may not be surprised, though you may laugh at me for the icy cold wave of betrayal I felt when Cor chose that time to confide that he was quite fallen in love with a wonderful girl, Cora, who had recently come to stay in Tokyo.

I didn't blow up, I didn't yell, and I didn't cry. I was just terribly polite, and when we finally parted ways I thought, with an avalanche of emotion: I shall never see him again. Now he's going to have a real girlfriend and there will be no room left for a girl like me, neither quite here nor there.

And I was almost as bad as my word. In over two and a half years we probably exchanged less than half a dozen texts, and met very briefly once; possibly twice. That once, Cor found out I was in Tokyo and came at the last minute to see me off at the airport. I was polite, indifferent.

Then at last came this Easter trip.

Only a day before I left, something in me relented and I texted Cor to tell him I'd be in town. He replied right away.

I wasn't happy with the way I'd left our friendship, and if anything was salvageable, I wanted to save it. I was apprehensive, but I knew I'd been acting like a spoiled, selfish brat. As if our friendship were the plot in a story I was writing! The hurt and resentment that should not have lasted for even a night, I allowed to quietly fester on and on, always denying it, always forcing it down if it ever managed to reach the surface. I knew that I had to forgive God, I had to forgive Cor, and I had to let him go.

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