I Will Carry That Rice Cooker Out Like a Purse

People make faces when you move halfway across the world. “You are moving to Japan? Great!”

Nobody makes the same faces when you move from one part of a city to another. It is not the same response at all. “You are moving from Zoshigaya to Chidorifuji?” No wow. No great. Just a question mark slouching after the station name. That’s it. People don’t realize moving across the street can be as traumatic and disrupting as moving to another hemisphere.

A year ago, I had my cathartic moment. I broke up with my boyfriend. It wasn’t the first time. The make-up sex was always great until the next fight. The cultural aspects were too overwhelming (basically his culture was all important and mine was forfeit). The push-up bra was the straw that broke the camel's back. Maybe it is some sort of cultural imperative on his part that I wear one. It was summer in Tokyo—humidity at tortuous levels and he insisted I wear one because other guys would ogle me and feel envy for him. My opinion or comfort didn’t even enter into the equation!

So I was faced with ‘the move.” It loomed like a cliff face from the beach below. My age is one which firmly puts me in the bohemian/hippy era for parents. Part of me just wants to walk out the door and leave it all behind. The practical part of me says, “That rice cooker will cost me 40,000 yen to replace, that comes with me even if I have to carry it out like a purse.” This is just like a divorce. No, this is a divorce, who am I kidding?

So here I am, camped out in my new place. I still have my six boxes all packed up. My best friend had come to me with encouragement and a roll of silver duct tape for the move a few hours before. I am too tired emotionally to unpack. “It’s an ‘Alaskan’ thing,” he says as he hunkers down and helps me unpack, I am not sure if he is referring to flash moves or duct tape screeching as it pulls free from the boxes. He is already peppering me with questions about Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne. He has a wish list which included Vegemite in a tube. Paul offers to write the list on my arm. He is truly multicultural. I could pinch him.

My best friend never said a word in judgement. He would look at me much the way I looked at myself in a mirror. No judgement, but no praise either. (I don’t like sympathy. I am a grown woman. I can get my own tits out of the wringer.)

I wish I could marry him, my best friend. That would be perfect! The main and only obstacle is we want the same thing: a husband. He is happily kept in my heart under the category of a “male” sister while I realize “honorary” would be kinder.

The timing for the move couldn’t have been better. I was planning a writers’ seminar in Colorado. I was literally packing for my flight and planning an internship in Australia when the fight of the century erupts: My “real” boyfriend has his family coming from Brazil. He politely tells me to “move out” for the duration of the trip. I pay half the rent. He wants to keep “Portuguese house,” which means he doesn’t want to speak English in front of his family. Or, and this question stings like a slap in the face in public—is he ashamed of me? So I am told to find a daily mansion or sublet for the two or three or four weeks they may be here. I am made to feel like a printer with a broken feed tray, in one word—unwanted.

I am not a dummy. This relationship has ceased. It was time to move and move out gracefully.

Well, not gracefully. My name, not his, was on the lease.

There are any number of agents to use. Moving companies are a dime a dozen. The difficulty is getting motivated. Everything else falls into place like an avalanche bearing down on a small Swiss Alpine village. I am moved before I even realize it. Fairy tales should be so easy. I cannot even pack that fast for a trip to Colorado!

I blame the resulting phone call for my best friend’s choice of comfort food. To welcome me into my new digs, he brings over Guam style food in aluminum foil on paper plates of thick tortillas, red anato rice, barbecued ribs in soy sauce, and potato salad. There is even an island shirt, and he changes into beach shorts. The only thing missing is the sand, and if it were there, I would be sobbing for my native Hawai'i. I would kill for the recipes, but he won’t share. He even managed to bring Budweiser beer in bottles. (I still need to figure out which days I can throw them out, thanks, Paul.) We were eating on a rickety table and giggling at my friend mimicking abeyant conversations; my phone rang.  

I look at the phone and look away. I have screened my first call in my new place. My now ex has been dispatched without a second glance. It is important I have a witness. I feel vindicated.

Paul grabs the phone after the next barrage of rings. He has no patience. None of the men in my life seem to have it. Is it the fate of all red headed women? Paul has a mouth full of food with a hand over it saying, “I’ll handle it.” I register anger and mischief.  

Out comes an invective dialog in a pitch so high I don’t realize he is speaking! Imagine Pierce Brosnan speaking in Martian. Paul answers the phone and prattles away in Chamorro and then holds the phone away laughing into a hand as I hear Portuguese streaming out of the earpiece. For a brief instant I feared he was going to throw up potato salad. I lean back, and see him waving off another laugh. I help myself to some barbecued chicken dipped in soy sauce and chilis with onion and watch a master at work. I still don’t have TV. This will be the extent of my entertainment.

Six minutes pass. By the end of the call my friend has fended off an amorous ex boyfriend, managed to do it in a language no one would understand, and it all took place under my very own roof. I will credit his choice of house warming food.

I am officially moved into chez-Cherysh.

TV and a new boyfriend are my next projects after Australia.

And I vow, in my house you can speak whatever language you choose.