The day I left for Japan


My friend Ryosuke heard me talking many times about wanting to go to another country. I needed to see people from different perspectives so I could understand humanity better. I don’t know where the idea came from. Maybe it was the influence of my poetry professor, Dr. James Magner. Whenever he read poems in class, he always stood by the window looking off into the distance as if he were reading some faraway teleprompter. He rumbled through the room in an exaggerated, old man voice that sounded like the crumpled pages of a book. From behind his Walt Whitman beard he used to say that poetry should strive for universality and that any great art, if it were worth its salt, should be able to speak to everyone, regardless of their background or nationality. I began to believed him. No matter what language we speak or customs we use, there must be a current running through humanity I wanted to find and experience that. I was excited by the prospect, so I told anyone who would listen. Ryosuke heard my story and offered me a place to stay in his house. Because he had moved to Ohio with his parents, His old room was empty. He told me I could stay as long as I liked.


I remember the day I left. My mother stood on the stairs looking down over the rail at me. She wanted to do something tangible to show her love and support. She was still struggling and couldn't afford to do much. As she was saying goodbye, she started crying uncontrollably. From the top of the stairs, her tears fell over the rail like drops of summer rain through a hole in the roof. I pretended it hadn't fazed me. “Catch you later mom” was all I could say before I left. In the car, on the way to the airport, I saw her wet face in my mind. Somewhere between Chicago and the sea, I cried too. It felt like I was ripping my own roots from the ground. I did not plan on staying in the country for as long as I have, I had no plan for how to go back either. To tell you the truth, I didn't have any plans at all. I had lied to my mother so that she wouldn't worry. I told her there was a job waiting for me but there wasn't. I did not know how I was going to survive. All I had was my friend’s empty bedroom a few clothes in my suitcase, and 500 dollars. The feeling of hurtling myself into the unknown and the image of my mother’s tearful face triggered an emotional outburst. I cried so much, I am surprised no one drowned.

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