16 July 2010

Visas and memories of reading

Looking at the Home Office website last night has me thinking about where we should make our life. It doesn't seem that right now there is anyway for us to construct a life that doesn't involve spending thousands of pounds or dollars to simply be legal. Except, of course, Japan.

Japan, yes, you are in my thoughts again. When I was sitting through hours of arts presentations on Tuesday, one person mentioned a project trying to recover recorded instances of reading throughout history. He asked whether or not we, the audience, had any memories of reading.
I had a vivid one that perhaps I have written about before, but will write about again. In the summer of 2005, N introduced me to Haruki Murakami and particularly Norwegian Wood, which I read in English and then attempted to read in Japanese. It was a huge undertaking and initially very slow going. In the evening, I would go downtown to walk on the river, buy some food, and read.


This was also the summer that Yoko and I began to talk. We had been to a concert together, accidentally just the two of us as the person we were supposed to go with pulled out at the last minute. One week, sometime in the end of July, beginning of August, I had texted her to ask if she wanted to go out to dinner sometime. She replied saying that she was quite busy with work, unfortunately. I knew what this meant, and had accepted it. I was a 23 year-old fat American with a bad haircut in a 100 yen t-shirt, a bad English teaching job, and a very minimal level of Japanese. She wore skirts and pressed blouses. The gap between us, I understood from this text, was too broad. So I gave up my daydreaming about her and continued my slow reading of Murakami.

I had sent that text about having dinner early in the week, and on Thursday, I was sitting outside a department store downtown, reading with my dictionary when Yoko texted me asking if I was at home. I said, No, I wasn't, I was downtown. She texted back saying, It wasn't a big deal, she was at my apartment and I wasn't there, but she would come some other time. I was shocked — I could come now, I said, give me 20 minutes. No, she said, that was fine. Some other time.

Thinking about it, remembering the context of that summer, feels like I am thinking about a different couple. And I suppose we were: it was after all five years ago. I remember feeling, when I went back to my book, distracted, that something was starting to happen. And something was, that sense I wrote about earlier this month: in less than six months we were engaged, and less than a year later we were married. At the time, however, under the fluorescent lights outside of Daiwa, I was reading a scene where the protagonist in Norwegian Wood is standing on the train platform in Shinjuku. And I remember thinking, yes, I am starting to understand this.