15 July 2014

Neither the best, nor worst

On Friday, Naomi and Mei got their reports for the six months they were at their school, Woodhouse Primary, on the top of Tennal Rd, on the edge of Quinton, just where the shine of Harborne begins to wear off. The reports were all good: they are a pleasure to have in class. They are engaged. They have wide circles of friends. I read the reports, sitting with the girls in the Ikea parking lot, before we went in for dinner. Both of the girls beamed, Mei particularly, so happy to be told she had done well. I too beamed, in the way that you do when you hear that your children are well-adjusted and kind.

We celebrated by eating at Ikea, which is a simple sort of celebration, but about what we can handle right now. Pulled out of Malaysia, things are, in theory, much better, but I've yet to see the positive impact, after paying to get here, and for the government to let us stay. I'd like to feel better about the choice, about coming back — it was certainly better than where I was, but I wonder, I worry about chasing some dream. Some unrealistic, stupid dream. There was a job posted in Hiroshima: how much easier, simpler would life be in Hiroshima.

On Saturday, word came down that the children had been invited to a birthday pool swimming party and that I was needed to help the adult to children ratio. Standing in my trunks, when the time came to head out with the kids into the water with the other men, I felt the absence of humiliation. Like humiliation would be wasted on me if I felt it and that I must, as these other men — all five to ten years older than me — accept that this was our fate. We are fat and flaccid and now our wives and children have put us together in the water, in our trunks, and we are to maintain eye contact and make small talk. Yes, I am Mei's dad. Yes, and Naomi and Mia too. Yes, 7, 5 and 3. Yes, the water is warm. Yes, I am from the States, all while pretending to not be standing waist deep in a kiddie pool.

Of course, the kids loved it and after we were allowed to get dressed again, we stood around awkwardly while the children ate ham and margarine sandwiches, followed by cake. The men all hunched over their smart phones at this point, looking to do important business, and I too was persuaded to pull out my cheap Samsung Fame, which I got on offer, and pretend as well that I had I gotten an important e-mail, rather than another alert from Facebook. At some point, after the children had eaten what the mothers felt they would eat, we were offered the leftover sandwiches, which of course, we feigned lack of interest in, before giving in: Well, if someone needs to eat them.

We left with the kids bounding around, full of energy and candy: it had been the fourth party they have been to in three months and they compared notes among the ones they liked best. Yes, the pool had been good, much better than the others.

Tonight, as I packed for my trip to Slovenia, Naomi came to my office and asked me if I was working or just watching YouTube videos. I told her that I didn't know anymore. What's my job or not my job. Is this part of my job? I left, kissed them and Yoko goodbye and got on a late bus to sit in a McDonalds until an early bus comes, and an early flight, and a train then to Eastern Europe. What  kind of dream isn't stupid, really, isn't misguided or wasteful.