Wednesday, March 24, 2010

arigato

Don't you just love freaking out for no reason? I do. That's why I let myself have anxiety attacks for the last week and a half before my flight. I almost had another during the flight, which took off on time and landed an hour early and went as smooth as I could hope. I was terrified of walking up to the little Immigration counter and being turned away, forced to buy a ticket home, or worse, locked in some detainment room in the airport. Even though I technically wasn't doing anything wrong. I was just entering the country as a tourist again for the purpose of a job interview, which is sort of true. The waiting is always the worst. Like waiting for your finger to get pricked. It's never as bad as your mind imagines it will be.

So I changed into some semi-professional looking clothes in the tiny airplane bathroom. I smeared my face with makeup, but not too much makeup. I tried to look like a nondescript gaijin seeking a job. No one special. No one suspicious. The line for Immigration was the shortest that I've ever seen it. I sped through the little rope maze up to number 28, where a woman who looked to be in her 30s sat, slightly bored. She barely looked up as I handed her my passport. She flipped through the front, checking my identity. I don't mind that part. Then she flipped to the pages with all the stamps of places I've been. It's my favorite part of the passport; it's like a sash covered in merit badges. It gives me a sense of accomplishment each time I fill up one of those tiny pages.
Her face changed then. She was looking at my back-to-back tourist stamps from last year. Before she could ask, I said, "I came back for a job interview." I thrust the Japanese version of my letter of guarantee onto the counter. As she skimmed it, I said, "They agreed to pay my way home. I should only be here for 3 or 4 weeks. You can call them if you have any questions."
It was like realizing I had just driven home without thinking about it. Autopilot. It's better to let your body take over sometimes, to let your face and arm muscles think instead of your brain. She gestured to the little electronic pads that take your finger prints. I smiled and pressed my index fingers into the little plastic buttons. I heard the beautiful sound of a heavy stamp on paper, my ticket back to normalcy. I looked up at the little camera and smiled. She handed back my passport.
"Thank you," I said. "Arigato!" I tried to stay calm, like I knew that this would happen, like I hadn't expected the airport to blow up at the precise moment I was allowed in the country again. Another three months. Another three long months to figure things out, to live with my fiance, to travel. To live the kind of life that I always wanted when I was little. I kept cool for a moment, and then realized that autopilot had taken over again and I was running to get my luggage. There was a tear on my cheek. If anyone had asked, I would have just said that I was happy to see my fiance after three months apart.

I would want to say that I was thankful for another day when the world kept spinning on its axis, a day when no planes crashed, when my plans actually came to fruition. Another day to walk free. A day when I could just be happy and thankful. A day when prayers are answered. Those are the kind of days that make me not care if there's a purpose for life or not. Every day that I live and disaster doesn't strike, I am happy to be here. And when disaster does strike and I live through it, I am still happy. I don't deserve the good fortune that I have been given in this world. I hope I never forget that and always take the time to say thank you, in every language that I can.

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