BY GABBI BRADSHAW
I cried in the cab last night. It was 1:30am, and I was d-o-n-e with trying to fit in here.
My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night started with rain. I had to change into less fashionable shoes that had a bit more traction. Then I doubted my look. I looked in the metal bar I use as a mirror and wondered if my skirt was too short.
I squatted, leaned, and peeked. No undies. I thought about changing to a slightly longer black skirt, but my ‘rain’ shoes looked best with this skirt. Also, the last time I wore this outfit I received a lot of compliments. And besides, I was going to be competing with younger, skinnier girls. I needed to be in top form.
So I ignored what I learned in my 20s and walked out with my short skirt (which looked good) and my lack of confidence (which didn’t look so good).
The humidity caused my feet to swell and my ankle to rub raw; I could feel the wetness of blood. While waiting for the train, I rummaged through my black designer handbag and found a Band-Aid. I plastered it on.
To my relief, there was one seat open on the train to Shinjuku. I sat down and the old man next to me gave me a mean look, got up, and walked down the train in search of another seat. I glanced around to figure out what I did wrong—nothing.
I blew this off as it happens often and my Japanese tutors warned me before I moved here not to take it personally. They confided in me that often people are afraid you’re going to speak to them in English and they’ll look stupid. It’s like not sitting next to little kids because they cry. Or hungover people because they smell.
As the train pulled up in Shinjuku, a man on the platform in a green shirt and bowl haircut slammed his clear umbrella in front of me. I met his eyes, and he glowered. His brow furrowed. Baffled, I continued my forward motion, but he shook his head ‘no’ and swung his umbrella with malevolence.
I didn’t want to miss the train, but more importantly, I didn’t want to be hit with an umbrella, especially because I wasn’t sure anybody would notice. So I turned, ran to the next car and leapt on. Discreetly, I glanced down the train cars and saw his green shirt like a beacon. My heart boomed, but he didn’t seem to see me. Back to being invisible.
Scowling, I met my friend at a dull place with dull people telling dull stories about their dull lives. We finally ended up at my favourite hot spot. The one where I’m not as invisible.
Spotting a prime seat at an outdoor table, I snaked my way through the crowd and as I was about to set my handbag down, I was pushed with two hands from behind. It sent me flying past the table.
My friend, her friend Kento, and I settled at a spot at the smoky bar instead and while my friend texted, I was left with Kento. Kento lived with his parents and ruined my chances of meeting anybody. I scanned the crowds and mentally texted while he droned on about himself.
I had enough. I was saying my good-byes when Kento said, “You have time for another drink before the last train.” He took out his iPhone and checked the application. “12:50am is the last one.”
All I really wanted was my own bed, but my friend texted me and begged me not to leave her alone with him.
Halfway through my vodka Redbull, I was jolted with the rational thought that there was NO way the last train was 12:50am from Midtown. I inquired again, and Kento said, “Oh…I thought you meant from Shinjuku.” Not only did he live with his parents, he was dim. He checked and confirmed what I feared, the last train was 12:36am. I looked at my phone; it was 12:35am.
Now I would have to pay $50 for a cab. I counted my money. Barely enough. I groaned and moaned and decided to finish my drink.
At 1:15am, I lumbered over to the taxi queue. I waved down a cab, and some obnoxious drunk salaryman stepped in front of me and waved three Japanese girls into my cab. The driver looked dismayed but didn’t say anything. Invisible again.
I waved at another cab; it drove by me. As did another and another and another. Apathetic, I stepped in front of the next one. It opened the door, and I climbed in.
“Takadanobaba Eki,” I said.
He sucked in his breath, clucked, and then silence. No movement. No sounds. No punching buttons on the GPS. I said it again more slowly. Nothing. In desperation, I used my best hand gestures, facial expressions, and Japanese accent. He understood.
In the back seat, I calculated how much the night cost me. $95. Plus my pride. I had been pushed, ignored, discounted, threatened, and rejected. And now, I did not have enough money to go to the beach on Saturday. So I cried.
I swiped at the tears that silently screamed down my cheeks. I didn’t care about my mascara. I didn’t care about the sniffles. I didn’t care the driver would have a pathetic loser gaijin story to share with his family.
Back at my apartment, I peeled off my shoes and went straight for the thin mint Girl Scout cookies in my freezer. I ate two before I felt better. Munching on my third, I thought, “Maybe this is my subconscious telling me it’s time to move on.”
I climbed over my twin bed, stepped onto my balcony overlooking Tokyo, nibbled on my fourth cookie, and realised, “Or maybe it’s just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night.” They happen.