An old friend (3): Making new friends

Continued from the last post…

TY came over my house for a BBQ on Sunday and I met him and one of his other friends for dinner on Monday. We had a very pleasant time reminiscing again, and I was happy to make a new acquaintance who seems to speak better Japanese than me. In any event, I know that TY is reading this, so I thought I should put in a disclaimer: Memory is subjective and fallible. Definitely fallible. Everything I write here is filtered through the prism of my memories and is not necessarily an exact representation of the past. In fact, if you ask me, it is virtually impossible for anyone to represent the past perfectly from memory. But it is the past as recorded in my mind and I present it as such.

Anyway, where was I….

It became pretty clear to me that PW did not see me as anything but a classmate and perhaps a friend. We got along well enough talking about class and common interests. I would still offer her a ride to her car at the parking lot, and sometimes took her home to her parents house on those occasions when she went home for the weekend, as they lived on the east side of town, where I lived. I held no illusions. To have someone as cute as PW as a friend was amazing enough for me.

In the meantime, I had more or less placed TY in a back drawer of my brain. He was neither a threat nor a rival. Just another hurdle in my quest for an A; I just had to work harder. By the Winter quarter, he had virtually vanished from my consciousness. I was taking a heavy load–18 credit units–and TY was not in any of my classes. I had little time to develop friendships–let alone relationships–and was content with the casual acquaintances I had made in my various classes. Study, study, study. In the Spring quarter, I took another 16 credit units and even made the Dean’s list. I had arrived! I thought as I looked forward to a pleasant SoCal summer.

And pleasant it was. Blue skies, moderate heat–for LA anyway. And the beginning of a variety of friendships.

Over the Winter and Spring quarters, I had become acquaintances with a number of people but I didn’t really have a chance to get to know them until the summer. I had enjoyed my year at UCLA so much, that I decided to take a couple of classes over the summer. Although the classes were daily, they were mostly in the morning; in the afternoon, I would spend it with these acquaintances at North Campus, the local coffee shop/cafeteria. Every morning, JK–a girl I had met through a mutual friend–would find a table and squat. After class, a variety of people would come by and take a seat to eat lunch, have coffee, or just chat. We would come and go during the day, but there was always someone there, so when we driffted back, we knew we would have a place to sit no matter how crowded it was. We became a very close knit group of friends. Including TY.

One early afternoon, as we sat down to eat lunch, PW suddenly giggled uncontrollably. There’s TY! I looked over my shoulder behind me and couldn’t help but yelp in amusement. There was TY striding into North Campus wearing what I first thought was his pajamas. In reality, is was a jinbei, cotton summer wear in Japan, usually worn around the house (see right). I have to admit that I had never seen anyone wear one outside–well maybe except when going to the local convenience store. But not to college or for some other away-from-home event, unless it was something special like a summer festival or fireworks display when people often turned “traditional”. But there was TY, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, approaching our North Campus table in his jinbei.

Did you wear that on the bus? PW asked in wonder.

No, I rode my moped to school, he responded in Japanese.

As you might imagine, this elicited another round of laughter. But TY simply smiled as if nothing in the world was wrong. From that moment on, I felt something special for this native-speaking, curve-screwing spirit. And we had a grand summer.

It seemed like each day was filled with laughter. On some days, TY would bring his mahjong set and we’d play mahjong, clacking our tiles loudly right there on a North Campus table. On other days, TY would try to figure out what J-pop songs would suit me–he introduced me to Memory Glass by Horie Jun. One day, I saw my first Walkman and was simply amazed at the quality of sound emitted by these tiny tape players. I think I spent two hours listening and marvelling at this piece of technology, much to the chagrin of HY, my new friend from Tokyo University. But mostly we just chatted and enjoyed out summer afternoons, as I made new friends, many of whom I still keep in touch with.

Unfortunately, all this chatting did not serve me well in my Modern Japanese history course. I’m lucky I passed, just barely. On the other hand, the anthro class I took was a joke. The professor literally lectured from the textbook he assigned us. I guess since he wrote the textbook, it did not constitute plagiarism, but it did mean that I didn’t have to go to class. All I had to do was read the text book, take the midterm and final and get a B for taking what amounted to a correspondence course. TY also took this class, but he was enjoying the summer as much as I did, maybe more so. On the day of the Final, a couple of guys sitting behind me were whispering outloud. Look at that guy. He hasn’t come the whole quarter and he’s now trying get the professor to sign a permission to withdraw form. What? I thought and looked up, only to see TY talking to the professor, then leaving the classroom with a piece of paper in hand. When I think about it, I never did ask him if that was really a permision to withdraw slip. Hmmmm…

To be continued…