He finally made it. He escaped his despicable parents. He endured them for 21 years but he finally had enough.
He took a deep breath and walked down the Osanbashi pier, enjoying the hot sun rays hitting his bare face. It was a long journey from the U.S. It had been a while since he saw the sun, the whole journey was gloomy and cold. He smiled at every passerby, this was his first time seeing people in such multitude. He felt happiness for the first time in his life.
A small kid pointed at him and bellowed 'Gaijin', her mother lift him up, bowed down apologetically and ran away in shame. He chuckled, he expected such a reaction coming to Japan, since he stood out completely among the people here. He was tall and had skin white as snow and blonde hair yellow as the sun. He had a scar on his left cheek that ran from the corner of his eye to the corner of his lips, making it look like he was eternally shedding a tear. He relished the attention, it made him feel alive.
He checked his phone, it was already 1 pm. His online friend was supposed to pick him up at 12 pm. He had met him in an online forum about Japan and became friends by bonding over their shared passion for metal music. He was going to help him find a place to stay in Japan.
He looked around in search of a familiar face but only saw strangers. He didn't have his friends phone number let alone a japanese sim card to call him with. He trusted that his friend would be there so he didn't even think about this situation occurring. He roamed about in search for a free wifi signal so that he could contact him.
He crossed the road and walked into a small cozy empty cafe, succeeding in connecting to the internet. He took a lone seat near the glass window that gave a good view of the trees and pedestrians outside. He launched the messaging app and texted his friend asking where he was. No response. He let him know his location and told him he's waiting.
A raven haired short waitress walked up to him and asked him something in fluent japanese. He gave her a flustered look. He didn't understand a word she said. Reading the situation the girl asked again in English "Would you like to order something?". He was surprised at her American accent.
"Yes...umm...I'd like an Americano and a key lime pie, if you have that."
"That's a very good choice. We have the best key lime pie here. It's my favorite too. It'll be a few minutes." She walked away to get him his order.
He checked his phone again and was surprised to see in bold capital letters,
'YOU HAVE BEEN BLOCKED BY THIS USER'
He was dumbstruck. 'Why would he do this to me?' he thought. One year of friendship ended in just one min without any warning.
He was stranded in a foreign country, whose language he did not speak and with no one to depend on.
He had enough money to last him a month but the language barrier would pose some difficulties. He needed to find a job too. He sighed and rested his face in his palms, with his elbows on the table. He felt miserable. The desperate sadness enveloped him again. Intrusive suicidal thoughts returned to him. His eyes welled up and a lump formed in his throat.
"Here is your delicious key lime pie and a refreshing cup of americano." she served him with cheerful smile.
She noticed that the customer was whimpering.
"Are...are you okay?" she asked peeping at his face. "Oh...I'm sorry I took so long. I apologize. I normally serve quickly but I had to serve the other customers too, we're a little understaffed today. I can give you a chocolate pastry for free as compensation..." she kept apologizing and bowing down to him.
He looked up with teary eyes and quivering lips. He tried to say something but he could only manage a low groan.
She saw his dejected face and couldn't help but pity him. She sat down across him and pat his hand trying to console him. "Hey...it's going to be okay. Whatever it is, it's going to be okay. You can tell me, I maybe able to help you."
He shook his head denying her help. He didn't want to burden a stranger. Tears rolled down his face and into his hot cup of coffee.
She grabbed a tissue paper and wiped his drenched chin dry. She squeezed his hand. "Please tell me so that I can atleast try to help you."
He looked at her through teary eyes making her image blurred.
"I...I...I'm so pathetic." he began. "I ran away from my home to escape my shithead parents but now I'm stuck here in this country where I can't communicate with anyone without a translator app and my only hope of surviving here just abandoned me. I don't even know where he lives here. I...I...just want to...die."
The waitress listened to him patiently and smiled. "Is that it? Well you're lucky you met me, I can help you with that. I can be that friend of yours. And don't talk about dieing! Dieing is not an option."
He looked at her with disbelief.
"Wait, what? Really?!"
Why would she want to help him? She doesn't even know him. He's just a stranger.
"Yes! Of course!"
"It's because I wanna help. Duh! Also I...need friends too. You look like a really fun and kind person."
She smiled at him making his heart race and his face turn red. He nodded and wiped his tears off with the back of his hand. Japanese people really are polite and kind as he had read on the internet, he thought.
He looked at her with optimism. He smiled back, making his scar wrinkle. Perhaps he can finally call some place his Home.
The sound of the door opening, pulls them both back to reality from their accidental staring contest.
"Umm...I'll be right back. I need to attend to the customer. Can you wait for another 40 mins? My shift gets over then."
"Yeah sure, I'll wait."
She gave him another reassuring smile and went to serve the new customer.
He cleaned his sniffling nose with a tissue and finished his coffee and key lime pie. The coffee was hot, bitter and a little salty from his tears. The key lime pie, was as she said, the best, best ever he had tasted. He licked the plate clean with his fingers and waited for her shift to finish.
He realized as he watched her, that she was extremely pretty. She had big round eyes with monolids. Her skin was clear with no spots or scars. He felt envious briefly. Her lips looked soft, they were pink and shiny. He wondered what she used for it. He caught himself imagining kissing them. He blushed and pushed the thought away by pinching himself on the arm.
She made eye contact with him and gave him her sweet smile and giggled. He looked out the window, too embarrassed to even look in her direction. He had never felt this way before. He felt like his heart was gonna burst and his stomach felt fuzzy. Is it because of the coffee?,he thought. He took deep breaths to calm himself down.
"Shall we go?" she interrupted him from his breathing exercise.
He gasped, startled by her hand on his shoulder. His chest felt like it was about to burst and spray blood all over the place.
She had come back wearing a black hoodie. A skin coloured handbag hung from her shoulder.
"Y...yes...let's go." he managed to say. He got up wearing his bag on his shoulders and followed her trying to catch up with her fast pace.
"But where are we going?" he questioned her when he matched her steps. She was surprisingly shorter than he thought she would be. She was almost half the size of him.
"Your only concern is to find a place to stay and someone to help you in communicating with others, right?"
"Well yeah and also a job."
"Then you don't have to worry about either of them now! I figured that and I talked to my manager back there about hiring you and...he said no, but he said there's a spot in the new outlet of our cafe that opened recently. You can go for an interview tomorrow! I'm sure you'll get it easily since that area has lots of tourists and they need english speakers. So what do you think?"
She looked at him with big puppy eyes and a set of white teeth. It made his heart skip a beat. He wished she stopped looking at him that way.
"Y...yeah that's awesome! Thank you so much! You're a life savior! But...what about...well, where do I stay for now?"
"There are plenty of cheap hotels nearby but I don't suggest that. It's better if you save that money up and stay at my place."
"What?! Your place?" he exclaimed.
She laughed at his surprised reaction.
"Don't worry my place is a boarding house. It has shitload of rooms. Right now it's empty because we are renovating it. Only my grandma and I live there now. She won't mind a cute guest." She giggled as she punched his arm playfully.
He rubbed his arm as though he really got hurt.
"So where are we going now? To your home?"
"Well its almost lunch time so we'll get some ramen first! And the best place for it is the ramen museum! Let's go!" she proclaimed and ran to the curb.
He laughed as she waddled to the curb and halted comically.
"How are we going there? Metro?" he asked after catching up with her, still laughing.
"Nope, a taxi. The museum is kinda far and we can get there in half the time in a taxi instead of the metro."
"Oh, alright." he said putting his hands in his pockets. "By the way, where did you learn to speak English so fluently?"
"I'm from the U.S. I learnt English as my first language. I was born and raised there. My mother is American and my father is Japanese. Long story short, they met each other in college in the U.S. And to answer a question you didn't even ask, my father taught me Japanese through movies and anime."
"Oh, I see. That's cool. So why are you living in Japan now?"
Her smiling face suddenly turned woeful.
"Well...an incident happened. My bestfriend...Emily...she died at the hands of a bully. The bully got what he deserved of course. But I couldn't bare to stay there anymore, so I came to Japan to live with my grandma. My parents still work in America though and I rarely get to talk to them..."
She put her head down looking at the asphalt and fidgeting with her fingers.
"I'm sorry about that." he said feeling guilty for bringing up her bad memories.
"No it's alright."
He felt her sadness. He knew what it was like to lose a bestfriend. He lifted his arm to put around her and embrace her, but before he could she moved forward to signal a taxi.
A black car came to a stop in front of them. The back door opened automatically.
"That's pretty neat." he said as he sat inside and scoot over to make space for the batista. She followed suit and told the driver the destination. The driver nodded and drove on.
She reached around the blonde to strap his seat belt in as though he was a little boy.
He rubbed his chest trying to calm himself.
"I just realized that we don't even know each other's names. My name is James." he said and put out his hand.
She giggled. "My name is Yumiko. Nice to meet you." She shook his hand. "But don't call me Yumiko-chan and such stuff, it's cringe when non-Japanese people do it."
"Don't worry I won't." He laughed.
She playfully nudged his shoulder with hers. He couldn't help but feel shy.
"So...what's your story with your parents? Why did you come to Japan out of all the countries in the world?" She inquired him with puppy eyes full of curiosity.
"Well...my parents... they are complete assholes. They...they did all sorts of bad shit to me. This scar was from my mother." he said running his finger on his scar.
"She used a can lid to trace a path of my tears as a punishment, when I was five and didn't stop crying. My parents run an illegal drug business. They only had me so that they don't get suspected by the police. Nobody suspects a couple with a child to be drug dealers. I...I was just used by them. I was forced to sell their drugs at my school. I was basically their slave, they made me do everything, from cleaning the house to cooking and getting groceries. I barely got to do anything a normal kid would do. The only time I could be myself was with my best friend at school. But...he was shot dead a year ago."
He went silent for a while trying to undo the knot in his throat.
He continued "He got caught in a crossfire of some two idiots arguing over some stupid girl. He really made me appreciate life. He even bought me this smartphone with this smiley case and taught me how to use it. We would talk all night long about how we would be living happily in the future. Unfortunately life sucks. Then one day I came across an online forum about Japan and I thought that it was a beautiful country and I'd like to visit someday. I made a japanese friend on the forum too...but he just ghosted me a while back." He crumpled his pants in vexation.
"And after my friend died, life had become hell again. I wanted to escape and run away from that shithole, as far away as possible. So, I decided to come to Japan since I had someone I knew here. I saved up money over the year, pocketing some of the profit from the drug sales I made. I got all the documentations and everything and came here...just to be abandoned."
He sighed and tried to collect himself. His heart felt heavy and his throat burnt.
"Sorry, I guess I went of in a tangent in-between there. I just needed to get that off of my chest."
A sniffling sound came from beside him. He turned to see Yumiko weeping and looking back at him with the utmost pitiful face. His heart sank at the sight.
"You...you have gone through so much. I feel so bad for you! I'm sorry all that happened to you. I wish we had met sooner so that I could just tell all your problems to go away." She stuttered inbetween her sobs. She hugged him and continued to cry on his shoulder.
He put his arms around her and hugged her tighter and rested his head on hers. He had longed for a warm embrace.
That's all he could say.
They sat in silence for the rest of the journey with occasional sounds of sniffling and cars honking.