Kyuusei Chapter 4: Mikata
The next day, I rode my bike to school because Mom had just applied for a job and needed to be at an interview: she applied to be a teacher for Japanese at a local school. She had been a teacher for English back in Japan, so I guess she wanted to switch it up; her students would call all her Ms. Songbird cuz her first name is Kotori.
I sometimes ask Mom and Dad why they called me Yumeka. Mom said she liked the name because it was beautiful-sounding, but Dad, who is interested in the geology of names, liked the meaning and decided it would be perfect for me. "I want people to feel as if they are dreaming when they see you," he used to tell me. Dad is an author in his spare time, so he wrote many stories and always paid attention to the names of his characters, and usually he would pair up with a manga artist to bring his stories to life in manga or anime. It was always cool watching his stories on TV or reading about them. That's why I wanted to be an artist, but lately I have been feeling a bit odd since I am surrounded by this American style of drawing. You know, Marvel and DC. I miss my old home so much.
Anyway, as soon as I got to school, John Michael was waiting for me.
"Hi," I said, and he smiled, not the annoying smile, but a nice one. Like he wasn't trying to tick me off, for a change.
"Hey! C'mon, if we get to class early, the bullies won't be able to get cha!" he grabbed my bike and helped me set it up in the steal-proof bike rack beside the school fence. Then he grabbed my hoodie: I shook him off, he laughed, and we skidded down the hallways to class.
Roxy was sitting with her face in a book. "To Kill a Mockingbird?" I said to her, and startled, she looked around and nodded. "Do you like it?" I said.
She gave me the so-so motion with her hands like, 'not really'. Then, "Do you?"
"Yeah," I said. "The first novel I read in both Japanese and English, actually. I like the English version better." I only said that so that she would smile. She never did. I sighed and sat down. What a difficult person.
During lunch, John Michael sat down and began eating his American sandwiches. I pulled out the leftover ramen from last night and ate the food in silence until John Michael broke it.
"So," he said, "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, I forgive you," I said shortly.
"I said I forgive you, don't make me repeat myself."
"Oh," he said.
"Nothing, p-please don't get mad at me again."
"No, why are you surprised that I'd forgive you?"
"Oh, just that I wouldn't. You're a much better person than me, haha. And also, every girl, and guy for that matter, who I have said sorry to always reject my apology. So, I guess it's me." John Michael said.
"Yeah, maybe," I said, "But I don't know you well enough to judge."
"So, did you bring some poems?"
"Do I look like a haiku machine?!" I spat. As he grinned demonically, I said, "On second thought, don't answer that, I know you're gonna be racist." Plus, I'm not really a haiku person. I like freeverse.
"See? You know me already," John Michael laughed, finishing his sandwiches. "Anyway, how do you like it here in America so far?"
"It'd be a lot better without you, but it's okay so far," I lied.
He smiled sadly. "Yeah."
We sat in silence. He fiddled with his thumbs and waited for he bell to ring. Once class resumed, I didn't may much attention, I just stared out the window, wishing I could see cherry blossoms float by instead of the occasional red or brown leaf.
As Mr. Franklin droned on, I wrote a poem.
is slow death of the world
red and brown
withering away into the decay
if I could
I would save you
my only green tree
my tree that stood tall
when none would
but even the strongest tree
that never fell in the strongest storms
will one day
be stripped of it's life.
Depressing, I know, but I didn't feel very happy. Mr. Frankin was talking about Macbeth and Hamlet, after all. Plus, since John Michael kept craning over my shoulder to read it, I couldn't think very well. And when I can't think very well, I don't write very well.
Nothing goes very well with John Michael.
Mom texted me during health, telling me she wanted me to go get some groceries at the store. You can take a friend with you, she said. Makoto will meet you there with Hinoki.
I grabbed my bike and rolled it to the street after school. The school is beside a small backroad that lots of parents complain about driving on, but it's actually very safe. The school is in a small part of town and since the town isn't a city it has a Winn-Dixie. A small grocery store, mind you.
"Where you going?" said John Michael, running up to me as I flung myself over my bike. I looked back at him as Makoto rode up on his bike, Hinoki grasping him from behind on a little seat Mom installed. Dad couldn't have done it, he's not a handyman, so Mom did.
'Grocery store," I said bluntly.
"These are your brothers?" John Michael said, his smile fading as Makoto looked at him.
"Is this your friend, Yumeka?" asked Makoto.
"More or less. He can come," I said. "Grab your bike, Michael."
"Okay, just let me text my mom real quick." he said brightly. We waited a few minutes and he said, "okay, let's go"
He seemed slightly scared of Makoto on the way down. Makoto wasn't burly or anything, but he could seem scary. Like a Yukuza, my dad would say. Makoto kept his eyes on the road, leading us all, but occasionally Hinoki would start talking to me about personal matters. In English.
"Hey, Yume-chan," he said at one point, " I haven't seen any wild wankos , have you?"
"No, Hinoki, I haven't seen any dogs lately." I said back.
"Yume-chan, I saw that you had some innauea lying around the other day-"
"Shush," Makoto and I said in unison. "Hinoki, do not talk about that in public!" I am sure John Michael had no idea what we were talking about, but I could see him smiling.
"Michael-chan," said Hinoki, and it surprised me to see that John Michael seemed to understand what he was saying, "do you have a wanko?"
After a minute, John Michael said, " Yeah, his name is Buster," and everyone went quiet.
Then, "Have you been teaching him Japanese, Yumeka?" Makoto said to me, as if it was a crime.
"No, of course not-"
'I've been learning on my own," said John Michael brightly, "so I can understand Yumeka a bit more." He smiled and boosted, "I can say a few sentences in Japanese now and write a few kanji!"
"Big deal," said Makoto. "We can speak your language like we were born here." Something about the way he said 'big deal' made me laugh. It sounded more like 'big DEAL', then a quiet 'big deal'.
We arrived at the grocery store, and Hinoki found a good place to park. We did and went into Winn Dixie to get some groceries. Hinoki suggested going to the park afterwards, and after checking up with John Michael's mom, we rode our bikes there and began talking whlist Hinoki went to go play.
"So, how'd your test go, Makoto-san?" I asked politely.
"Not as good as I'd hoped."
"What'd you get on the test,?" John Michael said, watching with rapt attention.
"A 97." Makoto said. "Bad, isn't it?"
"Out of 100?"
"WHAT?!" John Michael exclaimed. "No way! That's bad?!"
"Isn't it for you?"
"Of course not! My family is happy as long as you get a 60 or 70! A 90 would be the highest I could get!"
"Wow, you Americans are different." Makoto looked at me and mumbled, "The bunch of bakas." I smiled.
'Ditto." I said.
"Yes, speaking of Japanese words I don't know, Yumeka, what does akachan mean?"
Makoto butted in. "It means 'baby'."
John Michael almost gagged. "I called you THAT?" I nodded, and he said, "So that's why you were so offended yesterday?"
"Among other things," I said bluntly.
"So, -chan means friend, right? Can I call you that?"
'You'd have to attach it to her name," Makoto said. 'Like, Yumeka-chan."
"What about in your case? Would I call you Makoto-chan?"
Makoto looked at him like he was an idiot. "No, baka," he said. "Just because you know my sister does not make you my friend. You would have to call me Makoto-san, -san meaning respect."
"Oh, um... but didn't Yumeka call you that? I thought it was a siblings thing..."
"She does it to make fun of me," Makoto said, but he didn't sound mad. He sounded annoyed.
John Michael laughed, but Makoto looked at him with distaste, so he stopped.
'Hinoko-chan," I called, "time to go!"
Hinoko leaped off his swing in mid air, and I rushed forward to catch him like we used to do everyday back in Japan. I caught him and he squealed, and after getting on our bikes, we all road off home.
"This is where I go," John Michael said, gesturing to the break in the road after we had gone a few miles. 'I'll text you, Yumeka-chan!" he said, grinning.
He road off, and Makoto, Hinoko, and I rode on to our house. We put our bikes up in the garage and went inside. Our Mom was waiting and ready to tell us some news, like she would do every night.
It was rarely meaningful, but tonight she told us that since the next day was Saturday, we had to go down to our new karate studio the next morning.
"Listen," she said, "I want you all to go. They will be assessing your rank by testing you. Please do not show off, Makoto. I think it may help you, Yumeka, after what you told me about the bullies the other day."
I nodded. "Oyasuminasai, kaachan," I said in Japanese.
"Oyasuminasai, musume," Mom said back, smiling.
"Niisan, otouto, mataashita," I said to Makoto and Hinoko.
Hinoko said, "Good night, Yumeka-chan, oneesan!!!" while Makoto said quietly, "'Night, imouto."
It had been the most Japanese we had spoken in a long time.
Hope you enjoyed, and be sure to check out the translations!