cement city

I was in Boston, but not Boston as we know it.  I was in an apartment that my boyfriend Adam was living in.  He had moved into it after starting his new job; it was his “work buddy”’s apartment.  I had come to the building to see it for the first time.  It was dark, and there were random odds and ends everywhere- undoubtedly his room-mate’s.  And then I met her.  A pretty, skinny blonde.   She introduced herself but I forgot the name- I was mortified.  I had been trying to get Adam to get an apartment with me for years, and now he’s living with some other girl? What the hell? I was so mad.  He was oblivious like an idiot, and didn’t even seem to understand the scowl on my face when we were alone in one of the apartment’s dim rooms.

“What?” he asked, which just made me all the more mad.

“You’re living with another girl?” My gosh. Furious.

“What? She has a boyfriend.” This is just too much.

“I don’t care if she has a boyfriend! You’re living with another woman! What the hell Adam? “ I took a deep breath to try and calm myself.  It didn’t work, “I’ve been trying to get you to move into an apartment with me for years.  You won’t live with me but you’ll live with her?!”

“What? It’s a big space- her boyfriend stays over all the time, depending on what hospital he’ll be working out of”.   Apparently her boyfriend was a doctor, moving between Tufts and Mass General.  He had his own place but stayed over frequently.  He stayed in his girlfriend’s room though, leaving one free of an occupant.

“What if I live here?  She has a spare room, and I can pay rent” I offered… Somewhat defiantly.  Arms crossed.

Speak of the devil, “Mmm. no” she said, passing through the room, a “sweet” little smile on her annoyingly pretty mug, “I like having an extra room for my stuff”.  That’s loosely translated to squirm, bitch, squirm.

Her boyfriend came out of the spare room and introduced himself to me. Mark, he said was his name.  He was a pleasant, tall man with grey eyes and light blonde hair that moved as he shook his head.  So for right now he’s the only person in this place that I’m not angry with.  He politely finished his chat with me and headed to the bathroom to shower before rounds.

“I’m taking a walk” I stated, walking stiffly to the door, closing it a little harder than necessary once I was in the hall.  All around me was concrete.  The hall was cramped and cold, clammy even.  There were spiral stairwells made only of metal rods winding to the other floors.  I followed a man that looked around my age down the small stairwell at the end of the hall (only about 10 feet from the door I just came out of.  I wasn’t kidding about it being cramped).  I followed the spiral down seven floors to the building’s exit.  The last of the steps opening up into a wide tunnel, also cement, but circular- as if I had just walked into a giant drainage pipe.  Which I probably had.  The city had come to “recycle” these sorts of things during construction.  The result was pretty dingy in my opinion.  It made me feel like a street rat, all this living in cement blocks and walking through pipes and tunnels.

The tunnel stretched out to either side of me.  Left or right, I had forgotten from which way I had come.  I decided on left, and passed a small convenience store built into the wall on my left.  It didn’t look like a very welcoming place, so I kept walking.  On my right stood two older men, one African-American with a graying beard, and a white man with a navy beanie on his head.  They leaned against the far wall.  The bearded man had a cigar between his teeth, and they both eyed me wearily for a couple of seconds before returning to their slow conversation.  Their presence didn’t exactly comfort me either, so I continued a bit more hurriedly down the tunnel.

Ahead on my left was an old basketball court, cut out of the left of the tunnel.  It was still completely closed off to the outside world, as if a cement box had been fused to the side of the tunnel, and the portion of wall between the two had been cut out.  A group of young men paused their game to watch as I walked by.  The boy with the ball had his hoodie pulled up over his head, keeping the ball bouncing slowly as the group’s attention focused elsewhere.

I fought the urge to speed up, looking straight ahead and trying my hardest not to look like I was nervous walking past.  Just ahead was a pair of deep green doors, the only windows being small, barred, and higher than I could reach.  I passed through them, after a decent amount of effort to get them open.  They weren’t just large, they were thick too.  But just after entering I recognized it for what it was: a high school building.  So I slowly turned around and forced open those big old doors again.  This time, on my way back, I did hurry.  I didn’t care so much about what those men all thought as I passed them.  I was passing them again anyways, so they’d know I’d gotten myself lost taking a wrong turn somewhere.

When I got back to the stairwell I headed back up.  I was still angry and now embarrassed and a bit frightened, so I decided it best for me to just go somewhere I know…Not to mention that it had been planned (before I knew of this girl situation)  for me to stay the night.

When I got back I walked straight to the spare room without saying a word to anyone.  My backpack was leaning up against the yellow couch, and I curled up and pulled the flannel blanket over me.  And stared, straight ahead.  I didn’t want to talk.  I didn’t want to look at anyone in this place.  I wanted to be alone, and I wanted to calm down.

And that girl was seriously annoying.  The only real things in this room was the couch and a television..  Which she had out in the living room as well.  Why not add these to her room?  Or move them out somewhere?  Other than that the only things in the room were junk and clothes, scattered about, but not so many that they warranted their own space.

Mark came and sat on the edge of the couch, resting his hand on my blanketed leg.  Seriously, why is this guy being so friendly with me?  Does he not notice that I hate his girlfriend?  But whatever.  If Adam can live with another woman, I can be close on the couch with another man.  “ I’m sorry about this,” he said.  That surprised me a bit, “Hanna can be pretty cruel sometimes, but your boyfriend won’t cheat on you”.

I was still mad.  “There’s still no reason for him to be living here.  Especially when he would never get an apartment with me.  Saying that he wants to save money,” I said, still facing the television, not that I was watching it.  Mark was rubbing my leg now, trying to comfort me.  Is this what it’s like to have an older brother?  I mean, usually, you’d think this picture would have some kind of sexual tension- beautiful blonde man comforting the small-statured eternally “cute” girl on the couch in a dim apartment.  But it didn’t- so perhaps it was more familial?

He leaned towards me, hovering, as if to make sure that I pay attention to his following words, “Sometimes we just aren’t aware of the reasons” he said, holding my gaze.  I didn’t want to hear it.  What reasons could he possibly have? And why wouldn’t he have given them to me when I asked?  Instead of saying that it was a big space.  What the heck.

My First Day in Fukuoka

GlobaLinks Learning Abroad asked me to complete a survey about my study abroad experience.  Once of the questions was to tell your most memorable experience.  This, in short, is one of mine:

My first day in Fukuoka all of the students met up with their host families for the first time and were sent home to spend the day with them.  Another student, who spoke no Japanese, was going to be living with my host father’s brother, so she came home with us until her host father got out of work,  When we got to my host father’s house I got to meet the rest of my family- three little girls and my host mother.  One of the girls was really shy and wouldn’t talk or do much when we (the foreign students) were around.  After dinner my host father and I dropped the other student off to her host family.  When we got back home I went to my room to change and unpack.  While unpacking I left my door open, and my youngest sister came in and sat on my bed.  I began to talk with her and one of her other sisters came in, hopped on the bed, and joined us.  After a few minutes the oldest, and most shy of the three came in, sat on the bed, and when I talked to her she opened up and we all had a fun time.  They taught me games, had me pick them up and flip them onto the bed, and played hide-and-seek with me until it was their bedtime.  It was just amazing to have people, especially this child who wouldn’t even speak in front of foreigners (at first), accept me into their home and family in such a way.  I had a wonderful time with my host family and still talk to them regularly- including talking about when I will come back!