You missed one: The douchebag gaijin who tries to start a conversation with every foreign person he sees.
He’s 195 centimeters tall, if not taller, and he smiles broadly and lifts his arm to wave and I give a small nod of my head then look back down at my phone. It’s a sunny morning and I feel congenial and the guy is fully on the other end of the train carriage so why not smile and nod. I’m being so affable. It must be the combination of cold meds mixed with the remnants of the few drinks from the night before.
A bad combination.
I only allow myself the bottle on Friday night and Saturday these days and I covet those allowances dearly. That having been said despite only three or four drinks last night, today my head feels like I’ve been on Mescaline for a week. It feels fried. The edges of my consciousness are popping and then fading out. Perhaps this explains my good mood.
Smash cut and suddenly, like in a horror movie, the ridiculously tall middle-aged black man with two weeks worth of salt and pepper beard is standing directly in front of me and is gesturing toward me. He’s moved across the train carriage to talk to me.
I look up from my phone and smile. I then remove my ear buds, and ignore all the people in the entire train who are now staring at us, and I say “What’s up?”
“I usually avoid big people.” He says.
“Is that right?” I’m still smiling. The Japanese guy next to me on the train is clearly uncomfortable.
“Yeah, I usually avoid Big people. They intimidate me.” He says, looking down at me.
I stare at him smiling for a moment.
“I’m just kidding. You American or Canadian?” He says smiling now. I consider lying but don’t.
“I’m American. You?”
His head twitches sharply to the side then back. “I’m American. From New York City.” Right.
“I’m from upstate. Syracuse.”I say and then I notice he’s wearing a blue back pack. I notice he’s holding a clip board with no papers on it and an old English text-book.
“Syracuse. They had such a good ball team. (someones name I didn’t catch) was incredible.” He reminisces.
“Yeah? I don’t follow basketball at all.” I’ve decided I am just talking to this guy.
“They just couldn’t ever pull it together. You know? They never were able to pull it together. Never able to win a big one.” And then there’s silence. About thirty seconds. He has a layer of black hair, almost fur, covering his ears. His glasses are dirty.
I speak up.
“I was a wrestler.”
“No, more like collegiate wrestling. Like Greco-roman.” I finally push my ear buds into my t-shirt. This will continue.
“I went to watch one of those. My brothers friend was a wrestler. I didn’t get it. I mean I didn’t understand it. It was hard to watch.”
He stares at me and I at him. I’m still smiling. People on the train have decided he and I are friends and are just ignoring the two huge foreigners having a chat.
“Sure. It’s not the easiest sport to just walk in and watch. Most of the people in the bleachers are either parents of wrestlers or former wrestlers themselves. It isn’t like basketball or something.”
“I’m not contesting the athleticism…”
“Sure. I know, I know. It just isn’t the most alluring of spectator sports.” I say this nodding. I understand him. I nod.
“…I just never liked it at all.”
Eye contact; he makes eye contact with me deliberately.
“Most foreigners here, I see ’em, I look right at ’em and they just…” He mimics looking away or looking down at a hand-held device.
“They just hide. They don’t speak.”
“Black or white. It doesn’t matter. I’ve been here 13 years and most of ’em just hide away. They consider me a threat.”
His eyes are changing now. What were fairly placid and dull have no become bright and are ogling, if that’s a word.
His eyes are ogling.
“They just look away and walk off like they can’t speak English or something.”
“Maybe they just, like, perhaps they have no time? It probably isn’t personal they just have someplace to be.” I shrug. I smile. I shrug and smile and he’s already shaking his head “no.”
“They feel threatened. See, back home in wherever they were nothing…” He emphasizes this by gesturing with the clipboard. “…nothing. But here they are a big time guy. They’re the teacher or the…guy. Whatever. See, everyone here has their own little territory. Like, their own kingdom, and if anyone tries to come into their area they freak out. They get intimidated.”
This man is by no means the craziest person I have met on Tokyo public transit but he is the craziest today and I do the math, I realize that if he takes this much further this will be quite a scene. His volume is rising. We’re almost at my station.
“Well, I dunno man. Something tells me it isn’t as uh, sinister, as all that. I just think people are busy and shy.” Laugh a little. “Hazukashi, right?” He stares at me hard for a moment as the train pulls into the station.
“So, how much do you bench press?” He then asks as we de-board.
“Ah man, that’s my weak lift. I’m more of a dead-lift guy.”
“Dead-lift…” He doesn’t know what this is.
“OK man, well, it was good to meet you.” I extend my hand. He takes it and we shake hands.
“Yeah you too. See you next time.” He says and waves to me with the clip board and text book.