“Are you ready?”
“Ah, what do you mean, ‘no’? You were ready a minute ago.”
“I can’t find my keys.”
“Again? Ah, fer feck’s sake.”
Before Sean met me, he was under the impression that the old standard of the American losing their keys was a myth – perpetuated by and relegated to film.
“What d’you mean?” he marvels as I dig through pillows, lesson plans, layers of wrinkled clothing, bedcovers. “Ye Americans really do lose your keys?”
“I suppose so,” I say pertly, lifting bags and books to find only empty squares of floor.
“Brilliant!” he says.
“Then don’t do it, so.”
“I can’t help it.”
“Why can’t you keep track of your t’ings, like?” he asks. “You’ve got no order, no met’od, my dear. Everyt’ing’s here, dere, everywhere.” he pauses. “It’s not like dis place is big enough ta lose t’ings in, you know what I mean?”
He’s right; my apartment is a match box. Theoretically speaking, it should be impossible to miss anything considering there are only about 2 places they can be. And yet – day after day, I lose something valuable. A lesson plan. A phone bill. My keys. Cells, when I bang into something simply by turning around. Dishes and cups, when they crash to the floor after toppling from an impossibly tiny dish rack. Call it a skill. Whatever it is, I’d lose things if I lived somewhere shoebox-sized, hatbox-sized or dollhouse-sized. It’s only more frustrating now since it happens in a matchbox.
There’s more: creating somewhat complicated meals in a one-burner kitchen has ceased to make me proud. There might be some sort of honor in it, but on the other hand, isn’t it slightly ridiculous? I have no counter space; I’ve lost more vegetables than I’ve cooked by trying to chop them on a makeshift plane, created by balancing a plate or a cutting board against the one inch of metal girding my sink. I must pull my toaster oven down from the top of the refrigerator and place it on the floor because the cord doesn’t reach to the one available outlet. I cannot use extension outlets because if more than 3 items are plugged in at any time, my apartment loses electricity. Thus – a constant rotation from phone charger, camera battery charger, vacuum cleaner, toaster oven, and hair dryer.
There’s no doubt about it – though I’m grateful to have had this space as a landing pad when I first arrived in Japan, too ignorant of the system to do any of my own hunting, I’ve outgrown the apartment-tini. Maybe it’s all of the coming of aging. Enough of the manipulations to cook a simple dish of pasta. Enough of the constant terror that my singing might be heard and deplored by a neighbor. Enough of being woken by my neighbors as they come tramping up the apartment step with shouts and squeals at 4 in the morning. Of course, with any communal living situation a certain amount of respect for one’s neighbors is necessary, but these leaf-thin walls are ridiculous; each inhabitant has rights to live and have fun in their own home, without fear of offending a neighbor with a simple phone call. I dread to think what they could have heard coming from the bathroom.
So it’s done. I sent my landlord my notice yesterday and he has accepted my decision. I will be out by the end of February.
Please, please, please, let there be more than one burner.