Gomen Ne


Sean and I have been bickering; he doesn’t seem to believe that I know what I’m doing or where I’m going, despite the fact that I lived here for 8 years. I say, “we turn left here,” and Sean says, “I want to see a map.” I say, “We need to take the F train,” and Sean says, “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m freaking sure; what does he think I did for 8 years – cried into my pillow while waiting for people to load me into cabs any time I needed to leave the house? 

And then, as I’m struggling not to pop him in the face, I remember that while I got around just fine, I did actually do an awful lot of crying into my pillow when I lived here. I moved here at 18 and left at 26; my late teens and early 20s were a wash of ridiculous drama, always crying over some insignificant thing or another. I take Sean from neighborhood to neighborhood – the Village, Little Italy, 59th and Lex – and despite the euphoria I experience from being on a street corner I love, I keep seeing humiliating flashes of my younger self. I see a too-thin girl in a tattered black trench coat and high heels shamelessly  sniveling in a packed subway car, all because she couldn’t pull herself together and act like a big girl when times were rough. I adore New York City and consider it home, but my time here was all too often marred by drama queen nonsense. Today, the old sad memories have diluted to a wash of regret. And embarrassment. 

I remember, too, my first weeks; fresh from Crystal River, Florida and so naive that when an old man offered me a joint in Washington Square Park, I thought it was merely a “crumpled up cigarette.” I remember clutching my purse to me even when crossing the street to class and might only have started to breathe normally after the first semester. Sean isn’t convinced I’m an idiot; Sean is merely nervous – just like I was at the beginning – and wants to feel somewhat in control of his unfamiliar and sometimes rough surroundings. 

We’re sitting on my brother’s couch, giving each other the silent treatment as my brother tinkers with his new iMac and Flight of the Conchords – Sean’s new favorite show – plays on my brother’s plasma screen TV. 

Sean nudges me. “Gomen ne,” he says quietly. 

“What’s that mean?” my brother asks. He and his girlfriend are very amused when Sean and I speak to each other in Japanese; they like to imagine we’re “talking smack” about ugly people. In this case he’s wrong; Sean is apologizing. 

I’m sorry, too.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kimberly says:

    I’m proud to say that I was not nervous at all the first time I visited Manhattan, but by then it had already been Disneyfied. Also, I’m from Detroit so I think maybe that qualifies me as callous? I like to think I’m bad that way anyway.

  2. Yoli says:

    New York is a very different place now a days. Still, it is one of my favorite cities. I have a deep love for it. It cannot be said the same for Key Largo, Florida but I am learning to appreciate it for what it is. I am glad he apologized.

  3. Justin says:

    I would love to visit NYC, but am quite happy in the Windy City. 🙂

    Liv, just curious, I’ve heard “sumimasen” used interchangeably with “gomen ne”- is one more formal than the other?

    @ Kimberly- being from Detroit doesn’t qualify you as callous. It qualifies you as… unique (and this coming from someone who lived in one of the Detroit ‘burbs).

  4. ieatmypigeon says:

    Hi, Kimberly, Yoli and Justin! I moved to New York in 1998, after Giuliani, and whenever my parents – who lived there in the 70s – visited me, they could never get over the change. Nonetheless, for people who’ve never been I imagine it can be a nervewracking experience, simply based on the reputation New Yorkers still have. We’re not rude, folks; we’re busy.

    Justin, sumimasen is more used as “pardon me” – shoving through a crowd, speaking to someone you don’t know, apologizing to someone for taking the trouble, trying to get someone’s attention – and ‘gomenesai/gomen ne/gomen” is more of an apology for something you’ve done wrong. But I think I’ve heard “gomen ne” used when trying to get someone’s attention, too …

    Visit! Enjoy! Eat Gray’s Papaya – I’m going to do that tomorrow. Finally.

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