June 01, 2006

How To Disappear Completely

This morning the title of Radiohead's wistfully melancholic track floated to mind, a mind seemingly without a body or a name. What do I mean? Perhaps I can postpone the initial shock of the factual evidence by merely suggesting a means by which the said existential displacement, which Thom Yorke & co. set out for us some years ago, can be brought about. The answer to "How to disappear completely" may be this: become an ALT for multiple years in a high school in semi-rural Japan, then watch yourself vanish into thin air.

Why do I say this?

No it is not the fact that I have had no classes for the first three days of the week, nor the fact that I have had only four classes at the high school in the past two months; it is neither the fact that I sit in the staff room waiting for a sign of work, which never comes, nor am I expected to do anything (they even consider it an undue burden to my mental faculties to operate the new coffee maker); nor is it the fact that our school's principal asked me yesterday morning, "So Jeff, aren't you leaving this month?"; no, it is not the fact that the head of my school does not even know, nor can guess somewhat accurately, the general area, give or take a few weeks, of when my contract ends; it could not be the fact that despite sitting here writing this list, no one has approached me to ask what am I doing--for to them I have probably become part of the background (when they tour visitors of the school, some teachers might be heard saying, "Here is the staffroom: the computers here, the Japanese and English department desks, the copy machine, coffee machine, oh, and our ALT."); no it is none of these disheartening elements of my daily routine. For today, on the 1st of June in the year 2006, after almost three years on the JET program, I went to put my hanko (seal) on another day of not really being here, and as I did this, I realized that the office had forgotten to put my name on the staff list. There was no line for "Jefurii Niiruson" to verify that he was here, or more accurately, that he stamped and then performed his magical disappearing act. I thought that maybe this meant I could just go home, but then I figured that my logic was unsound. However, maybe the staff is on to something. Maybe my hanko means nothing. Maybe they have come to their senses and realized that all this stuff about "keeping face," or maintaining the social harmony, about putting your seal on every day, even if you don't come to school, is neither effective nor significant in the case of missing ALTs. Whatever the case is or isn't, I was granted to write my name on the list, after which I put my seal on another day of not being here.

For those of you who have read this, please don't mistake my flippant reflections as a sign of cynicism. If you were in my shoes, I am sure the need to laugh about it all would be one of your first gut reactions. That is, if there were voice to laugh with. Certainly my sarcasm has gone too far. Today I have an unthinkable three classes, which I am heading off to now to regain my name and body. It will be a welcome homecoming, to be here again. Oh, Jeff! How I miss your monosyllabic ring, your tenderly mellifluous double f, even if your students butcher it into two syllables! Je-fuu, Ja-fuu, Jo-fuu, Jo-se-fuu(??) O hands! O voice! How long has it been since you and I last met, when cognition and action convened and that sweet something of Doing transpired? Even something as deep as me, a singularly confused and underused mind, cannot recall such a distant age. O sweet reunion! O glorious apparition of my being, back from days and months out on the sea of Murakami novels, copies of the International Herald Tribune, and endless cups of bitter coffee!

Until we meet again, keep it real everyone...


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