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Tokyo at the loneliest


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It’s been a dreadful month. Yet it has flown by. With the workload I’m experiencing, my days have never been this short. Fridays are my worst days, because I’ve to do so many thing in so little time. Fridays remind me how fast the week has gone by. And I regret that I never sit still and think how much I’ve achieved in those days where I’ve been working my butt off to get everything rolling smoothly. While I’m still learning on the job, the amount of work carries me to a level where I didn’t know I had the ability to pull it off. I’ve been working here since November and now I can finally say that I’ve found my place. Despite of obtaining different positions as a teacher, internship and thesis supervisor and even a spokesperson in the past, I’ve never really felt the importance of my job until I climbed into this chair. People are relying on me, and I’ve the responsibility to meet my deadlines. I’ve also got to realize after doing this job that I like to be at the backstage. I’ve always been the one who hid in the back and guiding the individuals. Once in a while I like to be in the spotlights but still shining the light on others. But most of all, I want to be a guidance who is sitting in the dark and reach out tools to others that bring out the best of them. And I finally found that in myself, in this job, in this forsaken city and lastly, in this moment of life.

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I’m still recovering from a heartache. I don’t necessarily mean the breakup, but everything that had happened after the mourning of my two men. I’ve not been sitting still to understand the impact of my dad on my every day’s life. I kept running around to find temporarily excitement and satisfaction to fill up the absence. I rarely looked for a meaning behind that phenomenon, and instead I kept questioning everything and everyone for being loyal to me. I needed certain people and things to stay consistent in my life in order to function and move on. I picked all my weeds and kept the flowers.

“It’s so odd, but if you burn down all the bridges, then you’ve lost me along the way. Just like [her], she just went out of my life like that. But, hey [you], don’t leave me, or I’ll come back to Amsterdam to haunt you.”
“Ha? Where should I go?”
“I don’t know. Don’t go anywhere. You’re my best friend, I can’t lose you.”
“Silly you.”

Tokyo is, therefore, a platform to stand on where I can be alone for a while; to soak up the loneliness and independence. I was sitting in the train on my way home yesterday. I was dead, longing for that ice cold beer in my little cozy place waiting till the typhoon hits the city and take away that humidity and pressing, or depressing, weather. I looked around in the train and saw zombies who were either asleep or zoned into their phones. The person who got shushed because he was talking to his friend or the girl who got stared at because she was eating almonds out of her bag. The rules are so strict and fixed that I feel urged to step beyond the boundaries to challenge the status quo. I only know how strong I am once I’ve been pushed to my limits. Not speaking the language, not understanding the culture and not knowing what tomorrow will bring me. That is how I can show my true potential. I was not living my life the past 9 years because of the other man in my life. I was holding myself back because I was keep waiting for that moment that would change my life. That we would be together in this world, under the same roof.

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Ever since he helped me moving into my new place, I’ve found solace. It took me less than 3 hours after 9 years of rocking back and forth. After we put down my luggage and showed him my tiny place we went for a walk in the neighborhood. We went in to a small restaurant where the Japanese owner spoke little English. He welcomed us in a living room where we sat on folded chairs and where the tables were covered in old newspapers. I’ve felt the comfort, because it was like sitting in my family’s living room and where my uncles and aunties would take out all of their food from the kitchen and all of my cousins from the whole neighborhood would sit around the table with bowls and chopsticks. It was familiar to me. Yet, I felt utterly uncomfortable, because I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know how I had to behave, I was avoiding eye contact so he wouldn’t talk to me. And here I was looking at this man I love, cracking jokes with the little boy, using his basic Japanese to speak for both of us. He would turn to me and wink at me by telling me that he got everything under control. My eyes were welling up. I witnessed a moment where I saw him in his comfort zone. He was here, because he wanted to be here. He was here because he never saw himself in a different place other than Tokyo. He belongs here. I was the only person who didn’t belong in that restaurant.

“You have to understand that I list you as my emergency contact for basically everything. My house, visa, work. You have the code of my door.”
“I understand.”
“I mean, I don’t care if you’re with someone else, I only need you when something goes sideways. You…you’re all I have here.”
“Of course, sweetie, are you kidding? I will be here for you.”

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He released me from that depression I was soaking myself into. The way I understood that we can still love each other so much yet it was not worth the relationship. This suffering, this loneliness, is the perfect antidote for my mourning of these two men. I poured so much love into these two men, now I could finally pour my own love and compliments in my own cups of coffee and let the fluids take over my body. How can someone loves me if I don’t have the guts to look at my own reflection? I want to glow, I want to be a headturner. I cherish and dwell in to the memories, but it is me who I have to deal with every single day: My own face, body, soul, characteristics. There is nowhere to hide from yourself. Answering the question of my best friend, why am I still in Tokyo: Because I haven’t finished the chapter yet. I have so much to learn. I have the tools, the ability and the opportunity. It is easy to go back, to the comfort of Amsterdam, but I can never relive this excitement and satisfaction of the purpose of my job in any other country, and the friendships I’m building with my colleagues. I come home to a neighborhood where doors are unlocked and windows are wide open, where animals and humans are living side by side, where the community lived by its rules and where pride and honor are up at the highest bar. If you belong to this neighborhood, you are welcome to join the dining table: It’s just an extra bowl with a pair of chopsticks.

This is where I am, and I’ve become a part of the community. Even though I work 10 hours a day, 5 days a week with only 10 paid leave days a year.


Written by Felicia Mok

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