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I remember he came into the store with his mom and I remember that it was a Friday because that's the day we drop prices at the electronics store that I work at. It's not a great job but it pays well and most of my friends work at the same store so time passes quickly. My name is Sayuri and I live in Tokyo, Japan. With so many electronics everywhere, I have become im-mune to the bombardment of technology and aside from my laptop and a cell phone, I don't pay much attention to the latest, fastest, digital, electronic anything anymore. I know this seems odd because I work at a store that sells only electronics and computers, but it's the way it is. I am a girl after all and I have other interests. I like shopping for shoes, going out to the arcade with my friends and watching Western movies at the cinema. I'll leave electronics to everyone else.
I remember when he walked in because he was with his mother and neither of them were Japanese or Asian mainland for that matter. I thought they were American but he told me later that he was from Canada. Like many tourists, he was looking for electronics in Tokyo. I wasn't helping him but my close friend Tayamari was assisting him and his mother--they were interested in purchasing a DVD player and he seemed very excited about a particular model. I wasn't helping anyone at the time and I was just gossiping with another co-worker. It was just another day for us. Most likely I would have not remembered this incident at all except that he came back during the end of the work day and asked me if I wanted to go for ice pearl tea with him. I said yes, naturally. It is not everyday that a Japanese girl gets asked out by a tall boy with green eyes.
Ben and I met after work and because he didn't know his way around town, I took him to a nice but lively place my friends and I often go to for snacks and tea. We started talking and I learned that Ben was here in Tokyo with his mother for the summer before he started university in the fall. He was going to be studying engineering at a university in Toronto. "You must be really interested in engineering," I said however he didn't respond and was silent for a while before changing the subject.
We made small talk after that. I asked about his purchase earlier, a DVD player his mother bought for him to take to university, and he told me how life is in Canada. I talked about growing up in Tokyo and he asked a lot of questions about why I didn't find electronics and technology interesting. We got along very well and after we finished our tea, I asked him if he wanted to come to the arcade with my friends and I. "Yeah, of course," was his reply so we spent the rest of the evening with my friends at the arcade playing games and laughing at Ben try the different games.
I didn't have work the following day so I offered to take Ben out around Tokyo and we agreed to meet at the same place we had tea. I took him to some of the tourist attractions as well as some of the local places around Tokyo. We strolled through the parks and stopped for lunch and coffee, then walked around some more. I took him to small sushi place for dinner that is very popular among the locals but completely untouched by tourists and he was very impressed. We spent the whole day together and in that time I learned a lot of things about Ben.
Ben was an only child and his parents were divorced. His mother had another husband who didn't like Ben very much and so Ben was not allowed to live at his mother's house after high school. His father said he would only pay for Ben to go to university if he went into en-gineering just like him and so Ben was now enrolled at a university in Toronto. This would get him out of his mother's house and the only way for his dad to support him so he was kind of stuck in the situation. His mother felt really bad about the whole thing and so she offered to take him anywhere in the world he wanted for the whole summer and he chose Japan. When I asked why he chose Japan he said, "Because I wanted a new DVD player and I heard you could get really nice ones for not too much money here." Just like that. Most shocking to me was that he didn't want to be an engineer and didn't really want to go to engineering school. He felt he had to go because of his parents' divorce and the present situation but he really wanted to go into advertising. I learned that he aside from that, his only other hobby was watching movies.
We got very close that day and for the rest of the summer, I would meet up with Ben every day, taking him around Tokyo and just relaxing with him. We began to have our favor-ite spots around the city, parks we liked more than others and restaurants we preferred. I loved seeing a city so familiar to me seem so new again and Ben loved that he had found someone to take him around the city. Since he didn't know any Japanese, I became very help-ful to him and even managed to teach him a few characters and words. I learned English in school and it was one of my stronger subjects and Ben helped me with my pronunciation. He always said that he liked my accent when I spoke English which would always make me blush.
I found myself really falling in love with him. I loved his big hands and how he stood out in a crowd because of his height. I liked his light green eyes and how he had a few freck-les in his cheeks. He said he liked my small hands and the scent of my skin. He loved to hold and look at my hands and I loved feeling so adored. Even though we both knew this would end at the end of the summer, we had a good time being with one another. He would meet me after work and on days when I had no work, we would spend the whole day together.
A week before Ben was due to leave he took me to one of the ritzier restaurants in Tokyo to have a nice dinner. We both decided to get dressed up and have a night on the town but I didn't think it would go anywhere past that so I was surprised at what came next. After we ordered, Ben reached across the table, held my hands in his and asked, "Sayuri, come to To-ronto with me. Maybe not next week but promise me you will come in a few months, maybe for Christmas." He was looking at me with his pale green eyes and I was so stunned I was quite speechless for some time. "Ben," I started to explain, "I love you but this is not so sim-ple. I can not just leave Tokyo." I told him that Tokyo was my home and that even if I wanted to go, I needed to work because I was obliged to help my parents with income for the family. I could not leave behind my responsibility to my family to run off to Canada. He pleaded with me, saying that he didn't want to be without me and he didn't think he could get through university without me with him. He tried to persuade me that Toronto was an international city and that I could find work there or even take classes if I wanted to but I just shook my head. There was no way I could leave behind my responsibility to my family and I knew that although Ben loved me, he didn't want to marry me. Ben was very silent for the rest of dinner but when we parted he told me, "I understand. But I will miss you everyday."
We agreed that it would get expensive to call one another long distance everyday and the difference in time zones would make it more all the more difficult so we settled on talking through the internet and having a real phone conversation on the weekends. But this ar-rangement only lasted for a few weeks before I could see that Ben was being distracted. I couldn't tell if it was the stress of being at university and the rigor of the courses but Ben seemed to be more and more distant each time we spoke. He was always talking about his DVD player that his mother bought in Tokyo the day he met me and the new movies he had seen on it. He seemed to constantly be watching movies on his DVD player instead of study-ing or attending class and even began to cut our conversations short, saying he wanted to re-lax and watch a movie. I realized that many of our talks included a new feature he found on his DVD player or a new movie he had just seen and I found myself becoming irritated by his perpetual obsession with his DVD player. When I mentioned this to him over one phone con-versation, he became very angry and hung up on me. I didn't call him back because I didn't think I was the one at fault and I thought that perhaps he was just stressed. However our con-versations after that little fight were short and curt. We never spoke about the DVD player after that and never mentioned our fight. We only spoke a handful of times after that before we lost communication completely.
I do not know what happened to Ben during his first weeks at university nor do I know what changed in him or why but I do know that he was very unhappy. The Ben that I had met at the beginning of the summer was not the same one who spoke to me from the other side of the world now. He ended up spending a lot of time watching DVDs alone and I even found myself becoming jealous of all the time he spent with his DVD player when I was so far away in Tokyo, working and being back to my daily routine before Ben had come into my life. Many times I thought that I should buy a plane ticket to meet him in Toronto but I knew it would be the wrong decision and that it would disappoint my parents and unfairly burden them financially. I could not understand what he was able to get from the DVD player that I could not give him except that perhaps the DVD player went to Canada with him and I chose to stay in Tokyo.
I really loved Ben and I love the summer we spent together in Tokyo. I will always re-member the day I saw him in the electronic store and sometimes at work I imagine I see him when another Western tourist comes in. I know I will never fall in love like that again and I hope Ben realized just how much I was about him and how much he meant to me. I loved him the best way I knew how and I often wonder if that was what he really needed. Maybe he really only did need a DVD player.
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- The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same