Faith in Men
By: Joe Milan Jnr
eriously, I didn’t know until I got off the plane yesterday. I got off the plane and there was no one at the gate, just a bunch of empty chairs. People used to meet each other, you know, right outside the jetway. Little crowds of hugging couples, twirling in each other’s arms, clobbering people, like bad Hollywood. I just couldn’t imagine us that way. Other couples yes. Us, no. And when I saw you outside the terminal standing there with your scrawled name sign, trying so hard to be sweet–I just knew that this couldn’t work.
I didn’t plot this. Do you even know what I was doing in Japan? I worked flat-out for two weeks on location; stumbling around in earthquake rubble. It was nuts. Everything wrecked. Everything quiet. No cars, no planes, no phones, only a few brittle sounds of people looking for people. I didn’t have time to think about other stuff. Just shoot here, edit on my laptop there, shot by shot, story by story. It was all very zen like. Then I flew back, got off the plane, and I just knew. And after you left my place last night, I couldn’t sleep so I went out with Shannon and got really drunk and well, facebooked.
Again, I’m so sorry. I was really drunk and I didn’t mean for you to find out through Facebook. I thought I would wake up and I could call you we could get coffee then talk, but you know. I didn’t mean for you to look at my relationship status and all. But here we are.
No, there hasn’t been anyone else.
Seriously, there hasn’t been anybody else. Go CSI around the apartment, there’s no one else. It’s not about that. It’s not about that time you called out Christina’s name. It’s not about you leaving your dirty socks under the couch. It’s not even about the sign at the terminal, which after a year together you would think you could spell my last name right. W–E–E? Wei is not a hard name to spell, I mean you spelled Jennifer right, how do you misspell Wei? But it’s not even about any of that. It’s about us. This. Okay?
No, I just said it’s not because of that. Listen, it’s not about doing something wrong, it’s more than that. And it’s not because you’re a masseur. We’re just not good for each other.
I don’t know. I just keep thinking about this one story we did about this guy in the civil defense and his wife. They were living in one of those high rises in Sendai–you know, one of those concrete Lego block looking things– real functional. Anyway then the earthquake came. The buildings swayed, tables bounced, kids in high chairs vibrated from one end of the kitchen to the other–you’ve been through earthquakes before, right? They have drills once a month and people evacuate buildings in neat rows and all, because you know, it’s Japan. They know earthquakes. They know disaster. But this quake was different, you saw it on TV. They say you could hear buildings cracking like gunfire. Anyway, this guy tells his wife to stay there in the apartment, because he was a civil defense guy and had to go out and you know, organize people, evacuate them, pull them out of the rubble. He tells her it’s chaos out there. Seriously, imagine it, chaos. Well, maybe not chaos American style, because Japanese don’t go out robbing stores and shooting each other, but you know. Bad. He tells her, ‘don’t go anywhere, I’ll be back to get you.’
So he goes out and he does this thing–you know, civil defense guys organize people and lead them to safety and so on. Then the tsunami sirens go off. He has to lead these people to safety, up onto this hill, a ridge, somewhere high. That was his duty and he must’ve been thinking ‘okay, she’ll hear this. She knows what to do.’ So he leads his evacuees up this hill and he gets up there and he watches as the water comes through. He watches it, and it is just tremendous, it’s just destroying everything. You saw the footage, I mean, all the buildings collapsing, cars rolling in the waves like driftwood, and his building– his Lego concrete tower in the heart of Sendai– taken out at the knees and then it’s just gone. And this guy is watching this from the hill.
What? No! I did not sleep with him! That’s part of the problem, you think this is about sleeping around. It’s not about sleeping, screwing, sucking, fucking none of that. Do you think this guy, as he searches through the crowd, looking for his wife–or anybody from his building–is thinking or caring about fucking? Fucking? You really think I met this guy and thought, wow that’s a hot story! I want to run off and ride the guy. Wow! You know what, this, our relationship, is so screwed up.
No, I don’t know what the story means. But Jesus, you know this isn’t easy for me. I’m hung over, and like–I just can’t shake things off. I wasn’t even there but I think of this poor Japanese guy swimming through this still crowd, speechless, looking at what used to be their town. As if the Pacific reached out and slapped them, stole everything and left them naked.
And the guy is getting frantic. Hours pass, the sun is setting and he can’t find her or anyone from the building. Finally, he sees a small group of people he recognizes. He asks them, where is she? Where’s my wife? They just look at him. Finally they tell him, she wouldn’t leave, she said she had to wait. She had to wait for him. Imagine that. She had to wait.
Yeah it’s tragic. It’s absolutely tragic. This guy lost everything; right there at that moment. Everything. You know, you would expect him to wail, to crumble, something, but you know what he said? Okay. Okay. And he went back and started to help people. He fetched water, got emergency rations, took down names of the missing, never stopping, just working. And the foreign aid workers, the reporters all started talking about him. The guy who said okay and just kept slapping bandages on people. The scariest thing was he told them his story, and they asked if he was all right he would say, I’m okay. I’m okay. Anyway, as things calmed down and the news crews started leaving, he just disappeared. Poof! Maybe he jumped off a cliff or something. A lot of people were doing that.
Why would I want you to jump off a cliff? I’m just trying to explain. I don’t think anyone could really blame that guy. He was saving lives when he left her home. AND I’m not saying you ditched me or that you would, well, maybe you would with Christina. But what I’m trying to say is no one really talked about her, how she must’ve loved him something wicked. Why else would she be there? She hears the siren, but keeps putting the broken things away? Footsteps roar down the stairwells, and she sweeps up the shattered plants? People knock on the door, come–on–come–on, and she says I have to wait, I have to wait for him.
Are you not listening? I’m trying to explain that maybe she thought it was safe, or she thought, if she left he would come and be trapped and die alone, I don’t know. But when I try to imagine my hands clasping onto a rail of the balcony, watching the wave coming, this dark wall of cars, dirt, sharks, sludge, just coming to kill me, I can’t imagine having so much faith. I can’t imagine saying, it’s okay. Like some enlightened grief counselor, it’s okay, you lived a good life, you did the best you could, you were loved.
I can only imagine thinking what a horrible mistake I made–believing that this man was going to come back and save me. What a horrible mistake it was waiting, what a fool I was. I just–wouldn’t have waited. I wouldn’t have believed it was safe no matter what you said, what any man said to me. I have no faith.
How horrible is that? I don’t have faith that things could be okay. I want to feel love so hard, to be totally bat shit crazy with it. And you don’t make me feel that way. And I knew it when I saw your stupid sign, I would never have waited for you. BW
Joe Milan Jr. is a writer who teaches.
He has spent nearly a third of his life traveling and living outside the borders of the USA; his most recent landing is in Seoul. His work has appeared at Numero Cinq Magazine, and he is a recent graduate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Read more from Joe at www.joemilanjr.com (It's Free)