Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Preface

Empty Suitcase:
A Handkerchief on Knees

Taking classes for four hours; perhaps thirty minutes, I often do not know how my legs stay fixed— tapping a toe, closing legs, and sitting cross-legged— I cannot calmly sit down on the chair like a Miss Universe; smiling, waving, and showing her long legs: her knees and ankles parallel together. My legs sometimes do not reach the floor so I even want to sit or lie down on the floor. During the classes, my brain is properly busy listening to professors and students. Even though my brain works, the nervous system seems to forget controlling my legs, which is my excuse for my legs’ behavior, and of course not because the professors are boring and not because the semester is almost over.

Once my legs start getting out of control, I really start wanting to play with my pencil. I only use a long pencil because it is easy to turn between fingers. When I can spin twice between my fingers— it needs a technique with a non-slippery pencil and I often drop it so I usually do not try during classes— I strike a victory pose quietly in my mind. I try not to disturb any other students so I continuously, gracefully spin my pencil between my fingers and moving around my legs until I sit right.

I can never sit right like that a modern artist painting a blue dot on a huge white canvas. The dot seems to be right in any place but only the artist knows where the best spot for the blue is but there is no right place for my legs on the chair. So if I start moving, I cannot stop until the class is over.

Then, I start day dreaming. I rest my chin on my hands and think about dinner if the class is around six o’clock. A couple of my classes are in Wiekamp and the classroom faces Mishawaka Ave. I can see high school students run, trees blowing at the zoo, and the sky changing colors through the big windows. How the sky is beautiful around six o’clock! But if I look at the window all the time, the professors think that I am not concentrating so I look down.

I look around the shoes of other people in the class. Some people wear nice hardware flats, stacked-heel pumps, silver-wedge boots, high-heeled oxfords, pointed-toe flats, and muddy virile shoes. On a snowy day, if someone wears high heels, I secretly cheer for the shoes. The shoes are brave to not be afraid of walking through snow ruts in the parking lot. And I realize that some people wear the same socks— I can see alternating stripes of green and pink or colorful polka dots between their jeans— from the last class.

Over spring break, I met my grandmother and she was really disappointed about my way of sitting on the chair. When she was young, she wore a kimono so her legs were covered with the cloths, so a young woman needed to sit appropriately to keep the good shape of the kimono like Miss Universe does. When she started wearing Western clothes, she has never forgotten to bring two handkerchiefs— one is for daily use and the other is for putting on the knees— it is a sign to show hesitation of wearing skirts and showing knees. I usually bring two handkerchiefs in my backpack but now I hesitate to use the other handkerchief to hide my knees. The handkerchief is usually on the bottom of my backpack. Maybe this is the time to pull it from the backpack and think about how to appropriately sit on the chair.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Preface

Empty Suitcase:
Letters and Resolutions
In the beginning of this year, I wrote about my new year resolutions— cook more often, flirt a little bit more, wash my jeans, collect State Quarters, and keep in touch with my family— so far, I am following my resolutions fantastically. I have only eaten Chinese food twice, my diary-like movie script is full of male extras, I washed my jeans last week, I found some quarters, and I call my family once a week…but nobody picks up their phones!

So I decided to write letters— writing letters are more one-way than sending emails or talking on the phone— It is convenient just to tell what I really study with poetry and how I have felt recently. I post the letters, it takes more than a week to deliver them to my family, but it is like a pop-up gift in the mailbox and it moved their hearts when they read “I miss you” in my handwriting. Writing letters is a more selfish communication than anything else; in addition, I received a bumper-sticker-like reputation, “Want to be a good daughter? Write letters.”

Since this January, I have purchased seasonal letter sets from card shops in downtown South Bend, drugstores, and some souvenir shops in some other cities. I picked up cards printed with snowmen in January, lots of hearts in February, and tulips for March. I realized how beautiful, entertaining, and cute the cards are at reasonable prices! When I write a letter, I use a pencil because I can erase; perhaps, change my surplus words. For example, I would write my family, “I hang out with my friends and had iced tea. It was very delicious with a slice of lemon. I miss you” that sentence refers to “I hang out with my friends until three o’clock in the morning and I was totally wasted. An iced tea after a hangover was very delicious but I tasted the lemon as another heartbreak. I miss you.”

Then, my family told me, my writing is too childish. Apparently, “iced tea” was not enough for the most sentimental words in the world of letters—“I miss you” in the end of letter could not help the iced tea’s fault— my family did not move their hearts in this time. Surely, they doubt that I am studying creative writing in an English graduate program. They are expecting the most beautiful letters like a phrase from Romeo and Juliet; perhaps, “O my mother, father, dearest sister, wherefore art thou in Japan?” which sounds like that I have fallen in love with my family but I am clear to tell them how much I miss them with the most beautiful language— Shakespearean language.

In addition, they are not happy with my handwriting. My grandmother is a professional calligrapher so I had practiced calligraphy until I came to America. Now my handwriting is like a nearly-dead-earthworm, with the excuse that I type most of the time. Of course, my mother was disappointed in what twenty-some years of practicing resulted in.

Even though I receive complaining from across the Pacific Ocean, I keep tossing letters into the mailbox by the library on the campus. Last week, a spider web was all over the handle of the mailbox as if my family secretly told me “No more letters!” I did not toss my letter not because of the spider because I forgot the stamp. I usually order stamps on the internet with a shipping fee of one dollar. I wish there was a post office on the campus, so then I can write letters to my family on time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Preface

Empty Suitcase:
“Bird Flu, Bare Shoulder, and Burning Skirt”
Every night before I am going to board airplanes, I dream a prediction of my death—the dream is not that the airplane crashes—more like showing symbolical meaning; my elevator falls from the 28th floor or the building shakes by an earthquake. The night before the long flight, I cannot sleep not because the death prediction but because how I am going to cancel my cellular phone bill, car insurance, and email accounts…how about my foreign bank accounts…how about my order of secret pleasures from online? Moreover, how I am going to hide my love diary, notes of sensuality, beautiful moments for my writing, and self-improving books?

Of course, those love notes and cancellations do not matter because I am going to die anyway, so who cares about leaving behind those secret objects— my family may care— they may pick up all my junk and realize what I really do in this life.

My family believes that I have extreme fun in America being a spoiled, professional student— somewhat true— but I object. I study, write, and face the reality of college meeting a lot of interesting people from all backgrounds. The atmosphere is definitely different from family, work environments, and any cultural backgrounds.

Then, those experiences inspire me so I write in English— one of the reasons of writing in English is that I do not want to show my writing to my family especially my mother— most Japanese people have English education for at least six years but they usually do not communicate in English, so it is a little difficult for Japanese people to understand English, which is good for me—I can freely express myself not worrying about my mother’s opinion—she does not have much time to sit down to read my stories in English with an English dictionary.

Whereas, my mother recently has new way to watch my behavior across the Pacific Ocean and I would like to say “THANK YOU Google, Yahoo, and other online translators!” She uses those translation systems and reads my writings. Just a click to observe her dearest daughter’s life in America.

Really horrible things about those translators are exact translation— it does not consider poetic language, metaphorical meaning, or conjunction— if she finds words such as “bird flu, bare shoulder, and burning skirt” in my story and the translation does not appropriately translate the subject and conjunction, the story is full of strange words.

She may believe that I wear a burning skirt, show my skin, and have bird flu in America. I scream that writing is one way to show personality but it is deeply dependent on the writer’s imagination and reader’s reception. Don’t fully trust the translation online is what I want to scream. So if I die by the plane crash, my family may carve “Her last sleep: a girl who loves the bird flu, bare shoulder, and burning skirt” on my grave stone…they misunderstand me forever.

Every dawn before I take off by the airplanes, I come up with the same thought— I cannot die with the misunderstanding and I have not fell in love with the man in my love notes yet, so fly, fly, f-ry, FLY! My flight back to South Bend during spring break was fine because I have the superstition that when I board on my right foot, the airplane does not fall down— at least so far— fly to the final destination that I need.