I don’t know whether any of you read the missed connections on Craigslist? It is mostly a horrorshow of human sexual desperation, but there is the occasional gem. In the depths of the pandemic, protests raging, everyone scared, deaths rising, I found a woman, just wanting to wish everyone well, and ask them to stay safe, telling the ether that she cared and she was scared too. You find people missing long lost lovers from decades back, wanting to find them again on a whim…or perhaps looking for someone to do no harm, using love as a lure to drag them in. There are tales of missed opportunity, lost connections, of how life might have gone compared to how it ended up going, each one a tragedy, or a saving grace stopping calamity from happening.
I was on a train in Tokyo, wearing this dangerous pink Jackie O shift dress and tan kitten heels, I had painted my lips, and done my nails, my hair was long, down my back, but pinned up in little burgundy claw clips in my rough approximation of a french pleat. I had headphones on, listening to whatever mix tape I had put together that week. Travelling back from Ofuna to Daitabashi, or at least trying to. It was the first time I had had to go so far for work, as a travelling English teacher for companies in the Tokyo and surrounding areas, I was still youngish, still pretty. Doesn’t sound much like me, huh! I was not trying to be me. I was trying to be a different me. A me who had lost their connection’s number and not been sitting in a large city getting smacked out of my head. I had taken the cure, some new treatment back then, that didn’t involve getting handcuffed to methadone, gone through a civilized detox, knocked out in a clinic, and I was determined to head for that junkie dream of a white picket fence, a few children, and a dog. I wanted out. I wanted out of that life, out of those set of possibilities, and into a new one. I wanted things to be easier, I wanted things to be less tiring, I wanted to be normal, damnit! I wanted to be a wife and a mother, not a disasterzone that was forced into paths that made me hate myself and everyone around me.
So this is what I did, I cleaned up. I got two jobs, one temping for a large company, taking on as much work as possible. I was a functional junkie before that last great clean up, at least for the most part. I held down jobs, I worked in a bar in the evening, and offices typing for sad little men in the daytime. I worked and worked and worked. My habit was my life, but I was determined to squeeze it out of as much of my day as possible. Borrowing the money to pay for a detox instead of waiting and being forced onto methadone, which would trap me forever, I got off the junk, and applied for jobs as far away from where I was as possible. Far enough away that my past could not try and haul me back in. Far enough away to be someone else, and put all this shit behind me. I wanted to live. When I was offered a job in Tokyo, I figured it might just be far enough away.
So that is how I ended up using my degree to teach English. It’s how I ended up on that train from Ofuna. That non-missed connection, that fateful door opening on that train, that I ran to catch after finishing my evening class. It opened on Mr Charming. I realized I was on the wrong train, I could barely speak Japanese, I could not read and I had taken myself onto a train that was not going to fucking Tokyo. I asked the tall, well built young Japanese man opposite. He couldn’t understand me, nor me him. What if he had spoken enough English to help, maybe all this could have been stopped right then and there. It appeared to be a fast train, whizzing me out to heaven knows where, stopping who knows when. I was in tears.
A stocky guy, about my age I thought, not quite Japanese, but Japanese still the same, came up to me and in good English, asked if he could help. He had soft brown eyes, black curly hair, and was wearing a suit. He was not like the other boys I had ever dated. No hippy, no punk, no loser, no waster. A man with a civilized job. A civilized life. Ambition. He was being kind, considerate and polite. We worked out that I had simply got on the wrong side of the platform, and was headed out out out, not in in into Tokyo. He would take me off at the next stop and accompany me back to Tokyo. I began to doubt I could even find my own house. All the fears, and all the bravery I had in going there, starting anew, just evaporated. All the detox with no counselling, the fight to stay alive, the abuse of my childhood, all of it came pouring out…because I missed my connection. I got on the wrong train, I headed the wrong way. All that and I ended up married to a man that beat me to within an inch of my sorry life.
I had no idea just how wrong that train was. Mr. Charming took me for coffee. He walked me to my house and said goodbye at the gate, passing me his phone number. We met for coffee; for dates in Disneyworld. He brought me flowers. We didn’t even kiss until the third or fourth date. There was no hurry, no rush, no pressure. Mr Charming seemed so safe, so gentle. I found out he was 3/4 Japanese, his mother half. I found out he had a brother and a sister. I was invited to meet them. It was the normality, the safety I craved, that I needed, after throwing myself askance on a big wide world, not even thinking there was no way I could possibly stay afloat emotionally. It was my way of trying to break free from my chains. We secured our connection. Made it legal. There was no reason not to. He seemed like the right path to take. All because I got on the wrong train.
Sometimes it might be just as well we miss those connections.