Monday, January 30, 2006

the man at the window

a week or so ago i was at home alone. it was about 4:30 in the afternoon and Kathy wasn't home yet. i was walking between the living room and the bedroom (saying i was in the kitchen would be a bit of an overstatement - it's just not big enough to mention by name) and i saw someone at the bedroom patio door. his head was in our hanging laundry and his hands were cupped around his face, pressed up against the glass. i thought, "there's someone trying to look in my window! wait - maybe it's that pervert who stole Kathy's bra!". i looked in his direction (from the space between the rooms with the fridge in it) and motioned for him to come around. he sortof knocked - sortof mumbled something, and i said, "come around idiot, come around." and motioned again.

nothing.

so i hastily put on a jacket, got my shoes on and went out to confront the bra-stealer. i went out the front door and around the apartment towards the bedroom patio doors trying to think of anything in japanese i could say to convince this man that he shouldn't be looking in my bedroom window. i came around the corner and there he was.

his head was still in my laundry. he seemed surprised that i had come from inside. and he was clearly confused about a great many other things in life. he held something tightly in his hand, and as i asked in japanese, "why? why?" thinking that i was actually saying, "what the freak are you doing with your head in my clean laundry looking into my bedroom window?" he offered this precious something to me. i put out my hand, a little unsure. i thought at first that he had found something of value, and thinking that it might belong to the inhabitants of my apartment wanted to return it (this kind of thing does happen in japan - especially if you've improperly bagged your garbage on garbage day - the neighbours are so helpful). but he opened his hand and i took the prize.

it was his jacket zipper. did i mention that he was probably over 80? his zipper had broken - a chunk of teeth were missing from one side and so his zipper had fallen off the track. he desperately needed someone to help. he mumbled a lot in old-man japanese, kindof tired and not really all there - no full sentences i'm sure. but i knew what had to be done. and that day i was glad that i had been raised to be a patient person, and that i was good with my hands. there aren't many knots i can't untie, and there are fewer zippers still that i can't fix - although this was a challenge. it took about five minutes of real work (which you know felt like forever as i struggled with some strange old man's jacket while his head still bobbed around in my clean laundry). i finally got it started, and zipped his jacket up. i knew that if he unzipped it, the zipper would fall off again, so i buttoned the outside flap up for good measure. he seemed pleased, but more than that, he seemed ready to continue whatever complex task had been disturbed by the broken zipper. i asked him in japanese (correctly this time), "where are you going?" and he said, "there, there" as he pointed down the road. he shuffled away. i had done my good deed.

and then the thought hit me.

what if he remembers me? what if his zipper falls off again and he needs someone to fix it? i hope he can't remember where i live. or at least if he does, i hope he figures out where the front door is..

6 comments:

misscipher said...

I'm impressed that you could fix zip with an injured finger...

epps_nihon_go said...

thanks for the compliment, but actually, the zipper incident was before the finger incident.

Suzanne said...

That is histerical! Good story!

Anonymous said...

such a great story. and such a good samaritan you are. i love people that love old people and treat them kindly. erika

jkirlin said...

Yeah...this is niiiiice.

Mike U. said...

Touching story Jeff.