A friend once suggested that it’s best not to have any expectations because then you can’t be disappointed. Those wise words have stuck with me and grown in importance as I discover just how painful disappointment can be.
Case in point: 2020 has been a very disappointing year, exemplified by AirBnb #4.
We keep trying to make plans, to move forward, but karmic vagaries keep hopping off the seesaw when we are at the top and we come tumbling down, snapping our necks and bruising our bottoms.
AirBnb #4 was meant to be something of a celebration. It’s extremely spacious by Tokyo standards. I have room #201, which has a large living/dining area with two dining tables and four sofa beds. The main bedroom has both a double and a single bed and a large closet. There is also a tatami room, plenty of space for yoga.
My first impression of this apartment was charming in a slightly tattered way, as if it had been left in 1976 when the rest of the world moved on. I thought the green tile in the kitchen was hideous in a nostalgic, avocado Frigidaire kind of way.
I only use the sofa beds as places to leave luggage because they are all shabby, lumpy and wholly uncomfortable. One reminds me very much of the back seat of a 1976 VW bus. There may be critters living in them. I don’t want to know.
Still, I was tired and stressed and very pleased to see that the bruises on my shins were finally healing. I slept well, until one night I stood by the bed looking at the linens and realized they had probably been designed in–you guessed it–1976.
The longer I stay here, the more I sense that this apartment has lived too long, seen too much. Even the toilet seat is cracked. It pinched my tender skin a couple of times before I gently bandaged its wounds.
I chose this place for its size but also because it sits right next to Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s few pay-to-enter parks, but I would gladly have paid. I imagined Rochi and me, hand in hand, healing walks in gentle sunshine, spring blossoms and tea houses, the silly faces of koi in the ponds, maybe even taking off our shoes and feeling grass between our toes. Alas, Rochi went back into the hospital before I even moved here and I will be moving again before he gets out. And Shinjuku Gyoen is closed until further notice.
When I realized we wouldn’t be able to go home before my visa would expire, I hired a lawyer to help me get an extension and contacted the AirBnb people about this place. “Sure,” they said. “You can stay another month. But we’re going to triple the rent because of Golden Week. Hope you’re all right with that.”
I was flabbergasted. “Please reconsider. There’s not going to be any Golden Week this year.”
“No,” they said. “It’s on the calendar. Shoganai. (Nothing can be done.) Thank you for your kind understanding.”
Kind? They know my husband is sick. They know I can’t leave. KIND? The mist of willing ignorance I had allowed myself fell away, this quiet neighborhood suddenly seemed isolated and indifferent, this apartment haunted by a thousand disappointments and broken hearts of the past.
There are few things that horrify me more than unnecessary cruelty in the face of vulnerability. Especially when it’s excused as “just following the rules.” This is common in Japan and one of the things I dislike most about this culture.
This was meant to be a funny post but it didn’t turn out that way. I am boiling with anger and resentment, not just at the unspeakable attitude of the property managers but also at the dithering doctors who have, again, changed their minds about Rochi’s diagnosis. And I am furious at the nasty little virus that has shut down the entire world, its voracious appetite a mocking mirror image of the worst of human nature.
If we’re going to survive the unthinkable, we’re going to need kindness, real kindness, empathy, caring, open-hearted generosity, not “kindness” with obsequious smiles and cups of lukewarm green tea.
Omotenashi my ass.