Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Casino Bus

New York was amazing!  I lived in Hell’s Kitchen and shared a tiny, one bedroom apartment with a high school friend. But the size didn’t matter. I was in New York City!

I danced at hottest clubs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, coming home at 5 in the morning. I drank minty Mojitos and fruity Daiquiris. I went to historical museums, fancy operas and latest musicals. I spent hours in Central Park reading books and watching people. I dated hot men and flirted with their women. I met sunrise with newly acquired friends on building rooftops.

I felt alive.

New York woke me up from a hazy dream. Every day was a new adventure and I enjoyed it to the fullest.

Meanwhile, once a month I went to Connecticut to visit my family. Since I was living in New York, I left my car in CT for my brothers. That left me in a pickle. My parents’ house was far enough where MTA (extension of the NY subway system) didn’t travel. The trains and busses were expensive. The solution came from an unexpected place. Mohegan Sun Casino. Evidently, casinos are quiet popular within Chinese community. Mohegan Sun sent a special bus to NY’s Chinatown several times a day to drive hoards of people to gamble their money away. The cost for a round-trip ticket was $10. They also supplied gambling vouchers and a voucher to a cafeteria on the premises. I snatched the deal and became a regular on the bus.

One Friday afternoon as I was waiting for the bus to arrive, another girl came up. Surprisingly, there was no one else at the stop that day. Knowing the gambling nature of Chinatown inhabitants, we knew something was not quiet right. After putting our heads together and calling the bus management company, we hastily took subway to Queens to catch a local bus. Barely making it onto the bus, we took two seats next to each other and finally caught our breath. When, the anxiety subsided we introduced each other. She was Japanese.

Something stirred inside me.

N talked about her Japanese family and her Korean boyfriend. She talked about her job and her life in New York. She continued talking but I had only one thought on my mind. She is Japanese.

Forgotten feelings and bittersweet thoughts flooded my consciousness. I remembered M and my dream of one day visiting Japan. I confessed my dream to N and she laughed. “What is there to be fascinated about?” - she asked. “Oh, but you take it for granted. You cannot appreciate it the way I do because you are one of them” – was my juvenile reply. Our conversation continued on and soon we were in CT. We exchanged numbers and promised to meet again.

And again we met. I knew I couldn’t let her go as I let M go. She was my only window into the fantasy. The more times we met and the longer we talked, the stronger the feelings inside of me grew.

I soon realized, my feelings for Japan were no longer dormant. New York and its wild life were no longer offering me pleasure and satisfaction. My thoughts were steadily steering in the new/old direction. I saw N not so often but regularly enough that she constantly reminded me of my dream. The dream grew stronger and the fantasy started to form and take shape.

I saw myself talking fluently in Japanese. I was traveling from city to city and seeing ancient temples and resting in natural onsens; I was ascending the Fuji-san (Mt. Fuji) and revering the sunset on caldera lakes; I was chanting with monks in Shinto shrines and volunteering on organic farms in Hokkaido; I was admiring the beauty and elegance of blossoming sakura and feeling the silence and enchantment of feng shui.

Again, Japan consumed me.

Until finally arrived the day. The day when I simply knew: if I don’t fulfill my dream, I will never be complete. The choice was simple, I made the decision and there was no turning back.


  1. Khaya, I truly believe that you were Japanese in a previous life. You are leaving today and I am already sad that I won't see you for a while and I already gave in the idea that you will eventually move there, marry a nice Japanese man and have little half Japanese, half Russian babies who I hope will inherit your enthusiasm and spirit as you are a beautiful spirit inside out. I love you!

  2. BEAUTIFUL writing... looking forward to more and more and more