Nagoya Writes

February 9, 2008

Green Vegetables by Sarah Winslow

Filed under: Issue: 2001,Prose,Winslow — usbengoshi @ 6:43 pm

“Green vegetables.” he says. “That’s what I miss here.”

She smiles as only the polite Japanese girl can…a smile of acceptance and understanding. Although completely mystified by what he is saying, she has no wish to offend or embarrass this handsome, young and apparently available foreigner. Yes, yes of course, says the Smile. You are so right. Green vegetables.

“Yes.” he continues, responding to the Smile. “I’ve been eating too much rice here …and chicken…too many bananas….all these carbohydrates…Malaysian food isn’t good for my digestion.”

The Girl understands almost nothing, apart from the man’s sad face and the tone of his voice, but the Smile says You poor creature! How can I help you?

“And what are you planning to do today?” he asks, emerging from his dietary preoccupation.

“What… oh…excuse me please?” says the poor confused Girl. The Smile vanishes for a split second.

He repeats the question. Slowly. What are you doing today?

“Ah, yes.” she says, painfully slowly. “I am walking to Tekek.”

“Ah.” he says and sits quietly for awhile, thinking.

Meanwhile the Smile, who thinks it is running the conversation, says, Wouldn’t you like to come with me? It’s a half an hour walk to Tekek through the rainforest and surely we could have a romantic interlude on the way. Holding hands. If I tripped over the a root, you could catch me. Or what about those large lizards that slither about the forest…surely you’d like to protect me from those dangerous creatures. And when we reach Tekek we could go to the shop and even share a can of Sprite with two straws, as I saw a happy couple doing last week.

“Well”, he clears his throat.

Ah…says the Smile. You are getting ready to speak…no doubt the temptation of escorting me through the forest to Tekek is pushing everything else from your mind. Tell me!

“If you’re going to Tekek, would you mind buying me some vegetables?” he asks.

Panic again for the Girl. After the first five words, the rest all merge together.

“Excuse me, please?”

He repeats again slowly. “Green ones.” he adds.

“Ah. Yes. Green vegetables”, says the Girl. Ah, yes, says the Smile. Anything you want, I will buy you. Beautiful green vegetables. Lots of gorgeous green healthy vegetables, and then I’ll bring them back and you’ll be so pleased to see them and so proud of me, and you’ll take me in your arms and…

“Money”, he is interrupting her. “Here’s some money”. And he is pushing ten ringgits into her hand.

Oh, yes, she thinks. Of course. For the green vegetables. Then the Smile takes over and continues its fantasy. After all, this is just like real life where the husband hands over his salary to the wife so that she can look after his needs….

The man sits, thinking maybe it would be rude to leave too abruptly. Better to make a bit of conversation.

“Where are you staying?” Well, there are many guesthouses on this beach. She could be in any one of them…and he needs to know, because he’s just entrusted her with his ten ringgits.

The Girl is torn away from the voice of the Smile and is momentarily confused. She hasn’t yet found a room in one of the guesthouses, isn’t sure of his question. She answers the first word that comes to her mind. “Tekek”.

Now he is frowning. The Smile falters. That was Not the Right Answer, thinks the now hovering Smile. What can we do to remedy this frown on his face. Ah. We can add Maybe.

“Maybe.” adds the Girl in a hopeful voice.

But the man’s frown doesn’t lift. He’s thinking again. After a few moments it is clear to him. “Well, if you are going to stay in Tekek, you won’t be coming back here. So you can’t bring my vegetables. Can you?” he explains, patiently, and then gently removes the ten ringgits from her fingers.

After a few awkward minutes he makes an excuse to leave, and the Girl is left sitting. Staring out at the sea. Wondering. What went wrong?

The Smile, though crushed inside, remains valiantly in place. Determined as ever.

Sarah Winslow 21/9/2000

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