A Tale For The Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki
Note: After Nao and her parents had to leave California for Japan, Nao tries to keep in
touch with her American friends, especially with Kayla.
[…] We'd pretty much stopped trying to live-chat because of the time difference. Tokyo is
sixteen hours ahead, which means that it’s daytime in Sunnyvale when it’s nighttime here,
and since I was living in a two-room apartment the size of Kayla’s walk-in closet, it wasn’t
like I could get up in the middle of the night and turn on the computer and start chatting,
so mostly me and Kayla were using email, which was a drag. I hate email. It’s so slow. On
email it’s never now. It’s always then, which is why it’s so easy to get lazy and let your
inbox fill up. Not that mine did anymore, but it used to. Right after we left Sunnyvale,
everyone was emailing me like crazy and asking me all about Japan, but it took Dad a
couple of weeks to get an Internet connection set up, and by then all my friends were
involved with their summer vacations, and then school started, and they all kind of
I tried to have a blog for a while. My eighth-grade teacher in Sunnyvale, Mr. Ames, told
me to start one so that I could write about my impressions and observations and all the
interesting stuff that was going to happen to me in Japan. My dad helped me set it up
before we moved, and I named it The Future Is Nao!
because I thought that my future in
Japan was going to be one big American-style adventure. How dumb was that? […]
I kept it up for a while, making these cheerful, chirpy postings to The Future Is Nao!
felt like a total fraud. And then one day, a couple of months after I got back, I happened to
check my statistics, and I realized that the whole time since I started my blog, only twelve
people had ever visited it, for about a minute each, and I hadn’t had a single hit in weeks,
so that’s when I stopped. There’s nothing sadder than cyberspace when you’re floating
around out there, all alone, talking to yourself.
Anyway, it didn't take Kayla long to figure out that maybe I was becoming a pathetic loser
and it wasn’t cool to be my friend anymore. I swear, even on the Internet people can give
off a virtual smell that other people pick up on, although I don’t see how that’s possible.
It’s not like a real smell, with molecules and pheromone receptors and so on, but it’s just
as obvious as the stink of fear in your armpits or the vibe you give off when you’re poor
and don’t have any confidence or nice stuff. Maybe it’s something in the way your pixels
start behaving, but I was definitely starting to have it, and Kayla was sniffing it out from the
opposite side of the ocean.
Kayla is totally the opposite of me. She is superconfident and has lots of money and isn’t
afraid of anything. Even though we haven’t corresponded for a while, and I don’t even
know what high school she’s at, I’m 100 percent sure she is the most popular girl there,
because she is the type who will always be the most popular girl wherever she is. Being
number two isn’t even a possibility for Kayla, and that was the case even in second grade,
when she picked me out and allowed me to sit next to her at lunch. Now that I think about
it, it was a miracle she was ever my friend.
Things started to go seriously wrong after I emailed her a picture of me in my new school
uniform, and she texted me back this superironic email, which went something like, “OMG
i luv yr uni4m! its soo manga! u gotta snd me 1 so i cn go as a jap skoolgrl 4 haloween!” To her, my new life was just cosplay, but to me it was totally real. We had nothing in
common anymore. We couldn’t talk about fashion, or the kids at school, or who was a
loser, or what teachers we liked or hated. Our chats and emails went nowhere, and then
she started taking longer and longer to write me back, and after a while she just kind of
disappeared. When I tried to find her online and she was always off even when I knew she
had to be on, I realized she had blocked me from her buddy list. […]
Source: Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale For The Time Being. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Ltd, 2013, 124-127.
|2||Sunnyvale||place in America where Nao’s family used to live
|5||a drag||something annoying, tiresome
|26||pheromone receptors||cells that sense chemical substances which influence behavior
|39||OMG||short for: Oh my God!
|41||cosplay||from “costume” and “play”; dressing up like a character from a
film, book, video or game, especially from Japanese comic books