“Here is a church and here is a steeple, we sure are cute for two ugly people. I don’t see what anyone can see in anyone else, but you…” He sang with his ukulele, this song was his gift to me along with other trinkets here and there from garage sales and thrift stores. Yoshiro James Yamamoto, my “lover”. We never say “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” because we thought it sounded awful and kind of a default for lame relationships; he hated how unoriginal it was. So because of his train of thought, I am his “lady” and he is my “lover”. He never bought me flowers; just the ones he picked from other people’s gardens. Mrs.Dextimer, my neighbor never thought he was cute for jumping her fence and picking her daisies. My gifts were given to me on random days; handmade clay hearts with a piece of string hanging from it, because it was the aorta and it made it look more “real” or cards with inappropriate and funny poems. He once made a card that had a silkscreen print of a pink poodle and the speech bubble said “I’m a total BITCH for your lovin”. He liked to buy things from thrift shops and make mobiles out of little trinkets, he liked the idea that they were abandoned but rediscovered as treasures. I liked the way he held the good finds, like an old camera, in his hands. He would say that every one of them had their own significance, kind of like lost souls that needed to be found again. We never held hands because mine get too clammy and he jokingly said that he would lose a lot of street-cred; I would hit him in return. But sometimes when we sit in his beat up ’93 Cavalier (later known as the “Pimp Ship”) he would take my hand and kiss it. Little pecks from his lips traced and kissed each one of my knuckles. He did things, little things here and there. He slipped post-it notes with little drawings of oblong characters that were supposed to represent “us” in my books and my backpack. He also liked to sing and do “Yoshi-mixes” of songs that he didn’t know the lyrics to my answering machine. “It’s a quarter after one, I’m a little stoned and I need you now…”
James, or Yoshi, when he was feeling ethic, came to my town during our sophomore year; he was the new kid. He just moved into the area, he had just spent 4 years in Tokyo at an international boarding school and transitioned here. We already had so much in common because I too, came from a more exciting place than upstate New York until my parents had missed an exit and landed here. I thought he was adorable and kind of weird; he wore this slouchy grey knitted hat that covered most of his shaggy dark brown hair except for a tuft that stuck out the middle. I found out later that the hat was a sign that he hadn’t showered in a couple of days. He would walk down the hallway and whistle jazz songs with a pencil nestled behind his ears and paint and marker stained on his hands. His usual attire was khakis or corduroys and a tee shirt or a sweatshirt of some sort. My mom called him “hobo” when she first met him. Despite that, he still liked her and brought her flowers from Mrs. Dextimer’s garden. His face and body looked confused; he was long and had an athletic build but he wasn’t an athlete, he is artist. The muscles on his arms are from painting huge wall murals and lifting buckets of gesso. At some angles he looked a little lanky because of his crappy posture. He stands six feet tall and had a baby face, maybe because of his Asian descent. Yoshi James is Japanese-Irish, yeah dad, they make those nowadays. My dad called him the “Yellow Hybrid” or “Broken Asian” but Yoshi James would give it right back to him by mimicking my dad’s accent.
When we first met, his voice was cracking and he had the occasional Bollywood style acne that branded a bindi on his forehead. To others he was another teenage kid, but to me he was a pubescent angel. I played it off when he looked at me, looking the other way or giving him the stink eye. I remember even going up to him and saying “What?! What are you looking at?” and storming off. I wasn’t scary or intimidating to him at all, that’s why he continued to look at me during the classes we shared. Maybe because I was five foot nothing and full of bullshit rage. The next time I caught him staring at me I looked the other way. He walked down the hall and followed me, I started to run and he started to pick up his pace. “You know stalking is a crime, dude” I said looking back at him only to see his goofy smirk escape his turtle-lipped mouth. I stopped at my locker, winded. “Hey, I’m Yoshi” I guess the first time we met; he wanted to seem more ethnic. “I know we have a shat ton of classes together. I know who you are. Oh and stare at me again and I will punch you in the nuts.” I said without any form of control. He laughed at it. “Are you free this Friday?” he asked following my dumbass remarks. “Say what?” I said again, with no control. “Yeah, there’s this movie I want you to see, well I watched it but I can totally see it again…there’s this girl in it and she kinda reminds me of you. The movie is Juno, and she kinda reminds me of you and you talk like her and act like her except for the pregnant part, well you’re not pregnant…” He looked down at my stomach, I’ve never felt more naked I my life. “Okay, I’m going to shut up now; I talk a lot when I’m nervous. I’m not saying you make me nervous, okay you totally make me nervous and that’s cool because I think you’re cool and I saw your art, you’re really talented. I think if we hang out, we can be friends or something…” I think this was when he remembered that he should stop talking. The space between us felt heavy and awkward, his eyes kept on staring down because the last thing they looked at was my stomach, and so “down” was a very good place for them. Then his eyes moved back up and met mine, by then I was grinning like an idiot and so was he. His cheeks were rosy and filled with little red specks of innocence. His eyes were unforgiving; they could pull the truth out of me. The little hazel dots in the center of the white pool evenly placed on each side and in the middle met his nose, little like mine. He had little features as if they were stickers put on a big mannequin. But with all the charm and goofiness he carried, it seemed perfect. “Yeah, I mean I guess… there’s nothing else I’m doing. I’ll go…” I said nonchalantly. He smiled; I think his dimples were at the side of his eyes. “Okay, so I’ll call you.” He turned the other way and ran, maybe towards his locker; it was exactly 27 lockers from mine. I counted it a couple of weeks before when I found out where it was. Then he ran back to me, backwards, smiling still. “Umm, can I have your number?” he said with his hands in his tan corduroy pant pockets. He does that when he’s fidgeting.
He still does that, three years later. This time he has his ukulele in one hand and the other in his pocket. He stood on my porch with no shoes on, “so remember that song at the end of Juno, our first date movie? Yeah, I know how to play it babe.” He just started calling me “babe” because he thinks it’s cool when older musicians say it, like Mick Jagger. This time, he has a cigarette tucked behind his ear and a t-shirt that saw more paint than the canvas. He just came from painting another wall mural; he’s made an entire summer out of it. He doesn’t want to get rusty. He received a full ride, oh and the University is paying him to attend their school, in Tokyo. This was our last summer together, I didn’t want it to be cheesy or sad so we just brushed off every chance we got to hold each other and cry. I told him that if he made a Nicholas Sparks novel out of this parting thing, I’ll kick his ass. Besides, he looks dopey when he cries and his eyes squint and become more “Asian” when he tears up. The last time he cried, we watched Toy Story 3 and he balled like a schoolgirl. He became more pissed the more I teased him and bit his bottom lip, and that made him cuter than any of the 7 year olds in the theater that night. He sat down and starts to strum away at his latest passion; the ukulele. He starts to slap the strings and they respond to fill the summer air with beauty. He sang our song, the one at the end of the Juno movie. It was super unconventional but it epitomized our relationship. Mid song he starts to tear up, he looks up at me and every bullshit tough bone in my body dwindles. The sound of his voice breaking and croaking was endearing as ever, it put us back to three years earlier. I stand there suspended in mid air; he has the power to make me feel like gravity isn’t enough to hold me down. He puts his ukulele down and he pulls me in, his arms are long enough to engulf my body and fill it with love. I held his head to my chest; he fits right into that crest. We never verbalized “love” it took us 2 years to say “I love you” he said we were “love retarded”. We didn’t need to put it into words “because I can’t see what anyone can see in anyone else, but you”.