By Kazuya Muto
We met in front of Eastwood Station, a small station where we always meet when we get together. Six of my friends were there: Shirley, Yoyo, Philippe, Candy, Bruno and Helen. They had decided to hold my farewell party at our favorite Chinese restaurant.
I was the first to arrive. I looked at the sign on the platform: "Eastwood." This was the last time I'd see that sign before going back to Japan.
Wen arrived. I tried not to be sentimental and said, "Hey, how're you doing, mate?" I was set on acting like I always did, as though this wasn't the last time I'd see my friends, as though we'd keep seeing each other for a long time yet.
Then the others arrived and I found, despite my determination, that I was stumped for what to say. Even the word, "Hi," stuck in my throat.
We went to the restaurant. I was in for a surprise, a very pleasant surprise. I found David waiting there for us. David was one of the teachers who took great care of me while I was in Australia.
Shirley had arranged everything in advance perfectly. She was always very good at this. When we went to the Gold Coast, she had every detail down pat.
The food was great, but I couldn't really concentrate on eating. I was watching my friends' faces. Then Candy, who was sitting next to me, said, "You should eat more, Kazu. What's happened? You're so quiet today." Everyone joined in. "Yeah, what's wrong? You're so quiet." I wanted to say something, but seriously I couldn't find the words. Philippe started fooling around, trying to make me laugh (he is a very funny guy) but as the party progressed, I just became quieter and quieter.
Then David came to the rescue. He said, "I reckon he's remembering what he experienced in Sydney. He's probably going through some complicated feelings now, which he can't put into words." That was so true, but his words helped me to start talking, even though I expressed myself clumsily.
"Ah ... yeah," I began. "It's only been about 10 months, but I feel like I've really shared a lifetime with you all, and you know, after I go back, it's going to be difficult. I'm going to miss talking to you all, laughing with you all. I'm going to miss your smiles. No one will ever be able to take your place."
There was silence around the table.
Then Shirley said, "We're proud of you. And it's great: I can tell all my friends I have a friend in Japan."
"And you can tell everyone you have a friend from France," Philippe added, and Bruno gave me a big smile.
"Thank you," I said. "Thank you so much."
After the meal, we walked back to the station. This was the last time I'd see them. We hugged and I looked at them, trying to memorize their faces, but their faces were blurred by my tears.
The train came.
"Well, see ya," I said, and just like that, we parted.
Shukan ST: Jan. 19, 2007
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