I heard that “if a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.”
If that’s true allow me to immortalize the one and only Paula Elcheikh.
Early September, 2015. In between semesters so I was doing standby at honbu in Yoyogi. Excited not to have any classes to teach that week. But I’d still be doing some mind-numbing stuff. Like making lesson materials (which were called props because we taught acting along with English).
I love that mind-numbing, conveyor belt-type stuff. It gives my mind space to roam free on ideas I never knew would come to me—had I been focused on actual work.
But this isn’t about me, this is about you! Hurry up and get into the story!
“You want to meet the new hires Eric? We’re starting training now.”
Fiona snapped me out of my thought high. I stopped cutting whatever I was cutting (cutting while daydreaming is dangerous) and headed over to the room next door to meet my future coworkers.
“Could you introduce yourself?” Typically I didn’t have much to say besides “hey, I work here, from the US, cool job, I think you’ll like it too.”
Naturally during my speech my manstincts kicked in, and my eyes were already wandering around for the most interesting-looking girl in the room.
Hmm…this is her first day on the job and she’s wearing boots, jeans, and an untucked black button-up. Indifference all over her face too. She’s an interesting-looking girl that obviously gives no fucks about rules. I’m definitely gonna talk to her at the meeting next week!
But just something light. I’m not the type to date at work. But there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing right?
Next week she came in to the studio monochromed out, with oversized everything but the tights. She had such a dope style. Not a Harajuku barbie or Omotesando jet-setter. Something that was totally her own.
And she still had that deadpan indifference all over her face.
Maybe something is wrong? I’ll introduce myself. Don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was probably along the lines of, “How’s training been going for you?”
“Where you from in Australia?”
And that was about it. Once 5:00pm hit the fun was allowed to begin. A happy hour drink at the Hub with everyone at training. I mingled for a while and when the opportunity availed itself, I slipped into an empty seat across from this mysterious woman.
And we just talked as if no one was there but us.
Eventually our words ran their course and we found ourselves playing a game of S.O.S. Last train came and all but a few of our coworkers remained in the bar. On the way home Paula realized she got on the train going in the wrong direction. I think she did it on purpose because I was going that way. *wink*
Two days later we had another training. And that day I got the first sign that she actually might be interested in me. She ditched her friends in order to have lunch with me and my group. Later on at happy hour I didn’t wait for any chances to talk with her. I pulled up a chair and made my own space at the crowded table.
Then the part I’m pretty sure was planned by a friend, without my knowledge—you know who you are—happened:
All of a sudden everyone just peaced out! Like on some Irish goodbye shit. No heads up, nothing.
So it was just us. And we had an evening I’ll never forget.
And that’s how the story goes. We fell in Love and lived happily ever after.
Lack of good communication, trust, and just general fear of risk on my end sent us veering off into different orbits. Those next two months were like a never-ending ride in the Scrambler. For a moment we’d connect as I caught her glance, and then centrifugal force would shoot us both to the opposite ends of the ride. If only we were sharing the same seat, this rollercoaster ride would be a lot more enjoyable.
And then Paula decided to get on another ride altogether; literally a brief trip back home for a cousin’s wedding. She sent me off to play with the kids in the “friend zone”.
I wanted to throw up when I got off that ride. I was done, fed up with dating, fed up with meeting people. Fed up with doing it over and over again. I wrote down all the feelings and things I never told her. I lied about fully accepting our friendship status, but my actions didn’t. The fact that we worked together only made it hurt even more. Made me drink even more. Made me feel even more.
Paula and I made plans to hang out when she came back from Australia. On November 12, 2015 I met her at Shimokitazawa Station South Entrance for a pasta dinner (with fries of course because Paula loves her potatoes…and her tomatoes). Afterwards we warmed up in Bones Bar. I got a gin lime, thinking it was a carbonated mixed drink. Paula got her favorite gin & tonic. For some reason the topic of writing came up and she asked to look at my journal. Why not? I thought I didn’t have any secrets to hide.
And that’s where she finally began to see me for who I really am. All the things I never said, all the feelings I never showed were laid bare. She saw it all. Right down to the very dates of the saying.
The night’s festivities went on (as they always do in Tokyo). We found ourselves in a karaoke booth singing our hearts out on midnight November 13th.
Nope! I did my best to ignore her call for closeness. We were still “just friends” at this point and I wasn’t ready to get my heart crushed again. But we both could feel it for real this time.
“I can’t let my heart get hurt again,” I said. “If this is real then I need to know.”
I asked her the question and she said yes. And ever since then the rollercoasters have been all the more fun now that she’s laughing right next to me.