And so on and so on :)

It took all of five minutes for Kanagawa and her goons to strong-arm me into her office (a place of very, um, uncomfortable memories) for what Kanagawa probably thought was a pleasant little chat, pleasant in the sense that she got what she wanted. She leaned back on the front of her desk, apparently hoping that showing a little leg might, um, entice me. However, her once glorious form (and it was a sight to behold…sorry…) had been ruined as I was physically held down in a rather uncomfortable chair and forced to look at a pair of emaciated pins. The experience in the chair also brought back an uncomfortable memory, but from last summer, and of a much different kind of, um, discomfort. I was forced to listen to her bemoan the state of things, something she was always very glad to do. Is it possible to be glad when you’re upset, or to be happy that you have something to be upset about? Sometimes I wonder…
“Kenny, my darling, please,” she nearly wailed as she paced the office, “Please tell me that what that ogre of a PE teacher said was simply not true!”
Her voice squeaked on that last word like a petulant princess…which I guess it what she was, in no uncertain terms. She’s not named after an entire prefecture because she’s poor.
“Of course it’s not true, Reiko,” I tried to slap my palm across my forehead but, as I was restrained, I had to resort to an roll of my eyes. I wanted to add something like, “Are you kidding? Mei would have split me in half!” But I decided against it. As much as the idea worried me, it would have petrified Kanagawa. Instead, the new vice principal tip toed forward on those ridiculously high-heels with a serious and grave expression on her face.
“You can be honest with me, Ken,” she said in a low and equally grave voice, “If you have been…deflowered… it’s something I can deal with.”
How lovely to know. Thankfully, Mei succeeded at loosing her tongue quicker than I did, calling out with a jeer from the other side of the door.
“Aw, c’mon, it was just a joke! What’s the matter, all you administration types lose the ability to laugh when you get the office?”
I could almost see Reiko turning red as Mei kept chuckling, her muscular back leaning up against the door that she had recently kicked off its hinges. Finally, with one big breath that looked like she was swallowing her anger, Reiko trotted back to behind her desk and folded her hands neatly upon it.
“Ken, I’m willing to accept that you are merely a pawn in the game, an innocent bystander in a fight, no, a war that I will, no, must emerge victorious to win your heart! I’ve come back for you, Ken, so we can have the life we always dream of, and I will stop at nothing to make that dream a reality, this I swear!”
By now she was standing on the desk, hand held aloft looking like a very poor impersonation of Stalin. I can’t be sure, but I think the combination of work stress, lack of friendship, and lack of proper nourishment have, er, done something to her mind. Once Kanagawa realized just how ridiculous she had looked climbing on top of her desk and making that, um, proclamation, she coughed politely, daintly, and sat back down, endlessly smoothing out the wrinkles in her business suit and preening her color-treated hair.
“Ahem,” she coughed again, “You may return to your duties, Mr. Watanabe, and please remove your sportcoat.”
The massive hands of the goons released me as if they were programmed. I fixed Kanagawa with a skeptical look.
“Yes,” she smiled sweetly back, “it’s against the dress code for teachers. We can’t be encouraging educators to let their fashion take center stage in the classroom, not when there’s learning to be done!”
“Has it ever occurred to you,” I began, tightening my tie in a tiny bit of protest, “That perhaps when a teacher is more comfortable, they will teach better?”
“Oh, ridiculous!” Kanagawa cut an imperious, high and haughty laugh, “We’re all adults here, I think we can manage without wearing a jacket!”
“And what if we don’t, Reiko? What if the teachers all refuse and show up wearing t-shirts one day?”
She put a hand to her bosom and gasped, as if the idea was personally offensive.
“Then they would all be asked to leave.”
“All of them?”
“The entire faculty.”
“If it need be, yes. Faculty need to learn to obey those in charge. They need to obey their bosses!” She pursed her lips in an utterly prissy display. I had had enough.
“Listen, Reiko. You’re not our boss. You’re not even close. Our bosses-”
“Are the students?” She scoffed.
“Nope,” I stood up and straightened my tie again, “Our bosses are the same people that were taught at this school, and at every school, since time began. If we can’t do our job properly, we’re breaking a chain that started when the first human being taught another millions of years ago. If we are held back by silly and pointless rules, we will be damning the human race to a future of impotency that will only continue to get worse and worse until it means our very demise!”
It was at this point that I realized I was now pounding on Kanagawa’s desk, having a little Stalin moment of my own. I would have said Khrushchev, but both my shoes were still on. It must be something about this office that makes people crazy. As I looked at Kanagawa, her face a mix of fear and adoration, I figured it wasn’t so much the office, but who was currently in it.
“Ken…” she blinked her bloodshot and caffiene-laced eyes, “You’re being so forceful. I…I like this side of you!”
She made to lunge at me, but I was somehow able to dodge and skitter back to the door like a frightened crab. Not knowing whether she’d come after me or not, I bolted from the room and straight into Mei’s muscular, if not particularly well, um, developed, chest. This shocked Mei to the tune of her executive a brilliant judo hip-toss on instinct and sending me flopping onto the floor like a freshly caught and particularly fatty tuna. One trip to the nurse’s office later (I have a tea mug with my name on it now) we were both walking to our first period class, Mei looking rather ashamed for it.
“Sorry, Kenny-boy,” she said, taking one step for each two of mine, “I ain’t so good with being all…cuddly. You all right?”
“I’ll be fine,” I smiled, trying to alleviate the situation. The only thing more violent and unpredictable than Mei Tanaka is an emotionally compromised Mei Tanaka. I mean, when Ami wallops me, I have a good idea why. With Mei, it’s almost…primal.
And speaking of Ami…
The teachers were all notified of a “special meeting” with the new vice-principal by letter in our mailbox, as if we were being granted audience to the Pope. After school, we all filed into the gymnasium where, after five minutes of grunting and straining, Mei finally helped Haru push the piano offstage to make room for Kanagawa and her entourage. After the usual bric-a-brac of introducing someone we all knew (and reviled) already, Kanagawa took her place behind her special podium and spoke, but not before clearing her throat once more in the same prissy fashion.
Just irritating.
“It has been brought to my attention that the faculty is not pleased with the dress code I have enforced.”
I glanced around. The audience was full of teachers who might as well have been screaming with their eyes “Yes, you idiot, yes!”
“It has also been brought to my attention that, without you feeling fully comfortable, your teaching skills will be likewise compromised.”
Again, another stony reception. I don’t think a single one of us was expecting her to do what she did.
“As such. I am responding to your demands and rescinding the faculty dress code as of midnight tonight. That is all.”
She walked off the stage with her head held high, convinced she had done the right thing and would be adored for it and completely forgetting that she had caused the problem to begin with. There was general merriment (or at least as merry as teachers can be after a full day teaching students) and Ami, of course, had to get in one of her barbs.
“What, did you tackle her in the gym, too?”
There’s just something about her low and level voice that cuts me like a knife.
At the neighborhood bar that night Mei filled in all the Rogues on the story. As such, they each showed their appreciation:
Ms. Arakawa ordered me my favorite beer
Mei ordered me the biggest, cheapest beer they had (it tasted awful, but I wasn’t going to turn it down)
Eri offered me a cup of green tea (and you should have seen the look on the bartender’s face when it was ordered!)
Ai offered me a straight-up bottle of warm sake (I watched its transport carefully to make sure nothing got mixed into it)
Haru bought me a drink that probably weighed more than she did, garnished with almost every fruit I’ve ever seen and colored a bristling hue of pink
At a prodding from Cathy, Ami got me a beer and
Cathy got me a Rum and Coke, proudly and loudly proclaiming the virtues of the beverage and, as the night and the drinks rolled on, convinced Haru and Mei to start up and impromptu dance whilst singing a song about Rum & Coca-Cola. The only problem was it was in English, and Cathy only knew the chorus. By about the twentieth time, Ami couldn’t take it anymore and physically carried Cathy out of the bar, the young gaijin protesting the entire time and blowing kisses to the gaggle of embarrassed salarymen that usually frequented the place. After that, the night staggered to an end and, with most of us returning to the same apartment building, we felt generally safe despite our various levels of drunkenness.
As for myself, well…I did sort of win the victory for the whole staff, and it wouldn’t have been right to turn down all those drinks and the lovely, black, memoryless sleep they offered me soon after. However, each and every one of those drinks came back to haunt me the next morning, when I woke in a VERY small and unadorned bed in a room that was full of all sorts of sports memorabilia, a chest of drawers cluttered with perfume bottles, piles of clothes that were nearly as tall as I, and a television on permanent static. I rolled over and saw Mei’s tousled and drooling face just in front of an alarm clock that was ready to ring in a little less than one minute.
I immediately began to regret every sip. Good Lord…what did I do last night?

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