We landed in Naha, the most crowed city in Okinawa and its capital. The airport was bustling that day. People were everywhere and moving fast. The sounds of a strange language filled the air. I understood parts, but not clearly. My Japanese language skills worked at home, but failed miserably here. I was more than happy when we found a taxi and left.
As we made our way to the base, we stopped by a bento shop to pick up lunch. It's been a while since I’ve seen a bento, let alone eat one. "U-ma-i", I thought. It smelled delicious and I couldn't wait to eat it. But first we had to make our way to Kadena and check into the temporary living quarters on the base.
We got into the two bedroom apartment a few minutes past noon. My parents told us that my dad needed to complete more paper work and decided that it was best for us to rest. "Be sure to eat lunch and get some sleep", said mother in Japanese as they left.
Immediately we jumped at the food. Being new to the combination of bentos and microwaves, my brother and I soon discovered that aluminum based bento boxes and microwaves don't mix. As I sat there contemplating the fate of my burnt bento, I caught a glimpse of the most amazing sight I had ever seen. It was an angel, or so I thought. She was about my height, perhaps slightly taller. She had a homely look with a wardrobe to match. But somehow I knew she was the one who could launch a thousand ships. With deep brown hair and brown eyes, her warm skin gleamed with perfection in its natural color. Make-up was not necessary for her, as it could only obscure her natural radiance. Walking out of view with her parents following, I lost track of time.
Thawk! "Ouch", I yelled as a pair of chopsticks glanced off my skull.
"What the heck are you staring at?" asked Tony.
"You know it's not polite to stare at girls in front of their parents. Plus did you see the father’s collar? He's an officer. Give it up already, it's not going to happen, plus she's way out of your league."
"Now if you're not going to each your lunch, I guess I'll just pick out the good stuff.” he said with a smile.
Using masterful kung-fu techniques stolen from a very poor Carradine performance, I managed to block his assault. I might have lost some pride, but at least I salvaged my lunch.
On the second day we scanned the channels looking for something to watch. Still feeling a bit jet lagged we decided to take it easy. While drinking A&W and eating Shakey's pizza, we ran out of ice.
"We have no ice and it's your turn" said Tony.
Feeling no real compulsion to move but realizing that getting punished by my brother would waste too much energy, I decided to get up and get the ice. I left the room and went in search of the ice machine. First I went down the left corridor and then the right. No ice machine to be found. Strange I thought, so I decided to head back to the room to ask my brother. As I turned I saw her. She must have stood only a few feet away, but it might as well been an inch in front of me. Shocked, I froze. I stood in Florence, I felt like David. "At least I was clothed", I thought to myself. Time froze as her voice echoed past my diurnal universe.
"Hi" she said.
Not knowing how to respond and doing my best to succeed at looking like a complete idiot, I blurted "ah".
After what seemed like an eternity, I awakened after getting a strange look from her, somehow I managed to mumble "Ice machine".
What the heck was that? Did I lose the ability to speak? Reduced to an idiot, I raised the ice bucket like a caveman looking for fire.
She smiled and said, "Are you looking for the ice machine?"
Completely neanderthal-ed at this point, the best I could do was nod.
She said "Down the stairs, it's on the floor below."
Somehow I managed to net the butterflies and speak.
"Thanks", I said.
She grinned and then proceeded to walk to her room.
As I walked to the ice machine I wondered just what the heck just happened. I have gone dates and have spoken to beautiful girls before, but I've never been dumb-founded quite like that. But then again, I've never met anyone like her. Feeling guilty about acting like a moron and not finding out her name, I decided to vent my energies on the ice below.
As I was returning to the room, I saw my brother speaking with someone on the catwalk. As I walked up to him I saw HER talking to my brother. Consumed by insecurity; I felt my body freeze once again. My mind raced as it tried to regain control of my senses. Vision check, legs check, smell check, taste check, hearing... Well somehow that wasn't working.
As I stood there dumbfounded I managed to hear a few mumblings, "My name is…and I'm going to Kadena High School as well".
Suddenly, her parents opened the door and called for her.
She said "bye...I'll see you around" and left.
As her aura disappeared, sanity returned to my senses.
"What is her name?” I asked.
"Alison, she's going to Kadena High School like us, but she's a 10th grader like me", said Tony.
Without hesitation, he took my bucket and proceeded into the room.
Standing perplexed and feeling envious of my brother’s ability initiate idle conversation with any girl, I followed him.
He spent the rest of the afternoon teasing me about my statuesque performance and giving Alison an unforgettable first impression of what people would classify as a toadstool. Toadstool boy I thought, could I look more stupid? At least by the end of the evening, I convinced myself that tomorrow I would re-introduce myself as a functioning human.
As fate would have it, that chance never came as Alison and her family moved out the next day. Looking back, I wish I had the ease around women that my brother had. I was only a freshman at the point and definitely lacking the skills to have meaningful conversations with any girl.