On the evening of October 17 last year, I met a woman. That day, I was tired of work and took a short escape flight to Japan. I was walking around Sapporo and I saw an old DVD store. The door ringed as I pace my step inside. It was a long room with a plethora of doors behind the counter and a small trail beside it. In front of the counter, the 3x4 meters room was dedicated to old DVDs and vinyl from the old memories of someone else and a classic for someone like me. My eyes trace along with the shelves, looking for something old yet familiar for me. The one I loved when I was a kid.
“Do you have Teletubbies in English?” a girl with wavy hair stepped in a rush. She asked who I assumed as the shop owner in a heavy breath. She tried to order her breath as the shop owner nagged her about her film choice. Her glasses which I couldn’t decide whether its color purple or black was steamy. She grabbed a cloth from her bag and cleaned it. Our eyes met as she turned around and leaned her arms on the desk.
“Oh! you watched Teletubbies too?” she asked, I was confused for a second before realizing that I had it on my hand, the Teletubbies.
“Ehmm, yeah,” I answered unexcitedly. Honestly, I didn’t know what Teletubbies or if this film does exist. I was even more shocked when I realized it’s not a movie at all. It’s a cartoon! A baby cartoon, like Barney. There are four colored aliens on the cover with a white rectangle on their belly. I couldn’t decide whether it was worth watching or not, but one of my hunches told me, I have to watch it with her.
“Hey, Emma! That’s the last one you haven’t watched yet.” This girl named Emma always came to the store for these Teletubbies. I could feel my cheeks tightened and a smirk came naturally.
“But I want to watch it too,” I said, “Besides I get it first.” I continued. Emma rolled her eyes annoyed. She took sometimes to silently thinking. The store owner gave a sign to let her be, so we both were silent, waiting for a girl done with her inner battle. Her eye was staring at the floor and her mind was lost in eternity. In silence, I noticed details about her. The Ray necklace on her neck gave a strong impression like it was her charm. She looks elegant with her gypsy vibe. I could easily notice that she wasn’t someone that stay and survive, maybe a wanderer.
“Can I join you as you watch it? Let’s watch it together.” She finally broke the silence.
“Whatever you want.” How could I reject when your eyes begged like a hungry stray cat?
Emma led the way to the room that was available as she was the shop owner. While the real shop owner was lost on his drawers looking for the keys like it’s his first time. When he finally realized that the key was attached to his waist all this time, he laughed in cringe and I followed him to the room where Emma was standing and leaned her shoulder on its door. She checked her phone and put it back in her bag.
“Good luck!” the shop owner tapped my shoulder as I will soon die.
“Emma is a talker and maniac. She won’t let you watched the film in peace.” He continued and we arrived in front of the door. The shop owner opened the door and helped us to set the film.
It’s a small dusty room with a red sofa that is enough for four. I seated on the edge of the sofa while Emma threw her bag and opened the fridge behind the mini snack bar.
“Do you need something?” asked Emma
“Do they have water with a room temp?” I asked and walked to her side.
“I have a bottle in my bag. I haven’t drunk it yet.” I walked back to the sofa and got the bottle from her bag. She brought a laptop with her. It must be related to her job, so I was guessing from a writer to a freelancer or a student. I want to ask her but it sounds so rude. So, I kept my mouth shut and the film began.
Emma sat with a bunch of snacks and cola. It was messy here, but it seems like she enjoyed her time. The film started with a laugh at the sun with a babyface. Then the narrator started to tell the ‘once upon a time’ tale-like story before the colorful aliens appeared with their scooter. It was the other version of Barney I guess, where the actors played with clown-like costumes, so classic of the 90s. I wonder why Emma wants to watch it.
“When I was a kid, I never knew that such a wide world does exist. I always live in my small world with my mom, dad, and neighbors. There’s no internet or even YouTube, so television was a big deal back then. One of my favorites to watch was Teletubbies. They will show the life of kids from other hemispheres in one of their segments. That’s when I started to be enchanted by the diversity. At the age of 4, I saw a bunch of kids with paler skin than my sister, I never knew that there’s another eye color besides black, and their life was so much different than mine. That’s why I love Teletubbies so much.” She told me her story like she was able to read my mind.
“I understand if you adore it as a kid, but you are an adult now.”
“Because I was an adult, my world was getting more and more complicated. Teletubbies reminded me of how simple it’s all, to begin with. A curiosity of diversity, I just want to become a part of that strange world. I feel like I was fit in it. Little did I know that there’s nothing like ‘fit in’.” her eyes gazed at the screen but her mind was lost to the past.
“What’s your dream, Emma? Is it the same dream as the one you had when you watched it for the first time?” she lifted her feet as I asked the question, let her white long skirt wrap her leg like a blanket
“Ehmm, of course not. That time I want to be pretty and have fair skin like my sister.” She answered with a smile on her face.
“So, you no longer wanted to be pretty?”
“I am pretty, since the first day I was born. It just the constant opinion of others that influenced mine. I am older and stronger. Their opinion won’t affect mine anymore. I know the fact that having fair skin didn’t make you pretty.” It’s clear to me that this girl had passed a lot in life. I want to give hug and tap her shoulder as I will say, you grew up well. But I stopped myself from making a cringe situation.
“So, what’s your dream now? As a strong adult?” she laughed hard upon hearing my question. Honestly, I didn’t know what’s funny.
“Get a nosebleed.” She said and shocked me with an unexpected answer.
“Should I punch your nose?” I offer her a fast way to realize her dream.
“Hahahahah, it’s not like that. It just,..” she stopped and fell into her mind once again, lost by the word, and smile with her teary eyes as she continues.
“… no matter how much I work, no matter how long I didn’t sleep or eat, no matter how tired am I. I won’t get a nosebleed. My sister would get one if she worked too hard. It seems like I haven't worked hard enough. So, I always said to myself to work harder every day. Whenever I got a failure, I’d blamed myself for not working hard enough. I never admitted that I have done my best and forget how to give up. Looks like a good trait to me, but I was tired. I want to sleep.” Her voice was shivering as she tried her best to hold the tears.
We were no longer here to watch this Teletubbies, but to listen to her story. I patted her on her shoulder and said nothing. I didn’t know what words would best cheer her, the pain belonged to her. It wouldn't be healed merely by a few words from me.
“How about you Jay? Why were you here?” she leaned her head on her elbow as she lifted her legs. Smiles at me and her eyes stare directly at me, without her glasses I could see how beautiful her eyes were. White and black colored eyes like a monochrome pencil colored draw on my sketch.
“A short escape, I was suffocated by the work,” I answered and the film ended with those colorful aliens jumped down to a hole and said their goodbye.
Soon, the rings of a phone startled us. Emma grabbed her back and took her phone as she answered the call. It must be good news. She smiles brightly and jumps all around while shouting words in a language that is strange for me. Once she finally remembered my existence, she smiled at me and said “They want to make a movie from the story I wrote.” She exclaimed excitedly.
“Jay! I did it!!” and a dark liquid runs down from her nose, slow but steady. Emma tries to wipe it like it was a snot. Then in a second, she realized that it wasn’t snot. The color changes into a bright winy red on her hand. I grabbed a tissue and held her head up when I pushed her nose with a bunch of tissue. She laughed, hard, and clear together with the tears that streams down like a fountain from her eyes. Her hand grabbed on my waist and she hugged me, tightly. She cried and cried and cried, her head leaned on my shoulder as I let her be. I hugged her and tapped her back when I realized that I was never told her my name. I wanted to ask her right away. Maybe wait for her to calm herself.
She loses her hug and orders her breath. I give her tissue to clean her nose.
“How did you know? That’s my..”
“your name is Jay?” she read my mind once again.
I nodded my head.
“Because I was the one who gave it, didn’t you remember? I thought you recognized me all this time. I can recognize you from the outside of the store.” I was confused, I stared at her in silence and tried to remember the missing point.
“Oh great, Wang Jai-Ming! From all people, how dare you forget me??” she shook her head and pulled her Ray necklace. She walked away as she handed the necklace to me.
I once again wonder, where’s the missing point.
‘Who is she’ was all I thought as I stared at the necklace in my hand.
And then a blitz of very old memories waved at me. GEMMA WU, WU GEMMA, EMMA?
I know that one day, I’d be killed by my stupidity. That was right, from all people how could I forget about Gemma. I rushed out after asking the shop owner, where could I find Emma?
Holding the Ray in my hand to find Emma, once again.