5th July 2019
When my friends say that I’m ‘interesting’ even though they actually mean ‘strange’, I find it hilarious. I especially like seeing the dumbfounded faces of my elderly friends who worship the ‘three treasures三種の神器’ home appliances, when they hear that I have none of them.
“Sorry, I don’t know about the programme. I don’t have a TV at home,” I would always start from the TV.
“I see. People watch YouTube nowadays, eh?” they would smile.
“…Oh, I don’t think there is a coin-laundry near my apartment. I even wash my blanket in the bathtub. I don’t have a washing machine.”
“So, you wash your clothes everyday by hand?” They would sound impressed.
“…Thanks, but I can’t keep so many of these sweets in this season. I don’t have a fridge at home.”
I chuckle alone, remembering their gobsmacked faces. But from time to time, I feel I’m probably a really weird person and no one understands my summer recipe for water-chilled Ramen or vinegar-marinated chicken salad. The thought dispirits me a little.
When my friends say that I’m strong even if they are just saying it, I feel good. Keeping up a pretence often deceives one’s own mind too. However, I am weak. I’ve had a sore throat since this morning and I know what the cause is.
Because of my stutter and shyness, I was an isolated child at school. I had only a few friends in my class and no one bothered to take any notice of me. So I have never being bullied.
“Megu-chan, revise this email and submit again. I told you to use easy words which even children understand,” Namiko ordered. “And please take your time and think carefully. Do not rush through it just so that you can go home early.”
I would take my time to manage my agitated chimp in my brain. Indeed, I do need time. My email had been written with the usual patchwork jobs of stock phrases. Now she picks up on some point randomly and tells me to rewrite it.
“Why do you write so quickly? This task shouldn’t be done in a great hurry,” has been her slogan since we had a meeting with our department manager last month. The bachelor has changed the rule and asked every worker to submit an overtime request sheet when they need to stay late. This new rule apparently upset everybody in the office except for me.
“Writing to disgruntled customers is such a delicate task, so we need to give it our special attention, OK?”
What Namiko tells me is 100% right. The problem is that even when I do everything I am told by her and I reread my email three times, I’m still “quick” according to her. So I take my time to research some global telecommunication providers for my second role before submitting the revised email. But Namiko has recently noticed this and occasionally turned around to peer at my PC screen.
“Is that task urgent? Did the director tell you to do it now?” she would ask. “No? So why don’t you do what I told you? Our customers are waiting.”
I would submit my revised email that even children can read and hear her big sigh from behind me. No. It’s too big for a sigh. It’s bigger than my yoga instructor’s exaggerated exhaling.
“All right. Though it’s not good enough, I’ll edit it myself and submit it to the second checker.” Namiko would sound as if I’m a totally useless worker. She would also whisper to Hiro at the next desk. “This is why my tasks never become less and I have to do overtime work…”
I always checked the final text after the messages were sent out to the customers, because I was so curious about what parts of my email my supervisor edited.
“かかる事情におかれましては…” was the part she added to mine this time.
Seriously? My chimp wants to laugh hysterically. What sort of kid would possibly say, “かかる事情に”? Besides, “かかる” means “このような: such”. A forbidden word!
I don’t want to admit, but I am being bullied.
When I heard about Sasagawa’s resignation in the afternoon, I felt like shouting in mortification. The women around my desk criticised her for leaving the company without showing up to say thanks to her supervisor Yuri. They know that she was being bullied by Yuri, yet do they really think she should show her gratitude to the bully?
Though Sasagawa has gone, the women are still whispering to each other. Probably their next target is me. Hiro saw some memos written in English in my notebook though it was just my unconscious habit probably because of my former foreign company and my overseas work experiences, and asked Tomo what she thought about Japanese people who showed off their English language skill. “I hate them!” was Tomo’s answer. “On the train, I sometimes hear them using English words during their Japanese conversation just to look cooler. But in fact, they look so stupid!”
I remember some of my co-workers in ITCM. Because their first language isn’t Japanese though most of them are ethnically Japanese, they simply speak just like Tomo described.
I can’t sleep well these days. I picture Ryo’s hostile frown over and over again in my bed. The cold giggles of Hiro, Yasue and Tomo also invade my dream. It’s not a surprise that my throat has started to ache.
9th July 2019
The air is extremely warm and wet outside, but my soul is as cold and dry as a Tokyo winter. I decided to go to a local clinic because of my heavy cough. I waited outside the clinic’s small door with two other patients in the early morning to see the doctor as soon as it opened. I don’t wait outside doors so often. I think the last time I waited outside a door was over ten years ago, when my sister Keiko asked me to get a ‘lucky bag’ from a Lumine clothes shop during the New Year’s bargain sale.
It was still only nine-thirty when I left the clinic. I called the bachelor, though I had already sent an email to tell him about my medical consultation this morning. The woman who answered my call said that my managers were both in a meeting, so I asked her to give my message to them.
I arrived in the office in Yotsuya at 10 o’clock. I thought I had done a very good job getting there so early, but my bosses didn’t seem to think so.
“Why didn’t you call us at nine-thirty as our company rule says?” was the morning greeting from my line manager. I know this is his typical response to his sick workers. But when you are actually asked like this, it really gets on your nerves.
“I did. But you were in the meeting, so I left a message,” I said.
My manager then complained that he hadn’t received my message, so I ended up showing him my mobile phone to prove it. Just as I had expected, a clear distaste for my pink flip phone flickered in his eyes. The director was interested in my Garakei, though.
“You called the office administration number,” detected the line manager, pointing at my Garakei screen triumphantly. “Call our department phone number, OK? Why don’t you have it? Note it down right now.”
Though I had called the number which the bachelor had given to me, I meekly obeyed him.
Next, the bachelor appeared in the office to interrogate the poor sick worker.
“So, you went to the hospital this morning. We didn’t receive your call, though—”
What’s so calamitous about calling when my email had already been read? I’m too exhausted to talk. Can’t anyone say, “How are you feeling? How is your cough?” even though everyone has been hearing my terrible coughing since yesterday. Is showing kindness forbidden in this office?
“What was it then? What did your doctor say?”
I tried to interpret these questions into my language of “How are you?”, but the bachelor sounded like a professional interrogator determined to expose my lie. I don’t know if it’s his suspicious manner or voice, but I can tell when I’m not trusted.
As I said, I’m not strong. My chimp still needs more training to be controlled. The bachelor’s attitude instantly ignited my anger and reddened my face under the face mask. I dragged out my bag from under my desk and groped inside for a plastic bag. I deliberately made a big noise while doing this.
“The doctor examined my throat and asked some questions about my condition.”
I took out all the medicines from the plastic bag and spread them on my desk. Look, here are Exhibits A to Z for you!
“She said my throat is swollen, and because I have a runny nose and a cough, she gave me these cold medications and patch seals to help expand my upper respiratory system. These are for 5 days. Do you need to see the receipt as well? Here you are. And this is the description of the medicine, though the prescription has been given to the pharmacy—”
While saying this, my voice was shaking awfully. I didn’t know whether it was my stutter or my anger. “If you want to see it, I will ask the pharmacy for a copy of my prescription. They might ask for a fee, but you can have it. What else do you need?”
The bachelor narrowed his nasty eyes.
He said, “I don’t need anything. I just asked about your condition,” as if I was an insane woman who has over-reacted to such a simple question. He then left the office calmly, but my excitement didn’t subside for a while.
“I have never known a single company where I’m interrogated like a criminal for going to a clinic for my sickness,” I cried out to Yasue in the next seat. “I believe I’ve caught this cold from the person who has been coughing in my face the last few days. I went to the clinic because I wanted to get better soon. I was only an hour late. Am I a bad worker then?”
Yasue looked a little taken aback, as she had never heard me talking so much.
“Oh, it’s just their job, you know…” she mumbled. “They need to make sure where their workers are.”
“I did send a message to my manager and got his reply before I went to the clinic this morning. They knew where I was. Don’t try to fool me with that stupid excuse. They are just mean. I hear how our line manager harasses his workers who call in sick every day. That always makes me sick.” I can’t stop now. “How would you feel if you received that hostile response when you were in pain? Do they want to make their workers even sicker? They are certainly doing that to me. Now I feel my cough is getting worse. Do they want me to die, perhaps?”
I must have sounded so miserable that no one talked to me for the rest of the day. Even Namiko didn’t pick on me with the usual wording “corrections”. Just once she complained that the sound of me blowing my nose was too loud.
“I’m afraid that you’ll hurt your nose,” the supervisor tried to sound nice. But I just dismissed her, saying, “This is my way and I can’t change it. Sorry.”
I’ve finally decided to leave this company. And just the mere thought of leaving these people makes me feel a bit better.
12th July 2019
I came in the office early and found the bachelor at a desk in the director’s office alone. I shouldn’t miss this chance. As I knocked on the door, he moodily looked up at me who was still in a face mask.
“What’s the matter?”
This man would never ask me how my cough is. He thinks he is Luke Skywalker dealing with one of his droids, perhaps.
“I’ve been thinking about my role here and have decided to move on.” I got straight to the point. “Though I can learn many things from my tasks here and I appreciate this, I have realized that I should stick to my pursuit of English learning.”
“O…kay,” the bachelor put his pen on the desk. “Have a seat.”
He glanced at his black Jyuzu around his wrist, and looked back at me blankly. He wanted to listen to me more; that’s extremely rare.
“As I told you at my job interview, I really would like to keep learning English. I’ve seen many of my friends quickly forget their English after they came back to Japan. Losing the language would mean losing my friends all over the world. I do not want to lose them.”
I’m sometimes very impressed with my own creative, adlib speech. In fact, I have only a few friends in Australia who I still keep in touch with, and we write to each other only once in several months. But my manager wouldn’t know this.
“I must improve my English skills through my job. I need that motivation,” I added.
The bachelor somewhat impatiently nodded. “I understand. I was actually thinking of proposing another position to you.”
This is news.
“One of our clients might need a customer support worker who has high English skills. It’s a big car maker.”
“My English level is still low,” I quickly said, “that’s why I want to keep learning.”
But my manager wasn’t listening. Since he doesn’t speak English at all, I would be a highly-skilled English user to him even if I spoke Spanish.
“It’s still confidential, but if you are interested in—” the bachelor took out a sheet from the pile of files on the desk and handed it to me.
The sheet said that the company’s location was Shinagawa. The work hours were 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with about 10 hours of overtime per month. No. I wouldn’t make it to my ballet class. My decision was made in 3 seconds, but I couldn’t give this reason to him. If I declined the offer because of my stupid hobby, my manager would legally kill me for being unpatriotic. So I pretended to read through the details of the job description.
“Thank you so much for this offer. I really appreciate that you were thinking about my professional development,” I said sincerely. “…but I think I will find my next job myself. I would like to try a permanent position.”
Another big lie. I’m disgusted with my own lies, because the word “permanent” is in the top five words which I hate most.
“I see,” the bachelor received the sheet back from me. “You’ll become a permanent worker here after a year though…”
I didn’t answer him. I would need brain surgery to become like a droid if I had to stay here permanently.
The silence was followed by his next question. “So, when would you like to leave?”
It’s going so smoothly.
“Whenever the company decides. I will follow your direction,” I said.
“Hmm…I think you would need at least 30 days to prepare for the job change, right?” The bachelor turned the small calendar on the desk. His voice suddenly had this contemptuous tone for the poor drifter who would be looking for her next workplace. It must be my paranoia. I had this surge of temptation to tell him that I had already had some job offers from some companies. “So I don’t need any preparation time,” I wanted to say. But I’m not that type, unfortunately. Probably everyone somehow knows that I’m not the one who gives the resignation notice after securing her next job with higher salary and position.
The bachelor set the date as the 12th of August, and said he would give me some paperwork prior to my resignation. When I thanked him and left the room, my eyes met with Tomo’s. Her large eyes were full of curiosity, but she didn’t ask anything. I’m not going to tell those women about my last day for a while, because I’m afraid of what they might decide to do to me. I’m sure I’m a bit paranoid.
19th July 2019
My sister Rica jogs almost every day even under the scorching summer sun. She is like a horse. I always give a different answer when someone asks me what I do in my spare time. I think having a particular hobby indicates that you have a stable daily life. My life is going to change again. Probably, I can never have a single hobby I adhere to for years in my life.
No one yet knows that I’ve jumped out of the car that smoothly runs and chosen to tread the thorny road barefoot. I was walking along this road just four months ago. The long, dark, suffocating road called “joblessness”. I still remember the pain in my bleeding feet, but I have no regrets.
“Megu-chan, why did you add this notice to the customer’s reply yesterday? I told you we send it on Fridays, didn’t I?” Namiko was fussing about something this morning. It was a notification about our office closure at the weekends.
“Customers might want the information,” I explained to her. “Even if they receive our message on Thursday, they might have no time to reply to us immediately and might reply on the weekend when they have time.”
Telling our office hours to all our customers could cause them a problem?
“I told you that we add this sentence on Fridays only. It’s the rule, understand?”
“I understand. I’m sorry,” I apologized, feeling almost amused. “I’ll be careful next time.”
There may be many people who are also in this kind of ridiculous workplace in the world. But if your days are completely filled with those weird rules and you can learn nothing valuable, isn’t your life just pathetic?
Namiko hasn’t been informed about my resignation yet. I could tell that from her attitude towards me. Would she become sore at me when she hears the news? My time-travelling brain already has the answer to this question. Namiko would become milder to me because she wants me to go without a hassle. She might even be afraid of being seen as a bully who pushed her meek worker out.
However, I’m not yet a goner today. It’s Friday and I finished all my tasks by 6 p.m. as planned. When I was about to shut down my PC, Namiko’s head turned around.
“Megu-chan, I want you to write two more replies to these customers.” She looked triumphant for catching her fish that had nearly escaped. “It’s Friday, so we want this job done today. Replying to them next week would be too late.”
“Okay,” I glanced at the clock. Why didn’t she tell me this earlier?
I recalled the recruiters’ complaint in ITCM. They said they were like captives whose after-work plans were always being crushed by Karen’s spite. At that time, I thought it was a sad fact of life of being a hired worker. But now I’ve learned that it can make you feel murderous.
While I was writing the two emails, I checked the clock every 5 seconds. This would be the first time I would miss Friday’s ballet class since April. Come to think of it, it’s miraculous I had never missed a class in the past four months. It must have been God’s power helping me join the class once a week to keep me alive. But today, nothing seemed to be able to help me.
It was 6.40 p.m. when I left the office. Even though it would be impossible to make it to the 7 p.m. class, I still ran crazily towards Yotsuya station. “Excuse me!” I shouted, passing pedestrians on the street. “Sorry!” I slipped in the queue before the train ticket gate. The train ride between Yotsuya and Ogikubo was about 20 minutes. I kept glaring at the digital clock on the train’s TV screen without blinking. Though it could never affect the train speed, I arrogantly imagined that the train operator would see my urgent look through the hidden monitoring camera and speed up.
When the train passed Shinjuku, I finally looked out of the window. Huge silver clouds were slowly moving above the dense office buildings. They always calm me down. I must give up for today.
I checked in at Onami sports club at seven minutes past 7 and changed in the downstairs locker room. I was going to attend the yoga class at 8 anyway. I climbed the stairs up to the studio and miserably noted that the glass door had already been shut. I could see ballerinas dancing through the glass. When my eyes weakly fell on the locker-key band around my wrist, I heard the glass door opening.
The lady who always danced near the door seemed to have noticed me. “Why are you standing there? It’s OK. Come on in,” she urged.
“May I…?” I looked at her and Mr Kawai, who was walking over to us.
“Please, come in.”
As the instructor held the door for me, I flew in like a sparrow.
Later on, Kumiko would tell me that it was “an astonishing moment”. She would describe that the whole studio was stricken, because no one should have been allowed to enter the room even one second past 7. The balance of the elegant air in the class should have been preserved without a single intruder, she would explain.
“Didn’t you see other ladies’ shocked faces?” Kumiko would ask me about a month later. But to be honest, I was too exhilarated to notice things around me. I only saw Reiko’s smiling face.
“Good on you. I thought you couldn’t come tonight,” she said.
Reiko was the best dancer in the class. She always danced in front of me so that I could copy her beautiful movement.
Anyway, everyone was practicing the Londeh Jump at that time I intruded. The music was my favourite, so I remember it. Between the exercise, Mr Kawai talked about his ballet teacher when he was in his teens. He mentioned a very famous ballet dancer whose name seemed to be known by everyone in the studio except for me; his teacher and the famous dancer were good friends. And his teacher was very scary. The ballerinas smiled at his talk. Mr Kawai doesn’t usually talk between the bar exercise, but he was talkative that night.
After the class, I went to the instructor to say thanks for letting me in.
“About how many minutes can we actually be late?” I asked, to show my apology.
Mr Kawai mused, so I said, “about five minutes or so?”
“Yes, if it’s about five minutes…” was his answer.
Later on, until Kumiko told me that even being one second late is unacceptable in the ballet world, I didn’t realize how stupid my question was. Talking with Kumiko about that night, my brain time-travelled back to the scene and saw things differently.
The reason why our instructor talked so much that night was because he had seen some of his students looking upset by me the intruder. He tried to lighten the atmosphere with laughter. While Mr Kawai himself must have been trained in the disciplined field of ballet from his youth, he also wanted casual joiners like me to enjoy his class. So he hesitated to tell me not to be even one second late.
All of a sudden, I felt like crying.
24th July 2019
I told Uchida that my last day of work at RA would be 9th August.
“So, you’re really leaving,” she said as if I had made a premature decision.
My only friend in the company hadn’t expected my resignation so soon. “Until the end of the contract” or “when you complete the current project” would be the appropriate time for one’s resignation here. But I think this “appropriateness” has poisoned many people in Japan. It has sneakily implanted this invisible speaker in everyone’s head that keeps up a stream of comments like “You must not run away in the middle of a task and trouble your company.”, “You must not become a jobless loser.”
Well, I would rather become a loser than a slave of “appropriateness” like when I was in ITCM.
From the conversation among the managers and Yasue, I had learned the name of the long-haired, thin-faced telephone operator who watched YouTube videos at lunchtime. Kazu was her name. As I had chatted with her several times before, she seemed to be a hardworking, nice girl, so I didn’t know why she was often criticised so badly by the managers.
“Was that Kazu again? How many times has she made the same mistake?” the line manager was grumbling about her this afternoon.
Before long, Kazu was called and the lanky figure stood beside my desk in front of the line manager. As they talked, it turned out to be that actually the person who had made the mistake wasn’t her this time. It was her supervisor.
“Oh, it was her…” The line manager slightly curved the edge of his mouth. He wasn’t wearing a face mask anymore as his cough had stopped before mine.
Kazu’s supervisor was summoned. She was a chubby, cheerful middle-aged woman who often joked. She supervised Uchida too.
“It’s my mistake, I’m sorry!” The easy-going supervisor casually laughed with the line manager. “You know, it’s because of these lines—.” She gave some excuses and the line manager listened. I know the Natto man chooses who he wants to listen to.
During all the talk, Kazu was quietly standing beside my desk, smiling. Though no one apologized to her for calling her about the mistake which she hadn’t made, she never looked angry.
Despite that, the managers didn’t stop denouncing Kazu. After she had gone, Yasue restarted the talk.
“Can you imagine what Kazu said when I asked her about the meeting with someone from her agency the other day?” Yasue asked the bachelor. “She was like, ‘Someone from my agency coming? Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that,’ in her usual shy way.”
“Did she?” The bachelor formed his usual devil’s smile and started to write down her comment on the white board. ‘I didn’t know that: 知りませんでした。’
“’I didn’t know’ is a bad expression. We shouldn’t use such a negative sentence,” he declared.
I couldn’t help staring at the white board in perplexity. How on the earth could that sentence possibly be bad?
“No, we shouldn’t use the negative form.” Yasue totally agreed with the manager. She really knows how to lift her boss’s vicious spirit. “Using the affirmative form always improves one’s performance.”
Aha! It seemed like they had read a book about positive thinking.
“Yes, Statistics show that positive workers always say positive things,” nodded the bachelor.
They pick on Kazu for whatever she says. To be honest, I never trust people who always say positive things. Karen in ITCM kept telling her client that everything was all right when it wasn’t. Her workers’ suggestions and warnings were all stomped by her “positive thinking” heel. For me, the “positiveness”, which denies my chimp’s helpful negative thoughts, is the actual source of “negativity”. But of course, nobody cares for my opinion here.
27th July 2019
When Saki asked me if I was interested in the Okinawan Eisa (エイサー) festival, I was hesitant. I had zero fun news to share with her, and I was even worried that I had forgotten how to laugh. Saki knew about my dismissal from ITCM. She would ask how my new workplace was, believing that a good thing must come after a bad thing. It’s depressing. Yet I wanted to see Saki, who was afraid of coming to Shinjuku alone despite being able to travel to Norway by herself, because we hadn’t met for several months.
At 5 p.m., we met up on the west exit of JR Shinjuku station. Despite the notoriously crowded place, we found each other and set off for the evening streets.
“It’s been a while…since February? How are you?” I asked, feeling conscious of my stutter.
Thankfully, Saki had stocked up stories to share, so I soon focused on listening to her instead of worrying how my voice would come out. She had just signed up for a recovery course in a mental health clinic, she said. And she was already anxious about the future once she had completed the whole course.
“Even if I complete the course in two years, I don’t know if I can find a job and smoothly start a normal life—” she sighed.
I suddenly felt reproachful toward whoever had input her the definition of “a normal life”. Is her current life “abnormal” because she has a mental problem and doesn’t have a job?
As the sun was setting, the slightly cool breeze began fluttering the thin skirt of the girl walking ahead of us. Yet her boyfriend kept busily fanning his princess. Saki speeded up her walk and I followed her to pass the young couple.
Some people were also heading to the dance performance venue on the main avenue. Just after we arrived there and took a good viewing position, Eisa dancers appeared from nowhere. Passers-by stopped their walking at the sight of girls in yellow Yukata and Happi men with Taiko drums. The performance at once killed my expectation of the traditional taiko dance. It was energetic. The robust taiko sound and the thirty dancers chanting エイサー; the quick movement and the aesthetic formation. Saki and I repeated, “Wow, it’s cool!!” My friend then spotted the man who was holding a huge banner at the centre of the circle and said, “That guy’s role is very important, isn’t it?”
I began observing the banner holder, who simply moved his honourable flag up and down rhythmically. Compared to the other dancers who were stepping, jumping and spinning with dynamic arm movements, he seemed to have an understated role with both his hands occupied by the heavy banner.
“I think so. It must be the toughest role. Look at the size of the banner,” I agreed.
“It’s about eight metres long and 60 kg, it says,” Saki read out the festival brochure and gasped. “Oh my! He must be so strong!”
Drops of sweat were pouring from the banner guy’s face. It was 6 p.m., but the summer air was still warm; the dancers must be feeling very hot. I didn’t know why I suddenly found this very funny.
“He didn’t need to practice the dance, but he must have needed some intensive bodybuilding.”
I burst out laughing and Saki gave me a puzzled look. “Did I say anything funny?”
“Oh no, don’t worry,” I said, choking with laughter. “It sometimes happens to me. Once I feel something is funny, I can’t stop laughing.”
In fact, this is an annoying problem. My laughter. No matter how I try to think about other things, I keep thinking about the funny thing and it doesn’t go away for hours. Without knowing what had caused my laughter, my friend began laughing with me. It’s infectious. The other people in the audience began smiling, looking at us. More people joined the crowd to see what was so funny about the performance. Oh dear…
Saki misunderstood that the banner guy had made me laugh and she checked the timetable in the brochure for his next performance.
“No, I won’t laugh next time,” I explained, still grinning. “It’s not that he was particularly funny.” But I couldn’t tell her what was funny then. It’s like my stutter. I don’t always know when and why it happens. I might be a bit crazy. I fell from the top of a very high playground slide and hit my head when I was two, according to mum.
After laughing a lot, we went to a Thai restaurant for dinner. I was still in this funny mood, so I didn’t pity myself when I talked about my current workplace.
“The women in your office sound like bitches. And your managers!” Saki got really mad at them for me. It’s her characteristic: strong empathy like Rica’s. They probably hate Fred more than I do.
Since Saki is also a comic book fiend, she sometimes sees the world like a comic story. Hearing my no-fridge life, she dreamingly uttered, “I know you’re a real freak, but in comic books, the most popular guy gets interested in the most peculiar girl. And everyone gets surprised that he chooses the weirdest girl among many pretty, rich girls in the end.”
“That sounds like a story,” I chuckled.
But I admit that I momentarily imagined a scene of my ballet instructor choosing me over many pretty, rich girls. Soon I felt ashamed of this silly thought. What a girl my friend is! Only Saki could show me such a melodramatic vision.
We talked until the Thai restaurant closed at 10 p.m., so we missed the second performance of the banner holder. The streets were quiet and the air had finally become cool. I might not find the sight of the banner guy so amusing next time, but I was relieved that I still remembered how to laugh.