Photogenic student life
Maya and I were sitting at the outside table of a campus cafe one afternoon with Shuji, who had studied at Waseda the previous year. I was facing Maya when Shuji was distracted by someone. Maya leaned into me amid a conversation and said, “The boy Shuji is talking to is incredibly cute.” I slowly turned my head, and there he was, squatting to meet with Shuji at his eye level. He was, indeed, Maya-approved-looking. A white boy but not a blond, blue-eyed, overly masculine quarterback type. He was of average height, slim, brown hair, brown eyes, long eyelashes, and rosy cheeks. His bright green t-shirt and jeans fitted to his lean body, not baggy like other boys wore in California. He had a look of an indie band or something of an artistic sort. Of course, Maya would approve that. I turned back to her and mouthed, WOW.
Shuji introduced him to be his housemate, Mark. After cordially shaking hands with me, Mark told us that Shuji and he wanted to have a Japanese cuisine night at their house. Maya and I were delighted with the idea. They lived in a house by the campus, a short walking distance from my dorm. Shuji, Maya, and I cooked tempura and udon, and we ate and drank beer in their living room. Mark was an art history major and went to an art school besides Oxy. I had not met anyone remotely artistic after that film circle.
It was exciting to finally befriend someone outside my circle, which was a group of international students. I was finding it hard to make friends with local students except for the kind-hearted Clare. Whenever I happened to strike a conversation with someone, it didn’t go beyond fulfilling their cultural curiosity. In a group setting, others would jump from one topic of interest to another so quickly that I always missed the chance to chime in. But Mark slowed down for me and asked me questions, then paid attention to what I said. I didn’t realize I could speak English so well. The conversation flowed smoothly, and we laughed and even had a casual banter. At Shuji and Mark’s that evening, I was living a photo-worthy life I imagined from the study abroad program. Younger students at Waseda would see us mingling and having fun and hope for the same experience the following year.