Study of art
The study abroad program entered into the second half, and I had to choose the classes again. I envied others for knowing what they wanted to study with confidence. I wanted as awakening an experience as the gender studies class. I attended Sociology 101, withdrawing immediately after the first class. I went to consult with the international program director. We sat down to go through the list of classes together. She was briefly needed by someone, and when I kept staring at the brochure alone, I came across “History of Japanese Arts.” My heart was strongly attracted to it, while my head reprimanded me for taking an easy path. Why should I study the history of my country in the US? Because it is art history! I never get to learn art when I return! I rebuffed my own voice. I communicated my desire to the director when she came back to her desk. I half-expected her to question my choice, but she was enthusiastic either about my making a decision or finally getting rid of me from her busy day.
I had missed the first class because of my late entry. I went into the classroom and sat in the front row because the back seats and corner seats had already been taken. I was feeling a little uncomfortable, and then Mark entered with two other guys. I had known the other two. One was Micky, a student from England, and the other was Gary, who had a campus job and cleaned the hallway of my dorm. As soon as Mark spotted me, he sat next to me and greeted me friendly. I had not seen him since the Japanese dinner night a few months before. The other guys also sat down in the front row next to Mark.
The professor gave us the first assignment. She showed us two statues in the textbook and asked us to write an essay about them without touching the history behind them. I was familiar with both of the statues. One was of Kukai, a Buddhist monk of the 9th century, and the other was of Chogen, another monk of the 12th century. With no training in art appreciation, I didn’t quite understand what was expected from the essay. After the class, Mark asked me how I liked the class, so I told him I didn’t understand the essay question. He offered to help me and told me I could come to his place later to discuss it.
In the evening, I walked to his (and Shuji’s) apartment with the textbook. Mark looked surprised to see me. Suspecting he had forgotten about his offer, I was embarrassed to have taken his polite gesture seriously. Yet we sat on the living room sofa side by side, and he explained to me that I could write about the aesthetic difference of the two, an example being that one’s robe had deeper creases than the other. As he was talking, I was very conscious of how close he sat beside me. My sense of personal space had been compromised already as I often had to be in close contact with strangers on Tokyo subway trains, but I wondered if Mark was naturally carefree about physical boundaries. In the US, people hugged each other as a sign of affection to the extent that the aversion of physical contact meant unfriendliness. I found Mark extremely friendly, so our touching thighs should be considered welcoming?
I thanked Mark for his help and wrote an essay the best I could. I received C, but I consoled myself that it was my introduction to art studies.