I came back to work hoping things would improve in my life in Germany. I was driving to work now and wanted to explore the city and beyond in my car if I ever got brave enough. I wanted to make friends, too, so I joined a social media group of Japanese/Japanese-speaking people in the city. Also, I signed up for a salsa lesson in a nearby community center. But more than anything, I wished the relationships at work would improve.
My effort to stay loyal to the men in HQ proved to be detrimental to developing rapport with my new colleagues. But to gain their trust, I had to improve my relationship with Mr. N first because my success depended on his trust in my work. We had ended the previous year with a spat, which had expanded the distance between us. At the start of the new year, I mostly put on a serious manner so that I didn’t encourage too intimate behavior, but I had to also act friendly from time to time to lighten up the air between us. It seemed to be working for a while until he called me in his office one winter day.
Mr. N’s daughters were older than me and had lived in Japan. His wife lived with him in Germany but would spend a few winter months in Japan. When I walked in, Mr. N was standing up, straightening and sorting out the piles of documents on his desk. He casually started telling me that his wife had left for Japan, so now he could spend the coming weekend with me. The way he said it contained a sense of claim as if he assumed I also wished to spend my free time with him. There was nothing suggestive in his voice or facial expression, the former soft and the latter neutral. So I also casually told him I already had a plan, though I had not. Then, he stopped what he was doing, and subtly but surely, his eyes darkened as he glared at me, and his voice deepened.
“Are you rejecting me?” He said after a long pause.
“I am sorry,” I replied, now mirroring his serious tone.
“How dare you decline an offer from your superior.”
He didn’t look angry but sounded incredulous about what he had just heard. My reflex made me put on an apologetic smile. Then, he looked down and resumed shuffling papers on his desk, now more vigorously than before.
“It that your attitude? I get it.”
I apologized again, meekly, and walked out of his office as quickly as I could before he said anything further. I returned to my desk and sat down. I replayed the conversation from a minute ago. I did the right thing, I knew, but I also couldn’t help but acknowledge that Mr. N and Mr. Aoyama would have spent weekends together naturally, whether for a round of golf or a drink. But I thought, I would have agreed to Mr. N, though, if he had never touched me before.