Yoko started our class a little later than the rest of us, but she fit in right away with her cute dimples and her wonderful sense of humor, which she shared with another Japenese girl in our class. Both of them were also married to Frenchmen.
Yoko met her husband while on vacation to Paris. After she returned to Japan he kept phoning her and after several trips back and forth they married. They spoke a mixture of French, English and Japanese at home, neither being fluent in the other’s language. I wondered just how much they could communicate. He worked in a hotel and she wanted and needed a job as things were tight financially, but needed to speak French in order to get one. She had so much trouble with pronouncing anything with an s sound in it, like the word Monseur.
Angela would get Yoko to look at her mouth and say “sssss”.
Yoko would repeat, “shhhhh.”
Angela did it every day. Finally, we had a Professor Higgins break though and she said, “Monseur!” with an sss sound. After that everytime she was called on for something she answered with, “Monseur!”
We each had to give a talk, in French of course, about our country. When it came time for hers she had drawn some very incredible cartoons to go with her talk. She was very talented. We also found out that she was an organist.
Her talk was on a group of young people in Japan’s capital who spent lots of time in tanning booths to be very tan, wore yellow lipstick and yellow eyeshadow and dyed their hair blond. They were on the cutting edge of fashion with the girls wearing short skirts and very thick soles on their shoes. I wondered how they made a living and asked. Yoko sat there for a minute trying to think of the French word for prostitute and failing made a circle with her hand and did the up and down international movement for hand job. Our class started howling. We all understood exactly what she meant.
One day we were listening to Angela with vaying degrees of attention when Yoko suddenly violently shivered and made some sort of remark in Japanese to the other Japanese girl asking her if she felt the devil come in. I guess it was sort of like a ghost walking over her grave. She seemed genuinely upset so I did a little Catholic cross over her but she said no, it had to be the Japanese thing with hands together moved up and down rapidly in front of her face while making little bows with her body.
She decided we had to go to a Japanese restaurant after class. She took us to a place that involved a long metro ride. The restaurant itself was one of those very plain, basic places with no ambience to speak of. They were happy to seat the ten of us. We had a variety of sushi, or tempura for the less adventurous of us. We were also slamming back the saki.
“Does anyone here remember the Sukiaki Song?”I asked
For some reason that tune entered my head from my teenage years and I started humming it.
Everyone else knew it at our table and at first several of us started humming-Yoko, Mary and I. Then the others joined in and soon with were doing it with loud la la la’s. I couldn’t remember the words except for the last line that went: “You took my love and now your’e gone.”
Then Yoko said, “I can sing it in Japanese!” and did, joined in by Mary where we all first got to hear her really great voice. She raised her arm at the end like a singer on stage. At the end the staff in the restaurant along with some other people eating in the restaurant applauded us. It was a fun, rather extraordinary, moment. Followed by a long nap at home.
One day Victoria and I were at lunch with Mary and Yoko and they started asking us a lot of questions about having babies.
Mary asked, “Once you have a baby, do you still want to have sex?”
“Sure. You don’t loose the desire.” We didn’t tell them that you were often so exhausted with a new baby that the last thing you wanted was sex.
Yoko was usually all smiles with her dimples but she turned very serious and asked if you could have a baby after an abortion. Her eyes filled with tears and she told us that four years earlier she had had an abortion and someday she and her husband wanted a baby, if their finances ever improved, and she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to. I told her that an abortion shouldn’t affect her chances. I felt so sad for her that she had this worry underneath her happy face.