Mr. Yoshida (not really his name) lives two doors down from us. I see him at least once a day. Sometimes I pass him at 7:30am, as I whisk Young Sir off to to first grade on the back of my bicycle. Other days it is 9:30 am, walking Little Prince to the kindergarten bus stop. But it could be any time of day or night, really. I see him in the elevator, waiting for the elevator, in the building courtyard, walking back from the convenience store downstairs.
Once, several years ago in the elevator, he asked me where I was from, then mentioned that he once lived in Los Angeles for work, a very long time ago. It was the only conversation, apart from the daily salutations, that we’ve ever had. He smelled like sake that day in the elevator. He was drunk. Mr. Yoshida is always drunk. Even at 7:30 in the morning.
He doesn’t even try to hide it. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw him without a tall can of strong chu-hi in one hand. He is a skinny guy, in his 60s or 70s; I would guess he is retired. Especially given the amount of free time he seems to have. He wears jeans and casual, un-ironed shirts. He has a family, I think- though I don’t see them as often, and a pretty sign next to his door displaying the family name. But he is always alone. Mr. Yoshida keeps to himself.
When I passed him today as I walked through the courtyard to go pick up my kids, his slouched silhouette lingered in my mind longer than usual. I began to entertain the slightest resentment against this man who never bothers anyone. Or you could call it envy, even.
I mean, how unfair it is that my family is basically public enemy #1 in our apartment building , and yet Yoshida over there is the a model tenant. A bit of background info: My 7-year-old son (Young Sir) is autistic and my 4-year-old son (Little Prince) is suspected autistic as well (set to be evaluated at the end of the month). While I find them perfect just the way they are, the neighbors find them loud and disruptive. And they are, in truth. They are. We are basically being forced out of our building (a happy story for another day) but won’t have to move until next year.
So I found myself resenting my neighbor. I mean, I work my ass off trying to keep my kids from killing each other every day, and yet I am hated, because the volume of our survival is high. And yet Yoshida, there he is every morning, slowly killing himself with chu-hi. Yet he is not detested the way we are, because his madness is of the quiet variety. Because he suffers in silence.
Luckily, those feelings of mine didn’t last. It only took a few more moments for me to- how should I say- get the fuck over myself. Yes, that. Because I mean, my family is loud and we have our challenges, but we putter along in life. We live through the meltdowns. We love fiercely and and thrive unapologetically. When we officially get kicked out next year, we will move into even better digs.
But Mr. Yoshida, just a couple doors down, his t-shirts seem to be slipping off his bony shoulders more and more. When I try to look him in the eye, his eyes are barely open. Mr. Yoshida might be dying.
And there’s really nothing any of us can do about it. I thought of sliding some AA literature under his door, but then again, I’ve never heard of anyone recovering from addiction because an anonymous stranger passed him a pamphlet. It would surely be a lot more complicated than that. And here in Japan, where it is less stigmatized to die of alcohol poisoning than to go into rehab and live, it’s hard to know where to start.