My last few months in Japan were pretty stressful, most of the stress coming from packing up my life. Somehow, despite having a tiny Japanese apartment, I had accumulated a lot of stuff. The process was so daunting in the beginning, when my coworkers asked me how I planned to go about it, I answered by saying I was going to just put all my things outside behind a bush somewhere, throw a blanket over it and run. They laughed, I laughed, and I internally promised myself I wouldn’t do that unless I got, like, super desperate.
I also joked that I would just set everything on fire, but I wouldn’t do that unless I got really, really desperate.
With a whole two weeks left before I moved out, I decided now was a pretty good time to start packing. In hindsight, I probably should have started sooner, but how was I supposed to know that at the time?
About 20% of it I kept and either mailed to America or stuffed into my suitcase. 30% was given away or taken to recycle shops, with the hope that I’d get some money back. I remember dropping off several boxes of clothes at a second hand shop, some of the clothing was new or barely worn. I got 150 yen back. That’s about 1 dollar and 50 cents. I will admit that was a teeny bit of a let down.
The rest of the stuff in my apartment was thrown away. It’s amazing how much stuff you own that is actually trash. Or maybe that’s just me. Disturbingly, I found a box in my closet full of old newspapers.
In the end, seven years of stuff was out of my apartment, one way or another. I ended up sending four medium size boxes via boat, and the rest into two suitcases and one carry-on bag. I weighed everything obsessively, determined not to pay any extra cash for overweight baggage. Everything else was either stuffed into the trash-cage outside my apartment or on display in some recycle shop. After it was all said and done, I realized something:
My apartment really wasn’t as small as I thought.
As the day of my departure approached, I felt pretty good about things. The Board of Education I worked for (thankfully) helped me with canceling my bills and told my apartment I was moving out. I packed and mailed all my things and arranged to stay at a friend’s place until I left. By the time the representative of the company I rented the apartment through came to give it a final check and make sure I didn’t really set everything on fire, I was pretty pleased with myself. Even though I needed help doing it, I still managed to move out of my apartment successfully. Pat on the back, me.
The lady who came to check out the apartment seemed satisfied, and now all that was left was for me to hand the keys over. I gave her my two keys, the main one and the spare. She smiled, thanked me, paused for a moment and the requested the third key.
There was no third key. There was never a third key.
She shook her head and pointed to her sheet of paper with all my apartment info that there were three keys. She needed all three keys or else she’ll charge me to replace it.
How much would that be?
There was a bit of back and forth, me insisting I only had the two, her insisting that the paper says three, so there’s three. My supervisor, who had come to, well, supervise the process, asked if I was really sure I didn’t have a third key hidden away somewhere. I racked my brain, certain I had only ever seen two keys. Had there been a third one? Did I throw it away? Did I hand it to a guest to use while they were staying with me and forgot to get it back? Did I eat it? Maybe I ate it.
Starting to worry that I was going to lose even more money because I couldn’t count, I vaguely began to remember when I first moved to my apartment, my supervisor at the time(I got a new one every year. They tell me it’s because Japanese companies move employees around to different positions every fiscal year, but I think it’s because I smell) offered to keep one of the keys just in case I lost the other two or he needed to get into my apartment while I was gone, in case I left the stove on or something. He didn’t have a lot of faith in me.
I told my current supervisor that my supervisor from four years ago probably has my third key, and I have no idea what he did with it. It was up to us to track it down. Oh the adventure we were gonna have. One last huzzah. The nice apartment lady gave us 24 hours to find it or else she’d need to charge me the money, and if this didn’t sound like the set-up of a wacky buddy movie full of hi-jinks and shenanigans, I didn’t know what did.
My supervisor didn’t quite see it that way, I guess, because when we got back to the BOE, he told me to sit at my desk quietly while he made phone calls. Unable to get a hold of my supervisor from four years ago, he started calling around to anyone that had previously worked in the office, hoping to find someone, anyone that would know the whereabouts of my key on the off chance it was still in the office.
Meanwhile, I was ready to spring into action and take this hunt on the road. What if my old supervisor had moved away and took my key with him? It was all so clear to me: a 24 hour road-trip across Hokkaido and back in search of my key, learning about ourselves and this land I had called my home for the past seven years, meeting wacky but lovable characters along the way, fights would happen, reconciliations, reflections, having a complete character arc, returning a better, more mature person, leaving a lasting mark on this country and its people as I finally say goodbye…
I could write a book. I could turn it into a movie. I could get Scarlett Johansson to play me.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. My supervisor got through to a woman that had worked in the office for several years and knew of a drawer where they kept “a lot of ALT stuff”. The fact that no one currently in the office knew of the drawer disturbed me. My supervisor, along with another co-worker, found the drawer and began to dig through it, commenting on all the things they didn’t know were in there. I decided it was better not to dwell on what else could have been in that mysterious drawer that might have potentially been useful to me during the past few years. Except I’m dwelling on it now. So. Darn.
After a moment, my supervisor cried out victoriously, and lifted an envelope with “Allie’s Key” written on it over his head while others applauded. He strode over to me, and, looking very proud, presented the key to me. He assured me he’d get the key to the apartment lady ASAP and I would keep my money. He did it. We did it.
Relieved, I thanked him, but secretly I mourned the loss of my movie deal.
Some things just aren’t meant to be.
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