Il destino. Destiny.
Some things are meant to be. Some people are meant to meet.
Gina and I were in the same place at the same time countless times throughout our childhood, despite living quite a distance from each other. I’ll write about that some other time. Today, a day before a very special day, I want to write about the day we met.
Just over 23 years ago, I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to meet my destiny as I wandered around an old building in a language institute in Birmingham.
I was lost, looking for the Japanese class that I had enrolled in for reasons that even I couldn’t explain to myself, let alone anyone else at the time. It was uncharacteristic of me to do anything like that, but I felt compelled to do it regardless. Actually, to say it was uncharacteristic is an understatement; I was a stroppy, arrogant, foul mouthed and angry young man who had just returned from a solitary and painful two year exile in Japan. I hated life, I hated people and I really couldn’t see the point in doing anything.
I remember finding the room where my class was supposed to be and pushing the large old door open, popping my head into the room and saying “Is this the Jap’nese class?” and no, ‘Jap’nese’ is not a typo. That was when I saw Gina for the first time and my life changed forever. Gina was sitting at a desk 15 feet from where I was and, exactly like a movie special effect, the room blurred and zoomed away while Gina appeared to zoom towards me. Time slowed, sound disappeared, my heart and breathing stopped, all of the pain, anger and hatred I had carried for years disappeared as I looked on her beautiful face and saw into her eyes. That moment has stayed with me and I still remember it now, as if it happened just a moment ago.
When I came back down to earth I shook it off. I didn’t want to inflict the emotional baggage I carried on anyone else so I instinctively tried to erase the experience and found myself a place to sit, readying myself for the lesson.
Throughout the next hour I did everything I could to not look at Gina and concentrate on the class but when it was time for a break, it was Gina who sat with me in the cafeteria and whilst others wanted to join the conversation, we sat closely and talked as if we had known each other for years. I was happy for the first time that I could remember and all the walls I had built up over the years just came down for a little while as Gina asked about me and told me about her interest in Japanese art, her love for music, for history, for everything in life. I thought that she was such a contrast to me and I just couldn’t believe how well we were getting on. I didn’t say much, I mostly listened to her voice, which was and is like music to me, and watched her smile more brightly than any smile I’d ever seen before. When we went back to the class, I couldn’t concentrate again. Gina was nearby and I wanted to hear her talk of her life again.
At the end of the class, the room emptied, leaving me alone with my thoughts as I deliberately sat there for a while to give me distance from Gina and everyone else as the building emptied of students and teachers. I reminded myself that I didn’t want to be involved with anyone, it was madness, I had too much emotional baggage for anyone to bear and I remember feeling relieved that I had come to my senses. Anyway, she might not even be interested in me, I reasoned. Entertaining the idea of any other life dissolved and I got up and slowly left the room.
As I headed for the stairs, an urge came over me. I began to run and leapt down the flights of stairs, jumping five or six steps at a time, I rushed out of the building’s foyer and practically flew out of the front door. I stood there in the cold night air and looked left and right as if I were looking for somebody and I remember feeling disappointed. The street was completely empty. I still remember thinking, “What the hell was all that about?!”
Anyway, I headed to the bus stop and remembered feeling so alive as I smiled to myself, remembering the lovely conversation I had with Gina during the break. As I came around the corner to go into the bus stop, there was Gina with her Grandmother and I was greeted with that beautiful smile again. I smiled back and we started chatting again.
Over the course of the next 3 weeks, Gina and myself spent a lot of time talking, at the language class, at her college where I went to visit her, on the phone and then, exactly 23 years ago tomorrow, in Birmingham city centre on New Street and Corporations Street where we went to various shops together, just hanging out and talking before we went to her house and she introduced me to her family. That was November 29th 1986 and it was the first official day of our new life, although to me, that whole November was our first date and I will treasure it forever.
There is a funny thing, the moment I met Gina I knew she would write books and I knew they would be works that would make a difference to the world. I told her this before we even started dating. I never stopped believing this, to me it has always been a matter of fact and that one day it would happen, regardless of anything else in life. I have never put pressure on Gina about this either, she has just always accepted that I hold this unshakable belief in her. Now, her groundbreaking works on Utamaro will help scholars and connoisseurs for many generations to come and her first novel, let alone forthcoming novels, is not only fabulous, it has helped to heal wounds inflicted on us and many, many other people who have suffered from harassment and abuse, doing so with humour and grace, as well as bringing humour to many other people’s lives too. All I can say is, “I told you so.” Haaaa!
I’m posting this blog a day early because tomorrow I just want to spend the day celebrating, watching DVDs, playing games, having pizza and being here, in our special home, with Gina.
Happy anniversary my love, I love you more every day and I still can’t find the words to tell you how much I love you.
Causes Ryoma Collia-Suzuki Supports
World Wildlife Fund
British Heart Foundation