by Jeanne Hedge

Dear Mom,

Well, I'm finally here! I know you didn't want me to accept this transfer, but it isn't often you get the chance to single-handedly open a branch office in another country. Believe me, it'll do my career a lot more good to be here in Tokyo instead of hanging around the office in Philadelphia.

I've leased office space on the second floor of a two story building near downtown. There's a lot of other offices and small companies in the area, so I should be able to drum up some business with them. There's one place, right across the street, that has a really eclectic mix -- everything from restaurants to a lingerie shop. I think there may even be apartments for rent - I need to check that out soon because living in a hotel is going to stress my expense account!

Anyway, the rental place is supposed to deliver my office equipment in a few minutes, so I'd better wrap this up. I'll try to call once in a while, but it's easier to get a net connection set up than a telephone line, which is kind of strange but that's the way it is.

Dear Mom,

Still no luck with the apartment hunt. The places I've been seem reluctant to rent to foreigners - kind of weird when you consider the number of blonde people named Smith I've run into. But they all seem to be native, believe it or not, and I'm not, and that's that as far as a lot of landlords are concerned. I thought that attitude had gone away last century!

Turns out that the building across the street (called Ladys 633, and I have no idea why - but the Japanese seem to like to do weird things to the English language... just like we do weird things to every other language) doesn't have apartments after all. The bottom 2-3 floors are leased for business, and I hear the owner lives in a penthouse apartment at the top of the building's tower (a round thing - looks like a lipstick tube), but no one knows what's in between other than it's not apartments. But I've only been looking for a month now, so I'm sure things will be fine.

Most of the people I've met are friendly and willing to lend a hand. Which is why Mrs. Yomura from the kissaten on the corner introduced me to Mrs. Smith (yes, she's blonde) from the fish market, who introduced me to her daughter, who is an office lady for a realty firm, and I'm going to be looking at condos tomorrow.

Dear Mom,

I don't know where you got the idea, but a kissaten has nothing to do with kissing ten-year-olds! And no, Mrs. Smith doesn't have a son my age. She's got to be 70 years old herself, for heaven's sake!

And no, I'm not worried about those 'robots' running wild in the streets (they call them 'boomers' here). Mrs. Kawasaki (a friend of Mrs. Yomura) told me that over a year ago one of them came charging through this area, and even tore up the lingerie shop across the street, but it's been pretty unexciting ever since. So I'm perfectly safe living in the back room of the office. It's actually quite comfortable, if a little crowded.

Not too quiet though - there are cars and trucks and motorcycles going in and out of Ladys633 at all hours of the night, and it seems like the lights in the penthouse are always on. Maybe the owner likes parties?

Dear Mom,

Everything's fine! I don't live anywhere near the police building that those terrorists took over, so don't worry. Tokyo isn't any more unsafe than any other big city.

I have noticed something sorta odd -- I told you about all the cars and trucks and stuff going in and out of Ladys633 at all hours? Well, that sort of thing isn't every night, but it is every night that there's some sort of trouble. I wonder if that and the owner's late night parties are related?

Anyway, I met the nicest young man the other day. He works at the lingerie shop across the street, and he couldn't have been more helpful! He was even going to personally escort me to the dressing room to try some things on, but a woman, apparently his sister, came out of the back and shoo-ed him away. He looked so disappointed.

Did I mention that he couldn't be more than 16? So don't you start getting ideas!

Dear Mom,

Ever since they boarded up Ladys633 (renovations, I hear), things have quieted down at night, so don't worry about me getting my sleep. I heard that a lot of the tenants were upset to have their business shut down on such short notice, but Mrs. Yomura said that Mr. Gonsalves (and before you ask, he's Japanese and is already married) told her that the owner paid all the tenants for their trouble while the building's being remodeled.

But anyway, things may be quiet at night, but they're sure noisy in the day time. Whatever remodeling is being done, they're using some heavy machinery to do it. Remember when Uncle Jim took us on that tour of his plant? The other day they brought in a couple pieces of equipment that looked just like those big electrical transformers, except smaller, and another that looked like part of the electric generator! I haven't seen them in a few days, though - I wonder if Tokyo Gas & Electric is building a power plant in the basement! (ha ha)

Business is going fairly well - I'm making a presentation to a group of hotel owners next week. Still no good news on the apartment front, but that's ok - since I'm literally living at the office I'm getting a lot of paperwork done in the evenings and am able to take time off to play tourist when it's a nice day out.

Dear Mom,

I saw the strangest thing the other night -- I was out in the office, just about to 'go home' for the night, when all of a sudden the 633 building across the street lit up like someone'd put a spotlight on it! At first I thought that maybe it was some sort of late night lighting test (they're supposed to reopen the building next week), but then the weird part happened -- it looked like this airplane came out of the top of the tower! And right after the plane flew off all the spotlights went out! And then it all happened again a couple hours later, when the plane came back!

Surely I'm imagining things -- it must have been some sort of optical illusion. Airplanes just don't come out of the tops of buildings, after all.

Dear Mom,

They finally finished work on the 633 building, and they had a big re-opening party at Silky Doll the other day -- that's the lingerie shop. Ms. Stingray, the lady that owns Silky Doll (I think I told you about her cute little brother -- I hear he's gone to Europe for school -- the lingerie business must pay very well!), invited everyone in the neighborhood.

I asked some of the neighbors about the weird lights and the airplane (I've seen it 2 or 3 times now), but no one said they knew anything about it. I don't know if that's just the famous Japanese minding their own business, or if they really don't know anything. None of them make their homes around here, after all. But anyway, Mrs. Yomura and Mrs. Kawasaki looked at me like I'd gone mad, and Mrs. Gonsalves (she's not Japanese, btw - she's Sino-Russian ) muttered something about needing a man to keep me busy.

I even asked Ms. Stingray if the building owner was around so I could ask him, and when I told her what about she got this funny look on her face and then said that the owner wasn't around but she'd heard he was rich so maybe I saw his private plane or something. Seems reasonable, I guess, but you'd think even rich people would have to use the airport!

Dear Mom,

Great news! I got an apartment!

This guy from Mrs. Smith's daughter's company called me out of the blue and wanted to know if I was still looking for a place to live -- something had just come on the market and he thought I might be interested (strange -- when we talked a couple days ago at Ms. Stingray's party, nothing was available). It's on the other side of town, but it's perfect for me (a quiet neighborhood! YES!).

And to make matters better, I've just signed ten new clients (who knew people would like rutabagas so much?), which will keep me so busy I'm not going to know which way is up. And office space just opened up in a building 2 blocks away from the new place, and home office said they have no problem with me moving the branch office there!

So I won't be writing for a while while I'm moving. Ms. Stingray (yes mother, I agree - a lot of Japanese people around here have unusual names) has offered the use of her company's van, and some of her friends are going to help. You'd almost think they couldn't wait to get me away from there!

I'll talk with you soon, and don't worry any more. Things are really looking up now : )

Your loving daughter,


Author's Notes:

This was written because I was semi-dared to write a story made up of diary entries from someone who lived in Sylia's building, reporting on all the strange things going on (and a continual feeling of being spied on). Well, this didn't quite turn out that way, but it's close enough. It became a series of e-mails to someone's mother because it was originally released on Mother's Day 1999.

(I wonder if Sylia would have moved so quickly to get her unwanted observer out of there had she lived in 633. Perhaps the observer might have met with a small accident instead? But that's for another story...)

If you're wondering, these aren't messages to my mother. Although the letters are signed "Me", that isn't necessarily me. I know someone who signs her mail to friends that way. But there's also this to consider -- in Japanese, the word 'me' means 'eye'. An interesting way to sign letters from an 'eye'witness, eh: )

As always, any questions or comments will be gladly received.