When I first moved out of home I lived in a share house with a lot of interesting people. After a while I cultivated a very itchy rash on my wrist, which spread to my armpit. I also had a very bad flu so I went to the doctor.
He looked at the rash first and instantly recoiled in horror and washed his hands in the sink. Then he put on rubber gloves.
‘You have scabies,’ said the doctor. ‘Do you live in a dirty house with a lot of people?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
Then I asked him about my flu and started telling him about something one of my housemates had told me about. A herb that is good for curing the flu.
‘I think it’s called Euthanasia,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ the doctor said. ‘Sounds like a very good idea.’
Youth in Asia
I was born in Japan in 1970 so from then on I was constantly thinking about my own youth in Asia. I made stuff up. I always believed that we had lived in the shadow of Hiroshima (which in reality was actually a tiny flat quite close to Tokyo General Hospital). My brother and sister attended a local school and were taught by the nuns to speak perfect English with a Japanese accent.
We ate what the local Japanese people ate.
It was food for thought. Did I somehow ingest radioactive isotopes at my mother’s breast trapped forever in the milk or radioactive material trapped in the first solid foods and watered down beer my father put in my bottle to make me sleep?
It would have been in the water. It was in the air. It is still in the fish.
‘Oh my god. Am I radioactive?’ I would fret to myself in 1985, all safe and warm on a beanbag in Ashburton watching Countdown on TV, tearing sheets of nori into squares and sticking them onto my fingers and thumbs with saliva and then licking them off one by one like a lizard.
There were rules when you ate with my grandmother.
‘Get your elbows off my table,’ she would say. ‘Hold your knife in your other hand, that’s the wrong hand,’ she would say.
She would spit on her fingers or a tea towel or fish out an old tissue from her pocket and wipe the stains off my face aggressively like she was washing a spot off a car window or rubbing something out from history altogether.