As she kissed my cheek and hugged me, I could feel my shoulder growing damp. I held her tighter and tighter until she finally wiped her scarlet eyes on my shirt collar and stepped behind the bright yellow line. She was smiling wider than ever. The last words she said as I crossed the gate were muffled by my carry on setting off an alarm. A stout TSA officer pointing to two brick shaped packages in my bag asked me, “What are these? Are these bars of soap?” The lack of bass in his nasally voice irritated me. How could someone so meager interrupt my mothers heartfelt good-bye. “You know a ni**a gotta stay clean, get your hands out my bag bruh,” –is what I imagined I would’ve said if my flight didn’t depart within the hour. Maybe it was the Brooklyn in me, displaying a final act of defiance in the face of (unwarranted) bureaucratic questioning. Or maybe it was the Migos album that I had listened to on the car ride over. Whatever it was doesn’t actually matter I guess because during all my daydreaming he asked me again, “Is this soap Mr. Wilson?” To which I responded, “yes, green tea infused.”
Now here I am, eating green tea ice cream thousands of feet in the air while a Japanese woman reminisces about her exchange program in Canada. I’m just a regular college student; nothing more, nothing less. We exchange names and after a few beers exchange numbers. She tells me where she works and hopes that I will see her. I won’t, but I nod and leave the plane with her and her friend while they giggle into their immaculately knit scarves. I bend down to pretend to tie my shoe, watching the two girls dissipate into the sea of other Nihonjin waiting for their luggage. A blonde girl picks up my bag mistaking it for hers and she’s shocked when I tell her that she is mistaken. She apologizes profusely, but I simply nod and walk towards the exit. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Finally I’m here (Tokyo). Just got to get to Kyoto. I asked the women behind the information desk where the ATM is and I’m almost positive they wet themselves judging by the face they made when I spoke Japanese. At first I thought: “you should hear the rest of my class,” but then I realized it was less a foreigner thing and more a race thing. Once she gathered her bearings she pointed north and told me there would be one by the exit. As I’m walking there I can see a see a fleet of taxis lined outside through a series of windowed doors. I start to imagine the crispness of the hotel sheets, and while I punch in my pin number my eyes start to grow heavy. It’s been 43 hours without good sleep and my body is in serious need of a… [6,554 yen is your current balance, the minimum for withdrawal is 10,000yen].
Fuck outta here.
My fingers grew numb and I stared at the message for at least ten minutes before it fully sank in. I find another ATM, same minimum. Another, same minimum. I text my family to deposit money but it’s 3:00am in the states, and after an hour of futile texts and emails, I realize I am a mile up shits creek without a paddle.
As I walk over to a bench that I supposed would be my bed for the night, two Japanese dimes (yes, straight dimes) pass me. While I can feel their eyes boring into the profile of my face, I was more concerned about not getting Taken Liam Neeson style while I slept. However they stopped by the entrance, and stood there whispering to each other. I could only catch pieces of their conversations, but I was positive that they were talking about someone named Bobby? When the woman eventually pointed at me I realized three things instantaneously.
1. These girls had just come from some sort of party, and they were drunk. She had a Bombay gin bottle that was half empty in the hand that she pointed with, and a pack of Lucky Strikes were clutched in her left.
2. They thought I was Bobby Shmurda, the freshly locked up rapper from Brooklyn who has the hit song that has played in every club with a DJ. When her friend said “Shmoney,” I knew I couldn’t be wrong.
3. If I have anyway of getting to my hotel tonight, I would need to be Bobby Shmurda. I was once mistaken for him in Montreal, but in my frustration I passed it off as racism. But I wouldn’t let this golden chance pass me again. If these girls thought I was Usian Bolt I would instantly sprint, and if they thought I was MJ I would moon walk. I would be whoever they wanted me to be, because when their friends showed up with Dom Perignon bottles gripped in manicured hands with icy wrists, I knew I was finna get home. The Brooklyn Boy had to be on point, and Oh boy was I.
After a wink and a nonchalant nod, I opened my phone and scrolled through my messages. Nothing I haven’t already seen but they could have never guessed. After the girls started wailing and explaining the situation to their companions it didn’t take long for them to approach me. They came over en masse and asked: “Bobby Shmurda か おまえ,” which roughly translated to Jackpot! With a smile and another nod I swipe the Bombay bottle from her hand and chug enough to put hair on your favorite superheros chest. With Bombay in hand I start shmoney dancing, and within seconds they all start dancing with me. One of the guys even starts to playing the song from his phone and it isn’t long before airport security asks us to leave the building. After a few choice words directed at the kind employee they make their way to the door and say ( a phrase I will never forget in all my years) in broken english: “Let’s go Shmurda san.”
We walk outside and when we are done laughing and finish our cigs, they ask about my plans for the night. While I’m about to spew some BS story about how I need to take a cab to Kyoto but my manager gave me the wrong credit card, A black limo pulls up in front of us. “I’m tryna party bros, let’s dip.”
They all cheer and hand me a bottle of Dom Peri and ask their driver to take care of my bags. While we are getting into the limousine they keep repeating my penultimate phrase with new additions. “I’m trying to party bros crazy hard,” “Lets party dip bros…” When I sit down on the plushest of leather seats I realized that ten minutes ago I was going to sleep on a bench in an airport.
The club we showed up at was lit! When we entered we skipped the entire line. I don’t know if it was because we all stepped out of a limo with bottles already in hand, or because he told the bouncer I was a famous rapper. While most of the club remains a blur, I do remember taking photos with at least 30 people while borrowing Mr. Shmurda’s identity. Sadly those thirty people would return home with a picture of a black guy who looks nothing like the google images they are bound to find.
When I came to I was in the same limo, but this time alone. My phone had 11 new contacts and my sweater was missing. When I sat up, the driver looked back and said, “your luggage is in the trunk, we’ll be in Kyoto soon.” When I started patting my body looking for my wallet he told me that my trip had already been paid for.
I rolled down the window and stared in awe at the full moon shining over the dimly lit city. “So I hear you rap?” the driver asked. To which I replied “Yeah, lets listen to my tracks.”