Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Cigarette

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

Cigarette

Article excerpt

Watanabe stares at his fingers curled round the steering wheel. Other teachers see him in the car park as they arrive. Perhaps he's planning the day's lessons or waiting for the end of the news. But when he isn't in the staff room 30 minutes later they go back and there he is, staring through the windscreen. Seeing nothing. When they knock on his window he says he's fine, grabs his collapsed briefcase and heads for the office.

Perhaps the hacking cough will be eased by a cigarette. Morning Staff Meeting has finished early. He can get down to the ground floor, slip on his Outside Shoes and hide behind the gate pillar for a quick draw - maybe three quarters of a Hope - and back to Lesson 1 in four minutes. He's done it before. He gives a nod or a '-masu

There's a small knot of them there. All middle-aged men with grey hair and skin to match. The students are safely locked in. Only late-arrivals will see their teachers drinking in the furtive smoke. Nomimasu. Drinking. The chrome gate is a massive structure on track and wheels. It could keep out a tank.

All the men dye their hair. Some try to take off twenty years and go for black, but most go for a shade somewhere between. Like that gaijin book, he thinks grimly, fifty shades of grey. At least he doesn't have one of those cheap jobs with their tinge of purple or blue...

The public address plays the Chimes of Dunkirk and they draw in deep, final inhalations and the glowing orange tips race towards their lips. They squint from smoke and concentration or pleasure and stamp out unfinished butts and the nicotine is already in the bloodstream for the three hour haul until lunchtime.

Watanabe's hands shake. He was called out by the police this morning at 2 am. …

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