One of the great benefits of living in a dorm is that you interact with students from all over the world. I was fortunate to draw as a roommate an ethnic Chinese student who had grown up in Japan. Jiang was a fun guy–he once brought me to Chinatown in San Francisco so that I could buy a proper ping pong paddle, padded on one side and wooden on the other.
But his generosity did not inoculate him from taking the punishment for something that I did.
We were eating another fabulous dinner at the dorm cafe–probably liver and onions, which seemed to be on the menu every week. But the dorm folks spared no expense on desert, lavishing us with bowls of canned fruit cocktail. Jiang sat across from me, and half a dozen tables beyond him sat a lovely Japanese woman whom we both adored.
In case you didn’t know, there are other uses for fruit cocktail besides eating it.
I placed a half Maraschino cherry in my spoon. “Bet you I can hit Ayame from here,” I said.
He turned around and spotted her, a considerable distance away, surrounded by other girls seated in front of her and on both sides. The window from our table past all those bodies to the target was narrow.
“No way,” he said after turning back to me.
If my seventeen-year-old self required any additional motivation, being told I couldn’t do it sealed the deal.
I pulled back the spoon like a catapult, aimed, and launched. The syrupy cherry flew in an arch over five tables and soared down just over the heads of the women facing Ayame before splatting onto her cheek.
Her face went from pleasant animation to shock. She looked down at what I assumed was the cherry, then scanned the room for its source. After her eyes zeroed in on our table, she sprang up and marched toward us, her face half-giggle and half-outrage. I was prepared to be confronted–even looked forward to it.
But she stopped directly behind Jiang, who wasn’t facing her direction and didn’t know she was anywhere near him until she began playfully boxing him on the sides of his head.
“I did not do it!” he insisted, grinning. At least I think that’s what he said, because it was in Japanese. I was certain of the next words, delivered in English and accompanied by a finger pointed my direction–“He did it.”
I would have admitted it if she had asked before she began smacking Jiang, but at this advanced stage of the entertainment, I declined to confess. And so my innocent roommate took a little bit more punishment.
It would have been sweet if this incident led to a date between Jiang and Ayame, romance, marriage, children, fulfillment. I’d have settled for a date. Alas, the fruit cocktail telegram technique proved inadequate toward that cause.
But my roommate didn’t get very angry with me. It was heaven to get clubbed by Ayame. As it turned out, he was more fortunate than I.