PART 4- YOSHI: BLACKHOLE PHASE 2
“Thank you Mr. Michimiya. I’d rather do that myself. Good afternoon everyone, I am Erisse Gamboa. I am the CEO of Jest Ears Philippines. Hold on for a while...”
I literally just died in my seat upon hearing that. I want to cover myself with Chiaki’s scarf because of shame, but at the same time I am eager to listen to what Miss Erisse Gamboa will say. Miss Erisse took something that looked like a globe-shaped speaker out of her bag and placed it on the rectangular glass and wooden table of the conference room. I noticed her left hand; her ring finger is stacked with two rings. An engagement ring with a marquise cut diamond and a what seemed to be like a wedding band in rose gold. It is unfortunate to be indirectly dumped like this, but it is a definite relief, because I can focus on Ayaka or more importantly, I can focus on the real stance of my career and my future.
I carefully looked at Miss Erisse. She’s so radiant when she speaks, I wonder why it’s too easy for people like her to speak English, the words flow out of her mouth just like musical notes . Then, Miss Erisse gazed at me; I held mine, and now we are gazing at each other. Do women from her country naturally just stare at people like this? I am not used to this. It is my very first time to be looked at with such intensity. She tucked her hair behind her left ear; yes, while still gazing at me. My God. My heart thumped nervously. My hands, so sweaty yet I managed to grab the armrest of the leather chair that I’ve been sitting on. Poor chair, a while ago it was cold because of my anxiety and now it is burning up from irrelevant desires, this is totally Miss Erisse’s fault and not mine.
There’s something in her ear that looked like a wireless- Bluetooth earphone with a green light that keeps on blinking. Then, Miss Erisse sat again, and she looked at me, her gaze-hold is stronger, earnest and it is threatening. What puzzles me the most is that she keeps talking in English, yet no one really understands her. I do not know anyone who can translate what she’s been saying. Then, she pushed a tiny button on the speaker globe. Miss Erisse said a few phrases in English that I could not quite understand, because it is too fast for me. To my surprise, the speaker globe translated what she said, in Japanese. Now I get it. Jest Ears PH is really something. They’re not only promoting in-ear, lapel-less mics but also wireless translators.
My previous mistakes just slapped me twice. Twice as hard that I suddenly felt numb.
“So there you go, I would not dare have all the trouble to get my words translated by a person. This device is very accurate and a far-fetched translator compared to Google Translate and any translator app in the market. Sorry Mr. Michimiya for interrupting you. You can proceed with the meeting. Nice to meet all of you.” Erisse called upon Mr. Michimiya as she sat, with her gaze still transfixed on mine. She tried to bow slightly, and now I am sweating buckets.
“I want to apologize for taking your precious time off work, to have this meeting. As we all know the reason why we are all in here. Can Sekine-sensei please enlighten us why we are having this meeting?”
Michimiya-san ended his speech with a catatonic facial expression that I definitely don’t want to see again; then, Sekine-sensei proceeded.
“As we all know, our talent- Mr. Fujiwara Yu, made an improbable mistake of posting a rather distasteful tweet yesterday night which he deleted immediately, but regrettably, having over 200K followers in Twitter, and most are outside of his original FC, had screen-capped his tweet and forwarded this tweet to various SNS sites such as Line, Facebook and Instagram. So even if Mr. Fujiwara Yu had tried his best to control the damage by removing the said post, his followers are quicker to spread it, that it even reached to some of the daily tabloids. Chiaki here didn’t want to make it more massive, so she overtook Mr. Fujiwara Yu’s Twitter account and made an official apology post in behalf of our talent. However, the apology that was sent to Jest Ears PH through a private message was Mr. Fujiwara’s own words and own efforts. The dilemma that we are actually facing right now is the online flak from tabloids and several theatre forum sites. What Chiaki had gathered from the forum were; most of the netizens want Mr. Fujiwara Yu to be disregarded as Romeo in our upcoming musical. One last disappointing news that Chiaki had found out through Twitter as well, is the harrowing disapproval of Jest Ears PH users and fans and most of them are our colleagues in the theatre industry. Hashtags of racism and culture relativism had spread in the Philippines even in the Filipino community here in Japan. That’s all I can say for now.” Sekine-sensei explained elaborately, yet I can feel the disappointment in his words.
I didn’t expect that the situation would be this grave. But what is new? I am the talent and the one who’s always bringing all the greens in this theatre company yet, I am the one who knew the least of what’s really happening in my surroundings and the next steps that I have to take through this career.
Am I prepared for their decision? I am really not, but I am preparing myself mentally right now to check the online classified ads first thing in the morning. I just hope that there are abundant of similar opportunities for a junior high school graduate like me. That’s what I thought. Then, Miss Erisse pushed a button on the speaker globe again and suddenly spoke. She was calmer now unlike a few minutes ago.
“I am sorry to interrupt again, but before another word has to be spoken, I want to say that I am deeply sorry to hear that Sekine-sensei and Chiaki had to face all of these distresses just because of that tweet. I am sorry, I really do. But, I want to inform all of you that I am here because my company will be sponsoring and supplying all of the audio and voice equipment and most amplifiers that are needed for Romeo and Juliet and the future musicals of this theatre company. Mr. Fujiwara’s career has nothing to do with my company.”
I looked at Miss Erisse and as how I see it; she’s somewhat saving my ass from all of these troubles... Or so I thought, until Miss Erisse continued to speak. The translator device brings more suspense because we have to wait for a little bit of delay ,and for Miss Erisse to finish speaking before we totally understand her statements. She looked at me once again, but this time, it was with a more temperate stare.
“Mr. Fujiwara, I accept your apology, but I just want to get this straight. Please listen, all of you! Your country doesn’t officially hold and have the sole authentication to produce quality electronic devices such as what Jest Ears PH produces. I hope you can get off all of your high horses when it comes to this matter. Besides, it is your theatre company who wrote us a letter of request to supply the musicals of audio and voice equipment in exchange of a little product-promotion deal. You know, in Jest Ears, we are very willing to help those who need us; but it seemed that you don’t...Mr. Fujiwara. And just to make things clear, our country doesn’t just export bananas. We export semiconductors, audio devices such what Jest Ears PH produces, gourmet chocolates, nurses, teachers, singers, talents and laborers who do odd jobs and are typically underpaid because of mere facts that they are not locals and they came from a least developed part of this racist continent. Well I don’t blame you for that though. It is not your fault that you are so ignorant of the outside world.”
Everyone in the conference room appeared to have no choice but to look on their own laps, with heads down caused by shame and lack of cultural understanding. Every word that Miss Erisse had said, felt like a stab of a sharp knife in my chest. My mind is spinning in a daze. I just want the earth to swallow me in this very instant.
Miss Erisse leaned forward, put her elbows on the table, her hands interlaced together where her chin rests, continued that freezing stare and finally let out the last fatal blow.
“Mr. Michimiya and Sekine sensei, I have a doctor’s appointment in 20 minutes. I just want to make a decision before I leave, since everybody’s here. So, in behalf of Jest Ears PH, I wholeheartedly accept Mr. Fujiwara Yu’s apology but...”
I genuinely don’t want to hear the words that she’ll say after “but”.
“I am personally not in favor of sponsoring musicals and the company that Mr. Fujiwara actively participates with, from hereupon. I just want you all to understand that Jest Ears PH will be an international company few months from now, and won’t tolerate any form of racism and discrimination. I am deeply sorry Mr. Fujiwara, and I hope this is a lesson learned. Just remember, respect begets respect. Thank you guys! I have to go. Thank you for giving me time.”
Tears formed and dripped from my eyes. The 15 years of hard work that I dedicated to this talent agency has now dispersed along with the wind in just a day and over an emotional decision. I wiped my tears and Chiaki broke down. Her career as my sole manager is now dragged to the drain with me. Miss Erisse walked behind me and quickly placed her hand on my right shoulder and whispered in Japanese, “Sorry, Yu-Kun.” Then, she walked out accompanied by Michimiya-san.
Sekine- sensei tried to comfort the bawling Chiaki by patting her back gently. I can only draw despair from his face. “Let’s just wait for Michimiya-san to come back until we made a final decision. Yu-kun, try to hold your emotions for a while. You need to lend your ears on what we are going to say.”
“Fujiwara Yu, I am sorry on what just happened.” Michimiya-san pronounced as he pulled out a chair and sat down.
"But you quite understand why, what happened, happens right? For me, it is a total waste of what is going to be a stage masterpiece if we just drop you in this musical. I just want to let you know that I personally know Miss Erisse Gamboa, because I was her director before; Eponine, Les Miserable, New York, 2012. Yes, she was also a theatre actress, whom you should know and researched of Fujiwara-san. She was a Broadway superstar, and was even nominated for a Tony as a best performance of an actress in a musical. I’m quite surprised that she is not familiar to you Fujiwara-san. Miss Erisse just got married recently and decided to retire and build Jest Ears PH with her husband. I hope you are now all well-informed who the real Erisse Gamboa is, and you should now put in your mind that, there are countless Filipinos who are emerging as Broadway superstars now. Not because we all performed in Tokyo dome; we are considered the best, Fujiwara-san.”
Michimiya-san sighed heavily upon reciting the achievements of Miss Erisse. I felt this time that the universe had betrayed me and all I can do is repent my sins through accepting my fate after this day. Then Sekine-sensei entered the conversation.
“As the manager of this agency and this theatre company, I want to give consideration to you and your immeasurable stage talent Yu-kun. So I decided, that you are still going play Romeo because we had already spent a fortune for the upcoming musical’s promotions and collaterals. Jest Ears PH sponsoring all of our audio equipment, is an absolute money-saver, cut our expenses in half and we couldn’t really be more grateful. We should be all aware of that information! Even if we agree to our venue sponsors’ decision to increase our ticket prices, we lost a significant amount of theatre-loyalists and audiences last 2020 because of the pandemic. Miss Erisse’s company really saved us so we can construct better promotions, but since this incident happened, we have to agree on one thing. Yu-Kun, I apologize and this is such a shame to say but...This will be your last performance for this year. After your performances in Osaka and Sendai, we will give the role to Kenjiro-kun. He’ll be the one who’s going to play Romeo for the new performances that will be held in Sapporo. We are not really behind the schedule when it comes to the Sapporo musical, henceforth, we have ample amount of time to re-do all of the promotional items and activities. We are trying not to piss Jest Ears PH more Yu-kun; so with that being said, we’ll still renew your contract the next year, but after Sendai, we’ll let you take a break for six months.”
My ears burned upon hearing that. The sadness and shame faded, and was quickly replaced by frustration and anger.
“I didn’t expect it to be like this Sekine-sensei! Can you please just let me do the Sapporo one too? Please, please, let me just finish this leg." I begged desperately.
“That’s the only solution we have Yu-kun. I am so sorry. We are trying our best not to lose this sponsorship. Please understand. We are going to welcome you with open arms next year, but for now, you have to do this six-months break. It is for you, because you need this. A time for you to reflect...” Sekine-sensei kept on talking and all of his words faded in the background whilst the situation is slowly killing my hopes and dreams.
I settled in the conference room for a while after Chiaki, Sekine-sensei, and Michimiya-san have left. Kenjiro on the other hand, stood up and talked.
“Fujiwara-san, I’am so sorry that this happened to you. I know my talent can’t surpass yours, but I’ll try my very best to play Romeo. Please give me your guidance.” He bowed to me then left, quite respectful and courteous for him to say, but I honestly feel punching him in the face.
I stood up and looked at the window from the 18th floor. For six months, I am so sure that I am going to miss this view, the hectic charm of Shibuya and its famous pedestrian lanes. Too much had happened it actually doesn’t sink in yet. It’s too heavy for me that my mind can’t process it in one go. I can only think of Ayaka. I wish that she’s here, so I have someone to confide about all this pandemonium.
My mobile phone suddenly buzzed, a tiny green light blinked three times. It is a message. I wonder who’s this.
Yoshi-kun, How are you doing? I just came back. Should we meet tonight? How about a dinner? I want to give you my response.
A cloud of hope just rained on me and washed my anger in an instant. It was Ayaka-chan. I felt giddy, and happy for a split second, until I saw that there’s no emoji on her message which is really quite rare.
A cloak of wariness overtook me once more. A rollercoaster of emotions in one day. My heart could just take so much.
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