The price of love: Hiromi and Chris

It was a dance school.  Like so many small dojos, my Sensei, Chris Rozett, rented space at a dance school.  He cut me a break on my tuition since I was in school.  I believe it was around 30 or 40 dollars a month for my training.  That worked out great for me, since I was pretty poor.  I would ride the bus from Riverside to Mandarin, which is a two hour ordeal here in Jacksonville, but it was worth it.

At one point, I had fallen behind on my tuition.  I was at least a couple of months past due.  I knew that what ever the difference was from paying students, and the rent, that my teacher paid.  He never made a dime teaching us Aikido.  I felt so horrible, so embarrassed, that I stopped going to class for a few weeks.  From 3 to 4 days a week, to nothing.  My idea was that I would stop leeching off of this man, and return when I was able to reimburse him.  Whenever that was.

One night, I was home, on the couch, being an idiot.  The phone rang. I answered the phone as any idiot would, in a listless, stupid manner.  It was Hiromi, my Sensei’s wife.  My Sensei’s WIFE.  As soon as I heard her voice, I stood up, in full attention, with my shirt tucked in.  The conversation went something like this:

“Autrelle, where have you been?”

“Home.  I’m sorry I have not been to class.  I haven’t been able to pay for class because I’m a loser and-”

“Autrelle, we were worried about you.  Why have you not been coming to class?  What’s going on with you?”

“Well, like I said, I don’t have any money, and-”

“Autrelle, that’s not a reason to make us worry, and it’s not a reason to stay home and not train.”

“I’m…I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you worry, it’s just that, I feel so bad-”

“Autrelle, you come to class.  You come and you train.  As long as you are okay, that’s important.  Please don’t make us worry like that again.  I’ll see you next class?”

“Yes!  Thank you so much!”

Fast forward six months.  I had started working again.  I had reached a point where I was able to began paying on my back tuition.  After class, I approached my Sensei, and I handed him some money.  It went down like this:

“What is this, Autrelle?”

“It’s my first installment on my back tuition.”

What happened next happened in about 2 seconds, but it felt like 5 years.

He counted it.

He counted the money that I handed him.  Those wadded, crinkled, unsanitary bills that I handed him.  He counted it.  He counted it slowly.  It felt like that anyway, like he counted it slowly.  It was only 60 dollars.  I felt like shit.  I felt like shit that I could only give him 60 dollars in nasty, dirty cash.  This was the best I could do at that time to repay a man that was singularly the most influential instructor that I had ever had.  The shame I felt, I just wanted to crawl under something.  Then he looked at me.  I don’t know if he could see what I was feeling, or if he just knew.  I don’t know.  I don’t think that what I feeling was a factor in what happened next.  I looked up at him, trying to be strong, but the best I could do was to give him a rather sad and apologetic expression.  I went to say something, I don’t know what I was going to say, but before I could say anything, he looked me in the eye and said:

“This looks more like payment in full.”

Not to sound like a sap, but as I remember this to type it, I still feel everything I felt that day.  I almost cry everytime I think about it.  I almost cried then.  My throat started to swell, and I started to say something else, and again, he cut me off, saying:

“It’s good.  We’re good.”


One Response to The price of love: Hiromi and Chris

  1. Clarence says:

    Certainty is a great gift to receive from friends. This is a good one!

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