We only keep the last three stories live on the site, for copyright reasons

Marc Joan

This story had its genesis in my days as a post-graduate student and post-doctoral researcher in the UK. The academic community often seems like a smorgasbord of workers and collaborators from many different countries. Cultural differences can make it hard for some individuals to feel fully comfortable in their new surroundings, and this issue can be exacerbated by personality type and language barriers. I remember some such people who were evidently lonely -- sometimes because their cultural quirks were such that their colleagues found them difficult, but sometimes because they were so well-mannered and self-effacing that they were simply forgotten -- and to this day I regret not making more of an effort to help them fit in. Perhaps there were extenuating circumstances -- I didn't always fit in too well myself -- but in any case this story is, perhaps, an inadequate attempt to make amends (or to admit culpability). It imagines a life of polite, but desperate, isolation; it imagines a neighbour finally doing the right thing. Brief explanatory note: in the Japanese tradition of Daruma, an eye is painted on a doll's face at New Year. This eye symbolises a wish for the coming year; the second eye is only painted on if/when the wish is fulfilled.