Letter from Tristan Naylor to the Segals
April 4, 1999
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Segal,
My name is Tristan Naylor. I was a friend of Anton's during the 1992-93 JET Programme in Japan. It is with great sadness and regret that I introduce myself for this purpose. I have waited too long to write this letter. I can't say what I was waiting for -- perhaps for the pain to go away. I'm still waiting.
Anton was a close friend of mine during our first year as AETs in Wakayama. He and I were neighbors -- separated only by a small bridge. Though I only lived in Japan for one year, I saw Anton almost every day. We would go shopping together, ride our little black bikes through the narrow streets of Wa-shi -- getting lost and finding new adventures in such a strange place. We shared in the mundane rituals of everyday life there -- eating, renting videos, sharing books and magazines, and riding on the train to see out-of-town friends.
I have read all the stories on Anton's website; we seem to share a universal connection with your son. He was funny -- he always saw the good in others -- he always made us laugh...
These are the primary recollections I have of Anton as well. He was a very funny guy, a laugh-out-loud, tears-in-your-eyes kind of funny. He was the best form of therapy I could have had during my difficult bouts of culture shock and homesickness.
I remember the first time I saw Anton, during our orientation in Tokyo. I will never forget the look on his face during one small-group discussion we were having. He had long curly hair screaming out from his head, big round eyes (like Ziggy) and an open-mouthed, dropped-jaw expression that simply represented a big fat question mark. I suppose we all had that same look -- everything was so new and going so fast. But I studied Anton's face, because he looked so interesting and unique. He didn't say a word. To tell you the truth, I thought he was a foreign AET from some non-English speaking country -- France, I believe, was my assumption. How funny are the stories you make up of strangers. And how quickly those myths dissipate once you become friends.
I've been trying to put down different stories about my time spent with Anton. But, as I said, we mostly shared those daily tasks that at the time seemed so insignificant. Now, looking back, I wish I had written down every moment.
I remember all his stories of Mine-sensei, his supervisor at the school where he taught. Mine-sensei worshipped Anton, and tried to absorb every aspect of "American" language and culture from him.
I remember his stories of the Yakuza (Japanese mobster) who lived in his apartment building. The strange man, bedecked with tattoos, who spoke no English, would often visit Anton -- always bearing the traditional gifts one brings when visiting a friend. This was very interesting for Anton. Although he appreciated the man's courtesy, he was nervous about knowing a man of such repute. He really did not relish that type of dangerous association, but what could he do? He would have me in hysterics telling me tales of his "criminal friend."
One day, I came to visit Anton on my way home from school. He was wearing this oversized, shiny satin black blouse -- imagine, if you can! It was very bizarre; not Anton's style of dress whatsoever. After coming to my senses, once again wiping the laughter off my face, I kindly asked Anton why he was wearing such an outfit. He explained that the "Yak" gave it to him, and that he would be wearing it for the next few days... at least until their next encounter. He said he was afraid that if he didn't, the insult would bring great harm to him. Most of these tales he spun were merely in jest, I know (although I'm pretty sure the shirt did come from his neighbor). But every word from Anton -- no matter the topic -- brightened my day and took all the clouds from the sky.
Anton also had a serious side. A lot of the time we spent together was just sitting around his tiny apartment, listening to music and talking about our lives. He introduced me to Leonard Cohen. Anton loved his song "Susanne." We talked about books and the authors we loved. He told me about Umberto Eco, who wrote The Name of the Rose -- he even had me watch the movie. Of course, he introduced me to other highly intelligent, quality programs -- "Seinfeld" and "Ren and Stimpy" are just a few examples.
Sometimes he would talk about his personal life, though not very often. At that time, he felt close to Maile, a woman he knew from Harvard. He would show me how he'd mark her letters "Air Maile" on the envelope (how clever) -- he really got a kick out of himself.
I think, for the most part, Anton was very private. When it came to the serious stuff, he mostly listened. He was there for me during my relationship struggles, my frustrations with the program, and with Japan in general. He was my "American" friend when I was very homesick. He'd listen to my stories too, and gave hugs whenever needed.
In such a short time, I really feel we got to know each other. I treasured our friendship deeply. After I left Japan, we sadly did not keep in touch. But every time I had contact with a mutual friend, I'd inquire as to his whereabouts. I proudly followed the news of his journeys throughout Asia, and when he finally "landed" in the Sinai area. I always begged for his address, but no one I asked ever knew it.
Because Anton was a fellow American, and I knew his sister Erica lived in Long Island (near where I live now), I wrongly assured myself that I would eventually see him again. I thought for certain our paths would cross, and we would easily pick up right where we left off. I thought of any friendship made in Japan, his would surely stand the test of time.
I cannot tell you the pain and regret I feel for not keeping in touch with such a dear sweet human being. That pain need not be put into words, it is felt throughout the world.
Anton was loved all over -- on almost every continent! What great places he saw, what great friendships he made. How he made us laugh. How he forced us to celebrate life. This is funny Anton's legacy -- it will be with us forever.
I hope you can find some peace in these memories, knowing what an unforgettable impact your child made on our lives. I am so grateful that I knew him, so proud, so blessed. We all are.
Thank you for this blessing,