20051026

Saru Mo Ki Kara Ochiru

The phrase above translates directly to "monkey too tree from fall". More meaningfully, it translates to the saying "Even Monkeys fall from trees." It is said after a failure, as a way of noting, "I may have failed, but even the best slip up once in a awhile." It's sort of conceited, but effective.

I learned this at probably an opportune time, or perhaps I should have seen it as a warning of what was to come. In any case, what I knew had to happened eventually, just not when, came about last night.

I lost at Monopoly.

At first, this may seem like a large buildup to a rather trivial revelation. When you play monopoly, at least 50% of the people playing have to lose, and that's only when two people play. It can get as high as 83% when you have six people playing. So, how is it strange that I lost?

The simple fact is that every Monopoly game I've played for the past year, excluding one which I took over for someone else 75% through the game (and was sick at the time to boot), I've won. Starting fall semester last year, I was unbeatable. I have no idea why this was, but it was. Every time I sat down at a Monopoly board, everyone looked at me with suspicious eyes, afraid of my every roll and deal.

I never expected to win any of the games I played, I just did. Every game the people around me would build up their cash piles, their heaps of land, and I would be penniless and sporting some mediocre assets. Yet, I would turn these into lucrative monopolies with the more bizzare and suicidal trades which would, miraculously, bring vitory. Despite that at the end of each trade, my position was technically the worst of anyone's in both layman and expert opinion, I still won.

It didn't matter who I played, my College pals, my family, even the Japanese. Everyone fell before me as I sat around baffled as to why. I was always struggling up from the bottom, making dire trades by the skin of my teeth, just barely making it and suddenly bursting out from behind like a car from an explosion in a Hollywood action flick.

I kept telling myself "this is the game I'll lose, it'll all be over, and people will stop acting like I'm some kind of Monopoly expert". It never happened as I thought.

Yesterday, however, it all changed. I lost.

Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

It wasn't even close, in truth. I was the first out of the game. I once had money, power, and honestly the best postition of anyone. I had landed on Pacific, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania (those green ones before Board Walk) before anyone else and claimed them as mine, I'd built them up, using my easy start to my advantage. I felt certain of victory. It was my turn to be the big and powerful, looking down on the little ones below me struggling to even make ends meet. It was my turn to not have to work and sweat for victory.

How ironic it was that I wiped out so thoroughly.

I can look back now and analyze what went wrong. I can cite a silly trade on the part of my Okaasan, where she gave a monopoly to my Otousan for a pittance of cash, and one property that netted her little. I can cite a stupid trade of my own, where I traded a monopoly to my Okaasan for an extra one for me, when I didn't have the money for anything anyway. However, whatever the minute details that contributed were, one thing is certain...

...I haven't had dice rolls that bad since last spring's debacle of a Risk game.

Quite simply, if it was possible I was going to land somewhere bad, it happened. If it was possible for my opponents to avoid my spaces, it happened. I watched as my already small wallet vanished, and I finally kicked the bucket.

Quite simply, it was like skiing at full speed down a slope into a huge piled of icy snow, shocking and numbing.

For while, I just sat there, neglecting my job as banker for uttering various phrases, English and Japanese alike, describing how unbelievable the whole thing was.

Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

Looking back, there's a sense of both loss and relief. I had something special, a winning streak the likes of which I may never see again, but the stigma it attached to me was almost suffocating. I think I can understand a little how my uncle felt when he was killed early on in a game of Mafia. We feared him because we knew he was clever, we knew he was persuasive, and we thought we knew he would only be working for his own ends. Turns out he was the police officer. Whoops.

In any case, while it was always put in jovial terms, suggesting a game of Monopoly, or at least my participation therein, immediately brought cries of my coming victory. People looked at me as though I were an old and wizened sword master, suggesting that we have some sparring matches. As nice as it was to win as often as I did, hearing people say "we know you're just going to win anyway" has an odd effect. Whether or not it is meant to, there is some bitterness in the very idea that stings like the thousand needles one feels after a limb loses feeling.

Hopefully, this will be one in a long line of losses that will convince people that really, as impressive as my trade skills may be, I win because of luck.

Hopefully, when I return home and suggest we play Monopoly, I'll hear, "Now that you've lost, we're going to beat you!"

Saru mo ki kara ochiru.

2 comments:

Phil said...

Kinda ironic that you're last blog post began with "I will win!", huh?

I'm sure that loss was a relief. Now I could get WIN a game...

Oh well. At least I've been getting 3rd out of 5. Perhaps even an omlette can be cooked on the sidewalk during wintertime once in awhile?

Good thing them Japanese didn't have me to make up their wise phrases.

Matoushin said...

The irony was not lost on me, to be sure.

I think it's a good thing the world didn't have you to make up their phrases, not just the Japanese.