11. Shut Out

The next morning, you slept in late. There was no freshly made coffee waiting in the kitchen, no friendly conversation. When you did wake up, you were . . . well, not exactly cold, but not very warm, either. You kept your distance from me; your smile seemed somewhat forced; there was parsimony in your words. I don’t mean to say that you were behaving like a woman scorned, but the change in your demeanor, however subtle, was palpable. The spell had been broken.

If I could have, I would have rewound the clock and returned to the engawa with your head resting on my lap, my hand on your breast, and I would have kissed you. But what was done, or rather the undone could not now be done. I had missed my chance; the door was shut.

When I got home later in the afternoon, my wife asked me how the “camp” had gone.

“Alright, I guess,” I said with a shrug. “I probably won’t do it next year, though.”

“Oh? Did something happen?”

“No. I just need a break from it all.”

 

True to my word, I wouldn’t hold the camp the following year. I wouldn’t take students anywhere, either, unless I absolutely had to. There wasn’t much use in it. For me at least, there wasn’t. I knew it just wouldn’t compare to the experience I’d had with you and your cohort. I knew it would be futile trying to rekindle the enthusiasm you had brought into it. The spark had been snuffed out.


5. I still wouldn't have the desire

Six months would pass before we were to meet again and to be honest once you left my office, that is, once you were out of my sight, you were out of my mind.

The thing is, Kana, at that point you were just one more young, attractive woman in a city that has no shortage of young, attractive women. Fukuoka, as I’m sure you know, is famous for the Hakata Beauty.[1] But more than that, as a man in the thick of his career, trying to balance work and family life, I honestly didn’t have any room left in that cluttered brain of mine for sexual fantasies.

 

When my wife was pregnant with our third son, she once fretted that I might have an affair. We had been married for six years by then and the thought of sleeping around had never once crossed my mind.

“My dear, Eiko, I don’t have the time, or the money, or the energy to go chasing after girls.”

“What if you did?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if you did have the time and the money and the energy?”

“I still wouldn’t have the desire, Eiko. I still wouldn’t have the desire. You, the boys, this one included,” I said, patting her tummy, “are more than I could have ever hoped for. My cup overflows with love and affection. How could I ever do anything to damage that?”

And the tears, the good kind again, welled up in her eyes, streamed down her cheeks.

 

Now, Kana, I want you to understand that what would happen between us was not something I had planned for or had conspired to make happen. It was not something I had sought or hoped for.

It just happened.

There are others in my profession—and I really shouldn’t name names, but I think you know some of the men I am referring to—men who use their position, their authority, their proximity to young women to prey upon them. Mind you, these men are in their fifties and sixties and yet are still doing their damnedest to sleep with young women. I never quite know whether to be disgusted or inspired by it all.

What you must keep in mind, most of these men, middle-aged boys really, were terribly awkward when they were young and had no outlet for the sexual energy coursing through their flabby, pasty bodies. Many of them married in their late twenties—marriages that were more often than not arranged by doting mothers—and they managed to produce one to three kids with their plain wives and lead otherwise uneventful lives.

But then something happens when they hit forty. They’re like cars that haven’t been driven the way they were supposed to: sooner or later they break down on the side of the road. I’ve seen it time and again. Their actions grow erratic; they make mistakes, stupid mistakes. And, even if they get caught, there really are no consequences for their behavior because they are tenured professors.

I know one professor, the dean of one of the departments, actually, who invites young women to his home to discuss this and that and eventually offers to pay them for their company and other “benefits”. That is his M.O., as they say, and it seems to work for “The Merry Widower”.

Another professor, a man in his late fifties, stalks students. Unlike the dean, who does not seem to be very picky, this professor has rather good, albeit predictable taste in women. The target of his advances tends to be slim, but busty, have long black hair, and hail from the countryside. Why? Who knows?

What I’m trying to say, is there are those who pursue these kinds of relationships, some who work harder at getting laid than they do at working, period. I was, am, not one of them. No, to be quite honest, I was broadsided by would happen.

 

[1] Hakata (博多) is another name for Fukuoka City. Many of the local products and arts originating from Fukuoka are known as “Hakata this” or “Hakata that”, such as Hakata ningyō (dolls), Hakata-ben (dialect), and Hakata ori (textiles). Hakata Bijin (博多美人), or the Hakata Beauty, refers to the legendary beauty of the women from the region. The Japanese with their predilection for naming “The Three Greats” (三大, Sandai-) claim the Three Great Beauties of Japan are the Akita Bijin (Akita), Kyō Bijin (Tōkyō), and Hakata Bijin (Fukuoka). For more on Hakata, go here.

2. Why Do Men Cheat?

You once asked me why men, particularly men who otherwise had everything they could possibly want or need in a marriage, cheated on their wives? It was not an easy question to answer, considering the circumstances.

“Because men are arseholes?” I said, trying to joke the question away. But the question would remain like an unwelcomed guest lying between us.

Why?

A barista friend of mine had once asked me years ago a similar question. I was three or four years into my first misadventure in “conjugal bliss”, which had been rife with “extracurricular dalliances”.

“Is sex really that good?” he asked, by which he meant, is having an affair really worth the risk of losing everything: your family, your marriage, your business . . .

“Well, when you put it that way,” I said. “I don’t suppose it is.”

My excuse in those days was that I was miserable and needed the easy refuge found in the arms of easy women. Today, however, there is nothing I want to run away from, nothing I desire to run towards. For the past ten years, I have been perfectly happy exactly where I was. Perfectly.

Or, at least, I thought I was.

 

No, what you wanted to know was how men who could otherwise claim to be happily married still had few qualms about jumping in the sack with other women.

 

Derek, an American who was a few years into his third marriage, told me how hard it was for him to be faithful when there was temptation all around. If I replied that it was a piece of cake when your heart was so full of love it felt as if it would burst, he would have rolled his eyes at me and chastised me for being pussy-whipped.

“Every time I go out,” he boasted, “I get laid. All I have to do is approach twenty, thirty, fifty, a hundred girls, and I know one of them is going to say, ‘Yes.’ It’s all numbers.”

In addition to his other charms, Derek was a degenerate gambler. He seemed to me destined to crap out sooner or later.

 

An Aussie named Frank told me that he loved his kids, he loved his wife . . . “It’s just that, well, the years and pregnancy haven’t been kind . . .”

As if he, himself, were still the Adonis he once was twenty years ago.

“She just doesn’t do it for me anymore.”

 

“My wife’s just not into that kind of stuff,” Pierre said. “With my girlfriend, I can do all kinds of things.”

By “all kinds”, of course, he meant, well . . . You can probably guess.

“I feel so alive when I’m with her. Before I met her, every day it was just go to work, come home, collapse in bed, wake up, and do it all over again.”

And there, I must admit I can sympathize, but still . . .

 

And then there’s someone like Nigel, an Englishman I play soccer with every other week. After practice, the two of us often ride the train into town together and talk about life and work.

One of the recurring themes of our conversations is how little sex Nigel and his wife have.

“I suppose I shouldn’t really complain,” he said in that languid cadence of his. “Compared to the average Japanese couple we do make love more often than most, and yet . . .”

“Oh, with me it’s quite the opposite,” I replied, half in jest. “My wife is insatiable. You know, sometimes I just want to be . . . held.”

“Every now and again,” Nigel continued, “a young girl will come into my classroom and she’ll be so beautiful that . . .” A bashful smile flashed across his face. “Here I am, forty-three years old, and a girl of eighteen still makes my heart go pitter-patter.”

“Here I am at forty-eight, and I can attest to you that that never goes away.”

 

But where it once pained me to distraction to not have a woman I desired, today I have no difficulty in letting it, no, letting the girl go. Now whenever my appetite is whetted, I satisfy the cravings by eating at home, so to speak.

And having found release in the arms of my wife, I lie on my back, staring at the ceiling and thinking three or four or five moves beyond an imagined affair. I think about what I would risk losing were I to sleep with this girl or that, such as the one with the long black ponytail sitting in the front row of my first-year Heritage Management class.

Was she beautiful? Yes. Sexy? And how! Intelligent, too? Quite!

But was I willing to give up my wife and three boys for her? No, never. And that’s what it always comes down to: assets and liabilities tallied on the balance sheet of life. Would it be worth it? As that barista friend once asked, I now ask myself: “Is the sex really that good?”

I must confess, though, that what has kept me faithful all these years is more than the satisfaction, the happiness, the love I have felt towards my family. It is fear. Plain and simple. It is the terrifying dread that karma will come crashing down hard and rob me of everything I hold so very dear. So, in answer to my friend’s question: no, the sex isn’t really that good and certainly not good enough to tempt fate.

1. A Solemn Promise

When I got married for the second, and hoped the last, time, I made a solemn vow to my new wife, Eiko, that so long as I was alive I would never make her cry. No sooner had I made that promise, though, I broke it, for tears started falling from her eyes.

But, those were the good kind of tears. The happy ones. And throughout our ten-plus years of marriage, there have been many, many times when the intensity of our happiness has evoked tears, tears which seem to fall easier and easier the older I get.

“Why are you sad, Daddy,” my third son asks.

“I’m not sad.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“I’m crying because I’m happy.”

“I don’t understand,” the five-year-old says as he climbs up and sits down on my lap.

“Someday, you will. Trust me, you will.”