52

A week before you were to meet Akané, that “private physician” of yours e-mailed you.

Come to think about it, that’s right, she did. 

Had you forgotten?

About that night? No, no, no, no. I’ll never forget thatnight. It’s the timing I wasconfused about. See, whenever I think about Satomi, our relationship, the core of what I remember are things that occurred much later.

It had been almost six months since you last heard from her, hadn’t it?

Yeah, I suppose it had been that long.

And?

I called Satomi back and, right off the bat, she apologized to me for having been such a stranger. She had been busy with her experiments, she explained. She had been practicing domino liver transplants on mice, of all things. It’s quite alright, I assured her. After all, how could I complain? I’d been busy myself . . .

Self-absorbed is more like it.

Perhaps . . . But, now she was telling me she had some free time that evening.

 

Tonight?”

“I’m sorry, it’s so sudden, but . . .” 

“No, no. Tonight’s fine. I’d love to see you.”

 

And, so you met.

Even though Satomi was dressed casually in jeans and a simple white blouse and her make-up was done ever so subtly, good God, was she ever beautiful. But, no matter how attracted I was to her—and I could have eaten her up right then and there—I didn’t want to start a relationship with her until she could understand, andaccept, my situation. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin it before it even began.

That hadn’t stopped you before.

No, I must admit it hadn’t.

Why do you think you were so . . . shall we say circumspect . . . when dealing with Satomi, then?

Because she was . . . special.

Special? Aren’t all women special in some way or another?

Satomi was The Complete Package.

The Complete Package?

A real catch. She was beautiful, tall, and just exuded femininity. And in spite of that, she didn’t have the attitude that many beautiful, confident women tend to have. Now, if that was all there was to her, if her charms had only been skin-deep, I probably would have already sealed the deal, so to speak. But, no, in addition to her looks, she was exceptionally bright. A surgeon, no less! And yet, she was approachable, personable, fun to be with. She was, in short, The Complete Package. I mean, what more could a man ask for?

I take it her coming from a family with money didn’t hurt, either. 

No, I will admit that it didn’t. But, then, I’ve never been a gold digger. Why if I were, I would have skipped with alacrity down the aisle with skinny ol’ Tatami years earlier.

After dinner at a small Italian place near your apartment, Satomi had a favor to ask of you.

She did, indeed. Satomi confessed that she had been so busy with her work and experiments that she had completely forgotten to pay her electricity bill . . . 

And then she asked if she could spend the night.

 

“It’s embarrassing,” she says. “I’ve got no lights and no air conditioning. I couldn’t bear to sleep in this heat . . .”

I am taking a large sip of grappa when she says this and swallow hard.

“Sure,” I say, sputtering. “Mi casa es su casa.”

“Is that Italian?”

“No, it’s Spanish. It means, ‘My home is your home.’”

“Oh, thank you, Peadar!”

 

Later, while Satomi is taking a shower, I’m waiting in my futonwith an erection you could crack walnuts with. When she comes into the bedroom, she’s wearing nothing but a towel, wrapped loosely around her. Standing at the foot of my futon, she lets the towel drop and in the dim light of the paper lantern I can finally see what I always suspected: Satomi has all the curves of a real heartbreaker.

Satomi crawls under the sheets and as she snuggles up against me she can feel my excitement.

“Oh!”

“Yes, well . . .”

Satomi nimbly undoes the button on my boxer shorts and, pulling Paddy out, exclaims: “How odd! Were you circumcised?”

“I was, yes. It’s an American thing, I’m afraid.”

“I’ve never seen one before. Mind if I look?”

Before I can reply, she pulls the sheets back and starts inspecting my penis as an appraiser might assess an heirloom.

“I like it,” she says, giving Paddy a peck, and without further ado takes him into her mouth.

“S-s-satomi, th-there’s s-something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

With my cock still in her mouth, she mumbles, “You’re not gay, are you?”

“Me gay? Hah! No, I’m not gay. Last thing I am is gay. It’s something else, something that you deserve to know, and wouldn’t be fair to not tell you.”

“So, tell me now,” she says, looking up at me, cock still in her mouth.

“I want to, but I would much rather tell you afterit’s no longer an issue. The thing is, Satomi, I’m crazy about you. I have longedto be with you.”

“I’m here.”

“I know, and I couldn’t be happier about that.”

“I can tell,” she says, and returns to fellating me.

“P-p-please, Satomi, s-s-stop.”

“You don’t like it?”

“I love it. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since we first met . . .”

“But now that I’m here, you don’t want me?”

“I do. I dowant you. Can’t you feel that?”

“Then let me help you with it.”

“Lord knows I want you to. But, don’t. Please don’t. I need more time. That’s all I ask for. Just a little time, a month perhaps, and everythingwill be different. This is important to me. I want little more of this world than to make love to you right now, but I want it to be . . . perfect. Without . . . complications. Please.”

 

How chivalrous of you, Peador.

Selfish is more like it. Had I told the woman in whose mouth my cock now was that I was married, why, she probably would have bolted out of the apartment. 

Naked, with your penis in her mouth?

After removing my cock and getting dressed, of course. 

You could have lied.

I know. I could have told Satomi any number of things: “I’m ‘kinda seeing’ someone, but the relationship is on the rocks.” That sort of thing. But suppose we did start dating, and after a while began to think about marriage, well then, she would eventually learn about Haruka. And, she would discover that I hadn’t always been telling her the complete truth. And that’s the thing, when it came to Satomi, I had always gone out of my way not to lie to her. That’s how seriously I had been thinking about her. I didn’t want the relationship to be damaged by half-truths from the get-go.

Not an unreasonable hope, I suppose.

I also didn’t want the relationship to be infected by the malaise . . .

Malaise?

Yes, malaise. That emotional paralysis I mentioned earlier. Little seemed to affect me or move me anymore. I may have cried the night Kei and I broke up, but now that she was gone . . . Why, the sloughed off skin of a snake had more sensation than I did.

Speaking of snakes, what happened after that?

I took the rest of my clothes off and we lay together in each other’s arms as naked as Adam and Eve and just as innocent, kissing, kissing, kissing . . .

Do you ever regret not . . .?

No.

Not even a . . .?

No. Considering what would happen to Satomi a few years later, I think that night couldn’t have ended any better than it did.

And the night with Akané? How would you say that ended?

Differently.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

51

Over ten years you had been in Japan. You had come a long way with your career, with the language and culture, too. But when it came to matters of love, you were back at square one.

I was indeed.

And then Akané called you up.

 

Sensei?” says the familiar nasal voice.

“Hello?”

“This is Akané, Sensei.”

How she ever got my cellphone number, I do not know. And why on earth is she calling me Sensei?[1]

“Akané?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten all about me already,” she says, laughing.

“Akané, do you seriously think that could ever be possible?”

“Oh my, Sensei!”

 

The reason Akané was calling you was that . . . 

She needed a chaperone, a chaperone without the “air quotes”, thank you. Apparently, an American friend of hers had asked her to come to a party where some new kind of business opportunity was going to be unveiled. The whole thing sounded rather dodgy to her, as it did to me. The word she used to describe it all was one I hadn’t heard before: usankusai.[2]

 

“I would really appreciate it if you could come with me, Sensei.”

“Sure, why not?”

 

I agreed. I mean, what else could I have said? I still felt like an arse for what I had done to her four years earlier.

Were you still interested in her?

No. 

Not at all?

There were no ulterior motives for my seeing Akané, if that’s what you’re getting at.

And yet?

Things happen.


[1]Sensei (先生), from the Japanese from sen (先)‘previous’+ sei (生)‘birth’, is an honorific term commonly used for teachers, professors, instructors, physicians, lawyers, and writers, etc.

[2]Usankusai (胡散臭い, lit. “suspicious-smelling”) is a less common way to say ayashii (怪しい) and means “shady, fishy, dubious, suspicious”.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

50

Though it wasn’t for ever—Kei and you would remain “friends”, as they say—but, at the time it felt finalenough and you fell into a deep blue funk.

At least I was feeling something. 

Better to feel depressed than to feel nothing at all, Peadar?

Yeah. After the initial depression waned, I was overcome by an emotional paralysis. It lasted right through to the end of summer and I couldn’t shake it no matter what I did. 

Or “whom”?

As you well know, my default nostrum in those days was often sought between the legs of a woman. So, naturally I called Xiuying up . . .

Your “default” girlfriend.

. . . and arranged to meet. I took Xiuying to the very same “ethnic” restaurant I had taken Kei to . . .

To exorcise the place of unpleasant memories.

. . . and the two of us talked about life and our dreams and what have you. And several drinks later, we went back to my place and rolled about the futon until the wee hours.

And as you lay naked and utterly drained next to her, she made a suggestion, which, considering that your on-again-off-again affair had lasted over three years, should not have been unexpected:

 

 

 

“Peadar?” 

“Hmm?”

“Why don’t we get married?”

“What?”

“Let’s get married.”

I’d like to ask Xiuying how you say, “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” in Chinese, but I just lie there and sigh.

“Don’t you want to marry me?”

“I wish I had married you.”

 

 

 

Did you really?

If the choice had been one of marrying Xiuying or marrying Haruka, then yes, I would have chosen Xiuying. 

But that wasn’t the choice then, and that wasn’t what Xiuying was asking you now.

No, it wasn’t. But, if I had told her the truth—that the very last thing in the world I wanted to do was to marry another person now or ever—why, Xiuyingwould have left me right then and there.

 

 

 

“I want to have your children!” she exclaims.

It’s not an entirely repulsive idea, so I say, “I’d like you to have them, too.”

“I want you to come inside me.”

I want to come inside you.”

“Make love to me.”

“I will, but let me rest a bit first.”

“Make love to me now.” She grabs my flaccid cock and starts shaking it. “Hey, Paddy! Wake up! Xǐng lái, Paddy!Xǐng lái!”

 

 

 

And did you?

Did I what?

Do what she asked.

No, I ended up dozing off. And, as luck would have it, the two of us overslept the following morning. Didn’t even have time for a quickie, thank God.

Ever wonder what would have happened if you had done it with Xiuying that morning?

I dread to know.

You would be the father of rather bright, but somewhat funny-looking half-Chinese boy today. You’d also be barreling your way towards a second messy divorce.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

49

Then one evening in the middle of May, Kei called to say that she was in the neighborhood and wanted to see you:

 

 

I tell Kei to come on up, but she insists on meeting outside.

Leaving my apartment, I clomp down the stairs and find her waiting for me at the entrance of the building.

She is in a colorful skirt with a light-blue floral pattern and a faded jean jacket, soft brown curls falling upon denim shoulders. A smile appears on her pretty face.

“Been a long time, hasn’t it,” I say.

“It has,” she replies with that coquettish smile of hers.

It’s hard to believe Kei and I haven’t so much as texted one another in almost two months. I tug gently on the collar of her jean jacket. If only I could pull her into my arms and give her seven weeks’ worth of kisses.

 

 

Why didn’t you?

Well, for one, the Japanese aren’t what you would call touchy-feely, and, two, I could sense from the way she, . . . 

Recoiled?

The way she drew back ever so slightly when I reached for the collar of her jacket . . .

 

 

“So,” I say, “where’d you like to go?”

“Anywhere.”

“Anywhere?”

“Anywhere, but your ho . . .”

“Okay, okay.”

              

 

I took Kei to a quiet “ethnic” restaurant a few blocks away. 

One you had been meaning to take her to for months.

Yeah. It had soft lighting, more plants and trees than a rainforest, thick sofas you could melt into. There was also a balcony with a decent view of the city. But more than anything, it provided privacy. It was the kind of place where you could share your secrets or . . .

Be intimate if you liked. And that is what you wanted, right, Peadar?

Yes. But that night what I wanted first and foremost was an answer. I’d had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right and now that she was sitting next to me I said:

 

 

“Your husband didn’t suspect anything, did he?”

“No,” Kei replies with a nervous giggle.

“Did he ever?”

“I don’t think so.”

“And he’s gone now? He’s away, studying, right?”

“Yes.”

“Has he been gone all this time?”

“Yes,” she says, taking a sip of her tea. “But he’s coming back next week.”

“Next week,” I repeat with a sigh.

Each admission is like a punch in the stomach. For six months I’ve been looking forward to her husband’s absence, eager to pick up where Kei and I left off last summer.

I slouch down in my seat, defeated.

“Don’t you think it was a clever idea,” she asks.

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“I thought for days and days about what to write to you . . .”

“I got that letter the day I came back from Portland.”

“I know and I’m sorry about that. I really am.”

You’resorry.” I light a cigarette.

“Please don’t smoke.”

Ignoring her, I take a deep, slow drag; let the smoke drift from my mouth to my nostrils. “You’resorry.” 

 

 

You told Kei how much you had worried about her, how you had gone by her apartment building to look for signs of normalcy, signs of life only to find none.

I hated myself for having been so selfish. 

 

 

“I’ve always tried to tell you the truth, Kei. Always. Even when I knew that doing so might hurt my chances with you.” The words come out slowly, my heart clinging to each syllable, unwilling to let them go, unwilling to admit that this woman I believedI was in love with could inflict so much pain. “I was honest, so that you would understand me and love me for who I was and not for someone you thought I was or someone I wanted you to think I was. I opened myself to you, and in the end . . . you lied.”

I light a second cigarette. Smoke flows in a long, twisting trail from my lips.

“When you told me that you had a new girlfriend . . .,” she says.

“I never said Satomi was my ‘girlfriend’. We’ve been out on a few dates together. That’s all.”

“I was jealous all the same. I couldn’t sleep for days.”

Amazing how this woman has tried to possess me, yet at the same time has always kept me at a safe distance. It has been demoralizing at the best of times.

“I’m very possessive,” Kei continues. “I want things only for myself.”

“You’re an only child,” I say. “What do you expect?”

“So, when you told me that you had a new girlfriend . . .

“I never said . . .”

“When you started dating that doctor, I considered trying to make it difficult for you to meet her, to call you all the time, so that she would end up leaving you . . .”

That, Kei, would have been a hell of a lot better than what you ended up doing.”

“I was also angry because you had told me that you weren’t interested in other women . . . You know, I was so happy when you told me that last summer.”

 

 

Was it true?

Yes.

Even though you were having dalliances with other women?

Yes, even when I was screwing other girls, I still thought about, and wanted to be with, that stupid woman who was now sitting next to me at the restaurant.

 

 

“The reason I started seeing the doctor,” I try to explain, “was because the last time we made love, you worried so much about getting pregnant that you cut me off. Don’t you remember? You said that if you ever did get pregnant, you wouldn’t be able to see me again. It was just a matter of timing, is all. I wasn’t really searching for someone—I was happy with you, difficult as the arrangement had been—but, someone found me. I was still looking forward to this summer and being able to spend time with you like we did last summer. I was counting the days until my birthday when the two of us would travel to the countryside together . . .”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Kei says. “I thought about what to do and . . . and I decided that lying to you was the best way.”

“The best way? You’re joking, right?”

“I thought that not seeing you for a while would allow you to start a new relationship. I thought it was a good idea at the time, but I’m sorry if you were hurt by it.”

The impulse to jump off the balcony to the hard asphalt five floors below briefly clouds my thoughts. The possibility, though, that I would just end up in more pain rather than dead causes me to slouch deeper into the sofa and light another cigarette.

“And there’s another thing,” Kei says.

Humph?”

“I’m pregnant.”

“How many weeks?” I ask.

“Twelve weeks. I’m due in December. It’ll be a Christmas baby.”

 

 

Did you wonder if it was yours?

I did at first, but quickly dismissed the possibility.

Thirty long minutes passed in silence as you smoked the very last of your cigarettes. You would never smoke again after that night.

I gave up cigarettes, and Kei, that night. Cold turkey.

 

 

“You haven’t looked at me,” Kei says at last. “You haven’t congratulated me either.”

“Congratulations,” I offer flatly, then leave for the restroom.

I stand before the vanity and stare at my weary face. I want to cry for the years of frustration that I have endured. But I can’t. I haven’t been able to cry for Lord knows how long.

When I have calmed down, I return to the sofa, and after a few more minutes I ask Kei if she wants to leave.

She nods.

Reluctantly, Kei agrees to come back to my apartment where I give her the souvenir I bought for her while I was in Portland.

“Where’s the basket?”

“Huh?”

“I asked you to buy me a basket,” she says.

“I didn’t have the space in my luggage, and besides there weren’t any good ones. Portland’s not really the place for that kind of . . .”

“Yes, but I can see you bought all sorts of things for yourself . . .”

“Goddamn it, Kei! You can be an insufferable bitch at times!”

And with those kind words, Kei bolts right out of my apartment. Running down the hallway after her in my sock feet, I catch her by the wrist as she is about to step into the elevator and pull her, kicking and slapping me, back to the apartment. Once inside, the two of us embrace, tears falling easily down our cheeks.

I look at her pretty face, those almond eyes, the upper lip that curled up whenever she laughed, and kiss her lovingly. Carrying her to the bedroom, I lay her gently down on the tatamifloor and lie down beside her.

We hold each other for an hour, knowing this is the very end of our affair.

“I really did love you,” she says after one final, salty kiss at the entrance to my apartment.

“I loved you, too.”

And then Kei leaves my life.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

48

And so, in March you flew with Haruka to the US, where you enrolled her in an intensive English program, spent some time with your family, and, a few weeks later, returned to Japan alone. You didn’t know, though, just how alone you were going to feel.

Got that right. 

In the pile of mail that had accumulated in your mailbox during your absence there were two letters: one from Kei, and another from a woman who . . .

Claimed my wife was having an affair with her husband.

The woman had discovered a DVD her husband made, showing . . .

The two of them having sex in a hotel suite. 

And included a copy of the DVD with her letter. Did you watch it?

The DVD? Only briefly to confirm that it was indeed Haruka on it.

And what did you see?

Haruka in a bathrobe, holding a glass of champagne. Fast-forwarding the DVD, I watched the man going down on Haruka. That was enough for me.

Were you angry?

No. 

No?

How could I have been, what with all my own philandering?

True. So, how did you feel?

Depressed. A friend suggested we have a party and watch the whole thing but I wasn’t the least bit interested. My first inclination was to chuck the DVD into the garbage, but I realized it might come in handy when and if Haruka and I ever started to seriously discuss getting divorced.

Did you ever tell Haruka about the DVD?

No.

Why not?

It wasn’t necessary. Besides, if there’s one thing I cannot stand it’s a hypocrite.

And the letter from Kei?

It was uncharacteristically short for Kei: just a few hurried lines, saying something to the effect that she feared her husband was wising up to our “extracurricular activities” and asked me to refrain from mailing or calling her for the time being.

Welcome back to Japan, Peadar!

Yeah. Well, at least with the start of the school year I was too busy to dwell upon it. As much as I wanted, even needed, to see Kei, I was loath to cause any trouble for her. So, I waited.

And waited and waited and waited and . . .

And before I know it, a month went by and still no word from Kei, and I started to think that something wasn’t right.

Had it ever been?


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

47

When the year 2000 came to an end, everything appeared to be on the up and up for you, didn’t it, Peadar?

Yes, definitely. Work was going exceptionally well and my relationships with women were . . . 

Women?

Kei, Xiuying, Dr. Satomi, and my wife. Kei was satisfying my present emotional needs; Xiuying, my present sexual needs; Satomi, the need to think beyond the present . . .

Could you elaborate?

Since Satomi and I had first met at the end of the summer, we got together for dinner every three or four weeks or so. Although I was very attracted to her, I never put any real effort in trying to “woo” her, so to speak.

Why not?

Satomi was different. I wanted to have a relationship with her, but not until I had uncluttered my life.

Divorced, you mean.

Yeah. Or at a minimum, until I had gotten separated. I wanted the relationship to be legitimate, to be founded on honesty rather than lies. If I had slept with her before she knew that I was married, well, it just wouldn’t have been the same. It would have ended up being just one more affair. As a result, Satomi and I would go out for dinner every now and again, hold hands as we walked, kiss good-bye, and promise to meet again. G-rated stuff. At the time, I imagined that she might one day become my wife. But just not yet. Fortunately, Satomi was so busy with her own work, her residency and training, that there was never any pressure. I could, and did, take it nice and slow.

And, as for your actual wife?

Haruka was focused on her March departure and tried to remain on her best behavior till then, mercifully keeping the daily grief of our conjugal life to a minimum. I would learn by and by that there was another reason for her having been so accommodating during those months. But I’ll save that for later.

In early 2001, you got your permanent residence visa, didn’t you?[1]

I did and, let me tell you, it was a huge relief. Now that I had it, I no longer had to worry about what would happen to my visa status if I ever managed to get divorced. More than that, it meant I could leave Japan whenever and for as long as I wanted without having to go through the hassle of re-applying for a visa.[2]

The permanent residence visa ironically meant that you no longer had to reside permanently in Japan.

Exactly!

Did you want to leave?

Not quite, but all of Haruka’s traveling was giving me itchy feet.

Things sound as if they couldn’t have been better for you, Peadar.

At the time, it did seem that way. Even Kei’s husband was supposed to be out of town for a month or so from April.


[1]The Permanent Resident visa is similar to a Green Card in the U.S., but much harder to get. In the past, one had to have lived a minimum of ten years in Japan, having paid taxes, taken part in the national healthcare scheme, and been an otherwise good “citizen” during those years. There were, of course, many exceptions.

[2]This is not quite an accurate description of what the Permanent Resident visa allows under the new system, which requires visa holders to return regularly or forfeit the visa. 

The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

46

A few years before I remarried, I dated a cute girl off and on for about six months, six contentious months. Named, Kiku, after the Chrysanthemum flower, she had been betrothed to a young doctor who was too busy with his residency to “attend” to her. Whenever he did manage to find the time to take the poor girl out, he would inevitably doze off. Kiku was so starved for affection and sex that a simple kiss would really get her juices flowing. I remember that I would lie on my back, let her crawl up on top of me, and she would go and go and go and go.[1]Every time she spent an afternoon at my place—she was from a “good” family, and almost never spent the night—it was like she was trying to make up for lost time, trying to squeeze out as many orgasms as she could from one session . . .

Is there a purpose to this story, Peadar?

There is. About a year after we broke up for the nth and last time, I caught sight of Kiku in town. Same story: I was waiting for a traffic signal to change when I saw her across the street. She was about seven or eight months pregnant and my first thought was . . . 

Dodged a bullet. 

Yeah.

And what was your first thought upon seeing Akané with a baby?

Confusion. Confusion tinged with sadness.

So, you start asking around about Akané.

This time I must admit that I did. I went straight to Off Broadway and asked Stanley if Akané had been by recently.

 

 

“Your girlfriend?”

“My ex-girlfriend,” I correct.

“Oh, yeah,” he says with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “Get this: she’s screwing that Yomiuri Giants slugger, Martinez.”

I shrug.

“You know, Martinez, that lard-ass from the Dominican Republic. The guy’s gotta be seven times heavier than Akané, twice as tall.”

“Ah, right. Maru-chan.”[2]

“I’m tellin’ ya, those baseball players got a girl in every town and Akané’s the one he fucks whenever he’s in Fukuoka.”

“So, Akané hasn’t had a kid, then?”

“Akané with a kid? Get outta here! If there’s anything incubating in that twat of hers, it’s an STD.”


[1]It should be noted that when Japanese “come”, they “go”.

[2]Due to Martinez’s rotund figure, he was nicknamed “Maru-chan” by his fans. Marumeans “round, circle”.

The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

45

I was at the corner of an intersection in town waiting for the traffic signal to change when I saw her. 

Akané.

Yeah. She was across the street . . .

And not alone.

That was the thing: she was pushing a buggy with a child, a 6-month old child, sitting in it.

How did Akané look to you?

Pretty as always. She was still wearing her hair long and straight, the way I liked it. But something didn’t seem right.

How so?

She didn’t look like a woman who had given birth.

Meaning?

She was still thin as a rail, and her breasts lacked that certain . . . “buoyancy”, if you will.

What you are trying to say is that it was evident to you Akané wasn’t lactating.

Yeah. I’ve always had something of an eye for that.

That’s odd, Peadar. I always took you for an arse, man.

What?

Nothing, nothing. Anyways, you were going to say that for a fleeting moment there you thought Akané had given birth.

Well, yeah. I hadn’t heard anything about her for over a year. So, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibilities.

No, I don’t suppose it was.

So, whose kid was it?

A friend’s. Akané was babysitting, playing Mommy, while her friend shopped.

I’ve always been curious about something.

And that is?

Akané noticed me that day, didn’t she?

She did.

I thought so.

She was only pretending not to have seen you. She wanted you to think the child was hers. She wanted you to be jealous. She had heard through the grapevine that you weren’t happy. Akané wanted you to think she was absorbed in raising her child when in fact she was as alone and miserable as ever.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

44

Hardly a week passed since my wife’s return and we were already at each other’s throats.

What was that about absence making the heart grow fonder?

I think both of us had gotten too accustomed to our freedom, being able to do pretty much whatever we liked, whenever we liked. Now that Haruka was back and we were forced to compromise again, it was only natural that we would end up squabbling.

On a daily basis, no less.

 

 

“Are you really an American?” Haruka asks me in that snarky tone of hers.

“Born and bred, I’m afraid.”

“Well, you could hardly tell.”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“You’re cold.”

“I know.”

“I thought Americans were supposed to be romantic.” 

“Huh?”

“You know, hugging and kissing all the time.”

“Oh, that.”

“Yes, that.”

“Well, that has nothing to do with romanticism, my dear Haruka. The only reason American men are so affectionate towards those heifers they call their ‘lovely wives’ is that if they aren’t, they’ll end up kissing half their assets away in an ugly divorce. That, honey, is not romanticism; it’s self-preservation.”

 

 

You really poured on the charm didn’t you, Peadar?

Like I’ve said before, I can have oodles of charm when I want to. That, however, was not one of those moments.

Not long after Haruka came back, she asked how you felt about her . . .

Going back to the States again from next spring, only this time for at least half a year.

How did you feel about that?

She goes for a month, then three; seemed only natural that she would want to stay longer the next time. The only real surprise was the reason.

Which was?

She wanted to study.

Study what?

Accounting.

And?

And I told her to knock herself out. It’s only fair, she reasoned. I had gotten my Masters on “our” time and money. Now it was her turn to “cultivate” herself. Actually, she used a Japanese word that directly translated means “polish”,[1] so, being the sarcastic bastard that I am, I tossed her a rag and said, “Start with this, Haruka. It’s much cheaper.” To my surprise, she laughed. I guess she knew she was asking a lot of me. After a week or so of feigning objection, I tentatively agreed to let her go and even promised to help her find a program that would actually benefit her—no more of this accounting nonsense—and fill out the paperwork necessary to get a visa.

Why were you against accounting?

It was just something she had thrown out there because it sounded good. If I was going to pay for her to study abroad, I wanted her to study something worthwhile. Accounting would have taken more than a year and wouldn’t have been much use to her in Japan. The first thing we settled on was her departure: mid-March. So, I only had to deal with her for about half a year until she was out of my hair again.

And in the meantime?

I was busier than ever with work. The autumn term at the university had started up, I was doing a lot more consulting on the side, and on top of that, I was putting together a book on traditional Japanese architecture with a photographer from France. The two of us traveled all over the country together—from Okinawa to Tōhoku—documenting and researching. We met with craftsmen and watched them restore old farmhouses, build temples and shrines. We even traveled to the remote village of Shirakawa-gō in Gifu prefecture and participated in the thatching of a roof. Now that I think about that period in my life, I would have to say it was one of the better ones.

In spite of your relationship with Haruka.

In spite of it, yes. At the time, I kept thinking to myself, “If only, if only, if only I were happily married.”

And then you were given a reminder of what could have been.


[1]Migaku (磨く) in a general sense means “polish, scour, or scrub”, but it can also have the meaning of “improving, cultivating, or refining oneself”.

The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

43

As the summer of 2000 was coming to an end and Haruka’s return was approaching, how were you feeling?

Naturally, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I didn’t want the summer to end—Kei and I were having a wonderful time—on the other hand, I knew our affair couldn’t realistically go on forever. Kei, for one, showed no interest in leaving her husband, and, the truth be told, I wasn’t all that eager for her to get divorced.

Why not?

I guess it goes back to the notion of stability being the death of passion. And then there was the fact that throughout the summer Kei was still seeing the doctor. I don’t know if they were having sex or not, but they were still meeting every now and again.

She told you?

I could sense it. As much as I liked, even loved Kei, I did not trust her completely.

Is that why you started seeing a doctor of your own?

That was purely coincidental.

Some people say that there are no coincidences.

And I will counter that Satomi wasa coincidence. The reason I started dating Satomi, if you could call what we did dating, was not because she was a doctor, but rather because she was an intelligent woman who happened to also be drop-dead beautiful. I would elaborate but it’s a tangent that would just go on and on and on.

Fair enough. So, the night before Haruka returned . . .

Kei asked me to meet her at a yatainear her workplace at two.

In the afternoon?

Sorry, two at night. Kei was working the evening shift the hospital and got off around one or so. Like I said before, it wasn’t unusual for us to meet at such odd hours. Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I was able to work on so little sleep.

Hormones.

And copious amounts of caffeinated energy drinks. 

So?

Kei and I met as promised at “Number One”, our second favorite yatai. We ordered beers, yakitori, bowls of ramen . . . And just as we were about to dig in, the sky was lit up with lightning, followed a half-second later by a deafening thunderclap. The winds kicked up and, in an instant, the heavens opened up and rain poured down. Summer storms can get pretty exciting, but there’s nothing like getting caught in one while you’re sitting in a jerrybuilt yatai. Water dripped down from all the joints in the roof. The tarp that had been rigged to the whole thing was flapping violently. Raindrops ricocheted off of the asphalt like bullets. It should have made our date a disaster, but Kei and I just laughed and laughed through it all. And when it ended—as abruptly and it had begun—Kei whispered into my ear that she wanted to spend the night with me.

What about her husband?

That was my question, too. The man was away on a business trip, Kei explained. She had been keeping it a secret so that she could surprise me.

Nice surprise.

You’re telling me. So, after settling the bill, we walked a few blocks towards the wharf where a massive love hotel with a tropical theme called Chapel Coconuts was located, checked in, and went to our room. We made love until dawn and, when we parted later the next day, there were tears in both of our eyes.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

42.2

One day Kei asks me: “Would you like to go to Kurokawa Onsen?”[1]

“Kurokawa? Of course, I would!” Deliciously impure thoughts fill my mind and I am barely able to contain my excitement. 

“No sex, though.”

“No sex? What’s the point in going to a hot spring if we’re not going to . . .”

“I meanit! No sex.”

“Okay, okay . . .” I say, doubtful this is going to work.

“But we can bathe together.”

“Well, now you’re talkin’!”

 

A week later Kei and I are in the mountains of Kumamoto prefecture, driving past the village of Kurokawa, where many of the more popular ryokan[2] and hot spring baths are located. She turns the car onto a gravel road that crosses a shallow river and continues on up into a thick bamboo grove. At the end of the road is an inn that looks deserted.

“Is it even open?” I say.

“Yes. I made a reservation.”

 

All the baths, we are told by the innkeeper, are “family type”, meaning—wink, wink—private. We collect some towels and a key, then walk down a stone path to a small wooden bungalow. Once inside, we get undressed, wash ourselves off, and then step into the bath. Kei has draped a wet towel over herself, covering but not quite concealing the beautiful curves of her body. The towel covering my crotch is propped up as if by a tent pole.

“You want some help with that?” she asks.

“I’d be much obliged.”

As Kei goes down on me, the chirping of the cicada in the surrounding bamboo thicket reaches a deafening crescendo.

 

 

Later, as we are reclining at the side of the bath, billing and cooing, Kei asks me why I hate my wife Haruka.

“It’s not that I hate her.” I know what Kei means: kirai, the Japanese word for “hate”, doesn’t quite carry the same sense of revulsion that the English word does.

“Well then, why do you want to get divorced?”

“That’s a difficult question.”

“Yes, but I want to understand.”

“I don’t know really. We’ve been married for two years, been together for twice as long. You’d think I might be able to understand someone after being with her for four or five years, but I can’t. I don’t know what she is thinking anymore or what motivates her. I can’t understand how she has come to accept our relationship the way it is, how she can look at it and still consider herself happy.”

“Why not? You do the housework, the shopping, the cooking. You let her travel abroad . . .”

“True.”

“If we were married, . . .”

Kei and me married, now there’s a thought. 

“. . . would you let me go abroad all by myself like that?”

“Probably not,” I answer.

“Why not?”

“The reason I let Haruka travel is because I don’t want to be with her. If she asked to go to a four-year university in America, I’d say, ‘Sure!’ and start helping her pack. I don’t miss her when she’s gone and I’m not particularly eager for her to come back. As for you, I would miss you, and I would long for your return. I’d also worry that you might find someone else.”

“And Haruka?”

“I’ve been pinning my hopes on her finding another man.”

“You’re terrible, Peadar. What if I told you I was going abroad for a long time whether you let me or not?”

“Then, I would go with you.”

Kei kisses me.


[1]Kurokawa Onsen (黒川温泉) is one of the better hot spring resorts in Kyūshū, if not all Japan.

[2]A ryokan(旅館) is a Japanese style inn.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

42.1

Anyways, our relationship could very easily have gone the other direction.

Do you really think it went in the “right” direction? After all, it wasan affair.

It felt right at the time. It was the best I could hope for, considering the circumstances. The alternative would have been to spend another summer like the previous one, hanging out at bars or clubs, trying to seduce a stranger.

You didn’t?

Well . . . that’s another story, but for the most part, no, I didn’t.

For the most part?

Okay, I did on occasion go out drinking with friends.

And?

I sometimes got lucky.

So, you were cheating on the woman you were cheating with. Kind of like picking the pocket of the person you’re robbing a bank with.

It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Oh?

Kei was also seeing another person, that doctor. The affair had started shortly before she got married when . . . 

She had suddenly become “terribly attracted” to men.

Yeah . . . Kei had told me about the doctor months before our own little indiscretion began.

Let me get this straight. While she’s holding up the bank, she also picking the pocket of her partner in crime. Later, as she’s sharing the loot with you, you help yourself to the bills in her purse . . .

Something like that. It’s known as an “open relationship”.

Open to all kinds of diseases more like. You would think a nurse of all people would be more careful, wouldn’t you?

Yes, well, anyways . . . as I was saying, Kei and I became very close that summer meeting two or three times a week, taking daytrips.

Where would you go?

Onsen mostly.

Excuse me?

Hot springs. Onsen are hot spring baths.

41

The very day Haruka left for America, Kei came over to your place and . . . 

I remember it was raining buckets out, so we stayed inside and spent the day making love, dozing off in each other’s arms, waking up, doing it all over again . . .

Nothing like beating around the bush.

I think we both had a lot of pent-up desire.

And once that desire was “un-pent”?

Now that I look back on it, I suppose that it wouldn’t have been at all surprising if we had started to drift apart after that. 

Why?

We’d had sex several times over the previous ten months, but it was always rushed, always surreptitious, never predictable. That rainy afternoon spent lolling about naked was a first for us. We had now brought the relationship to a new level, a risky level.

Risky?

After that afternoon, Kei and I became not only physically closer, but emotionally closer, too. Our hearts were now vulnerable to disappointment, betrayal, jealousy, you name it.

That’s Love for you.

Yeah.

40

So, Haruka flies off to America in June, leaving you to your own devices for the next three months. You are “single” again and couldn’t be happier than a dog with two tails, which once more begs the question: 

Why didn’t I just get divorced?

Yes.

As you well know, I did eventually. 

But not for several more years. Wouldn’t it have been better to be single all that time?

I can’t really say. Do I want those years back? Yes, of course I do! I wish I had still been in my early thirties by the time we got ‘round to divorcing and I’m pretty sure Haruka would now agree. But was that feasible then? Not really. And more importantly, would getting divorced sooner rather than later have changed where or who I am today? I doubt it. Besides, I am happier now than I have ever been—albeit dead tired most of the time—thanks to my three little boys. I tell myself that if the price of becoming as happy as I am today was having to endure those years with Haruka, then it was well worth it.

I guess that’s one way of rationalizing your indecisiveness. 

It’s not a rationalization!

Okay, okay. No need to get your knickers in a twist, Peadar. So, you were a single man again, right? How did things go for you this time?

Quite nicely, actually. 

Oh?

Kei and I ended up spending a lot of time together that summer. Thanks to her work—she was a nurse . . .

I know.

Well, what some may not know is that nurses in Japan—those at the larger hospitals in particular—often work a variety of shifts, meaning Kei would sometimes have weekdays off or, even better, get off work at around midnight. 

How could that possibly be better?

It made it easier for her to stay out late. We might meet at a yataiaround midnight . . .

Yatai?[1]

It’s a kind of outdoor food stall. They’ve all but disappeared from most Japanese cities, but in Fukuoka yataiare still popular places to eat and drink. Kei might, say, text me in the evening and ask if I was free. I usually was. And we would meet at one of our favorite yatai, eat and drink until three or so in the morning, and then I’d walk her home.

You’ve said that you didn’t often sleep with Kei. How about during that summer?

That summer was the exception. We were spending so much time together, meeting two or three times a week, that something of a “sexual nature” was bound to happen every now and again. But so much more important than the sex we were having was the nourishing affection we shared: the holding of hands, the hugging, the caresses, the kisses—all the things I had been starved for after marrying Haruka. That summer Kei and I made a lot of memories.

Such as?

It’s not that I did anything different from previous summers. I went to the same fireworks displays, had the same barbecue parties, saw the same summer blockbusters. What made it different was that I was sharing these moments with Kei.


[1]There are about 200 Yatai (屋台) in Fukuoka, with most located in and around Tenjin, the city’s busy shopping district. While yatai were once fairly common throughout Japan, only Fukuoka still has a large number of them today. Most of the yatai serve either yakitori or rāmen or both.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

39

The year 2000 was a banner year for you, wasn’t it, Peadar?

One of the best. Early in the year, I was hired full-time, albeit on a limited contract, at a university which gave me a lot of time for writing, and a research budget that paid for traveling. I would publish quite a large number of articles on architecture and design and city planning in both Japanese and English, which in turn would catch the attention of the media. Before long, I would become something of a minor celebrity, appearing on TV and talking about what a dismal, shabby-looking country Japan had become thanks to “development” and “modernization”.

How to win friends and influence people, huh?

Oh, I always tried to make people laugh even when I was being critical. Like Vonnegut, I, too, “can have oodles of charm when I want to”. [1] Besides, I had been in the country long enough, and understood the language well enough, to know which buttons I could push, which I couldn’t.

And would you say your married life was going as smoothly?

Haruka and I had entered a state of mutual acquiescence by then. 

Meaning?

She did her thing; I did mine. 

What was your thing?

After the disappointment of the previous summer, I didn’t go out with the guys as much anymore. No more Happy Cock for Peadar. Which was just as well: a budding career was keeping me busy. If I did go out, it was usually with Kei or with students and faculty or with people from the local media.

And Haruka?

She had her own friends and would go to movie previews or have wine parties at the home then.

You were sleeping in separate rooms by then, weren’t you?

We were, yes. 

Care to . . .

There isn’t really all that much to say about it. One night my snoring got to her and the next thing I knew she moved her futon to the other room and never returned. It was hardly a surprising development: while we had been sleeping together for over six years, we hadn’t really been “sleeping together” for a very, very . . .

Can’t remember the last time, can you?

Yeah . . . Funny that. 

Pathetic is more like it, Peadar.

It’s not that our relationship was completely dysfunctional. Haruka and I would take a short trip together once a month. We would also go to the movies or check out a new restaurant every other week or so. We weren’t fighting nearly as much either.  

Why do you think that was?

My income was stable, for one. And thanks to Kei, my heart was, too. But much more than that was the fact that Haruka had asked if she could spend the summer in America again. “By all means,” I replied. “Stay for three months! Stay for half a year!” And once it was decided that she would spend the months of June to August in the States all I had to do was count the days until I could be “single” again. It’s easy to endure something when you can see light flickering at the end of the tunnel.

 


[1] Quote is from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions:

“In 1972, Trout lived in a basement apartment in Cohoes, New York. He made his living as an installer of aluminum combination storm windows and screens. He had nothing to do with the sales end of the business—because he had no charm.

“Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.

“Dwayne Hoover had oodles of charm.

“I can have oodles of charm when I want to.”


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

38

Shortly after Kei had told me how irresistible she was finding men now that she was going to get married, we went out for dinner and drinks. 

Just the two of you?

No, we went with some friends. As was par for those days, dinner was followed by karaoke. After belting out tunes for two hours, one by one the others started to leave, hurrying off to catch the final train or bus home. Before long, it was just the two of us, Kei and me. We had been sitting opposite each other in the “karaoke box” the whole time, so when we were finally alone I told her that it would make me terribly happy if she would take the seat next to mine. To my surprise, she not only sat down next to me, but snuggled up to me and took my hand.  

“How soon till you get married,” I ask.

“Two more months.”

“Have you been a good girl?”

She shakes her head no, admitting that there’s a doctor she’s been seeing.

“I guess it can’t be helped,” I say. “Better to get your ya-yas out before you get married rather than later . . .”

“Is that what you did?”

“No and I’ve still got plenty of ya-yas to go around . . . God, you smell lovely.”

“Oh?”

I put my arm around Kei and, with my nose and mouth almost touching the nape of her neck, inhale deeply. It’s such a fresh smell. So clean.

“I don’t think I have ever been with a woman who smelled as pretty as you,” I say.

“Are you trying to hit on me?”

“No,” I reply, kissing on the neck. “You’rethe one who’s been hitting on me.”

She takes my hand and raises it to her mouth and with a light-hearted laugh kisses it. She turns and brings her lips to mine.

We will end up half naked in that karaoke box, but “consummation” of the relationship won’t happen for another three weeks.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

37

Why do you think your relationship with Kei would last as long as it did?

Instability.

Instability?

Yes, instability. Uncertainty. Unpredictability. All those “ins” and “uns” that are like fuel to a fire. Although Kei and I met regularly—about once a week, sometimes more—there was never any guarantee that at the end of a date we would end up rolling in the sack. Most often we did not. A typical date, if you could call it that, involved the two of us walking in the evening under the branches of the willow trees along Meiji Avenue, talking about life. But every once in a while—usually when the imo jōchū [1] with umeboshi [2] she liked to drink went to her head—Kei would cuddle up next to me, rest that fragrant head of hers on my shoulder, and let me kiss her. The world could burn down around us and I wouldn’t have cared at all. It was that very unpredictability—not knowing when or where we would have sex again—that drove me mad with desire. It might be this afternoon; it might be two months from now; it might be at my home, in a dark alley, at a love hotel, or, yes, even on the deck of a yacht moored in the wharf at Minato. I would never know until she was lying naked below me, nipples like radio dials pointing upwards. The woman was as inscrutable as they come. And it was that very inscrutability, that unpredictability, which fired me up so and gave the relationship far more life than it would have everhad if Kei had just allowed me to get bored with what an easy a lay she actually was.

Excuse me?

I think Kei in her own way was forever trying to put the brakes on the relationship, to stop cheating on her husband—a man she really did intend to stay with until death did they part. But, by being inconsistent with her affection towards me she only succeeded in throwing fuel onto the fire. If we’d had a “normal” affair with regular sex, we probably wouldn’t have stayed together for nearly as long as we did.

 


[1] Imo jōchū (芋焼酎) is a clear, pungent liquor distilled from sweet potatoes. It is produced mainly in southern Kyūshū.

 Umeboshi (梅干し) are sour pickled plums.

The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

36

I take it the answer is “No”.

No?

No, you did not consider the morality of what you were doing.

Morality was not a driver my actions, no. If anything, I was motivated by what I thought would make me happy, or, more accurately, less un-happy. The moral thing to do would have been to confront my wife and say, “Look, Haruka, we both know it: this marriage ain’t working. Let’s stop before the hole we’re in gets any deeper”, and face the consequences.

Why didn’t you?

Oh, I tried. On several occasions I tried, but . . . I’ll never forget this one time when we were having one of our legendary fights—about what I can’t for the life of me recall—and in the heat of the argument, I said: “Haruka, I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had it with the constant fighting and bickering! I want a divorce!” And, what does Haruka do? She buries her face in my chest and starts crying, blubbering rubbish like, “Don’t leave me. I love you.” Now, tell me, what is a man supposed to do in a situation like that?

Start sleeping with Ms. Availability?

Yeah. Odd though it may sound, thanks to my relationship with Kei, the next few years ended up being some of the better ones of my marriage.

I believe your average polygamist would find himself agreeing with you there, Peadar.


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

35

I’m curious, Peadar, did you ever consider the moral implications of what you were doing?

The implications of what?

Cheating on your wife, Haruka. Cuckolding Kei’s husband.

Oh, that . . . 

Yes, that.

Well, back when I first started sleeping with Xiuying, I felt nervous more than anything—nervous that Haruka might find out. I didn’t know how I would explain myself. But then, Haruka never did find out . . .

At least you don’t think she did.

Are you implying that she knew about the affairs?

I’m not implying anything, Peadar. It’s just that many women turn a blind eye to their husband’s infidelities, knowing that divorce would be far more disruptive to their lives than the occasional fling.

True. You know, before we married, Haruka surprised me by saying that she would be able to tolerate her husband visiting a soapland . . .

Pardon me?

Soaplands are a uniquely Japanese kind of brothel. Customers pay to take a bath with a woman who washes the man, massages him, and then depending on the customer’s needs and budget, either has sex with, or performs some kind of act on the man resulting in the man’s “pipes” also getting “cleaned”. Or so they say; I have never been to one myself.[1]

Those enigmatic Japanese.

Yes, well anyways, Haruka said she could forgive “an affair of the body”, but not “an affair of the heart”, the latter being the bigger threat.[2]

How would you have felt if Haruka had also sleeping around?

A German friend once asked me the very same question and it gave me some pause. How would I feel, I wondered. Would I be upset? Would I be angry? Or, would I be relieved? I had been with Haruka for more than four or five years, married for over two of those years, and I was now quietly longing for a way out of the marriage. If Haruka were also engaging in an extramarital affair, I concluded, why, there was the exit! All I needed to do was walk through it.

And don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Knowing Haruka, though, I don’t think she would have overlooked the opportunity to lay into me with her usual extortionist demands, so I doubt she ever knew.

So, you didn’t think about the morality of . . .

What’s morality?

Knowing what the right thing to do is, and when to do it.

Was it morally wrong to sleep around while I was married to Haruka? That’s what you want to ask, right?

This isn’t about my wanting to ask you anything, Peadar. That isn’t my place. All I can do is help you reflect upon your actions, and hope you ask those questions yourself.

Alright, then! I’ll ask myself: was it morally wrong for me to have slept around? Before I answer that, let me say that I think the morality of any action depends on the circumstances.

Moral relativism?

Moral reality. Listen: I have a friend who sleeps around a lot and isn’t very good at keeping it from his wife. I’m sure he tries to be discreet, but he makes bonehead mistakes. It wouldn’t surprise me if his wife knew much more about his infidelities than he realizes. The interesting thing about it, though, is his wife has, as far as I know, never ever confronted him about the philandering. Her own father was a randy old sod who actually livedin a love hotel of all places, so I doubt she has any illusions about the trouble men’s dicks can get them into. The bar she has set for my friend to be “a good husband” is so low that he is able to skip over it. It seems that if he is able to bring home a steady paycheck and be a halfway decent father, she’s more than content. Is it, then, immoral for my friend to cheat on his wife? Probably, but then his wife might actually be disappointed if he didn’t, perverse as that may sound. So long as my friend is able to keep his extramarital relationships on the physical level, not the emotional one; so long as he doesn’t shove his wife’s face into the affairs, there doesn’t seem to be any overtly negative consequence to his infidelity. Expectations are important, too.

Expectations?

Yes. If you enter into a relationship where there is no expectation of the partners being faithful, then it probably isn’t immoral if either of them seeks sexual encounters outside of the relationship.

What do you think Haruka’s expectations were?

What about mine? I didn’t go into the marriage thinking that I would end up sleeping around. If she had been more cooperative, I doubt I would have ever . . . 

So, you’re saying it was Haruka’s fault?

No . . . It was both of our fault. We were both in our own way uncompromising and selfish.


[1]Prostitution is illegal in Japan. Technically, that is. The definition of prostitution, however, is limited to coitus, meaning that pretty much everything else that one can image isallowed. Also, there is no stipulated penalty for those who are prostitutes or those who use them, so, if a prostitute does have vaginal sex with a John, the act is considered to have been done in private between two consenting adults. (How convenient!) Although the laws regulating “businesses affecting public morals” (風俗法, fūzokuhō) have been amended over the years, prostitution is still going strong in Japan.

Case in point: a few months ago, I was approached by a “pimp” on a street corner in Nakasu, Fukuoka’s “adult-oriented” entertainment area. He asked me if I was interested in going to a “soapland”. 

In my two decades in this country, it was the very first time that any of these black-suited panderers had ever approached me. It left me with the impression that either Japan had come a long way in accepting foreigners or the economy still hadn’t recovered completely, “Abenomics” notwithstanding. A buck is a buck, no matter which schmuck the girl fucks.

I had a minute or two until the traffic signal changed, so I asked the pimp how much a visit to his soapland would cost. (No harm in asking, right?) He answered that there was a flat fee of fifteen thousand yen (about $160). 

“So cheap!”

Surely there must be some catch, I thought, and asked him if that was just the price you paid to get into the joint, the so-called nyūyoku-ryō (入浴料, lit. “entering bath charge”).

“No. It’s fifteen thousand for sex.”

“Get outtahere!”

I then asked if there was an extra charge, known as a shimei-ryō (指名), for choosing the girl, and he said, “No, you may have sex with any girl you like.”

“Really!”

While I didn’t take him up on his offer, I could see why many Japanese men do. When the light changed, I crossed the street and walked away, the modest price of a convenient “affair of the body” niggling at the back of my mind.

[2]“An affair of the body” in Japanese is karada no uwaki (体の浮気); “an affair of the heart”, kokorono uwaki (心の浮気).


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

34

Unlike Xiuying, when you first met Kei, she was still single, wasn’t she?

Yes. She was about six months away from getting married to her boyfriend of some seven years.

A nurse, she certainly lived up to the fantasies lascivious men have of women in that profession, didn’t she?

I’ve never gotten that.

Gotten what?

The nurse fetish. Whenever Ithink of nurses, my head is overwhelmed by images of bedpans, needles, Nurse Mildred Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. . .

But Kei was different.

Very much so. For starters, Kei was extraordinarily pretty . . . 

And nurses are ugly?

In my experience, nurses in Japan have all the charm of nightclub bouncers. Kei, however, was rather girlish. She had long light brown hair that was thick with curls. More than her looks, though, the thing that I really fell for was how cheerful and carefree she was, her upper lip curling up like a duck’s beak whenever she laughed.

Kei was full of life when you were feeling sapped of it.

Exactly. It still amazes me today that Kei could have had such a sunny disposition at the time when she was working in the ER, dealing on a daily basis with death—traffic accidents and messy suicide attempts, that sort of thing. Had I been in her line of work, I probably would have become suicidal myself.

You would end up having a relationship with Kei that would continue past her own wedding and right up to your divorce from Haruka. 

More or less. And, it all started one night when Kei and I happened to be alone. She had many questions, and doubts, about marriage.

 

 

“Have you ever been unfaithful?” she asks, a playfully devious look in her eyes.

“Excuse me?”

“Have you ever cheated on Haruka?”

“Me? Cheat? On Haruka? No, no, no, no . . . I’m a happily married man.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Why do you ask?”

And then she confesses:Ever since the engagement, I’ve been terribly attracted to men.”

“Oh?”

“Is that . . . normal?”

 

 

With an opening like that, how could you not let yourself in?

It’s funny, but I wasn’t all that captivated by Kei at first—I’ve never been into the cute, girlish type—but then she goes and tells me how horny she’s been lately, and Bingo!

Oh, it isn’t that odd, Peadar. One of the things males find most irresistible in females is something that is remarkably basic. 

What’s that?

Availability. As much as you boys like to think differently, you are the weaker sex. 

Oh, I know. Good God, how I know.

 


The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.

A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.