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, . . . 


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, 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?”


“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?


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.


“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?”


“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.


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?



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?


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.


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.” 


“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?



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.


I take it the answer is “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.


Tell me about Nahoko.

Nahoko was the friend of a friend of a friend, or something like that. A large group of my own friends and hers were out drinking at a gaijinbar when we met. She was only nineteen years old at the time, a college student, but was working part-time as the receptionist at an English conversation school in town. Diminutive, with a peaches and cream complexion, she reminded me somewhat of a purer, younger version of Akané and I couldn’t help being drawn to her. The two of us chatted, she laughed and touched my arm, I took her hand, we leaned into each other, and just as we were about to start kissing, her co-worker, a woman a little older than myself, came to the rescue, saying it was past Nahoko’s bedtime.

And that, was it?

No. Nahoko and I exchanged e-mail addresses and, after mailing each other a few times over the next few days, agreed to go out on a date the following weekend. The problem was, her co-worker insisted upon playing the role of chaperone. Who was I to protest? So, the three of us had dinner together and went to see the movie “Shakespeare in Love”. When the movie ended, I expected “Auntie” to tell me that it was time once again for Nahoko to be going home. To my surprise, however, she bid the two of us a hasty adieu, and split.

Not much of a chaperone, was she?

I suspect that Nahoko had initially requested her co-worker to join us, just to be on the safe side, but now that she was ready to be alone with me had signaled to her friend to make herself scarce.

And now that her friend was gone, you asked Nahoko if she wanted to come back to your place?

Of course, . . . At my apartment, I carried her petite body from the entrance of my apartment straight to the bedroom, lay her gently down on the futon, and in the warm light of a paper lantern undressed her, slowly removing each piece of clothing . . . I’ll never forget her skin—so soft and not a blemish on it. After we made love the first time, Nahoko asked me if she made me feel young. 




“Young?” I reply. “You make me feel reborn.”

And as we are lying side by side, I tell her I have to confess something. She places her hand on my lips and says: “I already know.”

“Who told you?”

“Your friend. He told my coworker, and she . . .”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

“It was never my intention to deceive you.”

“It’s okay,” she replies and then says something that catches me off guard: “I know the Rules of Illicit Love.”



Awfully mature thing for a nineteen-year-old to say.

That’s what I thought. But before I could ask what those rules were, she climbed up on top of me and we started to go at it again, which had a way of pushing all the questions out of my head. By the time I fell asleep, I was convinced that Nahoko and I would be together for months, if not years, and I took much comfort in the idea that even if conjugal bliss eluded me, I would still be able to find affection outside of marriage.

But then you woke up.

Yes, and Nahoko was gone.

Were you surprised?

No. Japanese girls often sneak off once their boyfriends have gone to sleep; they have to hurry home before their parents wake up and realize how late they’ve been out. Akané used to do it all the time. That, at least, is what I had thought Nahoko had done. So, I got up and went to the kitchen to make myself some tea and there on the dining room table I found a letter: “Dear Peadar, I really, really, really like you, but . . . I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough . . .”

Tagged out at home plate.

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.


It was in the middle of May of 1997 and you hadn’t seen Akané for over a month when you called her to say that there was something you needed to talk about.

Now that Haruka had agreed to marry me, it was time I faced up to what I’d been avoiding.

You think?

But how do you let someone down easy?

Tell them you just want to be friends?

Oh, and that always works wonders.

The next day Akané came over to your apartment. She was happy to see you, but a little worried, too. As she sat down on the sofa next to you, she glanced about furtively to see if there were any signs of another woman in your life, but found none.



“What is the matter, Darling?”



Darling. She always called me “darling”. I can’t hear that goddamn word anymore without being reminded of Akané.



“Darling? You wanted to talk?”

And I begin: “I do, but it isn’t easy to say.”

Understatement of the Year.

“The thing is,” I say. “I can’t see you anymore.”

And Akané jumps up off of the sofa, runs into the kitchen, takes the kitchen knife off of the counter, and makes a lunge at me.



Thank God, I had joined the Aikidō Club at the university, otherwise that knife would have gone right into my belly. I was able to push her aside and she went crashing to the floor, but the knife was still in her hand. She sat up and tried to slit her own wrist instead, but I managed to get to the knife first, pry it from her hand, and toss it across the room.

You would hold Akané tightly in your arms, and as she sobbed for the next hour, you would tell her over and over that you weren’t worth it.

It was true: I wasn’t worth her tears. I wasn’t worth her sadness.

What did you think would become of Akané?

I figured she would be lonely for a time, but would eventually find someone better, someone with whom she could make new memories to replace the ones she had made with me. Time really does heal, after all.

You were living proof of that.

I was, indeed.

Time, however, wouldn’t be quite the panacea for Akané that it had been for you now, would it?


On the morning of New Year’s Day 1997, Akané came to your apartment wearing a stunning furi-sodé kimono.[1] It had a deep purple background, so deep in color it was almost black, but the long sleeves and the bottom half were emblazoned with colorful dahlias, her favorite flower. Around her waist was a wide obi of gold silk.

I’ll never forget how she looked that day. Her hair done up with lovely accessories called kanzashi. She looked just like a maiko.[2] She was terribly pretty.

You went to Hakozaki-gū Shrine together, where you would end up praying for quite different things: you, for your future success.

And Akané?

Akané prayed for happiness, of course. Happiness with you, Peadar, which meant marriage, kids, a house, a dog, the whole kit and caboodle. And were those prayers answered?

Er, no.

And when the two of you returned to your apartment, you “unwrapped” Akané.

She had so many layers on. First, I untied the obi-jimé, a crimson red rope made of silk that was holding everything in place. Then, I unraveled the long gold obi, pulling on it as Akané spun around, giggling, in front of me. There was an obi-agé, also crimson in color, just below that which I undid. The kimono came loose and opened it up to reveal two more layers of undergarments called juban held in place by more sashes. And when I opened up the last layer, I discovered that she was completely naked underneath. No bra or panties. That was such a turn on seeing her naked body lying above all those colorful garments, sashes, and silk ropes.

And you made love to her for the rest of the day and night.

It was one of the few times when Akané didn’t have to scurry away before her carriage turned back into a pumpkin.

Akané’s mother was finally ready to trust you, so convinced that the two of you would eventually marry. She had even spoken to her husband to warn him of what was coming. And rather than fly off the handle as the typical Japanese father might when confronted with the possibility of his daughter marrying a gaijin, do you know what he said to his wife?

I have no idea.

He said, “They’ll have the cutest children!”

Huh . . . I had no idea.

There’s a lot you don’t know, Peadar.

Do I want to know?

Probably not, but you should.


[1] Furi-sodé (振袖) is a long-sleeved kimono worn by unmarried women on ceremonial occasions, such as Coming-of-Age Day, New Year’s Day, graduation ceremonies and weddings.

[2] A maiko (舞子) is a young dancing girl working in the o-chaya (お茶屋, lit. “tea house”) of Kyōto.


And did you make the right choice?

The right choice would have been not getting back together with either of them in the first place.

That’s what I would have told you. But, as I have said before, you probably would not have listened anyways. In the end, you have to lie in the bed you have made. So, Peadar, why did you choose Haruka?

A better question to ask would be: why did I not choose Akané.

Yes, why not Akané? You loved her. And, she adored you.

She did, yes.

Hurts to think about it, doesn’t it, Peadar?

Yeah . . . You know, it used to baffle me how ugly some of the wives of the more established Japanese men could be.

Ugly? That’s awfully severe.

Homely, then. Homely and frightfully dowdy. The wives of doctors, university professors, executives, and successful lawyers here in Japan are often . . . well, dogs. In the States, the trophy wife is so commonplace—you know, successful men marrying beautiful women—that the well-to-do end up having children that have a highly-burnished look. Not always, of course, but often. After several generations of this virtuous cycle, the result is a class of attractive people, exuding wealth and confidence. Not so in Japan. The men—or, more accurately, their parents—are so concerned that a bimbo will disgrace the family name that the men often end up marrying the type who won’t ever win a beauty pageant, but who won’t embarrass the family, either. There’s a saying in Japanese: bijin wa akiru, busu wa nareru.[1]

Which means?

“When it comes to women, you’ll eventually get bored with a beauty and used to a dog.”

Those enigmatic Japanese . . . So, you went for homely, then?

Haruka was not homely. She just wasn’t a head-turner. But . . .

She wouldn’t embarrass you.

She was from a middle-class background. By no means rich, but she had been raised and educated well enough that she knew how to speak to people. Actually, she was very good with people. Extremely good. She could have a conversation with just about anyone and the person would leave with a favorable impression of her. It never ceased to amaze me how easy it was for her to make friends.

And Akané?

I think men liked her. She was young, cute, full of energy, compulsive. What was there not to like? Women, unfortunately, thought she was a bimbo. I had been in Japan long enough by then to worry about what people thought about me.

Better late than never.

Yeah, well . . . I didn’t want people talking behind my back, saying things like, “That Peadar is awfully nice, but his wife . . . oh, dear! What was he thinking marrying a floozy like that?”

So, that’s why you dumped the poor girl?

It wasn’t only that. There was the question of her family, too.

Her family?

I met Akané’s “sister”. I don’t remember what the exact relationship was—her mother’s younger sister, or perhaps an older cousin. At any rate, she always called this woman “big sis”[2] and would sometimes invite her out on dates with us. Big sis was in her mid-to-late thirties, very tall and slim. Akané told me she had once been a model and it was easy to see why. The funny thing, though, was that Akané, as small and petite as she was, nevertheless tried her damnedest to emulate that big sis of hers, imitating the way she dressed and kept her hair, smoking the same KOOL menthols the woman smoked, and so on. Big sis, however, was no fan of yours truly.


The woman came off as jaded. She’d probably had her own share of gaijin boyfriends over the years and didn’t trust me. At least, that’s how I felt around her. The thought of having this woman in my life, glowering at me for years on end, was a real turn off. Haruka’s younger sister, on the other hand, was rather sweet, demure . . .

You met with both their families?

No, no, no. You should understand that in Japan you normally don’t do such a thing until you’re absolutely committed to getting married. You meet surrogates, instead. Friends, first. Then, maybe a sibling or two. And once you’ve cleared those hurdles and you’re ready to do the formal engagement ceremony you meet with the parents. I wouldn’t meet with Haruka’s mother until less than a month or so before we got married.

Not her father?

Haruka’s father had been dead for about ten years by then.

What is it, Peadar, about you and women with dead or absentee fathers?

I do not know. Mié’s father had also died when she was young.

Yes, I remember. What about Akané’s father?

That was the thing: he was a taxi driver.

You dumped Akané because her father was a taxi driver?

No, no, no. I’m sure taxi drivers are fine people. It was just one more thing. As much as I liked . . . even “loved” Akané, I just couldn’t picture myself marrying her and being part of that world.

You could have always left Japan. It wouldn’t have mattered then what her background was.

True. But then, I wasn’t planning on leaving Japan anytime soon.


[1] 美人は飽きる、ブスは慣れる (Bijin-wa akiru, busu-wa nareru.)

[2] お姉さん (o-nē-san) is what most Japanese call their elder or oldest sister, but the term of endearment can also be used for any woman who is not yet old enough to be called an oba-san (小母さん), an “auntie”.


Your thirty-first birthday marked a turning point of sorts for you. Care to elaborate?

I am often impressed by the young Japanese women I meet. Some of them can be so level-headed when discussing their future. They’ll tell me that they’re going to start saving for marriage as soon as they have graduated from college and have found employment. They say they’ll work for a company for five or six years, get married by the time they’re twenty-seven or eight, and have the first of two or three children when they are thirty. They will resign from their job shortly before giving birth and dedicate themselves to raising the children. And, I’ll be damned if they don’t do exactly what they planned to do. In my own experience, so little has ever gone according to plan that I have had to resign myself to playing life by ear. Listen: less than a month before I was to depart for Japan, my mother and I were in a grocery store . . .

Grocery store? Do people still use that word?

Jesus Christ, you can be so annoying! A supermarket, we were at a supermarket! My mother asked me what my plans for the future were. And I said, “Oh, Ma, I really don’t know. I guess I’ll spend a year or two in Japan, then travel on to Barcelona, stay there a year or so to study architecture, and return to the States and go to graduate school . . .

And your poor mother sighed: “Peadar, by the time I was your age, I’d already had five children!”

Ma would never be crowned Miss Congeniality.

When you were struggling to find a job after college and you went to your mother to whine about the injustice of the world, what was it, again, that she said to you?

She said, “Do you know where you can find sympathy, Peadar? In a dictionary.”

I’ve always loved that story.

Well, you would . . . Anyways, back to what I was saying: despite my original “plans”, I have now been in Japan for far longer than I ever imagined, still have not been to Barcelona and may never go, and I ended up getting my masters here in Japan rather than back in the States. So, how do you like them apples?

The long and winding road . . .

Anyways, pressure from friends and family to settle down first started to build when I turned thirty, but I was so focused on getting into the graduate program at Geikōdai[1] I didn’t really have the time to think about it. Besides, I was eager to put off the inevitable as long as possible.

The inevitable?

Choosing one woman to propose to; another to bid farewell to.

Were those really your only two options, Peadar?

Looking back on it now, I realize that no they weren’t, but at the time I didn’t know better.

I could have told you . . . Then again, would you have listened?


[1] Geikōdai (芸工大) is the abbreviation of Kyūshū Geijutsu Kōka Daigaku (九州芸術工科大学), or Kyūshū Institute of Design. In 2003, the school became Kyūshū University’s Graduate School of Design.


I had been with Akané for a while . . .

It was 6 months to the day.

Really? All I remember is that we had grown quite close by then. I thought about Akané often—would get that funny feeling in my gut and all, something which hadn’t happened since Mié. I realized it was getting high time to let Haruka go.

High time, Peadar! That’s rich.

Yes, well . . . eh, hem . . . Haruka and I had our fun together—even traveled to Tokyo Disneyland for New Year’s. But, while I liked Haruka, I had never really been head-over-heels in love with her. It’s just . . .

Just what?

When you’ve been dumped yourself, and know how much it hurts, it’s not easy to do it to another person, especially someone you care about. I may not be the nicest person, but I’m not mean. I was hoping that our spending less and less time with each other . . .

Would lead to a natural end of the relationship.

It happens . . . And so, one night when Haruka was at my place, Akané called me up. I had always been careful to turn the sound of the phone off when I had either of them over to avoid this exact situation. But, for one reason or another, I had forgotten.

Akané had just gotten off work and was hoping to surprise you.

She surprised me, alright. The phone rang and my first reaction was to ignore it, just let it ring. But that would have looked suspicious.

So, you answered the phone and heard Akané’s voice.

And she said something like, “I got off early today, can I come . . .” And just then Haruka, who was in the kitchen, started chopping onions . . . LOUDLY. Akané could hear the sound of the knife on the chopping board—how could she not? It was like a cannon being fired—and she went berserk: “What’s that noise?!?! Who’s there?!?! Who are you with?!?!” Akané had become so agitated and was now yelling into the phone. Haruka could hear everything.

And the jig, as they say, was up, Peadar.

The jig was up, indeed. I hung up the phone, plunked myself down on the sofa, and sighed heavily. Haruka came over and sat down beside me.

How did she take it?

She was remarkably calm. I had to make a choice, she said. Would it be her or “that stupid bitch”.


I was tired of sneaking around, tired of having to worry that one of them might come unannounced when the other was there.

Or call.

Or call, yes. I was tired of cleaning up after Akané left, searching for her long black hairs in my sofa and bed. And having to do the same with Haruka’s short brown hairs. I hated having to worry about what alibis I would use when the next national holiday came up. So, when Haruka asked me to choose between her and “that stupid bitch”, I answered: “I don’t want to be with either of you.” And Haruka said, “I understand.” She packed up her things and quietly left. It was all rather unexpected.

But not nearly as unexpected as what Akané would end up doing.


Why did you end up two-timing, Peadar?

After Mié dumped me . . .

Mié, again?

Would you let me continue? After Mié left me, I went through six months without a girl. And the longer I went, the more desperate I got. My standards plummeted.

A vicious cycle.

A “Bitch-ious” cycle’s more like it. One thing I learned then was that it was much easier to find someone new, someone better when you were already with someone. And so, my relationship with Tatami, morphed into a relationship with . . .


No, I was seeing another woman on the side.


Sorry, but that’s the way it was. Anyways, that relationship, or should I say those relationships, blended into the relationship that developed with Haruka.

And your affair with Akané?

I intended to eventually leave Haruka for Akané once I was sure that Akané was the one I wanted to be with.

Eventually? You dated the two of them simultaneously for quite some time.

That hadn’t been the plan.

What was “the plan”, Peadar?

I was going to dial down the relationship with Haruka and dial up the . . . I know how it must sound.

Do you now? So, did you “dial down” your relationship with Haruka?

A bit, yes. We would see each other only about once every one or two weeks, usually on the weekend. With Akané, it was more like once or twice a week. But, because of the nature of Akané’s work—she usually had weekdays off—we would meet during my afternoon breaks, on weeknights, occasionally on a weekend. I was definitely spending more time with Akané. And, to be quite honest, I was happier with her than I had been with another woman in a long time. For once, I wasn’t looking back. I wasn’t preoccupied by “what ifs”, anymore.

So, what went wrong?


And how long had you been with this girlfriend by then?


Two years?

No, no. It was only two months, possibly three. It was during the rainy season, around late June or early July, when Akané spotted me on the corner that day. Haruka[1] and I had only been dating since early May.

And your eye was already wandering?

I am, what I am.

But that’s not really true, is it? It’s not as if you were a lady-killer in those days.

No, I’m embarrassed to admit, I was not.

Who was it, again, that you were dating when you first met Haruka?

Ugh, do you have to remind me?


It was Tatami.

That’s right, Tatami! Good Lord, Peadar, what were you thinking?

That’s the problem: I wasn’t. It was something of a low water mark in my life . . . I didn’t have hell of a lot of confidence.

So, when Tatami went away to England for a year and was finally out of your hair you met Haruka, right?

Yeah. Tatami left in April and, let me tell you, I was never happier to see someone go. We promised to write regularly, of course—you know the things people say—but, I don’t think we exchanged more than a handful of letters during the next twelve months.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Got that right.

[1] Haruka is a name that is sure to be brutalized by the American accent. It is not pronounced Ha-ROO-ka, but rather Ha-du-ka with a slight emphasis on the first syllable.