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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

33

How was life now that Haruka was back?

To be honest, it was kind of a relief having her back.

A relief?

At first, yes. We still fought, of course. Bickered about trivial things day-in, day-out, but there was a comfortable predictability in all of it.

You really are a glutton for punishment, Peadar.

Perhaps, yes. But, in spite of my wife’s other faults, no one ever lavished souvenirs on me quite like Haruka would in those days. 

Oh?

I’ll never forget the hundred-dollar bottle of Reserva de la Familia Cuervo she gave me that year. It became my new standard for tequila.

Something to numb you with then.

It helped.

But then the novelty of Haruka being around started to wear off, didn’t it?

A bottle of tequila only lasts so long.

And Xiuying called, asking if you’d like to have dinner.

I don’t know if it is a Chinese thing, or just Xiuying, but from then on whenever I approached her she would pull back, and whenever I retreated, she would strike. Anyways, Xiuying and I met in town and when I asked what she was hungry for, she said, “You!” So, we skipped dinner altogether and headed to the nearest “rabuho” where we screwed like cats for the next four hours.

Xiuying had gotten divorced by then, hadn’t she?

Yeah, and had gotten her permanent residence visa, too, which got me thinking: if a Chinese woman with a loser for a husband could get it, then, by gum, I so could I!

Boys, be ambitious!

Yes, well, speaking of ambition, Xiuying was working for what the Japanese call a “shōsha”,[1] a trading company, during the day to learn the business and build contacts, and in the evenings and on weekends she was building her own business. She had become increasingly independent and confident. Success was not a matter of if but how soon. As I lay next to her, I liked to think that I had something to do with . . . 

You? You think youhad a hand at Xiuying’s success, Peadar?

Well, I . . . 

You had nothing to do with it whatsoever, Peadar. Xiuying would succeed in spite ofyou, not thanks to you.

You’re probably right.

Probably?

You are right.

And Xiuying would end up being as unreliable a lover to you as you had been to her.

She could be frustratingly unpredictable, but then I probably deserved it.

Probably?

I deserved it.

Peadar, I think there’s hope for you, yet.


[1]A shōsha (商社) is a trading company. Many wholesalers in Japan will import goods through shōsha rather than import the products themselves to avoid all the hassles involved in bringing foreign products or commodities to Japan.

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.

32

I suppose it’s only natural that you would start thinking about Akané, again. After all, your Chinese “friend” wouldn’t let you crack open her fortune cookie, so to speak, and the girls at the Happy Cock weren’t interested in your . . . ahem, and Nahoko had the good sense to run as far away from you as possible . . .

Hey!

So, two weeks before your wife is scheduled to return, you start asking around about Akané.

It wasn’t like that at all.

How was it then, Peadar?

I went to a bar . . .

Happy Cock, again?

No.

The Crazy Cock?[1]

No!

The Monstrously Huge Cock?

Oh, for the love of God!

I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. 

I went to Off Broadway.

Another gaijin bar.

Yes, another gaijin bar. A friend of mine named Stanley worked the kitchen there.

 

 

As I’m sitting at the counter eating a burger, Stanley emerges from the kitchen, wiping his meaty hands on his apron, and says, “Hey, Peadar, how’s it going?”

“Meh . . .”

“Your girlfriend was in here the other day.”

“My girlfriend?” I’m not sure who Stanley is talking about.

“Akané.”

“Oh, right. That girlfriend,” I say, a wistful smile on my face. “She come here often?”

“Off and on.”

And though I would rather not know, I can’t keep myself from asking: “Alone?”

“Akané Alone? Hah! That girl may arrive alone, but she never leaves this joint that way.”

And the wistful smile drops from my face . . .

Stanley continues: “Akané was in here a few weeks ago. Sitting exactly where you are now, Peadar. And this big black guy—must have been twice her height and five times her weight—he had his hands down the front of her shirt, pawing the girl like he was shopping for avocadoes, and Akané was laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. They left together and a few nights later she came back and she said, ‘His chimpoko[2]was this big!’ Well, I don’t know how the guy could have ever got a cock that big inside her, she’s so tiny.”

. . . and is replaced by chagrin.

“Get this,” Stanley says with a playful grin. “I asked Akané why she keeps sleeping with all these black guys, and you know what she tells me? She whines, ‘How else will I ever forget Peadar?’”

 

 

And that, Peadar, was the end of your long-anticipated Summer of Love.

Yeah . . . A week later Haruka returned.

 

[1]The Crazy Cockwas one of three popular clubs run by an English expat in the late 90s and early “Naughties”. The businesses were eventually sold to others, and while The Happy Cock retained its name for a while, The Crazy Cock located on Oyafukō-dōriis now called Fubar.

[2]Older Japanese slang for “cock”. 


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.

30

What did you think your summer would be like with your wife Haruka away?

Frankly speaking, I thought I’d be able to screw as many girls as I liked without the hassle of having to sneak about. Without Haruka around, I would be able to mail women without her looking over my shoulder and go out on dates without having to worry about my cellphone ringing.

You wanted, in essence, to pretend that you were single again.

It is the next best thing to being single.

Why not just get divorced?

Looking back, I probably should have. Many friends told me that it would only get harder to break up the longer I waited, and they were right. Trouble is, I didn’t quite have confidence I would be able to land on my feet. Besides, I needed to focus first and foremost on my career.

And you did that by sleeping with as many girls as you liked?

Yes . . . I mean, no. The women were . . . a distraction.

From?

From the loneliness that was gnawing at me.

Loneliness?

I’ve always been a lonely person. Many people think that because I often spend time alone, I’m a loner, but nothing could be further from the truth: I crave to be with people. I don’t necessarily need to be the center of attention, but I do like to be surrounded by people.

Why do you think so?

I think it has something to do with growing up in a large family and being at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak. I was called the “Baby of the Family” as if I were babied, but the fact of the matter is, the lower you are on that totem pole the less of your parents’ tender loving care you receive. 

Oh?

Listen: when the first child trips and falls, the parents scoop the child up into their arms and comfort it. The second child gets a hug and some encouragement. The third, a pat on the head. The fourth is told to walk it off. The fifth gets scolded for making so much goddamn noise.

And the sixth?

He’s told he’ll be given something to really cry about if he doesn’t stop crying right this second.

It must be terrible to be the seventh child.

Oh, the seventh child has it easy: the parents are so tired of raising children by then that he usually gets forgotten or neglected. Neglect would have been like a walk in the park on a sunny afternoon compared to what I had to contend with as a child.

Such as?

Older brothers showing their fraternal affection through the administration of the daily Wedgie, Titty-Twister, Wet Willy, and other indignities. So, as a consequence of the mild neglect of my parents and quotidian physical and emotional abuse by siblings I developed this inclination for melancholy and loneliness.

Has sleeping around ever helped?

Helped what?

Tame that gnawing loneliness.

Gabriel García Márquez wrote that . . . 

Gabo again?

He is the Maestro, after all. Gabriel García Márquez wrote that there was no place in life sadder than an empty bed.[1]

Oh? I can think of places that are worse.

A tad hyperbolic, perhaps, but true, nonetheless. My bed today is far from empty—three young boys sleeping between my wife and me, tangled limbs and leaking diapers and I’m constantly rolling over onto Tomica die-cast cars, Legoblocks, and Kamen Riderblasters—and I couldn’t be happier. When my second son woke the other night to find his younger brother sleeping on my chest he cried, “No! No! No! My Daddy! My Daddy!” Now that I think about it, I haven’t felt lonely or sad since I became a father five years ago. Am I tired? Yes. Woozy from sleep deprivation? Yes! But lonely or sad? No, not at all. As for the sleeping around helping, I would have to say, no, it did not help.

I could have told you that, of course, but why do you think it didn’t?

Because what I was really after was not so much the act of making love—I wanted that, yes—but I wanted more: a sense that I was loved, loved for who I was, flaws and all . . . I often joke that what men and women want is usually in conflict: namely, men don’t want their women to change; they want them to remain that adorable little creature they fell in love with. Women, on the other hand, want their men to change, to become better, something worthy of their affection. Trouble is that while women often change, men don’t: they remain the loutish, shiftless drunks that their women could barely stand when they first started dating.

So, how do you think your summer went?

Not quite as planned.

You met up with Xiuying again.

Yes. There’s nothing like hitting a homerun on your first at-bat.

But you struck out.

Funny that.

You had expected otherwise?

I suppose yes, yes, I had.

Let’s see, you dump the girl just when she’s most vulnerable and a year later you think she’ll be eager to jump into the sack with you for nostalgia’s sake?

When you put it like that . . . 

So, you strike out.

Let’s say it didn’t do much for old Peadar’s confidence.

And the girls at the Happy Cock weren’t as enamored of you, either.

It was incredibly frustrating: for all intents and purposes, I was “single” again, but I was having a devil of a time just trying to get girls to give me the time of day.

You strike out again. Has it occurred to you that you might have been trying too hard?

Now it does, yes, but at the time I thought I was being charming.

Oh, that fine line between charm and repugnance.

But, then I met Nahoko.


[1]The original quote is “Ninguin lugar en la vida más triste que una cama vacía.” Another good one from El Coronel ne tiene quién le escribais “No hay medicina que cure lo que no cura la felicidad.” (There is no medicine that cures what happiness cannot.)


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.

29

Painting by Uemura Shōen (1918)

Painting by Uemura Shōen (1918)

In the spring of ’99, Haruka quit her job, didn’t she?

She did, yes. She told me it was because she had been working non-stop since she graduated from school and now wanted to take it easy. I asked her if I could take it easy, too, but she wasn’t very excited about that idea. The odd thing is—apart from her father dying when she was in high school, which couldn’t have been easy—Haruka had never really had it all that hard.

How so?

Like me, Haruka was born in 1966. According the Chinese calendar, this was a once-in-six decades Year of the Horse, called the Hinoe Uma, or Fire Horse.[1] Superstition had it that people born in this year have “bad personalities” . . .

Those Chinese have certainly got your number!

Listen. The superstition is even less flattering for women born in that year: the Japanese believe that women born in the Year of the Fire Horse are so headstrong that they will end up driving their husbands to an early grave, a concern widespread enough that the birth rate actually plummeted in Japan in 1966.[2] Haruka used to tell me that thanks to the superstition, it was a breeze getting into the schools of her choice. There was never much competition. The same was true when she started job-hunting: no shortage of work for a cute, young woman with big tits. If only I . . .

Had large breasts?

If only I had been a Japanese girl born in 1966. Anyways, whether you want to believe it or not, Haruka fit that stereotypical image of the Fire Horse perfectly—stubborn, overbearing, selfish. I often joked that sooner or later she was going to kill me. So, it wasn’t all that surprising to me that she would one day decide she was going to take it easy and become “a housewife”. What did surprise me, though, was when she told me she was going to visit Mexico.

Mexico?

I had a Mexican friend who was running a small restaurant here in town. Haruka became friends with a woman who was part-timing at the restaurant (and having an affair with my friend, but that’s another story). Well, one thing led to another and Haruka and the woman made plans to travel to Mexico City together.

And Peadar was now entertaining the prospect of being able to spend the start of summer without the Missus.

Yes, well, let’s just say that the idea of my wife retiring no longer sounded all that bad to me. The possibilities were tantalizing. So, I told Haruka if you’re going all the way to Mexico, you might as well go to Portland and visit my family, too. And, if you’re going to go all the way there, you might as well stay for at least a month. After all, there is no better time to be in the city than in the summer . . .

How unselfish of you, Peadar!

Oh, the points I scored with the young housewives I was teaching back then. They would say things like, “My husband would never let me go abroad by myself for so long.” And I would reply, “If I had a wife as pretty as you, I wouldn’t let you go either.”

And, the countdown started: two more months . . . one more month . . . two more weeks . . . ten more days . . . one more week . . . three more days . . . two . . . one . . .

And freedom!

Or so you had hoped.

Yeah. Things often have a way of not going quite as planned.


 

[1] Hinoe Uma (丙午、ひのえうま). In addition to the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar there are five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—bringing the total number of years in the Chinese calendar to sixty (12 animals x 5 elements = 60 years). Those of you familiar with Asian cultures may have heard that the sixtieth birthday is a special one. It signifies the completion of the cycle and a rebirth of sorts. In Japan, where babies are called akachan (赤ちゃん, lit. “Little Red”), those who become sixty are usually presented with something red.

In the 20th century, 1906 and 1966 were Hinoe-Uma years. According to the theory of Yin-Yang and the five elements, Hinoe and Uma are characterized as being on the Yin side of Fire. It was commonly believed that more fires occurred in those years than in other years. There was also a widespread belief that women born in Hinoe Uma year were unyielding, and henpecked their husbands to death.

[2] The number of births dropped some 25% in 1966. The figure was so low that it was not matched again until 1989 when the effects of Japan’s dwindling birthrate started to be felt. 50.9% of the children born in 1966 were, like Haruka, the first son or daughter, the highest rate 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.

28

There’s a song called “End of the Century” by the British alternative rock band Blur. The lyrics go something like . . .

“Sex on the TV, everybody’s at it, and the mind gets dirty, as you get closer . . . to thirty . . .”

Right. And, there I was thirty-two years old with so much desire in my randy “young” heart I was practically bouncing off the walls.

Do you really think it was only a question of your age?

No . . . Yes . . . No . . . Now, I’m well aware that passion never lasts. It’s impossible to maintain it. Japanese novelist Endō Shūsaku[1] wrote that stability spells the death of passion; that the longer a couple is together the more stable and, as a result, boring their relationship will inevitably grow. It can’t be helped. But, at the same time I believe there has got to be some passion at the start of a relationship. Too hot and it will burn itself out before you know it. But, if it is just bright and hot enough, there will always be an ember of it warming your hearts, no matter how long you’re together. You’ll never forget that there was a time when the two of you couldn’t get enough of each other, when you had to be touching and holding and caressing each other. You would walk, not only hand in hand, but sometimes with your hands in each other’s rear pockets, kneading the buttocks like bread dough. You would make love all night long, sleeping briefly, only to make love again in the morning. You would make love while brushing your teeth if inspiration called for it. You would fall asleep in each other’s arms, and note that you seemed to fit—both physically, emotionally, and fatefully—together, like twins in the womb. Well, I’m afraid Haruka and I never had anything like that.

And now you were longing to be “in love”.

To be loved.

Haruka didn’t love you?

She may have believed that she loved me, but Haruka’s was a perverse kind of loving: expressed primarily through grousing, grumbling, griping, grouching . . .Listen: we often had parties, Haruka and I. We were big entertainers in the early days, I would cook, she would pour wine and chat up the guests. The most entertaining part of those parties, however, was our petty quarrels. People would say things like, only couples who really love each other fight like that. But, the truth is, I was awfully depressed at the time.

And then you started drinking more.

I always drank a lot, but now I was drinking every day, getting really blasted, anything to keep me from . . . I don’t know . . . feeling? It was then that I started hanging out with other foreigners.

You hadn’t before?

In my first year in Japan, I had a circle of friends, but most of them returned to their home countries after their contracts were up. Glutton for punishment as I was, I stayed on. Over the next three or four years, I was pretty much a loner. Not so much by design as by lack of choice. It wasn’t until the Internet became popular that I was able to meet people. I belonged to an online community that had offline meetings every now and then, and I was able to become friends with a number of fellow expats. Most were single and horny and would hang out at a gaijin bar called “Happy Cock” on the weekends. I would join them, and for a time there, I was “pulling chicks”, as those guys liked to say, pretty much every time I went out.

Peadar must have had the happiest cock of all.

Yes and no. It was nice being fawned over by young, albeit drunk, women, but I was still desperately lonely.


[1] Endō Shūsaku was a 20th-century Japanese author noted for writing from the perspective of being both Japanese and Catholic. Along with Junnosuke Yoshiyuki, Shōtarō Yasuoka, Junzo Shono, Hiroyuki Agawa, Ayako Sono, and Shumon Miura, Endō is categorized as one of the “Third Generation”, the third major group of writers who came to prominence after World War II.

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.

26

Your honeymoon period lasted all of . . .

Half a year.

When you look back on your first marriage, why do you think it failed in the end?

It’s been so long now . . .

Care to have your memory jogged?

Not particularly.

It would be instructive, Peadar.

Life usually is, isn’t?

25

The following summer, in spite of the infidelity, your wedding went on as scheduled and was held at a local Shintō shrine.

At Gokoku Jinja, no less. When Haruka and I consulted with the kan’nushi, the Shintō priest who would conduct the ceremony, we were seated in an office, the walls of which were plastered with photos of kamikaze pilots.[1]

Your father and mother and all six of your older brothers and sisters came.

That was really quite good of them—after all, it’s not a cheap trip to make. When Haruka and I were first making plans for the wedding I told her not to get her hopes up, warning her that it might be a small, lonely wedding. But then, to our surprise and delight, the whole Ó Laoghaire Teaghlach[2] showed up and—crack open the saké barrels, kill the fatted tuna—it was time to party! My brother Padraig,[3] in particular, took to celebrating wholeheartedly, and stayed out with me drinking and dancing until the crack of dawn the morning of my wedding.

A rainy mid-July morning it was.

And a terribly, terribly humid one at that. My poor family suffered quietly at the time, but they never pass up the opportunity to rib me about it today. Why don’t you visit Japan again, I’ll ask, and they’ll say something like, “What? To that boiling cauldron of a country? Peadar, how do you say, ‘I think we’ll take a pass.’ in Japanese?”

In spite of the heat, the two of you made for quite a handsome couple with Haruka dressed in a white kimono and you in a black hakama.[4]

I think that was the peak of my looks and it’s all been downhill after I said, “I do.”

As the Kan’nushi waved an ōnusa[5] over your heads and intoned a blessing in archaic Japanese . . .

I turned to Haruka and told her that I loved her.

Did you?

That’s the power of the religious rite: it can really bring a marriage into focus much clearer than a piece of paper at your local Ward Office ever will.

The gods were now watching you.

All eight million of them.[6]

Family, too.

Yes. And our families were now one, as the Japanese say.


 

[1] Gokoku Jinja, like other “gokoku” shrines in Japan such as the infamous Yasukuni Shrine in Tōkyō, is dedicated to those who ever died fighting for, or defending, Japan. According to the official website of Yasukuni, “When the Emperor Meiji (reign 3 Feb 1867 – 30 Jul 1912) visited Tokyo Shokonsha for the first time on January 27 in 1874, he composed the following poem[:] ‘I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino’. As can be seen in this poem, Yasukuni Shrine was established to commemorate and honor the achievement of those who dedicated their precious lives for their country. The name ‘Yasukuni’, given by the Emperor Meiji represents wishes for preserving peace of the nation.”

[2] Gaelic for O’Leary Family, pronounced “O Layder Tie-lach”.

[3] Gaelic for Patrick, pronounced “Pah-drik”.

[4] A hakama (袴) is a long pleated skirt-like garment worn mainly by men over a kimono on ceremonial occasions.

[5] An ōnusa (大幣) is wooden wand with white zig-zagging paper streamers known as shidé hanging from it. The ōnusa is waved left and right during Shintō purification rituals.

[6] The Shintō spirits are known collectively as yaoyorozu no kami (八百万の神), an expression which has the literally meaning of “eight million gods”, but actually means “an extremely large number of gods”. The kanji for eight hundred (八百, happyaku, yao) can also mean a very large number of things. The most common word with “yao” in it is “yaoya” (八百屋, lit. eight-hundred shop). A yaoya is a “greengrocer”, or a shop dealing in “a large variety” of vegetable and fruit. 

 

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.

23

A year had passed since Xiuying and you had last met and as she stood at the entry of your apartment, looking more gorgeous than ever, you could barely hide your excitement.

I had always been attracted to her, always wondered what would happen if we were ever alone together, and now here we were, just the two of us. I was tempted to pull her right in and start tearing away at her clothes.

 

 

My mouth dry, I wheeze for Xiuying to come on in.

As she steps in, she locks the door behind herself. I disappear into the kitchen and make some tea, if anything to hide that divining rod of an erection of mine.

Taking a seat at my dining room table, Xiuying asks how married life is treating me.

“Never better,” I say. It is a lie—Haruka and I just had another epic fight that morning. “And, you?”

She replies that her husband resigned from his company and is going to start an importing business. She sounds excited about it.

By the time the tea is ready, my friend “Paddy” has calmed down enough for me to safely venture out of the kitchen. I sit down across from Xiuying and ask how I can help her.

“I want to study in America . . .”

“America?”

“What does your husband think about that?”

“I haven’t told him yet,” she says with a titter.

Xiuying goes on, saying she needs to improve her English first so that she can get a good score on the TOEFL and GRE. The usual spiel. I have already helped so many people with similar goals that I have considered starting a consulting business.

She pulls a textbook out of her bag to show me what she has been studying. She is already half way through the thick text and it is obvious that she has been poring over it: pages are dog-eared and highlighted, memos in Chinese and Japanese are written throughout. She says she is going to take the tests in the autumn, so she only has about half a year left to prepare.

“If you keep up the good work, I don’t think there is any reason why you won’t get the score you want.”

“I’m so relieved to hear that,” she says in well-rehearsed, yet faltering English. “But, I need help with my pronunciation.”

It’s true: she won’t be winning any diction contests.

“Tell you what: why don’t we teach each other?” I suggest.

“What do you mean?”

 

 

I had been studying Chinese for a few years and needed more practice. I couldn’t think of a more enjoyable way to learn how to get my tongue around Chinese words than over tea with Xiuying.

And so, it was agreed: you would meet every Thursday afternoon, spend forty-five minutes speaking in English, forty-five in Chinese.

Only, it didn’t quite work out as I expected.

To put it mildly.

Once we had taken care of business, I told Xiuying about some CADD[1] software I had bought and asked if she wanted to see it.

Xiuying, though, was more interested in seeing something else first.

Well, Xiuying had never used the Internet before—few people had at the time, come to think of it—and asked to see the Internet, instead. As I was showing her some of the fun stuff you could do online—Mind you, this was a decade before Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, even before Google . . .

 

 

“Can you see . . .,” Xiuying says with a tinge of embarrassment, “pornography?”

“Porn? Why the Internet is virtually powered by porn,” I exclaim.

And with a clickety-click-click, a picture of a naked woman reveals itself, scrolling down one painfully slow line at a time. When the woman’s nipples finally appear, Xiuying squeals with childish delight and squeezes my arm.

“What else can you see,” she asks, barely able to control her excitement.

I open up a new window and, clickety-click-click, a photo of a woman fellating a man starts scrolling down.

More titillated screams explode from Xiuying. She is now clutching onto my arms and squirming beside me. We look at a few more pictures and the next thing I know we are rolling on the floor, kissing like we’re the first couple to discover it. And I’m thinking, “I shouldn’t be doing this, I shouldn’t be doing this, I am a married man, I am a married man, I am a . . .”

But I can’t stop myself. I pull the sweater over her head, undo the bra and bury my face in her gorgeous breasts.

 

 

If it weren’t for the doorbell, announcing the arrival of my next student, the two of us would probably have had sex right then and there on my dining room floor.

 

[1] CADD stands for Computer-Aided Design and Drafting.


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.

22

Xiuying wanted you to help her with her English.

I was still teaching English back then. But, now that I had a shūshi-go, a Master’s degree, from Geikōdai, I was “qualified” to teach at university, albeit mainly part-time as an adjunct. The work paid considerably more than the English conversation schools ever did, but was terribly unstable. It was always feast or famine—lots of money when school was in session, zip when it was out—so, I still had to teach some lessons at home and elsewhere to pay the rent and keep my new wife happy.

Was she?

Haruka happy? I don’t know. Our marriage got off to a rocky start and never quite recovered.

Why so?

I didn’t have much money when we got married. That surprised her. No. I should say that horrified her.

But, you were a student. How much money could you have had?

Well, it was more than that. I was “in debt” when we got married. By debt I mean I was still trying to pay off the student loans from my undergraduate studies. When Haruka found out about it, she went through the roof. Never mind that most students in America graduate with some debt. She wasn’t having any of it. I had “deceived” her. I had “lied” to her!

Had you?

No. Haruka had never asked to see a financial report before we got married. Perhaps, she should have. Perhaps then we wouldn’t have gotten married and would have saved ourselves a lot of grief in the long run . . . At any rate, once I was done with grad school and working full-time again, I was making quite a bit of money, so her concerns were allayed somewhat. But, whenever we fought, and we fight we did, the issue of that “debt” and my “lies” always came up. Our Symphony D Minor played on a continuous loop.

Why do you think it upset her so?

Because her father had died suddenly, prematurely, when she was young, and her family, while not poor, never had a lot of money after that. She wanted to live in the lap of luxury. She wanted to be coddled.

And you?

I wanted to pursue my interests, interests in design and architecture, to do something with that education of mine. Making a lot of money was never the aim—money would come later if I had any talent—and yet, to make Haruka happy, I ended up pursuing money, putting my dreams on the back burner, and a sense of discontent was starting to gnaw at me.

And then Xiuying came back into your 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.

21

Half a year later, you and Haruka were married.

Legally, yes. We submitted the paperwork.

Your wedding, however, wouldn’t be held until ten months later in the summer of ‘98. Just long enough for the doubts to start niggling at the back of your mind. And then Xiuying would re-enter your life.

Xiuying . . . Must all my regrets have the name of a woman attached to them?

Beautiful, talented, and coquettish, Xiuying was the thing which men’s fantasies were made of, wasn’t she, Peadar?

Was she ever!

Xiuying sat down next to you in one of your classes at the university and asked if you minded sharing your text with her.

Minded? I couldn’t have been happier to have the best-looking woman on campus choose me of all people to sit next to.

Throughout class your legs and arms touched, her breath was like warm kisses on your neck . . .

Gabriel García Márquez once described the feeling as “un terror delicioso”, a delicious terror. I was still single at the time, but engaged to Haruka. I had broken up once and for all with Akané, had resolved to lead an honest, upstanding life. And then, this gorgeous Chinese woman sits next to me in class, filling my heart with so much desire I thought it would explode.

The two of you would get on like a house on fire.

We most certainly would.

And you’re still smoldering today.

Yeah, well . . . The Japanese have a saying: ten wa ni butsu-o ataezu.[1] It implies that an intelligent girl will often be homely; and a beautiful girl, dimwitted. But as far as I could tell, Xiuying had it all going for her: looks, brains, wits, a talent for languages and the arts. Heaven had lavished blessings upon her.

She also had the ambition to do something with all that talent.

Xiuying was only twenty-three or so but already married to a much older man, a Japanese salaryman she had met when she was an undergrad. She had been working evenings as a hostess in some cabaret in Nakasu at the time. He was a regular customer, the kind of idiot that pays a hundred dollars a pop just to drink watered-down Japanese whiskey and chat with beautiful women for a few hours. The man proposed to her on their first date and she said no. He asked her again and she said no. He continued to ask her over the next several months and it was only after promising her, among other things, that he would permit her to continue with her studies that she agreed to marry him.

And they lived happily ever after.

When I first met her, she did seem happy. It was another one of the reasons why I never contemplated doing anything more with that lust of mine than give into “the ol’ lascivious hand”.[2] But, we did become friends of a sort and would chat over coffee after school or have lunch together every now and then. It wasn’t too surprising, then, that she would phone me one day out of the blue.

She called and said, “This is Xiuying. Do you remember me?” And you replied, “Xiuying! How could I ever forget you?” When she told you she had a favor to ask, you were all ears.

My ears weren’t the only things to prick up.

Droll, Peadar, very droll.

 

[1] 天は二物を与えず (Ten-wa ni butsu-o ataezu) Lit. “Heaven does not bestow two blessings.”

[2] See A Woman’s Nails.


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.