You met Haruka at a bar.
A nightclub, actually, in Nakasu of all places. When I would tell people that I had met my girlfriend in Nakasu, most assumed that she was a hostess.
But she wasn’t.
No, Haruka was what the Japanese call an O.L., an “office lady”, with a major apparel maker. The night we first met, she had been out drinking with co-workers. I myself had been knocking back overpriced whiskey-and-waters at a “snack”, a hostess bar, earlier in the evening when another customer suggested we go clubbing.
“Sure, why not?” I say, finishing my drink.
Yeah. It just occurred to me that none of this would have ever happened if only I had declined the guy’s offer. Where on this planet of ours would I be today? What would I be doing? And who would I be with?
It’s hard to say. Fate can be a fickle little devil.
At any rate, I know where I was that night, what I was doing, and who I was with.
I’m here at Keith Flack for no more than fifteen or twenty minutes when a cute young woman only eighteen or nineteen years of age walks up to me and says: “You live in Aratō, don’t you?”
“I do, yes.”
“That’s what I thought,” she says. “Me, too. I often see you in the morning.”
“Would you like to join us?”
By “us” she means a group of women, including Haruka, who are sitting on the other side of the room.
That was certainly easy.
It certainly was.
So, you ended up drinking together and . . .
You must remember that this was back in the mid-nineties. It was still early days for the Internet; hardly anyone had cellphones, let alone an e-mail address. There was no such thing as Facebook or Mixi or Twitter or Instagram or . . .
So, nothing happened. After a while, Haruka and her co-workers stood up and said, “Well, we’ve had fun, but . . . you know, last train. Good night.”
Fortunately, Fukuoka is a small town.
More so than I could appreciate at the time.
A few days later, you went downtown, into Tenjin . . .
It was in the middle of the Golden Week holiday and I was heading for the station—I was going to visit a friend living in Kumamoto City—and who of all people should I happen to bump into, but Haruka.
The two of you couldn’t have helped appreciating the serendipity of it all. What do the Japanese call that, again?
That’s right, gūzen. A million plus people in the city and here you are bumping into each other twice in one week.
So, did you get her phone number then?
No, I didn’t. I had been more interested in her younger co-worker, actually. You know, the one who had come up and talked to me in the first place. But Haruka and I chatted for a few minutes and she asked if I often went to Keith Flack and . . .
You said, “Almost every Saturday” even though you had never been there before.
Yeah. Funny that.
You went to the club every Saturday after that, though, didn’t you, Peadar?
I did, yes. I’d never been into “the club scene”, but that was where the girls seemed to be. And they weren’t shy. So, . . .
Those were the days, weren’t they? You just sniggered. Would you like to count me in on the little joke?
Life’s funny is all. You happen to go to a club one night and meet someone who will play a major role in the next ten years of your life. A few months later, you’re waiting for that person on a street corner and you end up meeting another person and playing a major, if not fateful, role in that person’s life.
I’m at the club a few weeks later when a friend of Haruka’s, a girl I’ve never seen before, taps me on the shoulder and, without introduction or formality, shoots me the question: “So, what do you think of Haruka?”
Slightly flustered, I reply that Haruka seems like a “nice” girl . . .
It’s not that Haruka is a knockout—far from it—but she does have a cute face, a friendly smile, warm eyes, and the hint of something substantial under her blouse . . .
“So, why don’t you go and talk to her?” she says, taking me by the hand and pulling me in the direction of Haruka. “The only reason she came here tonight was to meet you.”
That surprised me.
Why should it have?
Like I said, it was a low water mark in my life. I didn’t have a hell of a lot of confidence.
And so, you sat down with Haruka and talked.
I did. We ended up having a rather nice conversation, talking about everything and nothing, and before I knew it, two hours had passed.
Did you take her home?
No, no, no. At that point, I still wasn’t all that interested in her as a potential girlfriend. I think that if I had been, I would have blown it. I mean, women can smell it when a man is desperate. A married man will always be infinitely more attractive to women than a man who’s never been laid.
It’s the way they are wired.
Faulty wiring then.
 Mixi, founded in 2004, was once the leading social networking site in Japan. It had about 80% of the market in Japan until smart phones became ubiquitous and people switched to other sites, such as Facebook, Line, Twitter, and so on.
 Tenjin (天神) is Fukuoka City’s main shopping area and de facto downtown.
 Golden Week is a string of public holidays, starting with Shōwa Day (昭和の日) on April 29th and ending on May 5th, or Children’s Day (こどもの日).
 Gūzen (偶然) means “accident, chance, coincidence”.