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.

41

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

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

Nothing like beating around the bush.

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

And once that desire was “un-pent”?

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

Why?

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

Risky?

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

That’s Love for you.

Yeah.

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.

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.

31

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.

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.

24

You promised to meet Xiuying next week for your “lesson” not at your home, but in front of Yakuin Station. Both of you knew what to expect.

There was a love hotel, an unremarkable one, a few blocks from the station called the Personal Hotel Ōmiya. I had never been, but used to walk by it once a week on my way to a teaching gig. It was simple in design, no gaudy exterior or flashing neon lights like so many love hotels have. If you didn’t catch the sign at the entrance saying the rate for a “rest” was only 4,500 yen,[1] you wouldn’t know that it was a “rabuho”, that is, a love hotel.

Your hearts beating wildly, nervously, Xiuying and you hurried off the street and ducked under a curtain concealing the parking garage.

And there was that delicious terror again . . .

After choosing a room from a lighted panel, illuminated arrows showed the way, directing you upstairs and down a hall to the den of adultery. And once inside the room, the two of you threw yourselves at one another, kissing and biting each other’s skin as if you had been starved for flesh.

We were. Xiuying hadn’t had sex with her husband for over a year—imagine that! All that beauty and sexual energy going to waste, a magnum opus left un-played. And, as for Haruka and me, well, we hadn’t exactly been setting our futon on fire with passionate love every night either. It had been months since we’d had sex.

Naked below you on the bed, Xiuying spread her legs.

I eased myself in, gently, slowly, and sounds like nothing I’d ever heard from a woman erupted from that pretty little mouth of hers. I was so turned on; it was all I could do to not come right then and there. Less than five minutes into sex, though, the orgasm boiled within me . . . I pulled out and came with such force that the ejaculate shot through the air and struck the wall a good four or five feet above the headboard. For all I know, it may still remain today with a plaque next to, stating: Another Satisfied Customer.

Thank you for that, Peadar.

I had now committed adultery, something I had hoped with all sincerity that I would never ever do. A line had been crossed and it was very frightening. How do you undo something like that?

By promising never to do it again, of course. But you did it again anyways, didn’t you? Only a week later, the two of you were at it once more. And the week after that, and the week after that . . . every Thursday afternoon. Your “private language exchange”. And it got a little less frightening each time, the fling developing into a full-fledged affair . . .

 

 

And Xiuying starts to fall in love with me, and starts talking about leaving her husband, starts saying things like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were both single?”

And lying naked beside her, I reply flatly, “Yes, yes, it would.”

And she asks if I love her, and without emotion I say, “I do. Madly.”

She wants me to say it, so I say it four languages: “Xiuying, I love you. Aishiteiru. Je t’aime. Ich liebe dich. Wǒ zuì téng ài nǐ.

And she holds on to me tightly, body quaking, tears flowing from her eyes.

 

 

Meanwhile, your own dry eyes were fixed on the door to the hotel room as you wondered how you might be able to put a little distance between yourself and Xiuying.

She left me with little choice. Xiuying’s relationship with her husband had started to unravel. Listen: Xiuying found out that the reason he had “resigned” from his company was because he had been caught embezzling. As for his plans of starting an importing firm, well, those never really panned out, and, because bad luck comes in threes, a tumor was found somewhere in his body. Now that he was unemployed, the poor bastard didn’t have the insurance or the cash to get it removed. Xiuying asked me if she could borrow some money, but I could never have given her the kind of money she needed without Haruka finding out. In the end, I couldn’t help him and I couldn’t help her.

Talk about fair-weather friends.

That’s just another word for arsehole.

I know.

There was more to it, though. I started to get the feeling that the woman was cursed.

Cursed?

Yes, cursed. As beautiful, talented, and intelligent as she was, Xiuying was Bad Luck Incarnate, and, go ahead, call me superstitious, but bad luck is as contagious as the flu.

Peadar?

What?

You are superstitious.

 

[1] ¥4,500 was equivalent to about thirty-eight dollars in 1997. 


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.

13

Early the next morning while I was still asleep, the phone rang. It was Akané, of course.

She was sobbing into the receiver. After a moment, she asked if you were alone.

I said that I was.

At which point she really started to bawl. How did you feel then, Peadar?

I don’t know, it’s been so . . .

Like an arse?

Yeah, I felt like an arse.

So, what were you going to do about it?

I don’t know. Explain myself, I suppose.

Explain yourself?

I thought that if Akané understood that Haruka was the one I was cheating on, not the other way around, she . . .

But before you could “explain yourself”, she told you about how she had spent the night.

Yeah.

After calling you the night before, she went straight to a “gaijin bar”[1] where she hooked up with the first big black man she could find, a sailor up from Sasebo,[2] went back to his hotel and, well, you know what. All night long. And when she told you that, what did you do?

I hung up the phone.

Why?

I was angry. But, mostly sad. I was appalled, too, by what she did.

Appalled? How could you ever be appalled? Isn’t what Akané did the very same thing you had done?

Huh?

When you suspected Haruka of seeing someone else, what did you do?

I . . . I . . .

You went to Akané’s boutique, asked her out, and . . .

That was different!

Was it now? As they say, what’s good for the goose is good for the . . .

Oh, fuck off!

Oh, how I sometimes wish I could, Peadar.

It broke my heart that Akané would do something like that.

And how do you think Akané felt?

Well, obviously, she was upset, but, man, why did she have to do that?

Would you have felt differently if she hadn’t slept with a black man? Is that what you’re saying?

I . . . no, no, no . . . it’s not . . . It’s just that . . . Oh, I don’t know. Hey, I’m no racist!

Why, some of your best friends are black.

I didn’t say that!

You were going to.

Oh, shuddup!

So, did you think it was over between the two of you?

That morning? Yes, I did. It was awfully depressing, to tell you the truth. I felt like I was back at square one. Tatami returned to Japan a few weeks later and we slept with each other a couple of times, which quickly grew old. I really had no interest in getting back together with her. None whatsoever. Tatami, by the way, had some adventures of her own while she was in England; even got knocked up by a married man. She had an abortion, of course.

Oh, but of course . . .

Anyways, Tatami and I were never right for each other and it seemed that while she was away she came to understand that.

Better late than never.

I thought about trying to meet someone new, but there really weren’t any attractive “bachelorettes” around me at the time. And the thought of going through dating hell all over again filled me with dread.[3]

Oh, the memories!

I often thought of Akané during this time, the fun we had, the laughs, the wild love we would make. And as the weeks passed I grew to forgive her . . .

You forgave her! Ha! How magnanimous we had become, Peadar!

Sorry, poor choice of words. I came to “understand” her, what she had done, what she was feeling. I wanted to give her, us, myself, another chance.

So?

So, I went by her work, but she wasn’t there.

Actually, she was hiding in the back.

Was she? Well, I left her a small note, anyways: “Sorry for being selfish. I miss you. Call me.” That sort of thing.

Always the romantic.

It may not have been the most romantic thing, but it worked. A few days later, she did call, and was crying. I cried, too. I told her I wanted to see her and she came over right away. And that night, as we made love, she cried and cried and cried, salty tears streaming down her cheeks.

And the two of you lived happily ever after.

That may have been possible, I suppose, had I never gone back to Akané. She might have eventually found someone who really loved her, someone who would have asked for her hand in marriage, given her kids, and grown old with her.

Why couldn’t that person have been you?

Because, although I really cared about Akané, I no longer trusted her. I mean: was she going to resort to screwing the first gaijin she found every time I did something the least bit suspicious? And did I really want to marry someone who had been so easy to shag the first time?

Do you really think it was so easy?

Let’s see, I take her to the movies, ply her with a few drinks, and take her home. And, the next thing I know, we’re having sex on my sofa. Now, I’m not that good-looking. So, yes, I do think it, she, was easy.

What would you say if I told you that that hadn’t been your first time together?

Whaddaya getting at?

Peadar, do you remember asking me earlier to give you a hint?

Y-yes . . .

Well, here’s your hint: Nyao!

Nyao? What kind of hint is that?

Nyao!

Nyao . . . nyao . . . nyao . . . Meow! What the . . .? Nekko-chan? Akané was Nekko-chan??

Nyao.[4]

Go away!


[1] “Gaijin bar” (外人バー) is a generic term for any bar in Japan that attracts a large number of foreign (non-Japanese) customers. Many of these bars are run or managed by foreigners.

[2] Sasebo (佐世保), a small city in Nagasaki prefecture, is home to the U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo Naval base.

[3] For more on this, read A Woman’s Nails by Aonghas Crowe.

[4] Nekko-chan is a minor character in the novel A Woman’s Nails.


9

After looking at the clothes for a few minutes I finally get up the nerve to ask Akané out: “I’m, uh, going to the, um, movies later. Would you like to join me?”

She replies with an emphatic “Yes!”

 

 

You were expecting her to say “No”?

I don’t know. Everything was so easy with Akané. Movies? Yes! How about a drink or two afterwards? Yes! Would you like to come back to my place? Yes! Sex? Yes! Yes! Yes!

At your place, you undressed her.

She didn’t put up a fight—none of that damé-damé[1] nonsense—and we made love . . .

You made love?

Okay, we screwed like alley cats on that old green sofa of mine.

You just laughed. Care to share with us what is so humorous?

Two things, actually.

Oh?

One, if sofas could talk . . .

Ew!

You had to ask.

And the other?

Akané was so small, so petite. It was like . . .

I know where you’re going with this and, let me tell you, it’s only slightly less disgusting than what you said about the sofa.

Whatever. I found that “aspect” of her, Akané’s “youth” if you will, very attractive.

She was young, Peadar. Only twenty. Nine years younger than yourself, if I’m not mistaken.

That’s right. Akané was nine years younger than me. Haruka, though, was the same age as me. And Tatami and Reina were a year or two older than me, so it’s not like I’m some lolicon[2] creep.

No one is saying you are.

 

[1] Literally, “No, no!”

[2] Lolicon, or lolikon (ロリコン), which is a portmanteau of “Lolita complex”, is used in Japan to describe men who are attracted to young women.