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 . . .”


“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.


I take it the answer is “No”.


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

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

Why didn’t you?

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

Start sleeping with Ms. Availability?

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

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

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

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


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. 


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.


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.


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.