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.

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.

5

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.

 

You laughed.

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.”

“Oh?”

“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[1] or Twitter or Instagram or . . .

So?

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[2] . . .

It was in the middle of the Golden Week holiday[3] 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?

Gūzen.[4]

That’s right, gūzen. A million plus people in the city and here you are bumping into each other twice in one week.

Yeah.

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.

 

 

[1] 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.

[2] Tenjin (天神) is Fukuoka City’s main shopping area and de facto downtown.

[3] 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).

[4] Gūzen (偶然) means “accident, chance, coincidence”.

 


2

It was ages ago, so long ago you probably don’t remember exactly when, but you do remember the day alright. You were waiting in the rain for your girlfriend to arrive when someone called out your name:

 

 

“Peadar?”

I turn around and find an attractive young woman, petite with long black hair, her large feline eyes looking up at me.

“Peadar, right?”

“Y-yes?”

“We met at Umié . . . Do you remember?”

If I tell her the truth, why, there will never be anything to write home about, she will continue on down the road and perhaps find someone else, someone much better than me, but . . . No, I have to say: “At Umié, yes. Yes, I do remember! How have . . . you been?”

“I’ve been good, really good,” she replies, combing her hair behind her right ear. “Been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“A long time, indeed!”

“Waiting for someone?”

“Y-yes, I, uh, I’m going to the movies with, um, . . . with a friend.”

“Movies? Sounds nice. Wish someone would take me to the movies!”

And there is my opening—as open as a trap, they say—but I won’t realize it till much later in the day after I’ve had sex with that “friend” of mine. So, I ask the woman where she’s off to, and she replies: “To work.”

“In Nakasu?”[1]

“I’m not a hostess, Peadar,” she says with a laugh. “I work over there at that boutique.”

“Over there?” I say, craning my neck to get a good look down the street.

“On the corner.”

“Oh. I never noticed that a clothing store was there.”

“Few people do. It’s always so quiet, I’m surprised we haven’t gone out of business.”

“Do you still hang out at Umié? I haven’t been myself in quite a while.”

Umié is no longer there,” she says matter-of-factly.

“No?”

“It was busted by the cops a long time ago.”

“No!”

“Shō and Hiro were dealing marijuana.”

“You don’t say!”

“Trust me, everyone knew about it. I’m only surprised the police didn’t catch on sooner.”

And then my “friend” shows up.

“Well, I gotta get going,” the young woman says. “Come by and say hello if you’re ever in the neighborhood.”

“I will . . .”

“Akané.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s Akané, by the way.”

“Akané! Yes, yes. I knew it! Bye now.”

“Bye, Peadar.”

 

[1] Located on a small island between the Naka and Hakata rivers, Nakasu (中州) is the largest red-light district in the western Japan after the Tobita Shinchi in Ōsaka. There are over three thousand “adult” entertainment establishments, ranging from high-end restaurants and members-only cabarets to hostess bars to “soaplands”. (I’ll let your imagination run with that.)