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.
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.
After calling you the night before, she went straight to a “gaijin bar” where she hooked up with the first big black man she could find, a sailor up from Sasebo, 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.
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?
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.
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.
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, 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 . . . Meow! What the . . .? Nekko-chan? Akané was Nekko-chan??
 “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.
 Sasebo (佐世保), a small city in Nagasaki prefecture, is home to the U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo Naval base.
 For more on this, read A Woman’s Nails by Aonghas Crowe.
 Nekko-chan is a minor character in the novel A Woman’s Nails.
A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.