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 . . .”
“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.