72. Lightning Strikes Twice

True to his word, dé Dale did indeed take the Amazon home with him the night of the salsa event. I don’t know how the little bastard broke the ice—I had been in a toilet stall topping off when he made his move. By the time I returned to the hall, the two of them were standing close to each other, enganged in an animated repartee. Dé Dale said something that made the tall, gorgeous woman laugh—a laugh that always reminded me of shattering glass. She gave her long, straight hair a playful flick, touched his meaty shoulder.

And there you have it, boys: make a girl laugh and in no time you’ll be halfway up her leg.

When the event was coming to an end, dé Dale invited Nori, that was the Amazon’s name, and the nag she had ridden in on to join us for drinks later. With a wink and a nod, a battlefield commission was handed down to me: wingman. My mission: keep “Rocinante”[1] happily engaged for the rest of the evening as my friend made his move. It was a thankless task but I performed above and beyond the call to duty. That’s what friends are for, right? By and by, dé Dale would cajole Nori back to his place where they would go at it all night long like a bulldog giving an Afghan hound the bone.


Around the same time that dé Dale had met Nori, I too was struck by a lightning bolt.

Things had been going pretty damn well at the time. Business in particular was booming no thanks to that buffoon Mori who was bumblind along as Prime Minister in those days. Because I advertised regularly, it was not uncommon for prospective students to call me to arrange a time to observe a lesson. It was, however, unusual to get three inquiries in one day like I did the day Azami called.

And yet her call stood out. Where most people who called left me with the impression that they didn’t have the slightest clue of why they were calling, her voice was clear and businesslike. Instead of hemming and hawing over the phone, this Azami was eager to come by and start up—today.

I told her I appreciated her enthusiasm, but suggested she observe a lesson first and decide later. Shortly before the six-thirty lesson was about to start, she arrived.

Azami was fairly tall, not model tall like dé Dale’s Nori, but taller than average. She also had shoulder-length black hair. Blackhair. Of the fifty or sixty young women visiting me each week for lessons, only one other had black hair: a real beauty by the name of Eiko. The remainder in some crazy attempt to project their individual personalities all had their hair colored brown or dark blond. It was enough to make the Eikos and Azamis of Japan seem exotic.

And, boy, was this Azami ever exotic! With her large brown eyes, strong masculine features, and a complexion that was naturally darker than most women’s, what the Japanese call jiguro, it was as if the girl had just stepped right out of a Gauguin canvas. And so, when Azami told me that she wanted to have private lessons, I was only happy to oblige the beauty, twelve years my junior.

Private lessons to English teachers can sometimes be what lap dances are to strippers and so it was with Azami and me from the get-go. A typical conversation went something like this:

“Men don’t find me attractive,” Azami said.

“What would you make you think a thing like that?”

“I’ve never met a chikan,” she answered.

By chikan, of course, she meant that uniquely Japanese variety of pervert who got his rocks off by groping women on crowded trains.

“You’ve never been molested?” I asked.

“No, never.”

“And you’d like to be molested?”

“Yes! I want to be molested,” she cried out. “I want to be molested. I want to be molested. I want to be molested!”

“Perhaps I can arrange something for you.”

It wasn’t long after that that we became lovers.

[1]Rocinante was the name of Don Quixote’s horse.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

71. Contacting De Dale

As soon as the two Customs officials leave, I hurry out the door myself, taking the fire escape, a rusting spiral of steel that creaks and moans with each step. Through a dark passage overcrowded with discarded bicycles, I come out on to the main street. With a quick glance left and right, I step out onto the street and make my way towards a 7-11 a few blocks away where I call Azami from a public phone.

When she answers, I apologize for having lost my temper earlier and ask her to meet me at a caféhalf a block away from my apartment. 

Hanging up the phone, I then take a roundabout route to get to the café, which I am relieved to discover is empty except for two young women having coffee and cake.

I take a seat in the back that is partially hidden behind a pillar but from which I can see the entrance. After a few minutes, a waitress comes to my table to take my order: a shot of Zacapa and a beer chaser. It is only five in the afternoon, but I need to calm my nerves and go over the things I need my girlfriend to do. 

After all I’ve put the poor girl through, I wonder if she’ll be up for it.

About half an hour later, Azami arrives. She lays into me as soon as she sits down, “What the hell’s going on?”

“Um . . . You remember that package Naila was sending me?”


“Well, apparently, her medicine was it.”

“What medicine?”


“Addo . . .?”

“Adderall. She was taking it for her attention deficit disorder. It’s a kind of ampheta . . .” 

“Why did you . . .?”

“Hold on, Azami! Ididn’t know she was sending me a package until she e-mailed me. Even then, I didn’t know what was in it . . .”

“But you said . . .”

“Never mind what I said. The fact of the matter is I didn’t ask her to send anythingto me.”

“Oh, Rémy, I just knew something like this would eventually happen.”

“Look, we can have that conversation later,” I say, taking my girlfriend’s hands. “Right now, I need you to do something for me.”

She recoils, yanking her hands away from mine. “W-w-what?”

“I need you to contact dé Dale.”


The two of them would never be confused for kindred spirits.

“One, I need to know the extent of the investigation. And, two, if the shoe were on the other foot—and it was dé Dale, rather than me, who was being investigated—I would want to know. He needs to be very careful. Just do this one favor for me, and then you can do whatever you like. Okay?”

I wouldn’t blame Azami if she were to tell me “Sayōnara”, but she gives a slow, hesitant nod. I know what she must be thinking, though: Rémy’s chickens have come home to roost.

“Call dé Dale from a public phone. You have his number, right?”

She nods again.

“And it’s probably not a good idea to go directly to his place. The cops might be keeping their eyes on him.” I look around the café. A couple in their early thirties, who came in after Azami, is studying the menu. “They could still be watching me right now. If possible, try to meet dé Dale at, say, a café in his neighborhood. Café Tecois just around the corner from his place. It should still be open. Tell him what I’ve told you. Tell him, that I’m going in for questioning on Sunday. I have no idea what the police know or how long they’ve been watching me. Ask him if he’s noticed anything odd going on around him. Got that? And, again, tell him he’s got to be careful. He’ll understand. Okay?”

Azami exhales through her nose and nods a third time. What little color there was in her face is now gone. Standing up and straightening her dress, she leaves without another word.

After finishing my beer, I pay the bill and head back home for the final lesson of the day.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

70. Wafer Thin

Dé Dale called to say he was heading out the door “right now”. The salsa event, according to the flier he had given me a week earlier, was supposed to start at eight, and at nine-thirty, my friend could no longer be considered fashionablylate.

“No problem,” I said. 

“I’ll call when I’m in your neighborhood.”


Hanging up the phone, I settled back down at the dining room table where I prepared a fresh foil, sprinkled some crystals on it, and lit up. Odds were my friend was, like me, still in his apartment, “topping off”, if you will. 

Getting high on meth is never as hard as stayinghigh: it’s like trying to stay afloat on a leaky inner tube that needs a puff of air here, a puff of air there.

“Good thing the wife’s out with friends,” I said to myself after blowing a thick cloud of white smoke out the window. I would have been sitting on the toilet or a step in the stairwell, otherwise, sneaking one more hit in before I left, just one more for the road, one more the bump in the road, just one more for . . .

Before long my cell phone was ringing again. Dé Dale was now a block away from my place.

So, he really was heading out the door.

I took one final hit, a gluttonously long one, and held it, held it, held it until my lungs felt as if they were going burst, then exhaled out the window. 

Folding the foil up nice and neat, I slipped it, and two others just in case, into a simple black wallet between an assortment of business cards and “point cards”, none of which could be tied to me. This was yet another precaution dé Dale had once chastised me into taking:

“Man, what are you thinking?” he had said at the time. “One of the first places the cops look is in your wallet.” Tossing me a cheap wallet, he said: “Here, use this one for your gear. If a cop ever questions you, asks to see your ID, you’ll be able to take your own wallet out and not have anything to worry about. This is disposable, as well. Cops on your tail? Then toss this in a river.”

I returned the bag of meth with the rest of my stash, balled up in a pair of socks in my sock drawer, and then, went back to the dining room and double checked that I hadn’t left any clues to my illicit habit for my wife to pick up on. Yūko and I had enough troubles as is. No need letting her in on my nascent drug addiction, too. 

“How are you doing?” dé Dale asked when I hopped into his car.

“Not bad. Not bad at all.”

Not bad indeed! If I had topped off again, that inner tube I was now soaring on might have very well popped.

Dé Dale handed me a small vial of honey oil, explaining that he had a shipment of bongs coming in from Amsterdam and didn’t want to leave anything in his apartment in case the cops decided to snoop around.

“Why thank you, kind sir.”

Honey oil is nature’s answer to Valium: the perfect thing to ease you to bed after you’ve been awake for several days. Dip a needle into the oil and add a little dollop of it on the side of a cigarette then smoke it like you would your Marlboros. Only with honey oil, Marlboro Country comes to you.

“Let’s hope you can repay the kindness,” dé Dale said. “You carrying?”

“I am, indeed.”

Yosh!” Dé Dale was in a good mood now. “I’m already out, if you can believe it. That Chinese bitch can’t get enough of the shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were still at my place smoking tinfoil.”

It was “the Chinese bitch” who had introduced dé Dale to shabu, who had taught him how to smoke it, and who was now supplying his and indirectly my own habit in a kind of perverse trickle-down effect.

“You left her there?” I asked.

“Yeah, sure. If I don’t find anything to fuck at the party, I can always screw her again.”


Only in the World According to Gabriel dé Dale could something like that be pulled off. In my own world, if you ran after two hares, as the saying goes, you caught neither.

“So, you doing anything for Golden Week?” dé Dale asked, as we were approaching the Dome. The party was being held at a “live house” just next to it.


Golden Week,a weeklong string of holidays, began on the 29thof April. What with final exams bearing down on me, I hadn’t given it much thought.

“Let’s go somewhere!”

“Like Okinawa or something?”

“Okinawa? No, I can’t stand that miserable place! I mean a proper trip . . . somewhere abroad. There are some great parties on Cyprus. Or we can go to Goa.”

I rather liked Okinawa, the laid-back mood of the island, the music, the coral beaches, even the local cuisine. It wasn’t miserable at all, far from it. Still, I could understand dé Dale’s desire to get away.

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “I haven’t made my schedule yet, but I’m sure I can take off about two weeks around then. I’ll need a vacation after the exams and all.”

The best part of all was that my wife, due to leave for Canada in early April, would be out of the country by then. I would be free to go wherever I liked, whenever and with whomever. I was practically a single man again.

“Well, let’s not just talk about it,” dé Dale said, thumping the steering wheel. “Let’s do it!”

“All right, then!”

I was certain it was the speed talking: when you’re high you are inundated with “great” ideas. What’s more, you have the conviction, the perseverance, and the boundless energy to carry them out, allof them, and not just someday, but today! Right now! Let’s do it!

Every time I smoked, I could barely keep up as I filled page after page with story ideas, witty dialogues, and so on. I made lists of projects I just had do straightaway, and found new ways to tweak my business to squeeze out a few more drops of blood from the turnip.

Every time I got high on meth, it was as if I were lowering a bucket into a wellspring of creative genius. That was the attraction of the drug, and looking back it’s easy to understand why I developed such a powerful taste for it.

Meth-inspired babble or not, it still came as a surprise that dé Dale would suggest our taking a vacation together. The man seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in finding fault in me. You name it: the way I sentimentalized about the romances in my life, the stupid futility of my marriage, even the clothes I wore—he was in one of his two-thousand-dollar, custom-made Skinnleather pants, his “pussy-magnets” as he called them; I was in something with a considerably smaller price tag—he would find something snide to say. Be that is it may, no one, save my wife, was spending as much time in my company than dé Dale was. And as the year passed we would spend even more time together.

I still can’t get my head around that today.

Did it mean that, in spite of all his playful vitriol, dé Dale sensed substance in my wafer-thin existence, or did he merely need someone to get high with? Like that aversion I once had to drinking alone. After four years of conjugal acrimony, I had developed a rather thick skin. My pride wasn’t so easily bruised that I cared; nor did I want to devote much time brooding over the riddle of dé Dale and my friendship. It was just one more pedestrian curiosity as I walked through life.

At the salsa event, we clawed our way through the crowd to get to the bar where crap drinks were being sold for outrageous prices. It was then that a woman caught dé Dale’s eye. 

“Did you see that?” he asked. “She looked right at me and smiled.”

“Who did?”

“The tall one.”

“Long brown hair over there,” I said pointing to a tall, slender woman in black leather pants.

“You and your goddamn finger! You’ve always got to point!”

I pointed again, only more deliberately.

“Ugh! You are so uncool, man,” dé Dale blustered. “Do that one more time, and you walkhome.”

The woman was gorgeous, an Amazon, easily a hundred and seventy-five centimeters tall. With the stiletto heels she was wearing, she towered above all the other women in the room, and a good many of the men. 

And boy was she ever flirtatious! Every now and again, she’d turn around, give dé Dale the eye, and then laugh playfully.

“I’m going to take her home tonight,” dé Dale said with such confidence that I assumed they had already met. I asked him if they had.

“Nah, first time to see her,” he said, staring directly at her and smiling in that devilish way of his.

Dé Dale is one of those unique characters you run across in life who seem to get exactly what they want. Compromise just doesn’t figure. He used to say it was because he didn’t give up, that he was disciplined, that he acted on his ideas.

“Anyone can have dreams, Rémy,” he once told me. “Anyone can tell you that they want to do this or that, but only a few people will actually do it.”

I had dreams; had always had them, but the overwhelming force of the current rushing against me was keeping me downstream, by no means defeated, yet struggling desperately. At thirty-five, however, I was beginning to fear that I would be washed away forever by that current, washed away and forgotten. And it was this fear of never coming to anything, of failing, that I no longer even bothered to tell others what it was that I wanted to do with my life, not my friends in Japan, not even my wife Yūko. Only my girlfriend, Azami, knew.

With bottles of mineral water in our hands, the two of us entered the main hall into which the object of dé Dale’s desire had disappeared. The darkened hall was even more crowded than the reception area. On stage a band was playing some Latin tune. The music did little for me, but all the women gyrating their hips to the beat was enough to make me pretend I was a fan.

“And you didn’t want to come,” said dé Dale. “Think about all the pussy you would have been missing!”

He was right. He was always right. And I was finding it easier and easier to just go with the flow, to follow the master’s lead out of the labrynith than try to search blindly for the exit myself.

69. Doisho

“Sure, no problem,” I tell the Customs agents and excuse myself to fetch the adaptor from my bedroom.

When I hand them the adaptor, I am told I must fill out a dōisho.

Dōisho?” Looking the word up in my electronic dictionary, I learn that a dōisho(同意書) is a letter of consent. 

Nakata draws up a sample dōishoand instructs me to copy it verbatim. 

As I am writing down the sentences, I hear the front door creak open. 

“If you don’t mind,” I say to the two agents, and rise to my feet. 

“Not at all,” Nakata replies.

Walking over to the entry, I find Azami standing at the door, dressed in a flowing purple summer dress and frozen like a doe in headlights. I could strangle the woman. 

Tell her not to call and what does she do? She rings me up every ten fucking minutes. Tell her to stay away from my place, so, naturally, she comes by.

“Ah, hello, long time no see,” I say cordially as I nudge her outside. “I’m afraid I have company at the moment.”

Closing the door behind me, I glare at my girlfriend. “Goddammit, Azami! When I tell you to do something, for fuck’s sake do it!”

“I’m s-s-sorry,” she says, taking a step away from me. True to the flower she is named after, she is as pretty as a thistle and just as prickly.

“Ah, Christ, I’m sorry, Azami. The one who should be apologizing is me.” I feel like a real arse. No, I aman arse. “Listen. Just make yourself scarce for the next thirty minutes or so, will ya? I’ll call you the moment I’m finished here and explain everything.”

Nodding, she does a sullen about-face and walks down the hallway towards the elevator.

What a jerk I am. Keep going Azamiand never come back.You deserve better than an arse like me.

“Thank you,” I say to the empty corridor, opening the door and stepping back into my apartment. “Please, do come again. Bye-bye now!”

Returning to the dining room table, I finish writing up the dōisho, affixing my official seal to the document where the Customs agent indicated.

“One other thing,” Nakata say. 

I almost groan. The Japanese have an annoying habit of going through an exhaustive list by saying “one more thing” before each item. I figure it will be more of the same here. To my surprise, however, there really is only one more thing: the password to my email.

Nakata shows me the piece of paper on which I wrote the password yesterday morning when my place was raided.

“We tried this, but it didn’t work.”

“Let me take a look at it,” I put on my best-puzzled face. “This is an underscore here, not a hyphen.”

“Yes,” says Windbreaker, “we tried it both ways.”

“Huh. It looks right to me,” I say, scratching my head. “But you know, I can’t remember the last time I actually typed the password. Oh, how silly of me. See this, what looks like a ‘b’ here? This is actually a ‘six’.”

“That’s a ‘six’?”

“Looks like a ‘four’,” Windbreaker laughs.

“No, that’s a ‘six’.” 

“Could you rewrite the password for us then,” Nakata asks.

When all the documents are signed and stamped, the two agents pack up and head for the door.

“Now, don’t forget about tomorrow,” Nakata reminds me, stepping into his sneakers and tapping the toes against the ground. “We need you there at nine o’clock sharp.”

“Nine o’clock? But, I thought Ozawa-sansaid nine-thirty.”    

“Oh, that’s right.” Nakata scratches his salt-and-pepper hair. “I mean nine-thirty.”

“I can be there nine,” I offer. 

“No, no. Nine-thirty’s fine.”

“Okay, I’ll be there at nine-thirty, then.”

“And don’t be late.”

What-the fuck-ever.

And with that the two of them are gone.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

66. Calling Azami

After taking a shower and getting dressed, I notice that the message light on the phone is flashing. I press the play button.

Beep. “Rémy? Are you okay? I miss you . . .”

Beep. “Answer the phone, Rémy. I want to hear your voice.”

Beep. “Are you with another woman again?”

Beep. “Pick up the fucking phone now or it’s over between the two of us!”

Beep. “Why don’t you answer the phone? I’m going crazy worrying about you.”

I know I have to fill Azami in on what is happening before she has a complete meltdown, but I can’t risk doing so from home. I don’t know, for one, if anyone is listening.

I leave home earlier than usual, elaborately rigging the apartment with markers: business cards in the door jams, cellophane tape at the base of the fusuma sliding doors. If the cops were to snoop around my apartment while I am away, I will know.

At the train station, I ring Azami up.

“Where are you?” she demands right away.

“I’m at Hakata sta . . .”

“Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

“I couldn’t . . .”

“Where were you?”

“At home.”

“Why didn’t you pick up then? You were with someone, weren’t you?”


“Then, why didn’t you?”

“Azami, shut up for once and listen!” I sigh heavily and continue. “My apartment was raided by the police yesterday.”

“Oh Rémy, I knew something like this would eventually happen,” she groans. “I knew the police would eventually catch up with you and dé Dale.”

And she wonders why I didn’t pick up the phone.

“We can talk about that later, but first I need you to do one thing for me this afternoon.”


“Meet me at Small at seven-thirty.” 

Small Spaces is one of my regular haunts.

“Why can’t I meet you at your apartment?”

“For the love of God, Azami!” I yell into the receiver. “Just be at Small at seven-thirty!”

“Okay,” she says reluctantly.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

63. I'm gonna leave Japan

Friday morning. July 7th

I’m up at five, an hour earlier than usual, so I can take care of some things before I have to leave for work. Considering how much I drank last night—three double margaritas straight up at the aptly named Mexican restaurant, El Borracho (The Drunk)—I am feeling pretty good.

“Maybe I’m still drunk,” I say, sitting up in my futon.

It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to go drinking the very night my home was raided by a small army Narcotics and Customs agents, but those three margaritas were the shortest distance separating me from restless anxiety and being curled up in the arms of Morpheus.

Out of habit, I walk over to where my Mac ought to be.

“Oh, yeah,” I say, remembering that the computer has been confiscated.

I make an about-face and go to living room where a stereo component system has been gathering dust, pop in a random CD, push play, and Mr. Hermano’s “Free as the Morning Sun” brings the long unused speakers dancing back to life.

“To hell with the neighbors,” I say, turning the volume up and filling my apartment with the song’s uplifting melody.

In the kitchen I make myself a bowl of café au lait, and carry it out to the balcony where I sit in a lounge chair and savor it. 

The sun, rising in the southeast, reflects off the windows of the hotel across the street, bathing my balcony in faint yellow light. Sparrows chirp at the feeder and my rabbit Pyon-kichi scratches at my foot, trying to get in a little humpy-humpy. It is, all things considered, a perfect morning.

Last night at the Mexican restaurant, after knocking back my second double margarita, I reflected upon a conversation dé Dale and I had in May.

We were at a reggae party on Noko Island, the first of a string of music events and parties held on the island and elsewhere in town during the summer. Dé Dale said he didn’t want to miss a single one of them this year.

Sitting on the beach away from the crowds, we passed a flask of Ron Zacapa Centenario back and forth.

“I’m gonna do it,” dé Dale said. “I’m gonna leave Japan.”


“By December.” 

It was something he had been ruminating over for the past year. Now, his mind was made up. There’d be no going back.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“That’s the beauty of it,” he replied, taking the flask of rum from me. “I haven’t got a clue.”

Dé Dale stood up and invited me to follow him down the beach.

“I’ve been so dumb,” he said as we made our way over some large boulders. “I should have done this yearsago rather than suffer the way I have.”

“If I stay in Japan,” he continued, “I’ll only be repeating things I’ve already done. Where’s the fun in that?”

With a mischievous smile, he added, “Rémy, you’re not to tell anyone about this. No one. Not even that stupid girlfriend of yours . . . I’m going to be bad. Very, very bad.”

Dé Dale wouldn’t go into details, saying: “The less you know, the better.” 

One thing was clear, though: he was going to burn his bridges behind him as he left. And, once gone, he wouldn’t be returning. Not for several years, if ever at all.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

61. Fine and Dandy

Adachi hands back the police documents to me, warning that, no matter how interested he may be in the case, he is swamped at the moment. “I’m going to argue a case before the High Court in Tōkyō.”

“The High Court?”

Maybe this Adachi isn’t a buffoon after all.

“Yes, they’ve finally agreed to review an appeal I lodged years ago.”


I’m feeling somewhat better when I leave Adachi’s law office. The anvil is still creaking above my head, but at least now there is someone who might push me out of the way before it all comes crashing down.

The next order of business is to call my girlfriend Azami and arrange a time and place to meet.

I ride the rest of the way into town and park the bicycle at an underground parking garage below the Iwataya Department Store. From there, I make my way through a passage to Mitsukoshi, another department store. I take an elevator to the fifth floor where a little used overhead passage connects Mitsukoshi with an adjacent office building. It is there that I find a bank of green pay phones.

Azami picks up on the fifth ring.

Moshi, moshi.”

Hearing her voice, I nearly break down and cry.

“Azami . . .” I say, my voice wavering. “Where are you now?”

“I’m at my grandfather’s.”


“I’m in Kagoshima.” 

“Dammit . . .” She is literally on the other side of the island of Kyūshū, a four-hours’ drive away. She might as well as be on the dark side of the moon for what I need her to do.

“When are you coming back?”

“Tomorrow. In the afternoon, I think. Why?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“What is it?”

Paranoia has taken a firm grip on me ever since this morning’s raid. While discretion has never been my strong point, I now err on the side of caution: I don’t want to tell my girlfriend what has happened over the phone in the off chance that the police happen to be listening in. Who knows what they are capable of? They have my cell phones and can see the history of incoming and outgoing calls. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce which numbers belong to the people closest to me. It’s elementary: Azami will be identified as a person of interest, and her calls monitored accordingly. At least that’s what I would do if I were a cop.

“I can’t tell you,” I reply, then curse myself for not having better tact. 

“Why not?”

“I just can’t. Not now. Not over the phone.” I’m starting to lose it.

Tell me,” she demands, her voice moving up a register.

Goddamn it, Azami! If I say I can’t tell you, then I can’t tell you.”

There, now I’ve done it. I have just succeeded in doing precisely what I hoped to avoid. “Sorry, Azami. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, yes. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” Fine and fucking dandy. “Listen, I’ll explain everything tomorrow evening.”

“I’ll call you tonight.”

“No, no, no! Don’t call me tonight.”

“Why not?” There is no stopping the meltdown now. “Are you having an affair?”

“Good God, Azami! No, I am not having an affair.” Oh, if only that were the problem! “Azami, I don’t have my cell phone on me.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve lost it.”


“I don’t know! If I knew it wouldn’t be lost.”

“I’ll call your cell phone.”

“Don’t call my cell phone!” I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and count to ten. “Azami, I’ll explain everything tomorrow. Just don’t call my cell phone, okay?”


“I mean it. Do not call my cell phone.”

I hoped that talking to my girlfriend would ground me; that the sound of her voice would reassure me that everything was going to be all right. Calling her has only made things worse.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.

30. Wedding Bells and Death Knells

Only last night, I phoned my girlfriend with the good news: “Azami, things are looking up!”

And they were. Cash was flowing in steadily and I calculated that I would be able to clear 700,000 yen before the end of the month.[1] Not a fortune, I admit, but more money than I managed to earn in one hell of a long time.

And, the best part about it? Now that Yūko, my ex-wife, was another man’s headache and living in Tōkyō with the chump—er, pardon me—her new husband, she no longer needed my support. With her gone, I have been able to whittle down my monthly bills to about a third of my income.

“Meaning,” I said to myself as I did the books last night, “I should be able to plunk a good three-hundred—no, make that three-hundred and fifty thousand yen ($3,500)—into savings this month and still have more than enough to play with.”

I knew my girlfriend would be relieved to hear it. After dating me on and off for over four years—enduring the sickest, the thinnest, the very, very worst of times—Azami was finally able to hear the not so distant peal of wedding bells.

Go ahead, call me an arse, but however much I loved Azami—and I did, I do, I do, I do, I doto me those bells still sound like a death knell.

Marriage, though, is a foregone conclusion. I know Azami and I will tie the knot sooner or later—preferably later, though, much, much later. No, all I want now is a bit of self-indulgent lotus-eating, some quality Me-time to heal the burns I got in that frying pan of a first marriage to Yūko before I jump into the fire with Azami.

“Things are going so well,” I told my girlfriend over the phone, “I’ll proabably have enough saved up by the end of the year to take you to see my family in Beirut for Christmas. Knock on woo . . .”

[1] Dollar amounts throughout this novel have been calculated according the actual exchange rate at the time an event in the story is taking place. The rate in the year 2000, for example, was about 105 yen to the dollar. In 2006, however, one dollar was worth around 115 yen. 700,000 yen was worth about $6,100.

The first posting/chapter in this series can be found here.

Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.