We go to a bar close to the west side of Shinjuku station. It's down one of the side streets between some karaoke bars and hostess clubs. The place is a theme bar, small, cramped and deep, the walls are plastered with pictures, framed and unframed, of famous Jazz singers and artists. The only ones I know are Miles Davis and Johnny Cochrane, that's only because Aaron has the CDs. Not really my scene if I’m honest. I’m a man of the nineties – you know Oasis, Blur, and a bit of Take That when I'm pissed and eating a kebab on the way home from the pub in need for a bit of a singalong. I know what you're thinking. This guy's an artist really? I like watching East Enders as well, got a problem with that?
We sit down at the bar and are given a small plate of nuts each to make our mouths drier so that we’ll order more of their overpriced beer and wine. I have a thing about nuts, when I start eating them I can’t stop. I don’t even bother to ask Mariko if I can eat hers as well I just assume I can. I rarely see her eat anything anyway. I bet she lives off energy and genki drinks that’s she’s read about in her life style magazines.
We’ve been out a few times before for lunch to talk about work stuff and all, but we’ve never done the evening thing, especially when she’s allowed her armor to disarm and reveal a little of her feelings. Like I said this could be dangerous, even though I’ve got an itch around my balls I still feel my horn and Mariko might just be able to scratch that particular itch.
Our drinks finally arrive, the waitress puts down two fine wine glasses and pours with a rock steady hand two grotesquely shallow measures. Seriously even a fly couldn’t drown in that. If that had been back in the UK it would have been three times as much. But then its not is it? Its Japan and they do things properly and not by half measures.
Mariko swirls her wine glass a few times and then sips a milliliter, possibly less, I can barely detect the difference in the glass. I have to stop myself from swigging the whole thing back in one go. I really should have ordered a beer. She then lights an impossibly thin menthol cigarette that looks more paper than tobacco. Seriously why even bother? Her tobacco paraphernalia are all encased in LV. It never ceases to amaze me the hold that brand has over this society. Before I died and came to heaven I barely even knew what the brand was, now I can probably recite chapter and verse its business history and range of prices. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.
My mind is already jumping forwards in time to a potential future where we are shagging and I get to see her pendulous breasts as they sway and heave from side to side, while I'm pounding her from below. I imagine she’s wearing hold ups as well, hmm I’m already getting hard thinking about it. Yesterday’s shag must have been truly under whelming if I’m already in this mode. I know what you’re thinking what’s wrong with me? Why am I seeing every female as an object of sexual desire? Look I’m just being straight with you. This is what's going on in my head, just because I think it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen, right? I’d like to fuck Norika Fujiwara , I’ve imagined that on numerous occasions – not going to happen though, is it?
We’re on our second drink when Mariko finally starts to open up and begin talking.
‘It was the anniversary of my mother’s death on Saturday.’
That’s what I love about Japanese women their unceasing ability to throw out a devastating statement of inappropriate topics and timing. Its because they’re not talking Japanese that they feel its easier to express their deepest darkest moments and neurosis. I’m not kidding about this, you wouldn’t believe what some students end up 'fessing in classes, especially in the one to one privates. They say hairdressers have the monopoly on housewife secrets – well let me tell you they run a distant second compared to Conversation teachers in this country.
Mind you I’ve got to hand it to Aaron for picking his moments – he must have known that this was going to be a tough weekend for her. He can be brutally cold on occasion.
‘Sorry to hear that. Do you mind me asking what happened?’
Does she mind? Of course she doesn’t. She wants to talk about it you moron that’s why she brought up the morbid topic in the first place.
That was her cue to start talking more about it. Great she wants me to start probing her. Not exactly the kind of probing that I had in mind. You know what I’m saying?
‘What kind of cancer was it?’
‘Lung cancer. She was a heavy smoker.’
‘Was it quick?’
‘Not really – took about a year to kill her.'
Christ this is painful. I think I’d rather be at home watching a cooking programme than this.
‘How do you feel about it?’
Really? How do you feel about it? Is that the best I can come up with?
‘Lonely, all I really have is my work now that Aaron has finished things.’
‘You must have some dream, right? You can’t be working like a dog all these hours for nothing.’
‘I had wanted to go to Australia with Aaron. He said that there was nothing like Australia, you know, the sense of space and freedom, the rawness of the outback and all.’
Sounds like Aaron. The flannel he’d give the women sometimes knew know bounds.
‘ Just because you’re not going with him doesn’t mean that you can’t still go.’
‘How? How can I do that by myself? I don’t know anyone there and my English is terrible.’
‘You could enroll in a school somewhere. Then you’ll meet friends real quick. It could be fun a - real adventure. I mean you’ve never been out of Japan right? Think about it. You’ll be on a second life.
‘I don’t really see this life as a second one.’
Not sure I want to go into anymore detail about this with her. It means going through old memories, slicing through old scars. Tonight isn’t about my misery its all about hers.
‘Do you miss your mum?’
‘Do I miss my mum? When I was a teenager I always secretly hoped that she would die in an accident, you know, get run over by a bus or something. I remember one time when she came home once covered in blood with bits of sticky brain and bone stuck to her like vomit. I got such a fright. She’d been standing on a crossing in Aoyama, this salaryman had run out across the road and got hit, head on, by a lorry going over sixty. The force of the impact ripped him apart sending limbs and skull fragments into a thousand directions, splattering eyewitnesses in blood and gore. It made the newspapers thanks to the spectacle of it all. This was the kind of thing that happened at railway stations when someone decided to end it all, it was rare for someone to end it all in such an unpredictable fashion – imagine if he'd survived the impact? What kind of condition would he have ended up in? Anyway most who were affected by the accident needed counseling. We live our lives imagining our bodies to be strong and impervious to death – its really something that just happens to other people, isn't it? Well, when you see something like that and get to interact with it so intimately it can tear your world apart, you know?'
‘My mother said nothing as she came in through the door. She went to the bathroom, washed all the man’s bloodied life from her face and clothes, sat down with a bottle of gin, and started drinking and smoking for twelve hours. She used to do that a lot. I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did.’
I’m surprised I hadn’t figured it earlier. Her mum had been an alcoholic. When I was younger I used to think this kind of thing was unusual. These days I know that the truth is that people who don’t drink are the unusual ones.
‘I feel like something stronger now. Do you want to do some Tequila shots with me?’
Of course I say yes even though I know it goes against my better judgment. Not that I had much of that in the first place. I love and hate Tequila shots all in the same breath. I mean the stuff is poison, yet the dramatic shift it has on reality is really quite something. I’m actually amazed the stuff is legal considering how little of it you need to send you off into another dimension, you know?
The waitress lines up the shot glasses with requisite dishes of salt and lime. She then pours measured doses of the amber toxin for us. I add salt to the back of my hand , lick it and knock back the shot. As it hits the back of my throat I grab the lime and crush down on the soft pulp, drawing its juices out to douse the flames of the tequila bite. For a second my head pumps with blood as the rush hits and my guts churn, then I just feel numb for a few minutes, with a vaguely pleasant lightness of being kicking in as my brain cells begin to switch themselves into drunk and really stupid mode.
Mariko begins to giggle a little as the alcohol begins to take affect, or is it something else? Maybe the shot was a threshold guardian, once past and conquered she had now become free to act and behave any which way she pleased. I wonder who is seducing who here?
I look at my watch. Its nearly ten thirty, I’m about an hour away from cutting it fine with my last train, something which is always a real pleasure to experience. Mariko is brushing her legs closer to me, and giving me more of an eyeful than she normally does. Decisions, decisions, eh? I’m really going to regret this, aren’t I? I really hope I don’t have crabs breeding down there.
Fast Forward to about one o’clock.
Mariko lives in Tokyo as it happens. She’s a ten minute taxi ride from the bar. She’s drunk, so am I, but she’s drunker. She’s currently head deep in my crotch. That’s what four tequilas will do to you when you weigh less than fifty kilos. Not joking here, she has zero body fat bar the impossibly perfect pendulous breasts. I’m vaguely imagining that nothing really good can come out of this, unfortunately the parasitic being that lives in my pants is currently overriding all logical thought processes. If you can for one moment visualize this as Robby the Robot from Lost in Space screaming Danger, Will Robinson, Danger, you’ll have understood what I mean. Every fiber and sinew of my parasitic worse half is anticipating the sucking and fucking, you’d think it would have been sated by the day before’s action, but its like a drug, isn’t it? This is sin city and it knows it. What else do we have to lose anyway? I’m dead remember.
How much more do I want to tell you about what happened next? Its a case of tone and decency, isn't it? There was a time I would have gone into to explicit detail concerning all the sucking and fucking. These days I don't feel any particular urge to go down that route. Its rather crass and juvenile after all, don't you think so? Well I suppose it depends on your experience level, doesn't it? But I'm not here to provide teenage kicks and wank fantasies - not too many at least. What can I tell about what happened next?
I went back to her place, small yet plush and sophisticated with its domestic gadgetry, especially in the bathroom area. They're like a NASA control room in this country. The predominant colors of the apartment were beige and brown. I don't know what it is about women in the city but they just love those warm autumn hues. The place had two rooms, a bedroom with a western style bed - haven't slept on one of those for several years, and a kitchen / dining area, that looked about as lived in as an apartment building show room. We didn't spend much time in the living room as you might imagine as we were getting down to business pretty much on arrival. She performed a decent blowjob that nearly brought me close to climax, and then proceeded to apply one of Aaron's abandoned condoms to my dumber ,baser self. The whole thing must have lasted twenty minutes before orgasms and drunken sleep took over. Not too exploitative, was it? I can't stand those writers who sound like bad porn letters in skin mags, you know what I'm saying? I'd rather just be a bad writer.
Now for the hangover.
There’s one thing about one night stands with strangers that I really enjoy – not ever having to see them again.
There is one thing about one night stands with your boss that I really don’t enjoy – the next day.
I’ve never done this before, you know; sleep with my mate’s ex who also happens to be my boss. I never imagined that I would be dumb enough to do something this stupid. It’s nearly as bad as sleeping with a room mate who you don’t really fancy and who you’re pretty certain will develop an obsession about everything you do. I mean you'd have to be really mentally retarded to do something like that, wouldn't you?
Her Disney Mickey Mouse alarm clock went off about seven. I never pegged her as someone who'd be a Disney fan, but there you go, everyone has their soft spots for sentimentality and cheese.
I look at Mariko and realize in the cold light of the morning grey that I don't fancy this woman beyond the breasts. I don't like the way her eyelids go on forever without any folds or wrinkles. They seem half formed and shapeless, crying out for an artist's knife to refine the formless excess of foldless flesh. Her cheeks sag under the weight of one day and night old foundation and rouge. Somehow the layers of make-up have broken away from her skin and are no longer in harmony with the motion of the fleshy sea below. The effect makes her look like she is wearing a broken Venetian mask that is worn and peeling.
I want to leave, but I know that I'm trapped. I can never leave unless I run away from my job. She begins stirring. I wonder what her reaction will be? I'm concerned that she'll want to kiss me and pretend we're in some romantic tryst that can go on forever. She opens her eyes and stares at me blankly. No doubt they're registering how the reality of the morning had been formed by Tequila the night before.
'Why are you still here?'
Wasn't expecting that one.
'Sorry, I just woke up.'
'You're supposed to be in the office at eight this morning. That doesn't leave you a lot of time. There’s a spare towel in the bathroom when you're finished please put it in the washing machine.'
'So you're okay about this?'
'Okay about what?' She asks, 'last night? Thanks for the company, but don't worry I don't think it would be a good idea to do this again, do you?'
Champagne bottles break out in a deluge of bubbles. She's got more balls than I have.
'I guess not. I'd appreciate it though if you didn't say anything to Aaron about this.'
'You think he would get jealous?'
There's a hint of something in her voice, was that emotion? Or an unveiling of a way to get back at Aaron?
'I doubt it, but it could make things awkward between him and I.'
Mariko rubs her eyes and realizes that she's still wearing mascara. She mutters something under her breath in Japanese.
'I don't want you seeing me like this. It's not really appropriate. Would you mind leaving as soon as you're showered?'
And I used to think that I was cold after a one night stand. At least I always attempt to lie and make some kind of effort to hide the reality. When you think about it women aren't very much different from guys in this regard. When they know they've made a mistake there's a desire to destroy the evidence and hide it as soon as humanly possible. When that feeling occurs no human niceties and civilities are needed. Cold, icy cold, don't you think so?
I shower and leave without a good bye, can't wait to get to the office today, you know what I mean?