That's not exactly how it happened, but it is a pretty close approximation. Akiko actually gave me her details the following morning, when I bumped into them on the way to their repatriation. I still had a week of my exploits left, walking everywhere to save money, sleeping in airports, skimping on accommodation. I camped out in the Flugvöllur in Keflavík, then the Lufthavn in Copenhagen, and I was gearing up for an allnighter in Singapore's awardwinning Changi Airport, when I got fast-tracked for an earlier evacuation. Consequently, it took me a full month to take Akiko up on her offer, and get out to her habitation. The night I finally made it to Hashimoto there was a typhoon bearing down, which added an eery ambience to the proceedings, and plenty of precipitation. A small earthquake also sprang up out of nowhere and some people were injured amidst the devastation. I was at the Renoir Café in Uguisudani when the tremor struck, engaged in my vocation. Chandeliers shook, waiters tumbled around balancing saucers and plates... that might be an exaggeration. Let's just say that concentric rings shuddered through my cup of hot green tea. Others might have taken that as an omen, or a warning to stay home. I, however, interpreted it as a sign of Divine Predestination. Talk about destiny! that is what I thought, sipping my green tea. Talk about meant to be.
Nonetheless, I almost missed dinner on accounts of getting lost in the labyrinth of Shinjuku Station. By the time I had arrived, and removed my shoes in the genkan, the family were sitting down to dinner in the living room, patiently waiting for my presentation. There were three generations kneeling around that table including the grandmother with gummy mouth and shocking blue hair, her back bent in prostration. The TV was on and was running a program about some young dandies exploring the fish markets of Hakodate, digging up octopuses, monster fish, any species of crustacean. From out of a deep tub an unsuspecting squid was hauled, to be splayed for the inspection of the nation. (That's not exactly how it happened, but it's a pretty good narration... ) Akiko, being a vegetarian, condemned this aberration. Akiko's mother asked me if I was a vegetarian too. No, I replied... wondering how that might diminish my reputation. While the parents might approve my meateating manliness, the daughter was the one I needed to impress. What a complicated game to play! I thought, picking up my chopsticks. Way too much complication! Apart from that, dinner progressed smoothly, although I can never eat heartily when I am on a date -- and I kind of assumed it was a date of sorts, charged with all kinds of weird flirtation. We ate tempura, the Portuguese/Japanese battered fish and vegetable combo which I normally like -- but tonight I was too nervous for degustation! Easier to digest was an Okinawan dish, gouya champuru (ゴーヤーチャンプルー), little bits of pork paired with some insanely bitter vegetation. I impressed the family with my (poor) Japanese conversation. Then, abruptly, all the adults excused themselves, and disappeared to bed. It was only me and Akiko left.I was just tense with expectation!
Akiko said she needed to make a call, so I excused myself and wandered into the kitchen. I managed to liberate a silver can of Asahi Super-Dry from the refrigerator, and find a laptop sitting on a work station. I turned it on, loaded up Rokk.Is, and filled the room with the sounds of the latest Icelandic pop sensation. It was ethereal to me, but much to my disappointment Akiko didn't seem to share my fixation. She was preoccupied by whatever business was happening on the line. When she eventually hung up and wandered into the kitchen, her face was creased with vexation. "You're welcome to stay here tomorrow," she said, "but I have to go to Yokohama tomorrow morning... I need to see my boyfriend."
That, honest, is a direct quotation!
I was struck with the fear that I had completely misread the situation, and made a big mistake by heading out to this location. Fortunately Akiko threw me a lifeline: "But what about you? Do you love me? How do I know you that you love me?"
One of her ears, elflike, was protruding from her purplish hair. It made me think of Iceland, and my heart swelled with infatuation. "Of course I love you!" I blurted, grabbing her hand. "I luuurve you!" I noticed her hand felt limp, and looked somewhat sallow (she later explained this was a consequence of her medication.)
In any case, my words and actions had the desired effect... I received a kiss of some duration! But what about the boyfriend? I wondered... What threat did he pose? She met him just after her trip to Iceland, and just like me, he is a foreigner. Talk about a gaijin invasion. A battle of the wills is looming, I can tell... and only one of us will survive elimination.
"I don't know what to decide?" Akiko kept saying. "I like you both!"
Ah, what a complicated game we play. Way too much complication!
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