My apartment, which is small even by Tokyo standards, seems like a vast empty space without Jiro to share it with. His absence sucks at me constantly, like a recently stitched wound that any sudden movement could rip open.
On a day like today, he would have joined me in the shower, gently cleaning away the grime of the day before leading me to soak in the tub. I was slightly taller than him, another unwanted gift from my American heritage, but when he sat behind me in the tub and wrapped his arms around me, it seemed to me that he was huge and strong and I was safe.
But Jiro is not here. Jiro is dead and I must shower and soak alone. I shower efficiently, keeping my mind in neutral and paying no attention to my body, then I climb into the tub. When my back touches the enamel of the tub instead of Jiro’s warm flesh I feel so alone that I cannot hold back the tears. The tears turn into silent sobs. I will not let myself cry out. I do not want my neighbours to hear my grief and pity me.
When I regain control, I climb out of the bath, wrap one towel around my hair and another around my body and head towards my bed. It is a Queen-sized bed that fills the room from wall to wall. Jiro had it imported all the way from America as a wedding gift.
The crying has exhausted me and it is all I can do to dry myself before I slip naked under the duvet. My hair is still wet but I make do with combing out the worst tangles and then rewrapping it in the towel.
I still sleep on “my side” of the bed. I tried to make myself move into the middle but the associations were too strong. The middle was where Jiro and I would meet in a tangle of limbs and lust. I cannot lie there alone.
Mercifully, sleep is tugging at me. I curl up on my side, facing towards were Jiro should be and let myself slip away from consciousness.
In my dream, Jiro is smiling at me. He is using his, “I’ve just slipped my hand between her legs and she hasn’t slapped me yet” smile. I clamp my thighs together, hoping to trap his arm. He retaliates by pushing up deep inside me with two fingers and working his thumb gently across my clit. His smile opens wider, anticipating that my legs will follow. Pretending irritation I lay on my back, spread my legs wide, and look away from him, letting him get on with it if he wants to. He will know this for the sham that it is. His fingers will tell him that I am slick with need. Playfully he lowers his head between my legs and goes to work with his tongue. I sigh at the soft wetness of his touch and spread my legs further. Jiro loves to bring me to orgasm with his tongue. He loves the power of it. He told me once that he feels like a fisherman struggling with a powerful fish that can only be reeled in with skill and persistence. It was not the most erotic of images but it was emblematic of Jiro’s approach to me and I love him for it.
In that state between sleeping and waking, when I am little more than a memory of myself, it is easy for me to imagine that Jiro really is between my legs. I cling to the imagined sensation as I would cling to him if I could. I do not have to imagine my arousal. It has been a long time now since I have let myself have any sexual stimulation and while my conscious mind dozes, it is easy for me to give myself up to lust. I am very close to orgasm before things start to change. The mouth working on me is no longer gentle; it is pressing too hard and pushing too deep. Then I realize that no tongue can be that long or that thick and yet this one is pushing into me strongly enough to part my labia. I try to move away but strong fingers press into the soft skin of my thighs, pinning me to the bed. Thick, hard and hot, a cock pushes into me, fast and deep. Filling me. Hurting me.
One word forms in my mind and pulls me up from sleep like fish on a line: NO!
Then I am sitting up, shaking off my nightmare, and realizing afresh that Jiro is dead.
Swinging my legs over the edge of the bed, I find that I am a little tender down below. Even though I am alone, I blush to think that I masturbated so hard in my sleep that I hurt myself.
My fear doesn’t start until I am in the bathroom. Reaching down to wipe myself I am astonished to see ugly, finger-shaped bruises at the top of my thighs. I know I cannot have bruised myself like that.. and yet the bruises are there.
The fear is as physical as the bruises. My gut twists and my nerves tingle. I tell myself that this is just delayed shock from being attacked by Miko mixed with continued grief. And yet I cannot bring myself to stand naked in my own shower to wash off my guilt-edged sweat.
I look up and see myself staring, wide-eyed and pale, in the bathroom mirror. I am afraid. Afraid that I’m not alone. Afraid that I am alone. Afraid of what might happen next.
Backing away from the mirror, unable to break eye contact with myself, I retreat until my back is against the wall. My mouth opens but no sound comes out.
Shivering in a silence that has fallen on me like a net I can feel my fear growing, spreading through me inch by inch. In the mirror my face is calm as I wait to be consumed.
Moments stretch past as I wait, naked, wet and unable to look away from the freckled-scarred Japanese face in the mirror. A shiver runs through me, breaking the spell and letting me turn away from the mirror and wrap myself in a towel.
I cann0t stand the thought of staying in my apartment alone. I throw on some jogging clothes, grab my laptop and my notes from the interview with Miko and leave my apartment as fast as I can.
It is part way between being very late and very early, but the streets in Tokyo are never empty. The noodle shop is a small island of fragrant brightness in the dying dark. I push into it, telling myself that I need to eat and that I’m not just seeking company because I am afraid to be alone.
After finding a table where I put my back against a wall, I order noodles, tempura and tea and then open my laptop and connect to the net. Ah the joys of wifi.
Even while I’m pulling up Google, part of me wonders whether this is just a displacement activity to distract me from my fear. Another argues that this IS how I confront my fear – by finding facts to combat it with. I compel both parts to silence and search my notebook for Miko’s scrawl.
The word is vaguely familiar but has no strong associations for me so I wait, as millions of us do everyday, for Google to tell me what it means.
The list of links makes me groan. I am in the land of Manga and Japanese folklore: exotic demons called Yōkai and endless lists of manga and anime characters.
For me, this is alien territory. Of course, if I had grown up in Japan all of this would have been familiar, but my father wanted me to have “the benefits of a western education” so I spent my school years in Boston, only returning to Japan to go to University at Kyoto. By then I was too busy to get myself involved in Japanese sub-cultures. No, that wasn’t true. The reality was that I felt overwhelmed by the culture and unsure of my place in it, so cleaved to my books and my studies and pretended that I didn’t mind.
I had hoped that Miko had been trying to tell me something important but it seems that she is only channeling whatever was disturbing her mind into anime-based delusions.
The waitress arrives with my food just as I close my laptop, disappointed and annoyed with myself for ever having given credence to Miko’s scribble.
The smell of the food is greeted with a the discovery that I am suddenly very hungry and soon I have a ramen in one hand, chopsticks in the other and a mouth full of a delicious, hot, slippery, salty noodles.
I look up and find the young waitress looking at me with thinly disguised amusement. It takes me a second to process this, then I realize she thinks that my early morning hunger is linked to some kind of drug taking. Which makes me wonder if my hunger and the bruises on my thighs are linked. I don’t want to go there and to my surprise I find myself asking the waitress, “Do you know about Han’yō?”
“You mean like Uzumaki Naruto?”
I nod although I have no idea who she means.
“My favourite is Inuyasha. He’s so cute and yet so lonely. I feel sorry for him.”
“Why is he lonely?” I ask.
“Well because no one trusts him and he can’t trust them.”
“Why not?” I’m still sucking in noodles rapidly and part of my mind is savouring the crispy batter on the tempura as if I have never eaten anything so perfect.
“Well because he’s a Han’yō – you know half Yōkai, half human – so he doesn’t fit in.” Then the waitress, leans forward a little and says, conspiratorially, “Though with eyes like that, I’d let him fit in whenever he wanted to.”
I stop chewing. Suddenly, the fear is back.
The waitress is looking at me, wondering perhaps if she has caused offense. I nod at her and try to smile with a mouth full of noodles and she moves on.
“He likes half-breeds.” Miko had said. “He was a half-breed himself.”
I am no longer hungry. I feel alone and vulnerable and confused. It is then that I know that, despite everything, it is time to go and visit my mother.