From Where I'm Standing

From Where I'm Standing: Short Story by Court Merrigan

'the short happy night of christian macomber' by Court Merrigan.

To: "Frank", "Levi," "Sergio"
From: "Christian"
Subject: the short happy night of christian macomber

you may sometimes get the impression that my time here in tokyo has served mainly to loosen the moorings of my sanity. and while i will not deny an occasional sense of that myself, i think perhaps it is largely a function of the process of mind-broadening, so to speak - a rather ostentatious way to say things have changed. indeed they have. i am no longer alone here.

you may recall my detailing of what, until recently, was a futile search for a diamond in the eastern wastelands. this was prior to meeting ayumi, which changed, if not everything, most things. now i find myself walking the streets not alone, but with a beautiful and beloved woman on my arm. a long slog, truly it was, but at this point, it seems to me worth it. which is not to say that everything in my walk through wonderland has been pure and lovely. as you are about to see.

ayumi works for a smallish model agency. the company has only three employees, actually: ayumi; keiji, the boss-owner; and keiji's wife, alek-lyn. keiji is a middle-aged whitebread japanese man, the type whose very movements are self-effacing. alek-lyn is more obviously exotic - half-japanese, half-filipino, most of her childhood spent in the states. i'm not sure how she ended up back in tokyo; she has japanese citizenship (as well as filipino citizenship and a still-valid green card), and, might i add, (was) incredibly beautiful. i add the "was" parenthetically because it wouldn't be fair to say she is no longer beautiful, exactly, but certainly she is at the age where beauty has begun its irreversible fade-out. a natural process, to be sure, but one alek-lyn regards with near-hysterical fear: she is a model, you see. she still manages to pick up jobs here and there for clothing catalogs aimed at the older woman: recipe books, garnishing for shots of home furnishings, family cemetery plots, etc. the other day, she told me all in one bitter breathless rush how advertising aimed at middle-aged women features models fifteen or twenty years younger than the target audience, because that's how these women picture themselves, and so she can only get work if her target audience has stopped deluding itself, i.e., is beyond even middle age, unaware, i guess, that she was also talking about herself. in any case, it is alek-lyn who looms largest in this recounting, and so a good picture of her in your head would be helpful: late 30s, impeccably dressed in fashions fifteen years too young for her, ultra-thin, brash (i.e., incapable of not verbalizing her every thought), and utterly, contemptibly, self-centered.

ever since i met them, it has been something of a mystery to me as to why keiji and alek-lyn are married. i have yet to witness a single thing they have in common. i can only guess at rationales. keiji is ten years or so older, has worked hard at getting his company off the ground, and made a reasonable success of it. don't get me wrong, i doubt you'll see keiji perched at the edge of a milan runway any time soon, but his company has been modestly successful in building a clientele in advertising: catalogs, billboards, flyers, and so on. i guess it's not that surprising the owner of a model agency would himself be married to a model (ayumi tells me his previous wife was also a model, a russian, and they were divorced under circumstances he doesn't like to discuss). moreover, alek-lyn's inheritance was substantial, serving as the company's financial fertilizer. also, having worked as a model in japan and elsewhere for just under two decades, alek-lyn has a ream-full of contacts and knowledge, which keiji has no doubt tapped in to on any number of occasions. that alek-lyn is still a beauty, albeit a faded and tattered one, probably didn't hurt matters. for her part, all i can think is that alek-lyn wanted to secure herself a permanent anchorage in the shifting sands of the fashion world. ayumi once mentioned a rumor she'd overheard that keiji proposed to a sobbing alek-lyn dead-drunk at a party, barely knowing her; and alek-lyn, in a fit of jealous rage at her then-boyfriend, accepted. marriage out of pity and spite a not uncommon combination, as has been said.

whatever the case may be, let me say here that keiji is among the most mild-mannered men i have ever met, which is saying something here in this place where most men make vanilla appear to be the mardi gras of flavor. it is my theory that his being such an agreeable sort makes people trust him quickly, much as i did; he especially has a way of inveigling the young women who are his bread and butter. women of that age group are notoriously skittish. reeling one in can be a herculean task, but it is one at which keiji excels.

ayumi's role at the agency, by the way, is as a glorified administrative assistant. more often than not, this makes her the go-between between the volatility of alek-lyn and the business interests of keiji. not an enviable task, as will become abundantly, overwhelmingly, clear.

since ayumi's job often extends far beyond the office and five o'clock, spilling over into evenings and long nights, i've come to spend some q-time with this couple. hence, i have been brought into awareness of the fashion world; like you gentlemen, one i have always sort of been obliquely aware of, but never had any actual contact with - unless you count my intimacies with the sports illustrated swimsuit issue back in middle school. so let me say, having run in what i suppose could be called fashion circles recently: they are not like you and me, to steal a phrase. alek-lyn, with her obsessive memory (she seems able to recall virtually every comment with even the slightest connection to her, most especially those that failed to cast her in a favorable light) and chain-smoking (to keep her weight down, as i'm sure you have guessed bad for the skin in the long run, i would think) and fits of temper (brought on, i imagine, by a lack of solid food for the past, oh, twenty years or so) is hardly a freak. you can see the same tendencies in all the models with the dubious fortune to be on the fashion carousel.

so. fast-forward to a week or so ago, balmy, friday-night feeling in the air. ayumi and i were to meet alek-lyn and keiji, have some dinner, and after go to the delliquid room, a well-known hang-out for models, their entourages, and their wannabes. keiji, you see, is never off-duty; he is forever scanning the streets and restaurants and coffee shops and clubs for new talent. he mentioned to me once that he had sifted through buckets and buckets of wasted sand and managed to find some pyrite. a clever metaphor, i thought, and one i naturally wanted to see in action.

dinner started off well enough, keiji insisting that i match him drink for drink, and i only too happy to comply, all filled up with the warm feeling that someone else is paying. the conversation was very cordial, polite questions to me about the states, polite questions from me about how the agency was doing. alek-lyn, however, didn't take long to get restless, nor did she think much of the drinks keiji and i were quaffing. she speculated aloud whether it was because he drank so much that keiji just couldn't seem to get it up anymore. as i was trying not to choke on my cocktail, she apologized for lying:

"actually," she said, "keiji has never been able to get it up at all."

something of a conversational atom bomb, wouldn't you say? but keiji merely flashed me a wide, what-can-you-do grin, alek-lyn lit up a cigarette, and ayumi didn't say or do anything at all. so, quite wisely it seemed to me, i took a hefty pull on my drink and decided to follow the trend, to wit, that nothing had happened. quite soon after, alek-lyn announced that she and ayumi were going to go check out a club around the corner, and that keiji and i had just better stay behind so keiji could drink away his fertility. ayumi gave me a little apology pat on the shoulder as they left, and i concluded the best thing to do was keep on drinking.

the reason they went, keiji told me, was to look for new prospects. this seemed reasonable to me, although i did wonder why keiji didn't go along. but mostly i was just happy that all the unpleasantness seemed to be over. i say "mostly" because, while i trust ayumi and sometimes i even think that maybe, just maybe, i love her, i couldn't help but wonder what she was doing at the club, who she was meeting, what they were saying, etc. i suppose i ought to just go ahead and be honest about it: the little demon of jealousy was riding herd on my overwrought brain. the whole time she was gone, i kept getting these visuals in my head: ayumi grinding with some unknown casanova, ayumi being subject to thigh-stroking and ear-whispering, ayumi letting herself be kissed on the neck well, you get the idea. i'm normally not the jealous type, you understand, but but what? well, the "what" was me wondering if i could really trust her.

as it was, keiji and i continued to chat, and after an hour or so, alek-lyn and ayumi returned. alek-lyn reported that there was no one at the club but skanky used-up never-has-been bitches. keiji remarked that it was a good thing that club wasn't the main objective for the evening, then. alek-lyn responded by saying that maybe getting into the club would be at least one thing he could get up for long enough to pull off.

ayumi came to the rescue this time, saying that we might as well get going. she scooped up my drink and polished it off in one large gulp, a "welcome-to-my-life" message in not-particularly subtle sign language. (have i mentioned that ayumi is looking for another placement somewhere in the fashion industry at this very moment?) so, we moved out of the restaurant and walked a few minutes through the crowded entertainment district, alek-lyn quite pointedly talking to ayumi and me and ignoring her husband. until we got to the entrance of the club, that is, where the doorman (a young gent) didn't recognize her (alek-lyn's brief flirtation with semi-fame was before his time, and mine), and refused to let her in without paying the sixty-dollar cover charge. the doorman knew keiji, however, and with utmost haste and a deep bow of apology to alek-lyn, pulled aside the curtain and ushered us personally to a leather couch in the vip section, overlooking the dance floor. soon enough, a bowl of the plumpest strawberries i have ever seen appeared, along with two bottles on ice, krug brut and finlandia, more drinking commenced, and i concluded that perhaps the earlier episode was merely a hallucination, because at the moment, life seemed very fine, indeed.

a word or two about the club. near as i can determine, the exorbitant cover charge (even by tokyo standards) is intended to keep out the riff-raff. ayumi told me the doormen are instructed to allow in the door only a) working models; b) those who look like they soon might be; c) those who smell of money; d) people working for or with any of the above. given this set of circumstances, then, none of you will be surprised when i tell you that it took a good deal of effort to keep my lower jaw attached to the upper. i had act much cooler than i felt, or am. because, gentlemen, the women in the place would have given a blind man a hard-on. they were so pulchritudinous, in fact, and so numerous, that it seemed the only thing to do, really, was pray for time to assume the character of molasses.

i digress, for which i apologize. at this point i wish i was a better correspondent, and so could faithfully describe in loving and proper(ly brief) detail the physical perfections of a few select specimens; as it is, you will have to content yourself with your imaginations. and while this has very little whatsoever to do with the main content of this communiqu i hope you will allow me to continue upon this digressive path for just a moment longer. word spread quickly through the club that the gentleman on the leather couch owned an agency and was on the lookout for fresh talent. i have no idea to what extent keiji's rather modest reputation was exaggerated by strobe lights, smoke machines, and progressive trance-house music, but within a few minutes, or, by a perhaps more accurate reckoning, within two drinks, women possessing nearly every desirable physical attribute imaginable, and a healthy share of the world's ethnicities and mixes thereof, were approaching our table. many of them were uncertain of the lay of the land e.g., who was who and that is how yours truly found himself holding court with a dozen or so aspiring models, all of them believing i held a potential key to their fashion futures. there was smiling and fawning and leg-touching, and somehow in the midst of it, my brain dredged up memories of cement-basement sausage-fest keggers back in college (i'm sure you remember the ones i'm talking about) that had seemed endless and inescapable. which made me wonder where ayumi was. because what i remember most about those nights was not their lack of aesthetic merit, but their loneliness. which brings me back to the main story. my appreciation for your indulgence.

ayumi was on the dance floor below, where she had been dragged by alek-lyn as the first of the models began to turn up. alek-lyn had initially tried to be the gatekeeper, pulling the first unfortunate couple of girls aside to lecture them on the rigors of the profession. but the younger women quickly sniffed alek-lyn out for what she is, and avoided her as though she might infect them with the sickness of age. this, as you might imagine, did not sit well with the fading flower. her recourse was the dance floor, presumably in hopes of being noticed by someone other than her cheerfully indifferent husband. naturally, she couldn't go on this mission lacking a sidekick; and so it was that while i was surrounded by an international delegation of fashion statements, ayumi was serving as alek-lyn's lackey. i noticed over the bony shoulder of an ambitious russian teenager that ayumi danced quite well, and resolved to dance with her someday, so i could appreciate it. this, of course, was not my only motivation i wanted to see if she was doing anything i needed to know about. the way i like to think of it is, i care enough about ayumi that i was willing to (temporarily) overlook the visual fiesta in front of my eyes just to see her. and, needless to say, i was curious to find out what happened when ayumi was under alek-lyn's tutelage. nothing untoward, i am please to report, at least as far as i could tell.

keiji, accustomed to this sort of thing, was conducting business, doling out the champagne and vodka like they were free samples, having plenty himself, and making sure i was getting enough. here was a man in his element i watched these young women leaning in to hang on his words, variously spoken in japanese, english, mandarin, french, and russian, and it was obvious they trusted him from the get-go. in writing these words, i am re-thinking my earlier statement: just possibly, keiji might make it to milan. so, he was in the midst of making any number of valuable contacts and i was, to greatly understate it, thoroughly enjoying my role as, ahem, honorary auxiliary new talent coordinator, when alek-lyn and ayumi reappeared. alek-lyn, with, shall we say, less decorum than she could have mustered, made her way through the gathered hopefuls, and sporting a smile startling in its deadly falsity, claimed her spot next to keiji. this couldn't have done much for keiji's recruiting, but he took it in stride, and even went so far as to put his arm around his wife's shoulder and make some introductions. the gathered tribe of females made room. they also quickly sensed ayumi's status, and one of the hopefuls, a taiwanese girl, proffered her seat to ayumi. i regret to report that i was a little too inebriated by this time to offer her my seat.

very uncharacteristically, alek-lyn had little to say. she merely eyed the surrounding hopefuls, all of them suddenly looking a good deal less enthusiastic, and then, with no ceremony of any sort, proceeded to examine their clothing and shoes, shaking her head or nodding as the whim struck her. mass exodus quite naturally followed. she then turned to me, leaning over the lap of an innocent bystander seated next to me who didn't stay much longer yelling in my ear, "keiji is a fucking asshole, don't you think?"

in retrospect, what i should have done was pretend not to hear. or maybe i could have given the universal club-nod, indicating i didn't understand a word she said. instead, i told her that he was nice enough for me, gesturing to the empty bottles on the table. but alek-lyn wasn't listening. by the time i got my comment out, she had turned to keiji and was saying something. i can only speculate as to what it was, but more than likely, something along the same lines. then she got up and left, back to the dance floor. fortunately for ayumi, she didn't require accompaniment this time around. keiji looked over at me, shrugged, another what-can-you-do look plastered all over his face. i returned the look as best i could, and he went back to work, albeit on a much reduced audience.

this pattern repeated a couple times. alek-lyn's comments to me were variations on the same theme. in each case, keiji brushed his wife off, as politely as he could, and continued to work the ever-dwindling group around him. after a while, all that remained were the desperate and the very polite. there were plenty of other people in the vip area by then, including some tv hunkster, representatives from several far-more prestigious agencies, and a fair number of the rich and / or handsome. ayumi and i were having a chat about how coolness is far more important than beauty, a point i was trying to emphasize. because after all, while ayumi is the lovely apple of my eye, she is not a model. i felt it incumbent upon me to make certain she understood this is not (most) important to me. no doubt i handled the matter with the delicacy of an 18-wheeler careening along a slushy street, but, well, what can i say? we have an understanding, ayumi and i, and even if she didn't understand, exactly, i think she understood.

alek-lyn came back once more, all disheveled. she sat down between keiji and i, cast a baleful glance in the direction of the couple remaining hopefuls, and, in a voice of extraordinary volume, announced, "what i wish is, i could be in a club like this with a man for a husband. instead i'm stuck with this limp-wristed fuck who just talks to girls, and probably can't even get it up to jack off to their memory later."

yes, gentlemen. she did, in fact, say this. keiji abandoned the usual grin for a forced laugh, and told her maybe she ought to calm down a bit. to which alek-lyn responded, "i'd like a little fucking privacy then."

at first, i thought that meant she wanted to leave, alone. or that she wanted us to vacate the couches. but as it turns out, she wanted a private room in back, which the club has. for just this purpose, i guess. this being japan, the rooms are equipped with karaoke equipment and a direct phone line to the bar. all the hopefuls having melted away, we were escorted by a tux-clad waiter type to a narrow little room, with just enough room for wrap-around bench seats, a corner table, and a karaoke machine, festooned with lava lamps. and full carpeting, by which i mean the floors, walls, and ceiling. it was stunningly quiet after the sonic mayhem outside and i sat next to ayumi and held her hand. keiji immediately grabbed the phone to the bar. there is a standard drink for this advanced stage of an evening: uron-hai, a half-and-half mixture of oolong tea and korean rice wine, on the rocks. this is also pretty much a guaranteed way to wake up with a head-soaking hangover, but no one ever remembers that at the time.

in any case, there was relative peace and quiet in the room while we were waiting for the drinks, nobody saying much, just the roundly ignored karaoke machine casio-ing its way through a few sing-alongs. keiji half-heartedly flipped through the book of song listings; ayumi and i talked a little. the topic escapes me. just before the drinks arrived, alek-lyn bolted out of the room. i have no idea why. up to this point, she'd just been sitting in the corner slitting her eyes at keiji. but off she went. the tension dissipated like a deflating hot-air balloon.

the bottle, ice bucket, and glasses arrived, and while ayumi was mixing drinks, keiji asked me if i'd spotted any likely prospects. something of awkward question, in front of my girlfriend. i tried to be casual about it, telling him, sure, i'd seen a few and that i'd tried to steer them towards him (this last, of course, for ayumi's benefit). keiji nodded and said he had also noted a few. i asked him what type of girl he was looking for. so he started telling me about the varying types of looks required for various types of jobs, the difference between shooting stills and shooting for tv, the importance of locale, etc., when alek-lyn came storming back in. by this i don't necessarily mean she was upset in any way i could detect; it is simply the only way to describe how this woman enters a room. she grabbed her drink, cast a malicious glance around, and asked why no one was singing. a fair enough question, i suppose. seized by a sudden impulse i can't quite explain, i jumped into the conversational pond, and asked alek-lyn if maybe she wouldn't like to have a go at it.

in the time i have known her, alek-lyn has been civil to me, personally. it could just be she doesn't have much venom left over, i don't know. we once even had a fairly lengthy conversation about our contrasting experiences in the states (she spent most of her time at elite-sounding private schools on the west coast, if that gives you any idea where some of the contrasts lie), and how the phillipines, as a catholic asian country, is a crossroads between east and west (a claim i can neither confirm nor dispute, never having been there or taken an interest in the place). so, despite what had come and what was on the way, she merely told me that she didn't feel like singing, just yet.

"you sing a song," she then said to me, and i can tell you it was not in the tone of a request. now, i am usually not much for karaoke, but i could hardly demur. i dutifully looked for a song. you might get a giggle or two out of what i settled on: "sweet child 'o mine", by guns 'n roses. noting, truly i suppose, that you would never catch axel rose sitting down, alek-lyn insisted i stand to sing. so i put down my drink, and with a squeeze of ayumi's knee for good luck and courage, did so.

somewhere in the middle of the second verse, really getting into it and thinking i was doing a fine job, i felt a few ice-cold drops of water on my cheek. not wanting to lose the melody, i ignored this, but when it happened again, this time drops all over my cheek and side, i couldn't help but look over at alek-lyn, taking pieces of ice out of the bucket and chucking them at keiji.

you can picture the logistics of the situation. i was standing more or less in the middle of the tiny room; ayumi sitting behind me; alek-lyn to my left; keiji to my right. there was a distance of around five feet between the married couple. now, you can imagine that if alek-lyn were gently tossing the ice cubes, underhand, say, it is unlikely that drops would be hitting me in the face. that they were indicated something of a higher order: alek-lyn was throwing ice cubes, baseball-style, as hard as she could.

gentlemen, this did not happen merely twice. she must have thrown five or six times, so that by the time the karaoke box was segueing into a guitar solo casio-stylee, keiji must have had some serious welts rising. out of lyrics, i let the mike down from my mouth, and taking advantage of the momentary respite from my warbling, alek-lyn said, or rather, shrieked, "see, you fucking asshole? see, see, see?"

keiji stood. alek-lyn stood. i was in the middle. "i hate you. fucking fuck you," alek-lyn said. "you've never been a real man to me and you'll never be a real man to anyone, and i don't care how many of those little sluts you con, and i don't care how many fucking business cards you pass out, and i don't care how many times you ask me to please just kiss your tiny little cock so it'll get hard, you fucking took all my money for your horrid little company, you just use it and use it and use it and you use me, and you're a pathetic sad tiny pus-oozing hemorrhoid of a man. you fucking bastard."

by this time, lyrics were back on the monitor. alek-lyn had a last piece of ice in her hand, and when keiji didn't say anything, just looked at her, she wound up and threw with all the scrawny effort her tortured body could summon, hitting keiji full in the face.

that's when keiji shouldered me out of the way, leaping across the room. he back-handed his wife right across the face, once, twice, three times, his whole weight in every blow. alek-lyn fell back onto the bench and keiji toppled over her, catching himself on the wall. his face was a couple of inches from her face-shielding upraised arms.

"you talk too much," he said, voice as even as if he were asking her to please pass the salt and pepper.

i managed to sit down in a relatively orderly fashion beside ayumi. keiji returned to his seat. he picked up his drink, looked my way, and smiled.

yes. smiled. with all the sincerity of a door-to-door salesmen and all the warmth of a prison guard.

keiji leaned back with his drink. i slurped on mine. ayumi picked up a glass which had fallen over in the ruckus. alek-lyn was crying softly, her hands over her face. the song was finished and the monitor asked us in beaming pink letters if we wanted to make another selection.

drink finished, keiji said, "i think i'll go home now. i'll sign for everything on the way out. you guys go ahead and stay here as long as you'd like."

"thank you," i said, reflexively. after all, this hadn't been a cheap evening. by any measure. ayumi also thanked him. alek-lyn said nothing and didn't uncover her face. keiji bowed and left.

there was still the nearly-full bottle of korean liquor, so i got to work on it while ayumi went over to alek-lyn. she just put her head on ayumi's shoulder and cried, loudly now. i watched the monitor, which had given up on us and was playing a medley of j-pop hits, with the requisite videos of hand-holding roller skaters and happy couples strolling down sandy beaches. alek-lyn's crying was a series of choking hisses that sounded more like dry heaves than sobs. after a while, when she finally stopped to reach for a mirror, the reason why quickly became apparent: she'd been crying without tears. ayumi confirmed for me later what i suspected at the time she'd been afraid to ruin her makeup. a moot point, what with the welts springing up, a pretty obvious indication she was going to have a hell of a shiner the next morning.

what you're thinking now is, that was the end of the evening. so did i. which shows how little i know. because alek-lyn had one more act to act.

with a little help from ayumi, alek-lyn arranged her hair and makeup so that, in the false light of a club, you might think the effect intentional. she even borrowed ayumi's reading glasses, completing the illusion. thusly prepared, the two headed back out into the club, alek-lyn leading. i lagged behind to guzzle the rest of my (very) stiff drink. the slightest whiff of sobriety was far too disturbing to contemplate.

the scene outside was decidedly altered. some eurotrash model-looking types had taken over the vip room. by the time i got done sucking down my drink, i found a couple of them had already managed to corner ayumi.

no doubt you are all familiar with the twisted paths of drunken logic. by those distorted lights, i concluded ayumi was welcoming the blatant advances of these neanderthals. this what can i call it? paranoia will have to do, i guess. paranoia, then did not prevent me from bodily inserting myself into the small space between ayumi and the nearest representative of the old world. it was one of those moments when i was glad i'm still a smoker. i don't know, you just look a lot cooler acting the role of the loutish boyfriend with a marlboro between your lips. the interloper, doubly surprised by my presence and a fleck of ash from my cigarette describing a small arc across his cheekbone, took a healthy step back while i asked him to please take a good look at ayumi.

"do you see her?" i said. "do you? i'll tell you what. you can touch any girl in this club. in fact, why don't you go try to touch that one over there." here pointing at the rapidly receding backside of alek-lyn "i don't care. but you are not allowed to touch this girl. in fact, you are not allowed to talk to her. in fact, you are not even allowed to come near her. not here, not anywhere, not ever. understand?"

my interlocutor touched his cheek and amazingly enough smiled. "hey, okay," he said. "let's be friends?" and he stuck out his hand.

"let's not," i said, and did not stick out mine.

it was at this rather remarkable moment that i noticed five or six more european misbreeds in the bleary background. quite fortunately for me, the continental posse backed off, with apologetic gestures, even. (lest you gentlemen are taken with me as urban cowboy, and surely you are not, i have since discovered their retreat had little to do with the pose i struck. most foreigners of the wanna-be model stripe are only here on tenuous short-term visas, and at the first hint of legal difficulties, are unceremoniously booted out in the country, never allowed to return. the neanderthals evidently didn't deem me to be worth that risk.)

ayumi and i somehow made our way to the dance floor after that, in too much of a hurry to catch up with alek-lyn to talk about it (thank christ). the dance floor was packed with sweaty writhing bodies, and i, at this point only wanting to go home and pass out with ayumi in my arms, had not the slightest notion why we seemed headed into the thick of things. but that's where alek-lyn was, and she didn't keep me in suspense long. trying to get my body herkily jerking to the rhythm, i watched her very, very intentionally careen into a girl who was attempting to use her pair of flailing arms to get a groove on.

alek-lyn had unerringly picked this girl out of the crowd. with her roundish face and straight-short haircut and undyed black hair, she was ever-so-slightly unfashionable. (most likely scenario accounting for her presence: a job similar to ayumi's.) alek-lyn, screaming something no one could hear over the music, practically dived at those arms. it appeared to me that this girl tried to help alek-lyn regain her balance; it's not impossible to imagine a little act of kindness in a late-friday-night club. failing badly at the attempt to stay upright and civilized, they tumbled over in a heap, alek-lyn still screaming incomprehensibly. by the time friendly hands helped them back to their feet, alek-lyn's meaning became clear: the woman had hit her, assaulted her, for no reason whatever, and somebody should call the police before she got away.

now understand, no one, no one, calls for the police in japan. it's just not something that's done. the police are held in a near-religious respect, and if their presence becomes necessary, it is naturally assumed that parties guilty of heinous crimes are present. to be accused is to be convicted in the court of public opinion, even, i am sad to report, in a situation where there are dozens of witnesses to the fact that the accused party is entirely innocent.

alek-lyn was clutching at her face like it really did hurt, which i imagine it must have, and pointing and screaming at the bewildered girl. every eye in the place was on this girl, who went from criminally bad dancer to potential convict in the space of two or three bass beats. so she did what any sensible person would have: she got out, posthaste. alek-lyn tried to follow, but by this time, club staffers were out on the dance floor, escorting alek-lyn away, telling everyone else to go back to having a good time, sensible heads realizing the best possible scenario was one in which the accused got far, far away and never came back. everyone, probably, would have been satisfied to leave it at that. everyone, that is, but alek-lyn.

when she saw the staff was not going to acquiesce to her demand to bring in the authorities, she pulled out her cell phone and tried to call them herself. but since we were underground, her phone couldn't pick up a signal. accordingly, she stomped upstairs, ayumi faithfully following, me stopping at the bar to get a drink for the road, which i brought outside, because i figured i was going to need it.

i was right: the night continued its descent into the realms of dante. outside the delliquid room, along the crowded late-night sidewalk, runs roppongi street, a six-lane divided artery of non-stop traffic. the very same street that alek-lyn was obstructing three lanes of, on her knees in the middle lane, sobbing for real this time and blathering into her cell phone. to a stab of guilt, i saw patient, long-suffering ayumi on a safe sidewalk perch. talking, i incredulously noted, on her cell phone. turns out she was talking to alek-lyn, trying to convince her to get off the street.

she would not be convinced. it took three policemen to pick her up far more gently than i thought she deserved and bring her back to the sidewalk, and by the time they got there, the traffic on roppongi street must have been backed up for miles.

so, you're no doubt thinking, she was arrested. on the contrary, my friends. the police patiently took down a description of the girl who had supposedly assaulted her, promised to search for her, examined alek-lyn's face for any significant trauma, and helped her into the ambulance which arrived soon after. alek-lyn wanted ayumi to go with her, but did not insist when one of the paramedics told her no one else could ride in the ambulance. a small piece of sanity, to be sure, but one i appreciated.

i wish i could tell you this was the end of my tale, the story of what was undoubtedly the worst night of my life. sadly, no. sitting on a convenient stoop nearby drinking my drink, watching the police carry alek-lyn out of the street, it occurred to me that ayumi had not even noticed my presence. also at this point, some random dude, of the eurotrash persuasion, approached ayumi. i don't know what was said; i was too far away to hear, and soon i was further. because, still in the grip of, shall we say, altered thinking, i decided not to stick around watching ayumi be "unfaithful." so i stormed off, down a narrow alley that somehow turned into a wide thoroughfare after a few minutes of twists and turns. at which point, dawn puncturing the western sky, i drank the rest of my drink, and discovered i had no clue where i was. fortuitously enough, my phone rang. it was ayumi, she was in tears, and she wanted to know where i was. i told her i wished i knew, and she told me some guy was following her, so would i please come find and rescue her. i instantly promised to do so; the problem being, of course, that it seemed beyond my powers to accomplish such a valorous act.

and yet, i did manage to find her, without her being molested and without my making a further idiot out of myself we simply stayed on the phone and called out landmarks we could see until we could see each other. we fell into each other's arms on a seething sidewalk, and the follower oozed away.

gentlemen, i returned home by taxi with my darling ayumi. i told her on the way that i loved her and always would, and no matter if she acted exactly like alek-lyn: i would never, ever hit her. she held me tight, said she loved me too, and went on to say that i didn't have to worry: she could never, ever be like alek-lyn. without warning, i found myself heaving up sobs from somewhere deep down in my gut or other regions more foreign, enough tears for flowers in the desert. a final indignity: in that taxi with no tissues, i soon coated the back of my hands in viscous snot. ayumi cooed and comforted and pretended everything was just fine, putting on such a fine performance that eventually i believed her. an angel, she is. somehow we made it to bed, where we slept about as well as the circumstances allowed for the rest of that short morning.

so, gentlemen. i leave any implications, ethical or otherwise, to your judgment. from where i'm standing, the haze is too thick to see through. therefore i'll not wax philosophical here. the due passage of time may provide wisdom; on the other hand, i think it is quite possibly a fine idea to make an attempt at self-administered amnesia, this missive serving as the necessary catharsis.

do not fail to remember that if you wish to see this overwhelmingly orderly metropolis yourselves, my offer of free room and board is perpetual. keep on keeping me posted, so that someday when i get back, i won't feel like i'm returning in a vacuum. keep it where it needs to be, gentlemen.


From Where I'm Standing
2004 Court Merrigan

Note To Authors & Publishers

If you wish to have your title reviewed by JapanVisitor's team of Japan-specialist reviewers please contact us to arrange for a review copy to be sent to the editors.

JapanVisitor provides a thorough and professional review.

JapanVisitor works in cooperation with the following publishing houses: Kodansha International, Rough Guides, Lonely Planet, Penguin, Oxford University Press, Vertical, APA Publications, Columbia University Press, University of Hawaii Press, Dark Alley, ME Sharpe Inc., Tokyopop, Trafalgar Square Books, Intercultural Press, Pantheon Books, Pan Macmillan.

Books on Tokyo Japan