Two Stories

Going Out

“We’re still twenty-something, or at least you are. We’re supposed to stay up until 4:30 boozing, playing pranks on strangers, making stupid decisions because hey, we don’t care, life is spanning out in front of us. You know?”

“First of all, you’re not old.”

“Twenty-nine is practically thirty, and thirty is the end.”

“Second of all, if we want to be home, then that’s what we want.”

He stroked my cheek with the back of his palm—his youthful face unironically grandfatherly. “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

“Fine, get dressed,” I said. “We’ll buy forties at the bodega and you’ll drink yourself silly. I’ll wear that liquid eyeliner you love. And skanky clothes.” I unbuttoned the top button of my shirt to tease him. “I’ll wear a garter belt. All night, you’ll just think about the young flesh underneath.” I moved closer and he stood up to kiss me, but I waved him off. “We’ll go clubbing. Get dressed.”

While he changed into slacks, I pulled on my tightest minidress and applied layer after layer of the makeup I didn’t usually wear.

I reemerged twenty minutes later. He rested on the thick duvet I’d inherited from my grandmother, fully dressed, in his good loafers.

“You ready?” I asked.

“Mm hmm.”

I stood before him and slowly peeled off my dress, rolled down my tights, unhooked my bra, stepped out of my panties and climbed onto the bed. I spread myself flat on top of him, his shirt buttons piercing my abdomen my pubic hair rustling against the polyester blend of his slacks. I lowered my head into the space between his neck and his collar bone, and smelled his skin.


Morning sweat smelled different in Japan. Like salad.

I waited for the Demachiyanagi train on the express triangle, college kid Keds among salarymen loafers. We pushed our way in more quietly and politely than we would’ve in New York, but also more insistently. No one griped for people to move all the way in. I won my favorite standing space under a toothpaste poster, where I wouldn’t jostle or be jostled.

I towered above a man reading manga wrapped in brown bookstore paper. It made me uncomfortable, how they always wrapped book covers here, as though everyone had something to hide. Despite the concealed hentai cover, the man unabashedly ran his fingers over the cartoon octopus, the grotesque tentacles, the woman, the suction cups.

The dry November air pinched my nostril. I tasted metal and leaned my head backward. I tried to riffle through my homework, to prepare for my daily kanji quiz, but I couldn’t hold the shape of strategy or green in my head, the brushstrokes, the order, while my nose bled.

No one cared about the octopus, but everyone noticed the gaijin bleeding on the train.  

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