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Chapter Seven: Czech Crowns

January 27, 2011

Five minutes before 9pm, I slam my laptop shut, not waiting for it to shut down, and do my usual “Otsukaresamadesu” and scurry out. The women beside me murmur “Otsukare,” with a slight bow, most of them with their eyes still fixed on their laptops. The men all say nothing.

Walking toward the elevator, I decide to turn a right corner and descend the stairs two floors so that I can descend the elevator on the 5th floor instead of the 7th, where my colleagues might see me leave early. Leaving early! It’s 9pm, I’ve done my eight hours and have more than a right to leave, but am always feeling like a fugitive, going home while the others are working unpaid overtime.

But, damnit, I have a date tonight. And I will never never again do something so wasteful as staying overtime simply to save face in front of my superiors. No more with that pattern, I’m done, I’m through.

I run, run, run to Shibuya’s Hachiko exit, past the glittery girls with short skirts and tons of eyeliner, to the station. It’s 9:09pm, nobody there yet. I turn around and look, but you are not there.

I wait and wait and wait. A ton of colorful characters pass by: a 90s-ish muscular Japanese man with a tight white T-shirt and slicked black, shiny black hair, lurking around the station, looking for someone. A gothic-lolita  girl in a short black lace skirt, trailing bits of fabric everywhere.

Every foreign face that passes by, I look up to see if it’s you. I imagine you in a dark suit and tie, so unlike the red tank top you were wearing to our first date.

It’s 9:20. I am anxious, and phone you but you do not pick up.  I start to feel nervous about my clothes: a pink plaid button-up blouse and tight jeans, both from the used clothing Jumble Store. “Think of yourself as a store,” I tell myself, walking past a terrible clothing store with no customers. “If I was serious about getting people to come in, I would make the decor inviting and alluring. Think of my appearance as a show-window: right now, I have no makeup on, my hair is a royal fucking mess, I have dorky black glasses and my clothes are unsexy. I look like a female monk. Let’s change it up, for God’s sakes. Let’s at least give an indication that we’re open and ready for business. Slut up your style, get some makeup on your face. And get those customers flowing!”

Finally, I see a large man approaching me: it’s you, in a beige/tan short-sleeved plaid button-up shirt, and long pants. I smile and wave.

“Hulloo,” you say to me in that distinct boy-man voice with a syrup-thick Czech accent, that sounds like something is caught at the back of your throat.

I smile. He’s more handsome than I remembered from our first date, I think. Awkwardly I greet him, ask if it was confusing for him to find this place. He says it was, as it’s a huge station, but eventually found Hachiko.

There are so many people, we hold hands more for practical reasons (not losing each other in a crowd) than sentimental, but I cannot help but grin from ear-to-ear: it’s the first time, ever, for me to hold hands with a man my age, and I am giddy with a sense of accomplishment. This is, for a socially inept woman like me, the equivalent of conquering Mount Everest. I can’t even feel my feet on the ground, I am silently teetering on the verge of deliriousness.

We walk along the brightly lit Shibuya streets. This area reminds me of a drag queen, like Lady Gaga: ultra-garish, overly made-up, knowingly outrageous. The blue, red and yellow neon signs and “Irasshyaimaseeeeeee” calls hurled like spears/harpoons at anyone who walks within target range of any given store, trying to drag in potential customers. But unlike many of my co-workers, I actually quite like this place. It swirls with energy and disillusioned youth: it’s both hedonistic and hardworking, and uniform only in its diversity.

We walk past the youthful clothing stores, with cheap hoodies, belt-sized miniskirts and extravagant collections of hats and silver/leather accessories and enter the bar district: here, there are young girls in cooking hats and aprons holding up menus, asking if we’d be interested in coming in for a drink. You ask to see the price of beer: 399 yen, or 420 yen per jug. You don’t give a clear yes, so I smile, “We’ll think about it.”

We examine menus, and move on, until finally the streets start to turn completely dark: there are no bars here anymore.

“I know a place, if you don’t mind turning back, which is probably cheaper than all these bars,” I say.

You nod, “Ikimasyo” (let’s go).

Back several blocks, I go up to the street that leads to my workplace, and point to Hidakaya, a cheap budget ramen store chain. The beer is an astounding 290 yen per jug. You agree, and we walk in.

It’s just a ramen store, so we get a few manly “Irasshayimase!”  from the kitchen, and move on upstairs.

Your order a beer, I order a sobering glass of cold Green Tea.

We sit facing each other, looking for something to say. I think we were talking about work or Japanese culture, I follow the advice of a woman’s magazine and consciously touch you on the forearm whenever I find myself laughing or agreeing with him.

“You know,…” I say, putting my fingers on his hairy forearm like I was touching a glass kitten. At the back of my mind, I thought, “This is so unnatural! You’re probably creeping him out, stop this shit.” and the frontal part of my mind threw a punch at the back, snarling, “Shut up! You’re getting old and it’s do or die now. You wanna die a virgin?” That seemed to shut my inhibitor up: wanna die a virgin? Hell no.

He smiled, and glanced for a fleeting moment with his blue eyes at my small fingers on his arm before focusing back on my eyes.

We talked and talked for a bit, about Czech money and how it looks, when he put his hand on my thigh. He stroked and stroked the fabric of my thigh over the layer of denim, and before I had a minute to react, to absorb what was happening, he leaned his face in and covered my lips with his for a kiss.

We were kissing! Kissing! My brain was on overload. I was not so much feeling physical pleasure, but cerebral pleasure that I was actually here in this restaurant, being kissed by this man, who is actually my age and taking a sexual interest in me.

His hands were rubbing my thighs, this time aggressively, pinching them, while our lips remained locked. I suddenly felt a large hand slip into the opening of my pink ruffled plaid blouse: is he going to do it with me? In public? I wondered, that’s how intense it got.

“So,” he said, after our lips came unlocked from the breathless kiss, “Would you like to come to my place, and see Czech crowns?”

He said this in a sexy way that made me translate “Czech crowns” as “my dick” but I said quite honestly that it was late, that I needed to get some work done tomorrow, and that maybe I would see them next time.

He nodded, saying he understood, and we parted ways. I was feeling like  a billion dollars, touching my lips, grinning. He kissed me, I kept repeating to myself. So I’m not hopeless after all.

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