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Chapter Thirteen: Tabooed Love

February 3, 2011

Everything seemed slightly different after I lost my virginity. The longing for sex, always eating away at my consciousness like hungry mice, had suddenly disappeared. I looked at couples holding hands, and no longer felt aroused with jealousy. Seeing my reflection in the mirror, I smiled at the curves of my body and felt like someone who had proven her woman’s worth in the real world — sex, a tragic experience for many women around the world, was to me like passing a job interview, getting a high-school diploma, or getting a driver’s license. It was a kind of certification that I was a real woman.

But it was just that, a certification — it created some sense of confidence, but did not radically change who I was.

Becoming a “woman” did not make me any more mature or self-confident: I was still a clutz, with a permanent adolescent awkwardness around men that clung to me despite my gray hairs and fine wrinkles. My silver RMK lipstick remained mostly smooth like plastic, untouched. My red high heels and purple mules gathered a film of dust, then mould, as they sat unwanted on the windowsill, away from my ugly gray-concrete doorway.

Was I in love? Yes, I was in love! Josef, I want to scream your name from the rooftops! Oh, Josef! Dear Gods, thank you for making my first experience so beautiful, I thanked the Tokyo sky deliriously, conveniently forgetting that the decision to go out with Josef was precisely my first conscious act of defiance and betrayal against divine will.

The blue skies stared back at me blankly, showing neither approval nor overt disapproval.

Convinced of it, in fact, so much so that I was giggling to myself and skipping with arms outstretched as I traveled alone down the narrow, white-walled residential street to buy my daily groceries.

But every time I became too happy about my lovemaking experience, a black sword slashed away at my happiness, engraving words into my consciousness, leaving blood dripping from the wounds.  You are the Other Woman, the sword wrote. You are not the One he loves, You are not his girlfriend, he is not your boyfriend. You are a cheap sex friend, a fuck buddy, a time-killer for his lonely foreigner life.

These wounds, I bandaged them up the best I could, but they began to pulsate and bleed when I saw signs that Josef did not want to try too hard to impress me. At start, he rarely took me out to dinner: we ate bread and onigiri from the 100-yen shop. I did not expect him to wine and dine me, but I was troubled when he only gave me meagre bites of his onigiri for dinner, just rice, no meat, no vegetables. This was simply how Josef lived, austere and simple, but I blamed myself mercilessly — surely, if I was his girlfriend, he would have .

The first flowers he bought me were fake, orange-and-white cloth flowers, which made me so sad, so pathetic inside that I could not even fake a smile.

I am not even worth a real bouquet of flowers, I thought to myself, fingers wrapping limply around the clear plastic wrapping.

He called me “beautiful” in his emails, “sweetie,” “my little flower”– even if these words were tattered cards used  by every playboy in the world, they made my heart soar.

But “love” was taboo.

This is the word we consciously avoided in our communication, blacked out like a scene from 1984. “Like” was fine, “admire” was acceptable, but “love” was not allowed, and not appropriate for a temporary coupling that was only to last a year or two at best, with Miroslava still waiting in the Czech Republic.

After the rush of the first night, the subsequent times we made love always left me with mixed reactions.

Of course, I loved the act of making love — I loved the way you inhaled open-mouthed with pleasure when you pushed yourself fully inside me, I loved your dreamy, tender smile as you brushed your hand on my face, I loved the way you tenderly kissed me on the forehead. I was surprised and awed at the way you loved to tickle me, how you tied me down with cloth ribbons and tickled me until I was sure the floor was shaking from the sound of my squeals of laughter.

All this was like heaven.

But what brought me down was always moments alone, after our lovemaking, when I reflected on the reality that you do not plan to fall in love with me, or take any responsibility for me after you tire of me.

What kind of circumstance was this? If we are not making love, what are we doing? What was I doing with a man who wanted to have my body without giving me his heart?

It was during this troubled, feverish summer that I experienced the first storm in our relationship.

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