New Year's Eve
was more or less my first. I was sixteen years old, and in the last four months I had seen gobs of baby fat
disappear from my face, felt urges of sex
and power tools
rumbling in my heart, and smelled a million and one shades of love blowing in the ever-colder air of the endless city.
I met two of my friends at Juso that afternoon. We had a late lunch at the McDonald's over the Hankyu tracks, and then caught the next train to Umeda. The station was busy, but not like it would be during rush hour: we beat through the thin crowd easily to get to the Midosuji line, and then transferred our way westward to the bay.
At Tempozan, the three of us each bought a liter can of Kirin, and our buzz began following us down the street to the Kaiyukan, where the sun was hanging low in the sky like a giant Japanese flag that had been accidentally thrown in with the colored washing. Our friends were all there, dancing by the railing, young, free, and wicked, living for the day as the sun went down and the day turned into night.
We filled up the better part of a subway car heading back from the port to Umeda, and ate dinner in a ramen joint somewhere underneath the JR tracks, surrounded by red lanterns and ever-milling crowds.
I didn't notice her until I was halfway through my bowl. She was wearing a black sweater under an ash-gray overcoat, with a little silver cross perched on top of her (ack! you're looking at her) breasts. It wasn't a Japanese body, but it was definitely a Japanese face.
Before I could say anything, she smiled, and for a moment, I hit an intense state of Zen. Maybe it was the beer. More than likely, it was her cheeks flaring up, her lips placed just right in the middle, her eyes twinkling from black to white. We talked in English for the longest two minutes of my life, and I found out her name.
We passed back through the Hankyu station as Boris Yeltsin was resigning on CNN.
At the club, I finished a glass of iced Jose Cuervo and moved to a screwdriver, and when I went back to our table, lathered in bags and coats, she was sitting there, alone. She asked for a sip of the drink: I gave it to her, and she came close to spitting it out. So we sat for an eternal thirty seconds, and then I finally asked her to come to the dance floor with me. Holding her hand came close to feeling like an orgasm, and walking with it felt like gliding. Again, maybe it was the alcohol.
We never really danced. Instead, we held each other, in the middle of the floor, and rocked with the beat of the music. If we were a sculpture, our title would be "White Couple At Prom." Her hands at my shoulders, mine around her waist, as time drug out, as the year passed into the night.
The smoke started to get to us, and so we pulled our way out the door, and hung a left around the corner, strolling through the cold, abandoned heart of Osaka, hand in hand, only speaking small talk between long gaps of silence.
By the time we got back to the club, it was almost midnight. The champagne was flowing, and as the cups passed into our hands, I threw them aside and kissed her. No pretext, no planning: a move straight from a Hollywood screenplay. She smiled at me again, with deep, sad eyes, and then turned around and left.
I followed her out to a foot bridge beneath the Shin-Midosuji, where she was leaning against the railing, sobbing. For a moment, I couldn't believe how beautiful she was, even curled up and with her face hidden. My hand touched the small of her back, and she apologized, and buried her face in my chest as I stroked her hair and asked myself why.
We sat on the curb for the next five hours or so, and at some point I managed to ask her why. She said she was sorry, that she couldn't have a boyfriend.
Everyone started heading to Osaka Station as the sun was beginning to come up, and half an hour later, we were sitting by the inner donjon of Osaka Castle, facing the eastern sky and watching for the rising sun over the hills. One of my Japanese friends said that we should each make a wish as the sun came up.
It came up, and I made my wish. "Never let anything go away. Only let it begin again."
I rode the train straight to Himeji that morning, by myself, thinking all the way. Thinking about her. Thinking about her some more.
But the sun kept coming back up, and I never kissed anyone again... for a very long time.
< what came before - what came later >