Chronicles of Summer: On your mark….
English teachers in Japan getting ready for the beginning of summer vacation are like a gang of felons planning a jail break. Everyone is edgy and hot. Everything is times and dates. There are charts and maps. There are schematics and diagrams. Contingency plans are drawn up and everyone is trying to coordinate rally points and everyone is looking for that weak link, that one loop-hole in the system so that they can somehow start vacation a day, an hour, a minute sooner. Whatever.
Anything will do.
“Just get me the fuck outta here.”
Sweat is everywhere and I wipe it away from my forehead and neck and chin with a white towel I carry around anytime I leave home. The “air conditioner” is on. It’s set to 28 degrees and is blowing warm air onto the back of my neck while I stare down at a stack of worksheets collected in the class ten minutes before. I wipe away more sweat that replaced the sweat I had just wiped away. The teacher next to me, a very high energy Japanese woman in her late thirties, is slouched in her chair, legs splayed open untidily and she’s aggressively beating a large purple folding fan in front of her face in a vain attempt to cool off.
I don’t talk, nobody does. The only thing to talk about is either A: How ridiculously hot it is or B: How incredibly tired everyone is of students and other teachers. When summer comes the students feel it too and they all somehow manage to pool their energy together, almost willing the exams to fly by so that they too can embark on the oh so coveted summer time away from it all. Their rising tide makes classes even more difficult and there are exams and deadlines and hot 28 degree air blowing out of “coolers” and there’s sweat all over so no, nobody talks and I don’t talk to purple fan lady either.
Sweat runs down my back and invades the crack of my ass like a train groper, but I’ve written my back off. I lost the battle and had to surrender my back and allow the shirt under my suit jacket to become saturated. I concentrate all my forces on the last front, the last bastion of hope; my face. I wipe away a new wave of sweat invaders and then I look down at the stack of worksheets.
The assignment was to write an advertisement for a Ramen shop. However, the trick, the oh so clever trick, was to write an advert for a bad Ramen shop. Make it some odd Ramen, “Homeless Ramen” whatever. Use your imagination for god’s sake and write a bad Ramen review. There had been a lot of “Fruit Ramen! (heart mark)” from girls and some “Insect Ramen” from boys and one particular student had taken it to the edge and come up with “Rotten Corpse Ramen”. Well done. The class I had just collected papers from was third grade high school and had been relatively high energy and nobody had cried or flashed me or punched anyone else in the face and they had all, more or less, been into this assignment.
I wipe yet more sweat away from my forehead and look down at some students print. Who is this? Jun Kabata. Blank. My mind is totally blank, I have no idea who this guy is. I begin reading his paragraph…
Our Ramen is bad. It is very very Bad. We no lie. Badder than any Ramen you ever had. Our noodles are soggy and old. Our soup tastes like a boring. It cannot enjoy to eating ours Ramen….
Sweat. Hot Wind on my Neck. Purple Fan flapping violently. Tempo. Is. Increasing.
…My Seman is hot, bitter, salty and stimulating.
I blink and a drop of sweat falls slowly from my eye lash down on the worksheet and I read the sentence again.
My Seman is hot, bitter, salty and stimulating.
I am not hallucinating and that word is in fact “semen.” This is proven to me shortly there after.
Also, my Seman is popular with our females customer.
I look over at the woman next to me, and momentarily I feel like I am doing something wrong, as if I am actually saying these words to her. I watch a bead of sweat, oddly small and delicate slide from the short hair on her temple down to her jaw line and the purple fan is flapping furiously but things just seem hotter. For some reason, I can physically feel the heat coming off of her chest, stomach and radiating out from between her legs which are still uncomfortably open.
Looking back at the paper, I read the final sentence, scrawled in large horrid letters in the margin at the bottom of the page:
WELCOME TO MY BED!
Filthy Pervert? Avant-garde?
Not my problem.
The bell rings. I grab my bag and I vanish. I’m a ghost. I’m suddenly on a bus, on a train, on foot. Then I am suddenly home. The whole time the sweat never stops and summer takes another step closer.
I got a beer from 7/11 and stand on a side street next to an Izakaya that has a door which is only a meter high. Some lady crouches down and goes inside, leaving her husband standing outside, then a minute later comes back out and hits her head on the door. Her husband looks at me. I blink and take a long sip of the beer, and the wife tells her husband there’s no room inside so they walk off down the street.
It’s hot out but there’s a breeze creeping down the streets of Ikebukuro. TheRock sends me a text “There in 2….” I finish the beer which is still cold because I drank it fast. It’s good and I want another one, but decide to wait.
TheRock and Julio show up and immediately I can see that TheRock is sort of lit already. We go to 7/11 and all get drinks. I get the same beer and rap my towel around it to keep it cool. The first sip is just as good as the first can and we all make our way over to the East side of Ikebukuro where the spice shop is.
On our way there we run into JohnnyWu who is wearing this sort of retro swirl-static patterned black and white t-shirt from Armani and white cargo shorts and he’s so thin I can see his ribs through his shirt. He and TheRock both look like hell and Julio tells me they started early, around 1PM taking shots of Chivas Regal. I shake JohnnyWu’s hand and say “Wu-tang!” and he holds his arms out and says “Wu-tang clan ain’t nottin to fuck wit.”
The spice shop is down a side street crowded with pimps and doormen that work for all the sex clubs in this area. I’ve never been down here before, not that I can remember; which means not sober, and I’m a little surprised that right across the street from the spice shop and the blow job shop next door to it, is a fairly high-end wine, spirits and imported foods chain store. I tell the boys I’ll be hanging out in there. TheRock says “Five minutes captain.” and they all go upstairs to the shop, I cross the narrow street and go into the wine and spirits store. The air conditioning is great and it feels shocking after being outside.
Five minutes later I’m holding a jar of artichoke spread from Italy when TheRock comes in and tells me that “They are letting us sample so come up.” I put the jar down, although I actually want to buy it and follow him out the shop, back across the street and up some narrow stairs. I nod to the door man on the second floor for the blow job place and then we go into the spice shop.
We pass the counter and go into a small room with leather sofas and a plasma T.V. on the wall and retro 90’s hip hop playing. JohnnyWu has the pipe in his mouth and brings the lighter up and fills his lungs with the incense and holds it in for a few seconds before exhaling slowly then saying “That’s it for me. I’m done.”
TheRock passes me the little pipe and I lite up and inhale. The smoke is hot and acrid. I let it into my lungs and then exhale. Then, pass the pipe back to TheRock. We end up not finishing the sample and JohnnyWu tries to convince TheRock to put it in his bag but he won’t because he doesn’t want to “Shit where I eat man.”
As we’re leaving, a small boned girl in tight little jean shorts and a yellow frilly tank top comes out of the Blow job shop. As we walk by, TheRock bows slightly and says “Otsukaresama” and the girl bows back and genuinely returns the after work greeting as if we were all co-workers at Kinkos or something and she isn’t a prostitute finishing up her shift of dick sucking. It blows my mind but out on the street the breeze is great and I feel really good. We go to a Yakitori place and set up at some standing tables outside. We all speak Japanese but a greasy, dilapidated English menu is brought out to us.
The translations are awful and the old adage holds true: Don’t ask what it is that you’re eating in asia, just eat it.
The menu has such delights as “Salted Rectum” and “Oviduct” which causes everyone to lose their shit and laugh hysterically. Finally the flood gates break when we see that the translation they have for buffalo wing is “Cock Wing”. JohnnyWu can’t control himself and despite speaking Japanese fluently insists on ordering a round of “Cock Wings” for everyone.
We meet up with more friends later and the partying continues into the late night. The heat never lets up but the breeze is merciful and everyone can feel summer just around the corner.
This big white guy with a really stunning looking Japanese girl leans forward a bit and asks Paulo “What do you do?” and Paulo says he does all sorts of shit and then he gestures toward me and says “He’s writing a novel.” The guy laughs and asks “Can we be characters in it?” but I just check out his girlfriend again, sip my margarita then look out from the terrace we are on and stare at the moon.
Tonight is just a crescent moon and its a grimy yellow color and it’s sitting really flatly in the sky. In the other direction is Tokyo tower glowing orange and it’s surrounded by a million lights and buildings and on this terrace on the 8th floor at 10 at night it’s not too hot. It’s a Tuesday so it isn’t busy either and after two very drunk Japanese salary men got up and left, having first tried to pick up Paulo and I then realizing they were not wanted, we get into a conversation with the white guy wearing a t-shirt, khaki shorts and sandals and the hot girl with the perfect ankles and the little flower sun dress.
“Yeah mate, I worked in invests for a couple of years and see, what I want to know, isn’t it that these companies see, they essentially are simply defrauding less developed nations of their own funds, right.” Paulo is saying to the guy and the guy responds to counter the statement because he work’s in “investments”, but I’m not listening. I’m looking out over Tokyo and watching it glow and I’m dreaming about the beach. I’m dreaming about bikinis and beers and big, crushing surf. I’m dreaming about the sunburn I’m going to have and the deep dark tan that will follow it. I’m dreaming about not having conversations about curriculum’s and work gossip and not meeting people who do “investments” because they are, almost without fail, dicks and although he’s missing the point, Paulo is sort of right. Bankers and Finance guys and the whole investment banking industry is a crock of shit and does nothing productive for the world but I don’t care now.
I can’t bring myself to care about that. Summer is right there. It’s so close I can taste it and feel it’s fringes floating just in front of me.
I have every intention of getting completely lost in it as soon as possible.
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