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Pandora's Box

Reading an old journal entry can be like opening Pandora’s box:

    Wednesday, 23 May 2000

   One of my favorite students, Ikumi, will be moving to Osaka soon. When you're in my line of business you get used to seeing people come and go. Still, with someone like Ikumi, it's not always easy to say good-bye.

   I still remember the day she began studying about two and a half years ago. A 28 years old newlywed, Ikumi was so charming that I often fantasized about something developing between us. We definitely had chemistry, but nothing ever happened. Perhaps, if her husband hadn't been the only son of the president of a large company, it might have been a possibility. The man, despite his other charms, is, after all, fat and balding. Ikumi has put on some weight over the years herself, but I still find her as attractive as ever.

   Six women came over last night, four of whom, including Ikumi, I wouldn’t mind dating. Unfortunately, only one of them, Eri, is what might be considered "available". At 25, she's been dating the same doctor for years and years and if she's not thinking about getting married anytime soon, is probably open to a liaison. I've always had something of a crush on the cute, narrow-faced woman since she began last summer, but never had the chance to make a move. I may, though, now that Ikumi is leaving and the others have changed classes.

   Eri's charm lies in her fresh, natural beauty. Despite working as the receptionist at a cosmetic surgeon’s office of all places, she never wears make up and usually keeps her short, black hair tucked behind her ears. She dresses modestly, too: simple white blouses and jeans.

   The other two are Tomoka and Yûka. Both are the nicest of girls. Tomoka, the more beautiful of the two, recently announced that she would finally marry her boyfriend of some seven or eight years. Tomoka, like Eri, is a natural beauty, with a complexion that has never known so much as a zit. She’s so lovely that it has been difficult for me to get excited about the hints that Yûka, her best friend and co-worker, has been giving me for over a year. Yûka is a real sweetheart and rather pretty in her own way but she just can’t compare to Tomoka. I jus know that if I ever did go out with Yûka I would always wish it were Tomoka I was with and that wouldn’t be fair to a girl as nice as Yûka.

   I cooked several different dishes—a variety of satay with peanut sauce, a mild yellow curry, a Balinese rice known as nasi uduk, a spicy beef salad called Nua Yang Nam Tok, and three different stir-fry dishes. Three hours of preparation and cooking, and all of it—forgive me for boasting—was pretty damn good.

   We sat down to eat at around eight. Having not eaten much recently, my stomach was much too small for the kind of meal I had prepared, so I drank, instead—beer, Bombay Sapphire, Linie Aquavit, Cinzano, Tres Generaciones tequila—enough alcohol to make me worry that I'd be in my own private hell the next morning. (As luck would have it, I would wake early without a hangover—I must have still been drunk.)

   Misao was the first to leave, then Eri, Yumi and Ikumi, leaving me alone with Tomoka and Yûka. We had a nice talk about marriage and boyfriends. Tomoka can be surprisingly frank at times. When I asked Yûka whether or not she would get married this year as she had originally planned, she replied that now that Tomo-chan was marrying in July, the pressure was off. One would think the very opposite would be true.

   Yûka never seemed too enthusiastic about her own boyfriend. They’d been together for nearly as long, and like Tomo, Yûka had also moved in with her boyfriend. She continued to keep her company dorm, though, out of fear, perhaps, of making the leap. If she does eventually marry the guy, I imagine it will be from inertia more than anything.

   Personally, I think Yûka is secretly hoping someone will come along and make it easy for her to leave her boyfriend, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were me that she was waiting for. There was a time and, good Lord, many, many chances when something could have happened, but the window is now closed.

   Not long after saying good-bye, the front doorbell rang. Opening the door and expecting to find someone from the dinner party returning to claim, say, a forgotten scarf, I found my lover Ryô, instead, wobbling slightly and her face flush with red.

   Having just come from a party with co-workers, Ryô was three sheets to the wind, far drunker than I had ever seen her. "I want you to fuck me,” she said, kicking her shoes off at the entry and stepping into my arms. “I want you inside me."

   She removed her own clothes, dropping her dress in the hallway, her stockings in the dining room, her pants and bra in the living room, and for the next hour got what she had come for.

   When Ryô was done, she got herself dressed and, telling me she how much she loved me, staggered out my apartment.


   Around midnight, I got a call from Canada. It was my wife.

   “You drunk?” she asked annoyed.

   “No, no,” I replied. “Only half asleep.”

   “Well, you sound drunk.”

   “I sound like someone who should be asleep in bed and not on the phone.”

   We chatted for a few minutes after which she reminded me to not forget to deposit money into her bank account.

   “I won’t, I won’t,” I replied irritably. The woman went through cash like a goat through paper.

   “Anyways, I was wondering,” she began hesitantly, “if you would mind my staying . . . a full year in Canada.” She had originally planned to stay seven months.

   Mind? No, I didn’t mind at all. I wondered, though, if our marriage would survive it.

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