It was around the time of the earthquake and both Jean and I were at our very lowest. I was still depressed about the break up with Nacky, my cousin was living with me again, driving me up the wall, and money was tighter than ever.
Jean had closed all his shops but one, The Zoo, the one down the street from mine, and was struggling to keep that. I knew money had to be tight with him, too, because every now and then he would ask me to “invest money” in his company. I couldn’t help feeling that too many banks had already invested too much in his business and that model of an ever-growing business—grow or die, he liked to say—was coming back to haunt him. His business was dying.
Shortly before the earthquake, Jean had to give up his übercool apartment in the tony neighborhood of Hirao. That must have hurt. He had always made such a big deal about how he had been living for years “like a monk” in a very simple apartment with very few things cluttering up his life. But then, when business was going exceptionally well, Jean’s real estate agent told him that he needed to be living like a shachō, like the company president he was. He bought the Mercedes, got the apartment with the rent double my own apartment’s, and when I commented once about the running cost of keeping a car, the cost of say parking in it in town every day, he said, “Rémy, I never ask how much something costs. No, I ask myself, how can I afford it.”
I don’t know if he lifted that from a movie or a self-help book, but it sounded awfully cool to me. That was Jean, though, he could sum things up in one sentence, create a maxim you couldn’t easily disagree with. After that, I remember trying the same philosophy, but every time I asked myself, “How can I afford it?” It always sounded panicked, as if I were saying, “How in God’s name can I ever afford this?”
Jean was now asking himself the same thing and the answer was: he couldn’t.
He kept the car, but gave up the apartment. He closed most of his shops and even let go of his office building in Yakuin, moving into a more modest apartment in Imaizumi out of which he was now working. When I visited him, shortly after the move, the place was a disaster area. Products lay in disarray, furniture—his wonderful mid-century modern furniture—remained in boxes, a futon was thrown on one of the floors.
It wasn’t long thereafter that Nori left him. When I asked why, he told me that she had said it just wasn’t fun being around him anymore. “I tried to talk to the bitch about my problems, and they aren’t little, and she got tired of hearing it. Can you believe that? Excuse me for trying to confide in you! Forgive me for caring so much about you that I thought you’d be interested!”
He acted as though losing Nori was like water off a ducks back. It didn’t bother him, or so he claimed. He was, after all, now screwing a skinny 18-year-old American girl with huge tits.
“Hey, I’m going to getting together with Shinji later this week. Interested?”
I told him I wasn’t. I was pretty much off drugs by then, even the modafinl that had kept me going for years after quitting shabu was history.
I think it hurt losing Nori. The two of them had been together for almost five years and had had some very good times together.
Several months later, he would tell me that Nori and he had got back together and were going to get married.
“That’s great news!” I said.
It didn’t last, of course. The two of them were together for only a few months and then Nori split to never be heard from again.
And, so I started putting distance between myself and Jean, too. Where we once met two, three, even four times a week, we were now meeting only once in a blue moon. And every time we did I saw a man who was slowing falling apart. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the stress of trying to do business in a struggling economy.
I met him one time and seeing that his hand was swollen and purple asked what had happened.
Oh this, he said, laughing. Then he told me how he was coming back from Itoshima where he had spent the day at the beach with a Russian chick. Some jerk behind him was on his tail the whole way back, riding his tail the whole way back. Jean let him pass, but when he did, the guy then slowed down to a crawl. When the two cars came to a red light, Jean jumped out of his car and ran to the driver’s seat, opened the door and started whaling away on the asshole’s face.
“You should have seen the look on his girlfriend’s face,” Jean said laughing. “Tell you one thing, that is the last time the bastards pulls something like that.”
At about the same time Jean told me another story.
He had been riding his bike in town and had stopped at an intersection, waiting to cross the street when a car, one of those sedans with the dark windows that the yakuza like to cruise around in, pulled up behind him and started honking its horn. Traffic was heavy, so there was nothing he could do but wait until it cleared up before he crossed the street but the bastard in the car behind him kept honking its horn.
“When I didn’t get out of the way, the car moved forward to nudge my bicycle, can you believe that? And get this, when it did so a second time, the car’s bumper rode the rear wheel of my bike and got stuck there. Well, I lost it then. I got of my bike, and it was still standing. Still standing! I started yelling at them, ‘Get the hell out of the car!’ But they wouldn’t get out. There were four of them, yakuza punks, and they wouldn’t get out of the car and that pissed me off even more, so I banged my hand down hard on the hood, and yelled, at them, ‘Get the fuck out of the car!’ But they still wouldn’t get out, so I kicked the headlight. Still they wouldn’t get out. Four tough yakuza pricks and they’re afraid of me, can you believe it? Well, I lost it, and I must confess, I was pretty high at the time and hadn’t been sleeping for a few days. So, finally, I yanked my bicycle free and tossed it onto the hood of their car. And when I was doing that, the road cleared up and they drove off. Pussies! They ran away.”
I’d probably run away, too, if a gorilla like Jean were attacking my car.
And that’s kind of the way it was for a while with Jean. Getting into fights with Nori and breaking up with her for good, bashing in the heads of strangers for riding his tail, smashing up a car that had bumped into him, chewing his staff out and firing them.
© Aonghas Crowe, 2010-2015. All rights reserved. No unauthorized duplication of any kind.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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