Updated: Apr 28
This is Story Six in my 38 Stories Project.
Submitted By: Bree Reid
Word Count: 1000
Setting: A peculiar twee cafe in Tokyo
My lips are stuck together and it seems permanent.
There’s a lot of beeping, like a million trucks reversing. It is rubbish day?
I prise my mouth apart. Random bits of skin get left behind on the opposite lip.
Why is it so fucking bright?
It’s a hospital.
Where was I last?
Oh god. I’m in fucking Tokyo.
My host family’s house. I remember the room they gave me, but I haven’t slept there yet, have I? I remember… the tatami mat, the sweet farmhouse smell they give off. A framed photo of… Kevin Costner? A mink coat.
But that’s ridiculous.
No. I didn’t dream these things or imagine them. They’re too specific. The photo. It’s in an abalone shell frame. A still from Waterworld. Costner’s biceps are popping and he’s holding that phallic thing, what is it, a convoluted speargun? Surely. Surely, I cannot have imagined that. But I can’t be certain.
The cannula aches in the back of my hand. I can’t sit up. People are moving around me in the crazy white. I’m on an island of my own sweat stench enjoying a flashing slideshow of the last thirty-six hours in Tokyo.
My host brother shouting at the TV. Celebrities playing a memory game. Just random words. Yasumi. Sofa. Watashi no kuruma. He wants me to play but the last Japanese lesson I had was in 1992 and I was probably stoned. I shout Yasumi! the next time the sequence starts and he claps, happy with my effort. Holiday.
I’m twenty-five. Too old for a host family, but they gave me one because it’s a better immersion in the culture. I volunteered for the trip because I thought it would be a holiday. Chaperone. How hard could it be? I’d taken the same trip ten years earlier during high school and vividly recall wandering around alone, no chaperone to be seen. But maybe that’s a distortion. Maybe they were there all along.
Soon after arriving it was obvious I should not have lied about my aptitude for the language. I definitely should not have said I enjoy working with children and outdoors activities. I enjoy bars, and very little else. An expenses paid yasumi is not worth the pain of controlling twenty hormonal, jetlagged brats in the Ginza district or weaving through exceptionally dull hedges and temples with a banging hangover. Not worth the pain of unnecessary translations to keep up the appearance of immersion.
They all speak English! I wanted to shout.
Picking up gear in Shinjuku from a mate of a mate. Seedy spruikers adorning their venues’ doorways, shuffling back and forth looking for drunk white boys to prey on. He gave me my order and then a little cosmic looking pill and some other gluggy powder. I closed my hand around it and he pushed me off before I could ask what or why.
More temple grounds, they all look the same. Koi flicking their tails. Dirty ponds with the sun hitting the surface in sharp rays. Cold stone bridges to cross them. I get a text from a girl I last saw in a toilet cubicle in Northbridge a year earlier. She wrote her email on my hand and told me she was moving to Japan to be a tour guide. We both knew she meant escort.
You here yet?
Later, back in the Ginza. She’s wild drunk. Her first night off in weeks. Her nose is red from the cold air and the coke. She has freckles and a birthmark shaped like a star behind her ear. The fur around her neck is faux. I tell her about the mink and she commands me to steal it for her. I agree, with no intention of doing so, but aware that she’s probably not joking. Her expectations are sky high. Her eyelashes point to them.
There’s something about being lectured in English by someone whose first language is not English. The nurse doesn’t smile, not even in a cursory way. You are lucky. You could have died. You could have died of an overdose in our country and made a big foreign mess. Is what he means. He’s deft with the drip. The cardiologist will come soon.
I say I think I might be sick. He passes me a bag, confirms the spelling of my name. Reminds me there is no reciprocal health agreement with Australia. My insurance was booked via the group. I’m smugly aware everything is likely to be fine because of this.
But, I suppose, they don’t know where I am yet. I can’t remember what happened. I can’t lift my head to puke so I just harbour it a while, like when you’re in a taxi and don’t want to ask to pull over.
I shift my eyes left and there’s a tray. Rice. Miso. Slices of orange. Wait.
She’s doubled over laughing. We’ve been trying to order a toasted sandwich but can’t stop giggling. There are only three things on the menu. Written in English they are: TOAST, SANDWICH TOASTED, CHEESE SANDWICH. This has made us hysterical. Tears are rolling down her face. She snorts. Points to something. A glass fridge in the middle of the café. It’s spotless and almost empty but for a pyramid of perfect, tiny oranges. A small handwritten sign says YELLOW JUICY. This sets us off again.
Surely that happened. It must have. Afterwards we sat down and ate our CHEESE SANDWICH, which was not toasted, and there were three round cushions from Tokyo Disney. A neon sign that said CANDY. It happened. In Japan these things happen. You stand alone in the centre and they fall around you like a dream.
What did I take? The universe pill? Where is she now? With her plastic fur, her freckles and her fake tour guide job.
The cardiologist comes. I close my eyes. Try not to puke.
Oranges. Kevin Costner. A star shaped birthmark.
Yasumi. Sofa. Watashi no kuruma.
Is this happening?
Thanks for reading.
I am really behind.
Please help me by submitting to the project - I need you in order to succeed.