Somewhere along the line, as an erotic romance writer, I got hooked on writing M/M. Since then, writing in this genre has is where my creative flow has channeled. And then, since creativity is a live process and ever-evolving, my writing began to find what feels like its natural seat (for now) in more yaoi-inspired M/M, both contemporary and historical. I would say that a great inspiration for me has been the famous series Kizuna: Bonds of Love by Kazuma Kodaka that really inspired me. I admit I haven’t read much yaoi – barely any – and don’t claim to be an expert in exactly what distinguishes yaoi from other M/M erotic romances. The differences to me are subtle and are something that I feel intuitively as I write. It’s not like I’ve taken the definitions that I’ve read and applied them to my writing. However, when I look over the range of M/M books I’ve written, I can definitely take some of them and fit them into what could be categorized as “yaoi” as opposed to M/M.
The other thing that distinguishes it for me is the artwork. For whatever reason, certain stories fit the manga style artwork that is an integral part of the yaoi genre. For that, I have had THE great fortune of meeting an incredible manga artist, Yuramei, whose incredible yaoi series Big Deal, as a team with author Tabatha Katsura Thorn, I will be publishing very soon through Ai Press. However, I have also been lucky enough to have Yuramei do some artwork for my own pieces and really bring the characters to life the way I’d envisioned them when I wrote the stories. She has done the cover for Flying Fish as you’ll see below and is at work on my soon-to-be released contemporary piece, Soy Sauce Face. (Excerpts from both included here.)
All that said, when it comes down to is that certain stories, the characters and the tales they tell, flow from me. They tell me what they want to say and I write it down. All I can say is write it down and offer it up, hoping that you’ll enjoy reading the stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Thanks for your support!
Currently available at Ai Press (www.ai-press.net) :
Read excerpts below:
In eighteenth century Japan, during the golden age of samurai and of the Kabuki theater, young actors known as “flying fish” traveled the countryside, performing for audiences by day and giving their bodies to their samurai patrons at night.
Genji Sakura is one such flying fish, yet he dreams of the day he’ll find the man he can give his heart to and leave the loneliness of his itinerant life behind. Though he loves theater, he doesn’t love every part of his profession, especially some of the patrons. So when a handsome ronin, or masterless samurai, comes upon him stealing some solitude for a bath in a hot spring and their encounter turns passionate and profoundly erotic, Genji’s surprised and delighted.
Daisuke Minamoto’s past fills his life with a bitterness that grips his soul and makes him dangerous. Yet his passion takes him when he spies on a graceful young man bathing naked in a hot spring. He has always loved women but he can’t deny the call of his heart or his baser interests.
After an afternoon of sexual bliss, his heart and soul are tormented and torn. Keeping this miraculous lover will require giving up the one thing that has kept him alive for years: his hatred for the lord who murdered his wife. If he loves another, how will he go on and who will he become?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, male/male sexual practices. This book was previously published and re-released with Ai Press.
Cover art: Yuramei
Kai Province, Edo Period, Japan
During the Tokugawa Shogunate
Ah, finally, the hot spring! A sunny summer afternoon to himself to enjoy a soak and not another soul in sight with whom he’d be forced to share. Who’d have thought such an oasis of luxury awaited a lowly travelling Kabuki actor, a flying fish who jumped from town to town with his troupe, entertaining merchants, peasants, and samurai? Unimaginable. Except that it had happened. And might not last long.
Genji stared a moment into the placid water of the small pond. Steam rose invitingly from its surface. Even the twittering birds in the trees surrounding the small enclave of rocks around the pool seemed to be ordering him in quickly. A hot spring like this would probably not remain undiscovered for long. Once he went back to the troupe’s quarters, only the Buddha might know when he’d have this chance again at solitude.
That was all the encouragement he needed. Genji pulled open the sash of his kimono and let the article slip right to the rock below his feet. On top of that, he dropped the small knife he carried, which when sheathed appeared to be a woman’s fan. A mistake probably, leaving it there, considering there were bandits in the countryside who could assail a lone person. But the essence of time made him throw caution aside.
He stepped out of his wooden sandals, not bothering to make a neatly folded pile of his clothes. The tie in his hair also landed on the pile, as he fully intended to wash his hair in this hot water. Another luxury he couldn’t have dreamed of before this moment. Now he was naked, having already daringly left off the loincloth before parting from his quarters in the village. Who wanted to spare the valuable time to unwrap it in the instance that he found the legendary hot spring spoken of by the innkeeper?
He covered his knife with the folds of the kimono, left within his reach, then stepped into the water. And immediately smiled. Delicious already and the water had only submerged him just past the ankle.
Anchoring his weight on one rock, he lowered himself in to his upper chest. Mmm, more luxurious heat penetrated his skin. The perfect relaxation. Bending forward, he soaked his long hair, then yanked his head back and scrubbed his scalp with eager fingertips. It wasn’t the same as having someone else do it for him, but it made his eyes close with pleasure all the same. Dipping down again, he rinsed his hair until he felt certain all the dust of the road had washed away, leaving the long, ebony strands gleaming.
He squeezed the excess water from the length of his hair then found a spot to sit and recline, where a rock jutted out into a natural ledge underneath the water. The sun warmed his face, and the water warmed his body. Warmth filled him. Made his soul as warm as his body. In moments like these, he could forget for a little while. Forget his childhood memories of the anguished cries of women and children as they all were forced from their homes in the aftermath of their lord’s defeat and herded onto the platforms to be sold. The sun made a reddish glow of the darkness behind his closed eyelids, a starburst of light that blocked out even the worst of his childhood visions.
A breeze passed over, blowing cool on his damp skin, rustling the leaves of the bushes and trees surrounding the tiny pool. However, when the breeze died down, the rustling of the leaves continued. Heavier, with the crunch of tiny twigs under the weight of something on top of them.
Genji’s eyes shot open. Sunlight flooded them, blinding him for a moment. All the nerve endings along his skin crackled to life. He strained to hear, and his body tensed, ready to spring from the water for his knife an arm’s length away.
Another crackle of twigs.
He sat bolt upright. “Who’s there?” he growled.
Genji might have thought it was an animal in the brush, but his inner voice told him otherwise. It whispered to him that he shared this tiny oasis with another human being. Someone who’d been spying on him, watching him wash his hair.
Genji leaned over, slipped his hand within the folds of his kimono and wrapped a hand around the hilt of his tanto, a gift from a high-ranking samurai, one who had patronized Genji’s talents in the past, both on and off the stage. “Answer me,” Genji said, his voice tight. Years of acting had taught him how to infuse his tone with whatever emotion was needed for effect. In this instance, he sought for threatening. “I’m armed. I know how to use this knife.” Indeed, he could follow his threat with action. That same samurai had taught him some basic swordsmanship, in between sessions of intense lovemaking.
Silence still answered him, yet the sense of another human presence remained.
Genji slid the tanto from its scabbard.
“If you don’t show yourself on the count of three,” Genji went on, gaze trained on the rocks that hid part of the brush, “I will climb from this pool, seek you out, and gut you. Don’t think I won’t do it.” Though slim and narrow in build, with finely etched muscle and not the brawn of a highly-trained samurai or laborer, Genji had speed and agility. As a dancer, he’d found the principles of movement were the same.
“Relax, peasant,” a voice said suddenly from behind the brush. “I’m obeying your order.”
Genji’s insides jumped. The voice, deep and male, held a hint of mockery tinged with admiration. Though the owner of the voice hadn’t threatened his safety, Genji continued to hold his knife at the ready, should the stranger indeed mean him harm.
The leaves and branches of the brush rustled and snapped, and within seconds, a figure emerged. He came to a stop at the edge of the rocks.
Genji stared, blinking, not so much because the glare of the sun made a halo of blinding light around the stranger’s broad figure, but because when the man moved so as to block the sun from Genji’s eyes, the vision before Genji was that of a wild warrior.
Darkness. The word rose in Genji’s mind as the stranger moved a few steps closer. Dark eyes, swarthy skin, jaw and cheeks covered with more than a few days’ growth. And though his abundant black hair was pulled back, much of it had escaped its tie and rioted about his rugged face.
The man, obviously a samurai of some sort, would have been handsomely imposing had his clothing not been ragged and desperately in need of washing, even his rope sandals, though Genji felt certain that the blades of his weaponry, long sword, short, and knife, were polished to perfection within their woven scabbards. The hands that handled those weapons were large, fingers thick, and his legs in their gaiters below the hem of his kimono, also thick, muscled limbs of coiled strength.
Genji’s tanto and his limited ability to use it were a mere joke in the face of this obviously skilled warrior, however ragged and dirty his state. His fear must have shown, for the stranger gave him a sudden lopsided grin and began to untie his belt, lowering his weapons to the rocks.
“I apologize for coming upon you the way I did, like a sneak thief,” the samurai said. His hands went to the tie of his kimono and worked it open. “I thought you were a woman when I saw you from a distance, washing that hair.”
Genji exhaled a tiny bit. But only a bit. He set his tanto onto the rock behind him, an excuse to avert his gaze from the thickly muscled torso being revealed. For some reason, the man’s growing nakedness made Genji feel testy. “So you would have continued to spy on me, taking advantage of my undress had you not seen I’m a man?”
The samurai didn’t answer though his dark gaze shifted away from Genji in a way that appeared guilty. He removed his gaiters, unwrapped his loincloth, dropping everything on top of his other ragged clothing, and Genji got an eyeful of the samurai’s musuko. Even in its softened state, the member hinted at delicious thickness when erect. The sac beneath it was equally abundant-looking, heavy and full.
The samurai leaned down, turning halfway as he began to lower himself into the water. His meaty leg and ass muscles flexed as he climbed down into the pool and settled on the other side. Genji didn’t know if there was a rock ledge to sit on over there, but he didn’t offer the space beside him in spite of this warrior’s handsome appearance. He entertained enough samurai already, nearly every evening after the day’s performances. His life was not his own, and it was a blessing for him that he loved the theater, otherwise he would have gone mad and committed hara-kiri long ago with his own knife.
Without meaning to, Genji caught a glance of the way the waterline lapped at the samurai’s chest and gleamed on the golden hue of his skin, just beneath the large dark rounds of his nipples.
“To answer your question,” the samurai said finally, “yes, I would have continued to spy on you, as crude as that may be.”
Genji blinked again, struck at the man’s honesty. That, at least, was refreshing. Not all samurai were as noble as their warrior’s code demanded they be.
“Even after you first spoke,” the samurai went on, “I wasn’t sure of your sex. Your voice is soft and gentle even though you tried to sound fierce. It took many moments of debating whether to show myself. Only when you turned around and I saw your male chest, I knew I could come out without making you scream.”
Genji continued studying him as he spoke. The samurai’s voice was deep, each word saturated with emotions. The explanation made some of Genji’s apprehension ebb, and he nodded. “I see.”
The samurai cupped some water and splashed his face. Shiny droplets clung to the heavy dark stubble on his cheeks and jaw. “You must be a boy, then, by your smooth appearance.”
“No.” Genji lifted his chin. “I’m in my twenty-fifth year.” Truthfully, he’d not been a boy since his family’s expulsion from the castle into dire poverty, a violence that had ripped him from childhood and thrown him into the constant struggle for survival.
His bathing companion looked doubtful for a moment but then nodded and continued to wash himself. He came away from the edge to the center of the small pool and dipped underneath the surface, scrubbing at his skin when he rose. His large hands slid over his arms and chest, making the water stream off his skin.
Genji tried not to watch him while that testy feeling intensified. He shifted in his seat. “I’m not a peasant either,” he said to the man’s back. Water soaked the man’s thick hair, making it shine in the sun and those thick back muscles flexed and bunched as he washed himself. Genji had nothing against peasants, of course. His parents had been peasants who’d served the lord of their province within the grounds of the castle keep before the shogun dissolved the lord’s estate and turned them all out. But Genji hadn’t had the chance to grow up as a peasant once he’d been sold into service of Shizu, the theater troupe’s director. And so, his occupation, the very thing that had formed his identity as a human being, was of utmost importance to him and would be known. Even to this bedraggled-looking warrior.
The samurai turned and regarded him. More water beaded off his broad chest and down his taut abdomen. “What are you then?”
Genji squared his shoulders a bit. “An actor.”
The samurai’s eyes widened with a look of amazement. “Ohhhh,” he said in a hushed whisper, as if a great honor were being conferred on him. Then he bowed, his face nearly touching the surface of the water.
Genji’s cheeks burned. Was the samurai mocking him?
But when the other man straightened, his expression seemed sincere. “You must be famous,” he said.
“You don’t need to make fun of me just because I am part of a traveling troupe.”
The samurai’s brow furrowed. “I make fun of no one.” He bowed again. “I have never met an actor before.”
Genji studied him as his indignation faded. Judging from the wild look of the man, it was certainly possible he didn’t patronize the theater as so many of his class did. Then Genji understood his own agitation. “I apologize,” he said softly. “I see you weren’t mocking me. I’m not accustomed to a…response such as yours.”
“Oh.” The samurai bowed again, and Genji felt his cheeks tingle a bit. In spite of their strange introduction, the warrior seemed to possess the sense of honor exhorted by the samurai code, a quality Genji found attractive.
“My name is Genji,” he said, feeling his heart open a bit toward the samurai. Politeness went quite far with him since so many patrons saw his occupation as an excuse to make him an immediate object of their carnal appetites without regard for his feelings. “Sakura Genji.” Sakura was a surname he’d given himself, not only because he found cherry blossoms beautiful, but as a stage name, it had a touch of romance to it. He also felt it would honor his parents. They’d have been proud to know their son had earned the honor of a surname, even if he had to confer the honor upon himself as he grew older and earned his promotion from stagehand to understudy to first performer.
The samurai bowed yet again. “Minamoto,” he said, “Minamoto Daisuke.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Genji paused before speaking again. “Which lord do you serve?” he asked and immediately regretted his question.
Minamoto’s face darkened, and the wildness Genji had first seen came forth in his look.
“I serve no lord,” he said quietly. “I’m a ronin.”
A masterless samurai. There were many of those in the world. For various reasons, these warriors roamed the countryside, using their skills for their own purposes, never swearing fealty to one lord. Indeed, the status explained Minamoto’s unkempt state. The occupation of ronin never held the promise of steady employment, especially in a time as relatively peaceful as this one, when a swordsman’s skill was not so much in demand.
Genji sought to lighten the sudden mood. There was something underneath the ronin’s demeanor that made Genji uneasy in spite of the man’s apparent honorability. “Well, then, we have something in common,” he said.
“What is that?” Minamoto looked genuinely curious.
“Neither of us stays long in one place. You’re a ronin, and I’m a tobiko.”
Minamoto broke into a grin. He laughed then, a deep, rich laugh that did, indeed, release the darkness of the previous moment.
Genji found the laughter infectious and joined him. Their combined voices echoed into the air, Minamoto’s deep sound and Genji’s higher, melodious one, blending into the sweet summer air and the birdsong in the surrounding trees. Life held some truly pleasant moments for Genji at times, and this was one of them.
When their mirth had passed, Minamoto regarded him with a thoughtful expression. “I wouldn’t have thought of such a comparison, but you’re right, after all. The world holds great uncertainties for both of us.”
Genji nodded then saw the samurai’s look shift, as if his own words had made him think of something he’d left behind while laughing. Feeling suddenly shy, Genji shifted his gaze to the water. “This is certainly a beautiful spot,” he said. The mood had darkened again, and Genji understood. Minamoto carried this darkness with him. It was part of him, like a precious treasure to which he clung for survival. Being an actor had sensitized Genji to the inner workings of human beings. After all, he needed to access the depths of human existence in order to portray it effectively onstage through song and dance.
“It is beautiful,” Minamoto agreed. “I’ve soaked here many times.”
“Oh, so you’ve been in the province before.”
The darkness seemed to close in like a shadow over Minamoto’s handsome face. “I lived here for some time, years ago.”
“I see.” Genji remained quiet. It wasn’t his way to pry into others’ lives. He’d learned long ago to mind his own affairs. Yet, it often didn’t matter. For whatever reason, he had a way about him that made people feel able to bare their souls to him and so had often learned more than he wanted to know of others’ depravities and secrets.
A tormented look tightened Minamoto’s features. “It’s no secret why I lived here and why I left. No doubt you’ll hear the gossip once people see I’ve returned.”
Genji’s insides jumped. Apparently, the ronin sensed this thing in Genji as well. It was inescapable. “I never pay heed to gossip,” he said. “It’s belittling. Unworthy of even the lowliest peasant.”
A moment of silence passed, and Genji thought his response had ended their conversation, but Minamoto spoke again.
“Five years ago, the lord of this province murdered my wife,” he said quietly. “Shot her with an arrow while he was out hunting. She was collecting flowers. They were still in her hand when she was brought to me.”
Genji stared at him. It occurred to him perhaps the lord had been hunting and mistook the woman’s movement for a game creature, but deep inside, he knew it wasn’t true. The act had been committed in cold blood. The truth was in Minamoto’s eyes.
“I was a threat to him,” Minamoto continued. “The aid I gave to certain of his vassals made him distrust me. He did it to rid the province of me. He succeeded. I could not stay here after that…and be reminded of her. Everywhere I looked.”
“I’m truly sorry,” he said softly. Clearly the ronin still grieved. The woman’s death had obviously been a loss from which Minamoto felt he could never return. Perhaps that was the cause of the darkness Genji had sensed in the man.
Minamoto’s stricken eyes went to him. The sympathy he read on Genji’s face seemed to soothe him, for his look shifted to something softer. He nodded an acknowledgment of Genji’s kindness to him. “Since then, I’ve travelled every inch of Japan, been to every province, and studied with the greatest swordsmen of each fiefdom.”
The samurai’s voice took on an edge as he spoke. There was a hunger in his eyes Genji had seen before in the warriors of his class. So many of them possessed fighting skills beyond anyone’s imagination, and in this peaceful time, they had no outlet other than to challenge each other to duels or to protect villages from gangsters and bandits. From the way Minamoto spoke, and from what he’d just revealed about his past, Genji felt certain as to the destructive course this man actually followed. Minamoto was a man consumed, devoured from the inside by his own life. The understanding formed in Genji’s mind and heart as he watched the steam rise from the water’s surface around Minamoto’s damp torso. Minamoto was a living, breathing figure of tragedy.
The understanding softened Genji a bit more toward the man. As much as he ever wanted to remain aloof from anyone for his own protection, he was never able to do so, as if some sort of natural barrier that other people had was missing from him. “Perhaps it’s none of my business,” Genji began gently, “and please tell me if it is not, but what brought you back to this province?” Something gave him the feeling it wasn’t to revisit the place where he had lived with his wife.
That darkness settled over Minamoto again. “I have unfinished business here.”
The answer confirmed his suspicions. Yet, Minamoto’s intentions were none of Genji’s affair. Genji’s existence was devoted to playing the Samurai Princess, a role for which Shizu had meticulously trained him since buying Genji off the platform.
Genji nodded and remained respectfully quiet. The slant of the sun told him it was time to return to the village. His troupe had just arrived the previous day, and their stage would be near completion. Rehearsals would go on this evening, and then when the news of their arrival had spread, there would be the usual wandering in of samurai looking for an evening’s companion. Genji sighed. “I must return. I have a few moments to dry out on the bank, and then I will go back.”
The ronin started as if given a shock. He bowed to Genji. “I’ll accompany you,” he said. “It’s safer not to travel alone.”
Genji hovered on the verge of refusing the offer. After all, he had his tanto and wasn’t afraid to use it…he believed. However, he found Minamoto’s company oddly comforting, showing Genji how lonely he actually felt in spite of his busy life. His fellow tobiko could never really be true friends, even Aoki. Especially Aoki, who coveted Genji’s position in the troupe. Aoki would not want to remain an understudy indefinitely, and so there was always an undercurrent of tension among the troupe members. With a sigh, Genji climbed from the pool, retrieved the pile of his things from the rock, and went to the grass. Retrieving the small bottle of sesame oil from his things, he poured some into his hand and smoothed it into his wet hair. The long strands would comb out much more easily when dry if he worked any tangles out beforehand.
Peripherally, Genji saw Minamoto recline on the grass roughly an arm’s length away. He kept his back turned so as not to steal glances at the samurai’s magnificent, naked physique stretched out on the grass in the sun. Working his fingers down the fall of his hair, Genji turned slightly and caught a glance of Minamoto’s lower body. The man’s musuko was no longer soft between his muscular thighs but stretched halfway erect, blooming with reddish color.
A jolt went through Genji’s body, sending in its wake a series of tingles that concentrated in his own member. He’d thought himself jaded after serving so many samurai with his body, but for some reason, life now infused his male parts, even his nipples, which began to tighten into small, hard peaks. He looked back down, pretending to concentrate on his hair with all his will.
“Your hair is so beautiful.”
Coming Soon: Soy Sauce Face (M/M; Contemporary; Yaoi-inspired)
Sometimes the best kept secret is the one you keep from yourself…
“I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life in every way. Except for Jun. That’s what I think to myself every night when I watch Jun getting ready for his work as a bar host in Kabukicho. He’s everything I’m not. He’s the beautiful, graceful, sociable and ambitious counterpart to me—a hulking, reclusive, completely unambitious guy who’d rather fix car and motorcycle engines all day than interact with people… I’d be happy if Jun just stayed here with me the rest of our lives, in this little apartment we’d once shared with Dad. But Jun has other plans.”
Or so Jun thinks. One night he gets ready and goes to work. But a tragic occurrence derails his career and all his plans for the future.
Through the eyes of his best friend, Tomo, the man who loves him above all others, Jun will be forced to confront himself, his deepest fears, hates, desires. And his deepest love.
Sneak peek (unedited. May differ slightly from final):
I’m an ordinary man with an ordinary life in every way. Except for Jun.
That’s what I think to myself every night when I watch Jun getting ready for his work as a bar host in Kabukicho. He’s everything I’m not. He’s the beautiful, graceful, sociable and ambitious counterpart to me—a hulking, reclusive, completely unambitious guy who’d rather fix car and motorcycle engines all day than interact with people.
We couldn’t be more different physically, either. Where I’m large and muscular from doing physical work, my hands dirty and callused, Jun is slender, willowy, his musculature lightly etched under his smooth golden skin, his hands carefully manicured. While my face is wide, my jaw squarish, my beard heavy and in need of shaving sometimes twice a day, Jun has what women call asoy sauce face, delicately-featured with high cheekbones, his eyes the shape of perfect almonds, artful, as if a calligrapher had brushed him into being. His lips are soft and voluptuous, always appearing pursed for a kiss.
While I wear my hair short, every day guy-like, Jun highlights his and wears it in long perfectly-sculpted spikes that hang down over his forehead, leaving space for his eyes. I dress in t-shirts and jeans while Jun always wears the latest in scoop neck tees and heavy silver chains with crosses, long leather duster coats, boots and pants with studded belts, as if he’s just walked off a fashion model’s runway.
Our eyes meet in the mirror. Jun smiles. “Aren’t you bored by now?” he asks. “I do the same thing every night.”
I shake my head. I could never be bored by Jun. To me he glows like a star. He’s a more miraculous sight than the pink cherry blossom petals that fill the air when the spring breezes pull them from the branches by the millions.
He chuckles and turns back to scrutinizing his outfit. “Suit yourself.” He doesn’t seem to mind my lurking in the doorway of his bedroom, watching him make sure his hair is perfectly in place before he puts on the rest of his outfit. Tonight it’s a silver ascot tucked into a black button-down dress shirt. A silver vest matches the ascot, all atop closely-fitting black slacks. When he finishes and studies the effect in his full-length mirror, I wonder if he sees himself as I do: as a human work of art.
He strikes a pose, one hip cocked out to the side, a thumb hooked into his pocket while his other hand holds the flap of his vest. The flashbulb of the photographer I imagine he wishes would capture his image on film never goes off. There’s only me, standing a few feet behind him, crowding the doorway with my hulking form, wishing Jun were free to spend the evening hanging out with me instead of hosting women in a bar.
In moments like this, I’m convinced we wouldn’t even have become friends had Jun’s mother not been living in the same apartment building years ago when Jun and I were kids. She worked as a bar hostess nights, leaving Jun alone all the time. Jun’s father was long out of his life, so long that Jun doesn’t even remember what he looked like. My dad, rest his soul, helped her out by having Jun come and stay with us in the evenings so he wouldn’t be alone. He practically lived here for years, so when his mom “left” him to run off with some man and start a new family on the other end of Japan, Jun just stayed.
I’d be happy if Jun just stayed here with me the rest of our lives, in this little apartment we’d once shared with Dad. But Jun has other plans.
I can’t imagine ever getting my wish. Jun is one of the top hosts where he works and he’s nearly all the way to his goal of earning enough to rent his own apartment in a swankier section of Tokyo. Shinjuku maybe. Or even Ginza if he can save up quite enough.
I suppress a sigh. What will become of us then? Jun so far away in a distant ward, living the exciting life he chases night after night. Year after year. The thought makes an ache in my chest. The ache worsens when Jun breaks his pose and turns with that ready-to-leave air about him.
At an hour when most people, myself included, are coming home from work to have dinner, play with their children go for a stroll and maybe watch some television before going to sleep, Jun is just leaving for work. He won’t be back until early in the morning. Maybe even after the sun is up, depending on what clients come in tonight. There are a couple of wealthy women he takes out to eat after the bar closes because they spend a lot of money with him. Sometimes they even go to a love hotel for a few hours.
I try not to wonder too much whether he enjoys his work. The thought just gets me depressed.
“Can’t be more ready than I am now,” he says. From his closet he retrieves the black ankle boots he’ll be wearing and heads toward the doorway. My heart squeezes as I step aside for him to pass through.
Before leaving, Jun sets his boots down and goes over to the memorial photographs of my parents and kneels in front of the small table that holds them, as he does religiously each day. A quiet air comes over him as he lights a stick of incense. He didn’t know my mother since she died of cancer before Jun and his mother moved into the building, but he honors her memory too, out of respect to me and my father, a Tokyo detective killed in the line of duty by the stray bullet of an armed thief he was pursuing.
I hang back quietly, allowing him his moments with my father who I know he still misses horribly, as I do. Then Jun rises, picks up his shoes and heads to the front door. He graces me with one of his smiles. “Please don’t wait up, Tomo.” The fact that I often fall asleep on the couch with the TV on because I don’t want to be tucked away in my room when he comes home makes him feel guilty. I certainly don’t mean to make him feel that way, I just want to see him, if even for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter anyway. I never make it through the night because I have to be up so early for work, which is when I see him often just getting home.
I watch him slip on his boots. “I’ll try not to,” I finally say. The empty promise I make every night. I can’t help it. My purpose in Jun’s life since I know him is to worry about him. He was a sad, unsmiling boy, leaning against the wall of the apartment building alone while his mother was out working. As a man, the sadness still haunts his eyes even though he covers it with glitzy clothing and work that keeps him up in the wee hours of the night so his sadness won’t haunt him and keep him lying awake.
At the open door he pauses. “Okay, thanks.” His eyes lock with mine, the way they did in his mirror’s reflection. For a moment, other words seem to hover on his lips and then he decides not to say them. This is something he’s been doing lately, leaving me to wonder what he would possibly want to say to me. Perhaps some day he will tell me, although if it’s something I’d rather not hear, then better he stays silent.
“Get there safely,” I say to his lingering form. I have my own ritual of unsaid things, one of which is, “Please stay home, Jun. You don’t have to go to that place. I’ll take care of you.” But I don’t. When I’ve said it in the past, he’s resented it and insisted that he needs to do this. He wants to be somebody and make something of his life, according to his own words. Yet, if he saw himself at all through my eyes, even for a moment, he’d understand. Though Jun is a grown man of twenty-seven, to me there’s something so little and vulnerable about him, I can’t help the eerie feeling that snakes its way through me each night he leaves for work. Tonight it’s especially strong.
“I will, Tomo. See you later.”
One more flash of his silver and black clad figure and the door clicks shut behind him.
I sigh, listening to his bootsteps on the cement catwalk until the sounds fade.
Alone in the apartment, I go and kneel in front of my parents’ photographs. Smoke from the incense curls delicately into the air in front of their faces and emits a trace of musk, a scent that echoes how wistful I feel. I look at my mother’s face. I was only five when she died and I don’t remember much about her except seeing her smile at me and making sure I ate and was clean. She never knew Jun as my father did. I turn to his picture, a portrait of him in the uniform he wore before he was promoted to detective and started wearing a suit to work. In fact, this is how I remember him dressed around the time he actually added Jun to our family register as a son, the act which I’m sure really saved Jun’s life. After having been abandoned by both his parents, knowing that someone cared so much about him as to make him a son was very healing to Jun’s heart. I knew that for sure when Jun stopped calling my father “Nakadai-san” and started calling him “Dad.”
So why does he still want to go off and get a place of his own? I ask my father the question silently to his equally silent image. When Dad was alive he used to say that Jun’s demons still haunted him even though being a part of our family had helped to make him happier. He said everyone has deep, driving forces inside them that remained a mystery unless they took the time to understand them. But, he would always add, it doesn’t mean that you can’t always care about Jun. Dad had learned so much about human nature in his line of work. If anyone was aware of the dark side of human beings, it was my father.
Back in my room, getting ready to shower, I also stare at the one photograph I keep on my chest of drawers. To me the image encapsulates the great happiness of my life—me and Jun and my dad during hanami. We’re sitting on our plastic sheet in the park not far from our apartment, under an enchanting canopy of cherry blossom trees. In front of us are scattered the empty bento boxes that had held our meals of rice and barbecued skewers of pork. Dad had been taking a picture of me and Jun when a passing couple had offered to take the picture for him so that he could be in it with his sons. That night after we got home, Dad told me and Jun of his decision to put Jun on the family register.
I owe the fact that Jun hasn’t really gotten into trouble to that one act of love from my father. However, Jun is hosting now, the way his mother used to and nothing I’ve ever said to him makes him realize he can stop. I just hate thinking of him over there in Kabukicho. I know too much about that area of Tokyo from having a father who was a police officer. I wish Jun had gone to work in a fancy hotel, which is what he’d originally planned to do, but he’s so determined to make something of his life that my pleas sink, unnoticed like stones in a murky pond.
I stare a few more moments at the photograph before heading into the shower. My evening unfolds as it always does. Shower, supper, then leftovers of nikujaga, a simple stew of meat and vegetables I threw together the day before, followed by a walk around the neighborhood, watching the kids tumble about on the complex’s monkey bars and swings, and then checking on my motorcycle parked in its space. When I get in, I watch some TV before I fall asleep on the sofa while I wait up for Jun, even though tonight is Friday and any other regular guy would probably be out on a date or something social, instead of passing the time until his friend gets home from work. I’ve often thought of getting some kind of work that would put him and me on the same schedule, but the job I have pays well and it’s our security should Jun ever come to his senses and give up what he’s doing now. Then he’ll know he really doesn’t have to worry about money. Perhaps it’s all a fantasy in my head, but it keeps me going day after day.
Tonight, I’m in a twilight kind of sleep, the TV droning softly in the background when the ring of my cell phone cuts through the haze. At first disoriented, I hold the phone up and see Jun’s name lighting up on the ID. The darkness outside tells me it’s the middle of the night, not a time when Jun would normally call.
Icy fingers rake through my chest. My sleepiness dispels as I press the button. “Jun, are you all right?” I don’t even bother to say a greeting I’m so alarmed.
“Is this Nakadai Tomohito?” The voice is female. Not Jun’s. My alarm escalates to terror.
“Yes. Where is Jun?”
She pauses. “My name is Michiko. I’m the mama-san of the bar where Jun works.” Her voice wavers. It’s a smoky-sounding voice that without the stress would sound confident. “Something…has happened. Jun was…attacked. He’s being brought to the emergency room at Meiji Memorial. I found your name on his phone as the emergency contact.”
Oh my god. “I’m on my way.” Not bothering to dress, I throw on my jeans jacket over the undershirt I’m already wearing. My pajama pants will have to do. I grab my wallet, keys, and helmet, shove my feet into my loafers and fly out the door.