“You can let them love you, take you in heated and passionate moments, frame you in all possible manners inside their own minds, but never, ever, let them carry you away.” She stood and stretched, and she was a cat, her long muscles shivering in the moonlight. I didn’t know who she was then; even now I have only the faintest clue.

I’d stumbled to her place through the midnight park, staggering drunk from a relaxing evening at a hostess club where I’d spent more time and money than any foreigner had a right to. I’d meant to go home. I always meant to go home, just sometimes her place was closer. It all boiled down to convenience.

“Hello?” I knew she’d been sleeping, but she sounded as fresh as she would at noon.

“It’s me,” I slurred.

“Of course it is. Are you coming?”

“Yes. I’m in the park. I’ll be there soon.”

“Be safe.” And she hung up and I realized how warm and quiet Ueno was. Homeless slept in their tents under the yellow glare of streetlamps, and the occasional mosquito tried for my alcohol-laden corpuscles. I quickened my pace because that was her effect on me, always instilling the sensation of urgency. How many times had I run to her, either out of desperation or a deep and selfish desire for her comforts. And how she had always so willingly provided them, without question. Oh sure, there were questions, at least there was always that big one, bubbling just under the surface. She never asked it, though. Not then, anyway. Years later, after much heartbreaking agony and distance, she would force it into conversation with expert grace in a way I couldn’t deflect, like a boxer slipping and counterpunching into that one narrow gap where the guard was the weakest, a liver shot that hobbled my emotions and made me question everything.

But that wouldn’t be for years, and there I was, still able to watch her supple flesh glide in the moonlight, skin slick with the sweat from our lovemaking, and radiating waves of pure satisfaction. I wanted to bottle up those moments and keep them forever and, in a way, I did. They are all still in there, lodged in my brain for recollection at the most inopportune moments, to fill me with guilt and shame for the waste of opportunity and cowardice of my heart.

“You’re wise beyond your years,” I mumbled into the pillow.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

I thought I’d known.

2015.02.18 – 2023.09.14

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