|Blogs > saxyjazzman > Tokyo Nights|
She grabs me outside Starbucks after the first set on a Friday. Reika, Japanese, a fox, she wants to take me upstairs to her club. And she’s speaking English!
The tuxedoed hustlers watch her work. She snuggles against me, my arm enfolds her perfect waist. “I love you,” I blurt helplessly. “I’ve always loved you.” It doesn’t mean she’ll get in my wallet, but whoops, she does anyway. $25 for a 30-minute conversation. What the hell. Upstairs its small and cozy and dark. Heavy-set European women slouch in another corner. I plunk down my 2,500 yen. Reika is maybe 25 years old, her English fluent but slurred. Somewhere in her eyes is a touch of India. Now she needs a drink. Oh well, another $15 bucks. I get out my laptop to show my publicity pictures, star-studded nightime shots with my golden horn. “I’m not just some salaryman,” I explain.
“Well,” Reika responds, “I am a dancer.” She smiles, gets up and does just that.
Her skimpy skirt and blouse come off in the classic manner as she slithers around the pole. She can hang upside down from it by her legs. She can do the splits all the way down. She can crouch on all fours to clarify the details of a possible mounting. Her eyes bore into mine, a kama-sutra queen from the sub-continent.
She’s back, needing another drink. Saxyjazzman can’t say no. She wants to take me in the back room. Right now. It costs seventy dollars. “How long?” “Five minutes, but I’m very good,” she explains, grazing her hand across my optimistic cock, hoping against hope in my pants.
“Another time,” I lie. “Look, I am an artist, a musician, a writer. If you treat me like another customer, I’m gone. If you treat me like a friend, this could be a good experience for us.”
Yeah, sure. Time to go. Saxyjazzman remembers a tip is de rigeur. He heads down the elevator seventy bucks short. An investment, he decides.
* * * * * *
Later that week I dropped off my romantic pop/funk CD with the sax and soft, Michael Frankish vocals. Reika started calling my cell-phone.
A few days later, I met her before work sitting in Starbucks, wearing a spare black chemise, staring out from the second story window. (I wasn't in the chemise. She was.) I sat down, resplendent in a white silk shirt made entirely of polyester. All these metallic baubles hung off of her, scatterings of little stars dangling from her ear lobes. Other silvery creations were stapled there as well.
She seemed more physical, her attitude tougher. I said I remembered her as taller and overweight, paused with a faraway look and said, “Wait a minute ‒ that’s my wife!” No peals of laughter. I complimented her jewelry, confessing I didn’t wear earrings for fear my ear-lobes might get ripped off somehow.
So she told me of drunken customers who grabbed hers and pulled hard just for fun, men who wouldn’t pay and shoved her away when she asked. Club staff that didn’t back her up, telling her to quit if she didn’t like it. Men who fell asleep next to her. When I asked one too many questions, she burst out in anger, complaining I wouldn’t let her finish. At that point, her chattering must have totalled ten minutes to my two.
It was then she began crying quietly. I suppressed the urge to put my arms around her.
“Why do they treat me like that?”
“Uh, do you know the word, ‘sexism?’” I ventured.
It took a while to explain, and to no purpose. Her phone kept ringing. I slid an envelope across to her with the lyrics to my CD. On the back I’d handwritten am innocent, two-page letter about escaping to hold hands by the sea or to go dancing to the music of African drums. We were worlds apart. She knew Roppongi as a female commodity in low-end clubs. She saw raw, violent street scenes at 4AM, the drunks, the gangsters. I played jazz in a super-elegant club and was driven home to my wife at 1 AM.
I excused myself and walked back to the club, past a Roppongi girl with a t-shirt that read,
“No Money, No Love.”
Wow. Just like San Francisco in 1967, except for three extra words: Money, No, and No.
Thirty minutes later, my set finished, I was looking up at her from outside Starbucks. A brawny American was standing there talking to her. I thought of calling her cell phone and having her put the guy on.
It was going to go like this...
"Yo, don' be messin' wit' my ho. I be watchin' yo’ ass. I'm a big, dangerous black man, baby, that's right. Just look out here down on the street -- you see me in front of the pet shop looking up at you? Yeah, I KNOW I look like a short Jewish man, but that be my magic-mojo mind-fuck baby! I'm actually a big, dangerous black man! Stay the fuck away from my ho or I gon’ whip yo ass."
I decided against it.
There were more calls. I tried to tell her I couldn’t afford her games, but she got me to come one more time.
The signs were not propitious. I forgot my sax strap that night and wound up with a yellow wire shirt hanger around my neck. Still, I was ravishing in a fantastical, multi-colored shirt, a woman’s blouse, actually, from a second-hand shop, but Billy Crystal would have loved it.
I went over to her club. She wore an amazing candy-apple red dress, and her own apples were very visible. We sat down, I opened my mouth, and out spilled everything that wasn’t supposed to. She said get a divorce, move out, so I asked her to get me an apartment and pay the rent - this got no laugh, as she was not an Italian-American waitress at Denny’s in New York. When I told her I couldn’t afford to come to her club any more, tremors of distress flickered across her face. But no way would she would see me outside the club.
“I meet ten guys here every night, they all ask me that. What do you think I am, a bitch?”
Strange choice of words. She probably meant whore.
But it struck me that her entire life was built around “business” relationships, with scant room for love or serenity. Then I reached down, pulled my left foot high in the air and jammed it down my throat.
“You know, you’re kind of like my wife, in the sense that…”
Now she just wanted me the fuck out of there. It took several minutes for her to calm down. Meanwhile, she made some good points. “Not everyone can understand you and your life,” she warned me, and, “You just have to wait sometimes.”
Well, after ten years…oh, never mind.
I had totally forgotten the ironclad rules of the dance. A series of visits to the club are required, friendship gradually cultivated through clever conversation and expensive gifts. Dinners at fine resataurants. What was I thinking??
So she started to cry again. “I’m depressed every day,” she sputtered. I keep cutting my arms. I’m taking ten anti-depression pills per day.” Now I was brushing tears from her cheeks and softly stroking her hair. Our eyes locked together.
“Men take me to dinner and always want to go to a hotel before they bring me back to the club. They only want to…you know. But it’s okay, I’m okay alone. I’ll just keep saving my money. Someday I’ll buy a house on the beach in California.”
Maybe she will. It’s a long shot. Anyway, I’d momentarily morphed from sad-sack, cheapskate foreigner to Sympathetic Papa. But you had to wonder at the level of denial: she snuggles up to her customers, strips to a g-strap, gets down on all fours, takes them in the back room for hand-jobs, and wonders why, after an expensive dinner, they want a little action.
My buddy Jack Shipman, with his unique blend of embittered romanticism, chimed in by email from Mexico, where he was (once more) starting life anew:
“They choose to be there. They were fortunate enough to be born physically beautiful so they took the easy road. They could be doing anything, but they chose to sell the image so that they don't have to work at mundane jobs for low pay like most Japanese. They're spoiled, arrogaant little assembly-line units who bitch and sneer their way through life and then wonder why men cop attitudes with them. I'm not condoning the pigs that mistreat them. But it goes with the territory, and it's their choice to stay or leave. They never took the time to look inside to see if there was a real person in there, and now they can't figure out why they feel so empty......”
Jack said that, not me. If you don't like it, write to him. He's in Mexico somewhere.
Well, I got out without being thrown out, and I stopped for a moment on the street to study the river of men streaming past. They all looked like snakes and predators. I went back upstairs, put the yellow hanger around my neck and played some blues. Then I went to check if the police had marked my car.
It was a beautiful, clear night; a half-moon lay low in the sky in the East, pendulous and breasty. The car was safe, but coming back, the dark half of the moon was now banketed in an eerie little gray-brown shroud of mist, like an embedded pearl. It was no ordinary thing.
I stopped an African man bopping past with headphones on and pointed it out to him.
“Oooh, no, that’s no good,” he exclaimed.
“What’s wrong with it? It’s beautiful.”
“No, mon, dis is what you see before something bad happen. Dere were things like dis happen before de Kobe earthquake.”
“I just think it means my girlfriend is going to call me tonight.”
We laughed and wished each other good luck. I headed back up to the eighth floor to do my second set. I was playing a David Sanborn tune when it hit. Cries of dismay rose from the packed room. The chandeliers swung on their chains as the after-shocks kept coming. I rocked on my wooden wine-crate stage and never missed a note. It was the biggest one I’d felt in ten years in Tokyo.
Going home, I told my story to Solomon, the upbeat, gentlemanly Nigerian hawker for the Seventh Heaven strip club on the second floor. His eyes opened wide.
“If you have seen dis, it is a message from God! God only shows dese things to one wid a clean heart!”
I took that with a large grain of iodized salt. Around here, I’m more concerned about being turned TO salt. I have the definite feeling that the Lord and Lordess of the Universe are not exactly crazy about Roppongi and its Babylon Sisters and Brothers.
These days she calls me on the phone and sobs all her troubles out. I be her no-dick daddy.
Deacon Blues with a clean heart.
And here comes September again...