Chapter 41:

Tokyo Part II: Chapter 36

The Kimochi Warui Diary

A Nigerian man in a fur-hooded coat was giving us his best pitch:Bookmark here

“American girls… With BEEG beautiful titties, right in yo face!” Bookmark here

This was our first interaction in Roppongi. We’d separated from Noah and Kumiko at the restaurant and got on the next train here. Bookmark here

But I wasn’t entirely surprised—Torako warned me about this. Apparently, Nigerians often worked as promoters in Roppongi—but they rarely worked with your best interest in mind. The clubs they were hired to promote had little to no presence. Foreigners would get roped in to going along with them (perhaps only because they trusted someone else who spoke English), have to pay a ridiculous cover fee, and then find that they’ve been led to a bar with wildly expensive drinks and no life.Bookmark here

Fortunately, I had the wisdom of experienced travelers in my ears. The Roppongi blog post gave clear directions on which bar had all the girls—one that was known to bring foreigners the best success.Bookmark here

And so I walked up and down the main street of Roppongi with Jotaro behind me, looking for that bar with the very same name. At first, we didn’t see it, so we went in for another pass… And then another. Bookmark here

Our Nigerian friend was watching the whole time.Bookmark here

“I seen you up and down here,” he said. “You are lost. I tell you, come to my club, you have a great time.”Bookmark here

I ignored his sales pitch and told him the name of the place I was looking for.Bookmark here

“Ah… This place. Its name is changed. It is this one right here, brother.” Bookmark here

I could tell he wasn’t lying—it was the same place where the GPS said it was. However, the sign on the front of the bar had changed. That’s why we couldn’t find it on our own.Bookmark here

“You don’t worry about that place,” he said. “It is no good for you. You won’t like it. Let me show you guys good time.”Bookmark here

I told him I’d consider it, thanked him for his help, and entered the bar. Bookmark here

Yet, there wasn’t much going on inside. This was supposed to be a hotbed of foreigners, but the most I saw was an Australian woman practicing terrible Japanese with some Japanese guys. Bookmark here

Not to go on a tangent, but a foreign woman learning Japanese is far less questionable than a foreign man learning Japanese, isn’t it? But I suppressed the thought—now wasn’t the time for self-pity. Bookmark here

We took a seat at the bar and scoped out the scene. Aside from the bar, there was a seating section with tables and stools. There was also a small dance floor where two skinny Japanese men shuffled drowsily to the beat of the music.Bookmark here

I turned to Jotaro. “What time do bars usually, like… Get busy?”Bookmark here

“Probably in another hour. Who knows.”Bookmark here

Nearly 40 minutes passed. Only a few new faces had appeared. I started doubting my sources. Just how old was that website, anyways?Bookmark here

Right before calling it quits, two younger Japanese girls had come in. They looked to be about twenty years old, possibly younger. Rather than go to the bar, they went off to one of the tables by themselves. Bookmark here

“I’m gonna go for those two,” I told Jotaro. “Let’s go.”Bookmark here

Jotaro’s eyebrows furrowed only slightly. “Me? It’s all you.”Bookmark here

What, I can’t get a fucking wingman? Bookmark here

No… He was right. This was what I wanted, and I had no right to drag him into it just because I couldn’t stand comfortably in my own skin! I had the power of caffeine, alcohol, and pizza flowing through my veins.Bookmark here

I imagined this kind anime scene where a burst of bright energy was shooting from my hands against my opponent’s. Our blasts of energy were fighting to overtake one another. As I stepped forward toward the table, my blast of energy would soon envelope theirs. I would be heavily damaged and bruised, but I would have the strength of all my hard work and determination to thank.Bookmark here

But actually, none of that cartoonish visualization was applicable in the slightest. Regardless of how I thought of the situation, any form of thinking would create more distance between me and my goal—and in that gap, more anxiety and second-guessing could develop. When you’re playing a rhythm game, the moment you think too hard about pressing the buttons in time with the beat is the moment you ruin your combo.Bookmark here

My feet were moving entirely on their own. I tried to push my mind toward the periphery—if it knew what was going on, it would have tried to stop me with more distracting fantasies. Bookmark here

And why would it do that? Just because I feel some dread and have an ache in my chest? Because my heartrate increases a little bit? There was no convenient visual I could possibly use to make this task any easier—no metaphor or analogy akin to an anime character's battle that would help me through this. The only thing that was consistent in every situation was that I would always feel this way whenever I saw a cute girl.Bookmark here

Whether or not she was Japanese didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was whether seeing the girl made my heart become heavy with dread and yearning. If a girl doesn’t make me feel nervous just from looking at her, well, she’s probably not that cute to begin with—sorry.Bookmark here

Somehow, I needed to turn discomfort into my compass—as the trigger to unlock my own anime powers.Bookmark here

I was finally at their table. My mind immediately emptied all thoughts from my head. I introduced myself. I don’t even remember what I said. They were hesitant, but they gave me their own names in return: Bookmark here

Eri and Kanae.Bookmark here

“You two want a drink?” I asked.Bookmark here

They happily agreed. Bookmark here

“Okay, let’s go,” I said, and motioned to the bar. Bookmark here

But they didn’t budge. Bookmark here

“Um… We…” Bookmark here

They spoke privately to each other, trying to figure out how they wanted to say it in English.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Just wait here.” Bookmark here

I went and got two girly looking drinks from the menu and brought them back. They happily took the drinks from me, but they finally said what they were trying to:Bookmark here

“We cannot go to buy drink, because we are only 19!”Bookmark here

Great.Bookmark here

“Are you two students, then?”Bookmark here

They looked at each other. “What? Sorry… again?”Bookmark here

“School? You go to school?”Bookmark here

Despite the empty dance floor, the music in the bar was blaring.Bookmark here

“Sorry, what?”Bookmark here

The language barrier was killing me. I wanted to stay true to the commandments of the Roppongi blog post, but at the same time, this conversation was fading fast.Bookmark here

There was an awkward silence for about a full thirty seconds as we sipped our drinks and looked around the bar. If they wanted to go the “teach us English words” route, they would have said so from the beginning.Bookmark here

These girls were going to be a bit tougher.Bookmark here

It looked like I was going to have to use that. Bookmark here

I pulled out my phone. I typed out a message:Bookmark here

「えりさんとかなえさんは学生ですか?」Bookmark here

They looked at each other with pleasant surprise. Bookmark here

Then, Eri pulled out her phone, and the two of them started formulating what to write in their translation app. Bookmark here

They tapped the translate button and out popped a rough translation:Bookmark here

“Yes, we are students! I want to study fashion and design. Kanae wants to become a doctor.”Bookmark here

That made sense. Kanae was cute too in her own way, but she had a rounder face and looked a bit more plain. Eri, on the other hand, was definitely the cuter and more fashionable one.Bookmark here

Eri was the one I was gunning for, but I had no idea how I was supposed to single her out. I just went with the flow, writing messages back and forth into their phone. If I didn’t know how to construct a Japanese sentence, I would just look up the main word I was asking about and hone-in on it. That was enough to convey I was asking a question about that word and, given the context, they would understand I wanted them to elaborate on that subject.Bookmark here

The conversation inevitably turned back to me:Bookmark here

“How do you know Japanese?”Bookmark here

I only fulfilled all of the worst qualities: a dirty otaku aspiring to become an English teacher in Japan. So I tried to skate past it:Bookmark here

“It’s required to learn a language in college. I chose Japanese because it seemed interesting.Bookmark here

“Are you still a student?”Bookmark here

“No, I graduated.”Bookmark here

“What is it you do for working?”Bookmark here

Luckily, I’d prepared for this:Bookmark here

“I’m studying to become a lawyer!” Bookmark here

Plenty of English majors went on to law school and made lots of money, so my lie was very plausible and just what they needed to hear.Bookmark here

They kept talking to me, so I passed the test, I guess. Bookmark here

“Do you like to dancing?Bookmark here

Absolutely not. Bookmark here

I’ve never had a single good memory associated with dancing. Whether it was in middle school or high school or some point after as an adult, there was never a single time where I didn’t feel alien and alone and more like I was doing things wrong than when I was trying to dance.Bookmark here

“Of course I do!” I said. I took Eri’s hand and we headed to the dance floor.Bookmark here

I wish I could tell you what happened next, but the event has been almost entirely erased from my memory. Every time I try revisiting it, there’s nothing but an oppressive, dark blur. The parts that I do remember send a shiver through my body. They make me want to grab a Gantz katana and perform some グロ-style vivisection on myself.Bookmark here

What I do remember was swaying stiffly and robotically through slow parts of a song, holding Eri’s hips as if I were at the high school dance, and feeling like the entire thing was wrong and inappropriate.Bookmark here

In Japan, they’re really sensitive about touching and PDA. No one else is touching anyone else out on the dance floor. Jesus Christ, am I committing rape right now? Bookmark here

In the moments that I trust my own intuition, things tend to work out fine, even if they’re not done “right.” Bookmark here

Following my own intuition is my anime superpower. It’s my way of summoning my shounen strength and intelligence and proving to everyone that me, this average and ho-dum looking excuse for a protagonist, actually has what it takes to pull out an incredible amount of strength at the moment that it counts the most—that even if I were to lose in that moment, the fact I did it all with pure and unassuming intention could even be enough to win the favor of my friends and enemies.Bookmark here

But in moments like these, I sabotaged my own intuition and created an A.T. field of insecurity. I was doubtlessly sending waves of uncertainty through my legs and arms and into Eri’s body—and even if I wasn’t, just thinking that I was probably made it become true.Bookmark here

An unknown amount of time passed, and it was finally over. I didn’t read anything particularly negative or positive about the experience, and she doesn’t seem bothered, but then Eri asked the big question:Bookmark here

“Where are you staying tonight?”Bookmark here

With you, I hope! Bookmark here

“I don’t know actually,” I said, and I tried to laugh it off. Somehow, I felt that this answer would give me a better chance of her saying “Come stay with me,” but how does that work if her friend is still with her?Bookmark here

“We are going to leave” she said. “It is time for train.”Bookmark here

I try to be cheeky and ask if I’m going to be going with them. Bookmark here

「行きましょうか?」Bookmark here

She ignores the joke and asks again this time: Bookmark here

“Do you need help getting back to your hotel?”Bookmark here

Looks like I’m striking out here. I tell her it’s fine, not to worry about me.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

With a concerned look, Eri and Kanae say goodbye and leave the bar. Bookmark here

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