by Kris Hartrum
Out in the street it was was humid. Rain water dripped from the red lanterns that hung along the eaves of the izakaya, and the usual barkers paced beside the curb in front of them.
“What do you want to do?” John asked her. Yuki refused to tell him her age. She had said she was twenty-nine. John thought the skin on her hands made her look thirty-five or forty.
“You choose,” she said. “You choose. I don’t know.”
She was small and her hair was tinted strawberry-blond. Her clothing looked expensive. She was drunk on beer.
“Do you need to go home?” He asked.
“I’m OK. Daijoubu.”
“What are you thinking?”
She stared at him.
“Nani kangaete iru no?” he asked again. “What are you thinking?”
She laughed. “Nothing. I’m not thinking.”
“Do you still want to go to a hotel?”
“I don’t know. You choose,” she said. “I think there is many in Kabukicho.”
John knew she was married. Sometimes she said she was not. He liked to think she was.
“What about your husband?” he asked.
“You said you have a husband.”
“He doesn’t care,” she said. She laughed and hugged John around the waist. “You choose,” she said.
John kissed her. Her mouth was very wet and tasted like beer.
They walked past Hotel Vanilla Resort, Hotel Satellite, Hotel I AM and into Hotel Magic Soft. The exterior of the building was gaudy and made to look like a castle. He led her by the hand through the glass doors. They looked at illuminated pictures of different options on the room-guide control panel.
“Which one?” he asked.
“You choose. Shiranai.”
John pressed the button under number 302 which marked a moderately priced room.
BLUE SOFT: YOU ARE IN THE SEA
The room was long and narrow. It was warm. The walls were sand colored and decorated with ocean fish swimming through coral and a giant squid whose tentacles extended the length of two walls. There was a slot machine and a Nintendo 64 in the corner near a large, flat television.
Yuki carefully removed her shoes and went into the bathroom.
“One moment,” she said.
John took two beers out of the small refrigerator.
He sat on the bed and drank. He looked up at the ceiling which was wallpapered in the night sky, and at its center was the dark outline of a humpback whale, as big as the bed.
Yuki walked to the him and sat. She looked around the room and drank from her can of beer. She gulped quickly and fell back on a pillow.
“You drink fast,” John said.
Her cheeks had reddened. John leaned over and kissed her. He opened her shirt and looked at her breasts. He thought they were fine.
“I’m shy,” she said.
“I don’t think so.”
“I am shy. Hazukashi.”
“Are you shy with your husband?”
“I don’t know. Why do you want? I’m divorced.”
He laughed. “Are you?”
“He doesn’t care about it.”
“Ok.” John finished his beer and decided he did not care one way or the other.
Yuki crawled on her knees to the wall.
She played with the buttons on the nightstand. The lights faded and tiny stars appeared on the ceiling and spun slowly through the room. The wall-coral glowed pink as did the tentacles of the giant squid.
She stood and straddled him on the bed and waved her arms slowly like a ghost and made “Whooooing” sounds as the stars moved across her bare chest, and swirling up her thin neck to the night sky and the shining whale above them.