Friday, August 04, 2006

All Gods are Carnivorous

This evening -- my last evening in Tokyo -- I wandered into Starbucks to sit and read where I knew I wouldn't fall asleep. There's something faintly deathlike about falling asleep before 9pm, and I seek to avoid it when possible. Starbucks is as good a place as any for reading.

Upstairs, all the tables with comfortable chairs were occupied. I glaced around quickly, debating whether or not to ask if I could take a seat in an empty padded chair. A young looking foreign man saw my consternation, and waved his hand at the seat in front of him. "Please," smiling; "please sit here." He had long wrists and over-white teeth. I hesitated. The way his legs were splayed, with his cellphone -- an expensive cellphone -- resting a little too casually on his thigh, it was more than an invitation to sit. I thought about missing someone's hand on my back, walking together. I thought about how grotesquely large I felt everyday, hulking past shop windows filled with tiny clothing for tiny, doll-like women who minced about in exquisitely ridiculous shoes. I held back, uncomfortable. "Sit," he said again. I sat. "Thank you"; I returned his smile with this and a slight nod, and opened my book.

"Where are you from?" he started, sliding the cellphone lazily up to his hip as he leaned back in his chair. A one word answer on my part, then a moment of guilty silence as I realized I wasn't living up to the bargain I'd entered into by taking the seat. I closed the book over my finger to hold the page: "And you?" He smiled triumphantly and began to explain his life story, adding touches here and there that he thought might impress me. If only he hadn't been wearing such a large emerald ring, or a shirt unbuttoned just a little too far down. If only he'd been a little more introspective, maybe a little more reserved, not so cavalier with his money. More subtle in his intentions. Then maybe I would have gone on his offered walk, or returned his purposefully offhand comment about frequent travel to Osaka with more than a suggestion that he sample the food there. At times it's hard being a foreign girl in Japan; the chances you get are never ones you want to take. He seemed mildly insulted when I regretfully explained I'd rather finish my book, and strolled out in his too-tight jeans.


Teresa said...

Todd used to say that he knew it was time to finish up his internship in Africa when the prostitutes didn't look so bad anymore. He'd think, "Maybe she's really a clever girl who just wants intelligent conversation." Then he'd slap himself and go home.

When the guys in tight jeans and too much bling start looking good.... Thankfully you're not there yet.

Catherine said...

just jumping on to say that i see that you're reading the blind assassin....that's one of my favorite books and i really hope you enjoy it :)

Katie said...

God willing, I'll never be at that point. He even had gold chains around his neck. Two strands. A little dressy for Starbucks.

And I'm enjoying the book a great deal... If you click on the link, you can hear Margaret Atwood reading the first paragraph.