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.