My ex-girlfriend and I used to have a kind of ritual. We’d meet for dinner on Thursdays and after stuffing our faces we’d be off to the Love Hotel for a short stay. We usually avoided Love hotels in certain areas of Yokohama because both of us work there and the last thing she wanted to do was run into one of her co-workers…and I never considered the possibility of running into anyone I knew. This is back before I realized just how small Yokohama really is.
One evening, we were en route to play. Not quite hand-in-hand but clearly together, giggling and smiling at one another like lovers do. We were a block away from the Love Hotel district when I was stricken by surprise. Emerging from the throng of people were 4 of the women I work with. I stand out where ever I go so they saw and recognized me instantly.
“Loco-sensei!” the English teacher shouted in surprise at seeing me outside the workplace. “What are you doing?”
“Hi, er, Iwate-sensei…I’m, er…um…this is my…!” I turned to my ex-girlfriend to do the polite thing and introduce her but she was no longer beside me. I hadn’t even noticed…I had to spin around a complete circle before I spotted her about 10 or 15 feet away, looking my way, beet red in the face. She had been so embarrassed she hadn’t even stopped beside me.
The four of them glanced around at where I was looking and my ex liked to have died. Literally, liked to have died. If there had been a bus coming I would have had to restrain her from jumping in front of it. She was that shy, that worried about being identified. After they peeled their scrutinizing eyes off of my ex they all looked back to me. All except the English teacher, Iwate-Sensei, who I had a pretty good relationship with…or at least I thought I had. She glanced off down the street my ex and I had been heading down, at the big loud flashing signs of a number of Love Hotels, then back at me with friendlier eyes but a very knowing smirk on her face.
“Er…anyway, where are you guys headed?” I said, trying to change the subject that hadn’t really been broached but felt broached all the same.
“We’re going to get some drinks at a bar by the station…” Iwate-san replied. The others just stood there nodding with frozen smiles. They hadn’t uttered a sound since their shock at seeing me.
“And you?” Her eyes seemed to sparkle when she said it and all but screamed, ‘I know where you’re headed!’
“And me?’ I couldn’t believe that she was actually pressing for intimate information in this manner. I mean, hell, back in NY, I could deal with this situation without embarrassment, but after having lived here for as long as I have, and having gotten to know Japanese people as well as I have, I have grown accustomed to a little more discretion on matters of a sexual nature.I wanted to say, “I’m about to take that girl over there to the Love Hotel and have sex for three hours and then go have a latte and a smoke at Starbucks,” just to shift the embarrassment back her way, but of course I didn’t.
“Er…anyway, um, I guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow. Have fun,” I said instead.
I wondered if I had been a male Japanese co-worker in the same situation would she have behaved in such a way. I asked my ex what she thought. She’d said, “Certainly not.”
But, I guess I’ll never really know.
It’s little things like this that make me…