There was room to dance because Harry didn't own much, he wasn't a collector of Oriental knickknacks -- netsuke or swords -- like a lot of expatriates in Tokyo. Only a low table, oil heater, gramophone and records, armoire for Western clothes and a wall hanging of Fuji. An oval mirror reflected the red of a neon sign outside.
An erotic zone for the Japanese was the nape of the neck. Harry slipped behind Michiko and put his lips to the bump at the top of her spine, between her shoulder blades, and ran a finger up to the dark V where her hair began, black and sleek, cut short to show off the delicate ivory whorl of her ears. She was skinny and her breasts were small, but her very smoothness was sensual. At the base of her neck where it pulsed were three pinpoint moles, like drops of ink on rice paper. Michiko took his hand and slid it down her stomach while he shifted behind her. When a Japanese said yes and meant it, the word "Hai!" came directly from the chest. It was the way she said "Harry" over and over. In Japanese prints, the courtesan bit a sash to keep from crying out in passion. Not Michiko. Sex with Michiko was like mating with a cat; Harry was surprised sometimes afterward that his ear wasn't notched. But she did possess him, she claimed all of him with a backward glance.
How old was she, twenty? He was thirty, old enough to know that her heart-shaped face was offered as innocently as the ace of spades. And if Saint Peter asked him at the Pearly Gates, "Why did you do it?" Harry admitted that the only honest answer would be "Because it fit." Before lovers leaped into the red-hot mouth of a volcano, did they pause to reconsider? When two addicts decided to share the same ball of opium, did they ask, "Is this a good idea?" His sole defense was that no one fit him like Michiko, and each time was different.
"Harry," she said, "did I tell you that you were the first man I kissed? I saw kissing in Western movies. I never did it."
"Do you like it?"
"Not really," she said and bit his lip, and he let go.
"Jesus, what is this about?"
"You're leaving me, aren't you, Harry. I can tell."
"Christ." It was amazing how women could turn it off, Harry thought. Like a golden faucet. He felt his lip. "Damn it, Michiko. You could leave scars."
Michiko plumped herself down on a tatami and pulled on white socks with split toes. As if those were enough wardrobe in themselves, she sat cross-legged, not knees forward like a woman should, and took a cigarette and her own matches. She was the only Japanese woman he knew who made love naked. Polite Japanese women pitched their voices high when talking to men. Michiko talked to men, women, dogs all the same.
"I can't leave. There are no ships going to sea, there haven't been for weeks."
"You could fly."
"If I could get to Hong Kong or Manila, I could catch the Clipper, but I can't get to Hong Kong or Manila. They won't even let me leave Tokyo."
"You go all the time to see your Western women."
"Tell me, are they fat German fraus or Englishwomen with faces like horses? It's the Englishwoman you're always calling, that cow."
"A horse or a cow, which is it?"
She sucked on her cigarette hard enough to light her eyes. "Westerners smell of butter. Rancid butter. The only good thing I can say for you, Harry, is that for an American, you don't smell so bad."
"There's a lovely compliment." Harry pulled on pants for dignity's sake and fumbled for cigarettes. Michiko had a physical horror of Western women, their color, size, everything. They did seem a little gross next to the fineness of her hands, the sharpness of her brows, the inky curls at the base of her white stomach. But, call it a breadth of taste, he liked Western women, too. "Michiko, I hate to remind you, but we're not married."
Copyright © 2002 by Titanic Productions
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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