As a teenager, like so many others of our narrow minded, obsessed gender, I imagined myself a great lothario, girls on the edge of womanhood lining up for my attention.
The absurdity of that dream was lost on me and my peers, testosterone drowning it in a sea of hormones, and we were oblivious to the real obstacle always right in front of us, that we imagined love and sex in the first person only.
Now that youth and even middle age are behind me I still try to recall when I realized that love requires the second person singular, and my pleasure is complete only when my partner’s is as well.
Some day I need to return to Tokyo and walk its streets listening for the soundtrack that Haruki Murakami requires of the city, bebop jazz in Shinjuku, classical when wandering Asakusa and Senso-ji, and rock on the streets of Shibuya.
I have often been there, but my soundtrack was that of horns and the clatter of a pachinko parlor, or the pitched giggles of young girls walking hand in hand down Omotesando, dreaming of what they could buy in the shops of Aoyama.
He is four, he announces to all gathered at the extended family table that he will be five soon, in January. It is important that we know this just as it is important that he sit next to his cousin, for boys like he should always sit next to cute girls and sisters don’t count, everyone knows that. Four people in his class have birthdays in January And he tells us their names, we hoping there will be no quiz. As I call him to get his food from the buffet he turns to his father, and says, “Josh, save my seat,” and smiles broadly. He repeats this ensuring we have all heard. When I ask him why he says Josh, not daddy, he laughs and says, “Because it’s his name, silly, like your name is Papa Lou, and anyway he always calls me Charlie, not son.”
The little girl-women pile onto the train carrying backpacks, pillows and stuffed animals, all they will soon leave in the rooms of childhood. In the train’s café, Gerald welcomes us back his “established customers,” he says to all, as we sit beneath the wide awning that is his smile, sipping the much needed coffee.