For Takaba Akihito, a Clue-By-Four
Trim, petite figure that narrowed at the waist; glossy hair that reflects the light; glowing, unblemished complexion; deep-set, wide eyes that sparkle. The camara-man Takaba Akihito would notice these things. Really. Honestly. Truly really honestly. Except he has more important matters to mull over.
The franchise wants one exterior shot, two interior shots and eight food shots per location for the website . . . Takaba goes over an inventory for his latest client. Two street stores, three mall stores, including this one done today . . .
But, he does notice the leaning over, the precariously balancing over the koi pool. Because koi fish can be only so interesting and she’ll fall in if she’s not careful. She really shouldn’t lean over like that. “Sumimasen? . . . ”
“Oh!” She grasps her heart and loses her balance — yeah, about her not falling in, hm? — but she’s lucky the young man next to her has quick reflexes to grab her. “Thank you. Hello. Can you speak English, please?”
Yeah, sure. Simple sentences in Japanese accents, Takaba can understand. Maybe even an American accent . . . which her accent almost sounds like, the way she almost looks not Asian. What nationality is she? Takaba wonders.
“My cell phone dropped in.”
“Oh! I get it for you!” Without hesitating, Takaba jumps in, startling away the fish that have been hovering over it. The young woman is squeeing over the whole scene.
“Um, it is wet,” Takaba says, sulking defeatedly over the retrieved prize.
“That’s okay. Thank you thank you!” And she gives him a very tight hug.
Okay. This is unexpected . . . What to do? . . .
“I don’t want to buy a new cell phone so I’ll hang it in front of my air conditioner for a week or two to dry it out and hope for the best. It might still work. Thank you again, thank you.”
“I hope it does.” Takaba says, prying himself from her.
“Oh. My name is Mary Tiangco. But, you can call me ‘Mai-Mai.’ ” She holds her hand out for a handshake.
“My name is Akihito Takaba,” he responds, following her lead and returning the handshake. “My friends call me ‘Aki.’ ” Because hugs demand that first name basis from complete, absolute strangers, even where last names are always the norm, even when it feels totally weird and inappropriate to do so.
He wonders if he should tell her that people go by surnames in Japan but, she has her hands clasped in front of her and she has turned her upper body so that one shoulder was placed coyly forward. “Would you . . . ” She tilts her head towards him. “Would you walk me to my work?”
“Okay?” Takaba agrees, scratching his head. If they were going to walk, it couldn’t be far, right? On the way over, he wonders if he understands correctly that Mai-Mai’s older sister has immigrated to Los Angeles and is a month away from a master’s degree in nursing — why not just go to medical school!? — while she and her friends have immigrated to Tokyo and have found jobs as musicians for a night club.
“As long as I can remember, I have always liked to sing,” she says. “I sing a lot of songs by Celine Dione, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston. All their big romantic ballads.”
But Takaba keeps eyeing her. All those things a boy should have noticed before? Still not noticing them. Where is she from? Should I ask? I really want to know. “Are you learning Japanese?” he finally asks.
“Um . . . skoshi?” She says sheepishly. “So many characters to learn!”
“It is okay, fu fu.” He tries to assure her. “I cannot read or write English.”
“Do you need a spelling tutor? I can help with that. I won lots of English spelling bees when I was in elementary school.” Again with the hands clasped, coyly in front of her. And she is now batting her eyelashes.
“Um . . . ” Takaba’s insecurities set in. I should refuse. I’d only embarrass myself. She wouldn’t want to help me once she finds out how bad I am. “That’s okay.”
“Are you sure? It is no problem for me.”
“Fu fu, I am so bad.”
“It’s okay . . . ,” she says batting her eyelashes again. She tilts her head as if to wonder something about him.
“Yes?” he says, with a blank look.
“Yes. It’s okay,” she answers back with a nod, understanding what he’s not. Switching focus, “Here is my work, the employee entrance is off to the side.”
“Oh okay.” I should look this up to see if Asami owns it.
“And this is my friend Marites Castillo.”
As he shakes Marites’ hand, he thinks he hears her say something that sounds like, “Oh! Gu-wa-po!” And he doesn’t know what it means. But whatever it is, it is making Mai-Mai blush. And Mai-Mai’s blushing is making Takaba blush. And their blushing would make Marites want to demand why he isn’t asking out Mai-Mai, who spends almost every night on stage singing. “You should know, Mai-Mai has a lot of beauty pageant titles —”
“Tiangco-san! Castillo-san!” They are startled by a worried looking woman rushing towards them. “A very famous restaurant critic will be here tonight. We should change the songs for tonight. Please hurry!”
“I should go.” She says, stepping into the employee entrance. “But next time I see you, I will sing for you, okay?” She adds a wink to her one last attempt of a hurrah for a friendship.
“Okay.” Takaba waves her good-bye. Is that all? The closed, unlocked door looms before him. Should I have tried to get to know her better?
“Beep!” His cell phone alerts him that Yoshida has invited Kou, Takato and him out for drinks at Paradox, a bar in the area about three kilometers away. Then he slaps his palm to his forehead.
“Doh! I should have asked for her phone number!” But it’s too late! The unlocked door in front of him is already closed.
“Maybe Yoshida or Kou would have liked to have met her.”
“Takaba-kun, what are you doing hanging out at that nightclub?” A woman with wavy hair drapes herself around him.
“Do I know you? . . . ” He thinks he should know but he can’t place his finger on it.
“Did you try to get in?”
“Um no. I just walked the girl to her work. She’s a singer there, I think.”
“Does she like you?”
“Are you sure?”
“Is she a good singer?”
“I don’t know.”
“What songs does she sing?”
“I dunno, American songs.”
“Does she like working at that club?”
“I don’t know.” Who is she? Why does she want to know about the singer and that nightclub so much? “I’m going out drinking with my friends. I should go.”
“Paradox. But you’re not invited.”
“Is that one of your friends?”
“Oh, are you bringing a date?” Yoshida looks a little unsure. “Kou and I will feel a little lonely if you and Takato bring significant others.”
“I’m not his date. Though, I feel safe flirting with him in a bikini — very safe.” She winks at Takaba. “I should go, I have some reports to write. Later.”
“Who is she?” Yoshida wonders. Starting towards the bar, he notices another young woman walking past them, looking off to his side — his side at someone else.
“Honestly, I don’t remember.” Takaba continues, setting their slow, leisurely pace to Paradox.
“She’s very hot.” Yoshida comments, noticing another young woman going past, looking to his side at someone. Someone not looking back at her.
“You think so?”
“Yeah. Really hot.” Yoshida turns to watch another young woman in blue jeans and a red tank top going past them. As hot as this one. And she too was looking off to Yoshida’s side. Of course.
“If you like the girl in red and blue, you should approach her.”
“I don’t think she’s as interested in me?”
“How do you know?”
“Oh . . . Just a hunch.”
Once at the bar, they scan the place for Kou and Takato but Takaba thinks he hears a thud behind him. He turns to face the wavy-haired woman from earlier. “Takaba-kun, could you bring my jacket to the coatcheck?”
“What am I, your assistant?”
“Yes.” She smiles mischievously at him, and he grumblingly acquiesces, almost tripping over some guy on the floor. Where did he come from!? And on the way back, Takato waves him over. “It’s a good thing that woman was there to stop that guy, Aki.”
“You didn’t notice that guy touching your hair?”
Takaba stares at him blankly.
“Not at all? He had this creepy and obsessive look on his face about your hair.”
Takaba continues staring at him blankly.
But then Kou pipes up. “Wait. Don’t I remember that woman from last summer? . . . ”
“What about last summer?” Takaba wonders.
“Are you sure you didn’t go on a date with her Aki?” Yoshida asks but he doesn’t really care.
“Anyways!” Yoshida begins to announce the night’s drinking game. Waving a printout, he continues, “A purity test game. ‘With a girl, have you ever . . . ?’ One point for every ‘no’ answer, one shot for every point. The higher your score, the more pure you are, the more you need to get wasted.”
It starts innocently. “Have you ever hugged?” However, it doesn’t take long for the questions to be less innocent. Much less innocent. To Takaba.
“Have you ever gone steady?” may be Takaba’s last non-point. Or maybe it’s, “Have you ever been on a date?” Or maybe, “Have you ever flirted?” Takaba vaguely remembers answering “Have you ever been flirted with?” But hell if he can remember how he answered that.
Within a half hour and after an uncountable number of shots, Takaba is whining at the table, horrified at his epiphany. “I’m 23 and I’m still a virgin!” And he thinks he hears Takato arguing with someone, “You! Didn’t you get the hint earlier to stay away from him!?” And with the feeling of someone’s hands in his hair, he starts to cry. Lots. Rivers threaten to short-circuit the cell phone in his hands.
Whether through muscle memory or instinct; whether from having his hair invaded or from the sounds of a violent scuffle behind him; he dials the first number in his speed-dial list but hearing a low, irritated baritone, “Hello?” washes away his helplessness. “You!” he yells angrily. “I wish my cell phone were swimming with the koi!” The phone call is terminated with a triumphant bang on the table. That’ll show him!
And feeling hot, whether from the triumph or from the alcohol, Takaba begins to unbutton his shirt.
“I’ll bring him home.”
The group of young men look up at the vaguely familiar man, impeccably dressed as he had been one recent New Year’s evening. And they also notice the spectacled man standing behind.
Takaba angrily unbuttons the second button down his shirt, prompting the finely haberdashered man to throw Takaba over his shoulder. As they make their way outside, the spectacled man motions to the other young men, “I need to speak to you boys. Did Takaba cause any trouble?”
“No . . . ”
“Did anyone cause him any trouble?”
“Um, it’s okay, sir. We took care of it.”
But once outside, the spectacled man still won’t let it drop, demanding a description of the man who had molested Takaba’s hair — complete with specific details!
“But it was dark inside, we couldn’t get a good look. We scared him off, isn’t that enough?”
And Mr. Spectacles responds with only the most subtle negative shake of the head.
But then the wavy-haired woman approaches, papers in hand. “I emailed two reports, print outs will be ready tomorrow morning. The first report is for Asami-sama about the new nightclub that opened a few blocks from Club Sion — he’ll want to read about the new singer, and open the MP3 attachment included. And the second is for you, about tonight. These papers will go with that report.”
And the crumpled, beer-stained papers in her hand are noticed. “Wait!” Takato raised his voice. “Are those —”
“You!” Everyone’s attention is turned to the young man inside the limousine. “I hate you!”
“Already established.” The haberdashered man furrows his brows.
“I bet you’ve been with lots of women.”
“None of your business.”
“I’m a virgin. Why can’t I get laid like you? I hate you!”
“Takaba,” the man exhales deeply. “If you don’t understand why you can’t get laid, then you deserve to be a virgin.”
As the spectacled man abruptly closes the door, Takato askes him, “Will Akihito be all right?”
“Define ‘all right.’ ”
“Ohh!” On the floor of the limo’s back cabin, Takaba moans under Asami who drops the crumpled papers from his hand.
“Still feel like a virgin?” Asami suckles the same area at the base of Takaba’s neck to deepen the hickey. “You definitely won’t after tonight.”
Asami leans in closer to Takaba’s face. “You know, replace ‘girl’ with ‘man’ and you would easily have had the lowest score.” He nuzzles the area just below Takaba’s ear and huskily whispers. “You’ve already lost a lot of points for a lot of things done in this limo.”
“Frottage” is a point to lose? Asami wonders, lightly rubbing his pelvis against Takaba’s, making sure to pay attention to how their bulges lightly hit base to base, head to head. He is rewarded with Takaba wrapping his arms and legs around him oh so very tightly. Very well then . . .
“Nnnmph!” Takaba is starting to breathe in deeper. I don’t believe this! And when Asami grabs his behind with both hands to thrust with more pressure, he involuntarily lets go of Asami and arches his back. I’m going to cum from this!? “You perv! Why can’t you just flirt with me?”
Just an instinct, my cute Akihito. Just an instinct. A slow thrust, and Takaba’s hands move to cling to his belt, pulling him closer. Someone needs to be hit with something harder than a hint. As he keeps up the slow, heavy pace, the grip Takaba’s arms and legs have around him tighten more and more. And I am glad to be the one giving it to you. Until Takaba’s pelvis spasms and he throws his head back, eyes wide.
“How about sometime later, soon, we lower your score even more over your moped?”
“You! . . . you fiend! We just did . . . something! . . . just now!”
“Maybe, it doesn’t count as a lost point if you can’t find the words to describe it” Asami smirks most deviously. “How about, you re-learn that lesson?”
To: Code Bengal Cub Team
Unfortunately, Asami’s loyal receptionist has declined my offer to have her join your team. However she has graciously accepted my invitation to spend a day to discuss how she recognizes volatile situations. Please respect the time she is spending and attend. Otherwise, you risk your career.
I am very unimpressed with the team’s performance last night. As Takaba Akihito would say, “You guys were made of fail.” Ahem.