Or, the fine art of wooing while sleep-deprived
June 22nd, 2009
So anyone who's been even peripherally aware of what's going on with me lately knows about the epic war of Gabriel vs. OMG MOTHERFUCKING COCKROACHES IN MY MOTHERFUCKING HOUSE. I won't belabor the point here more than I have to (mostly because I really don't like thinking about it) but in brief:
A) It is so not my fault. It is the Eurotrash slob next door. I've been living here since September of last year and up till two weeks ago, saw not a single one. I keep the place fairly tidy under normal circumstances and NOW my house is so fucking sterile that you could perform surgery on my floor. But then I'd have to vacuum again, so don't. Unfortunately this has made no difference.
B) The count is up to seven, some of them Texas-sized and OH SWEET MERCIFUL GOD, what genocide did I commit in some previous life to deserve this sort of karmic retribution??
C) It's come to the point where I dread going home. I'm on constant red alert for skittering in the corners of my vision and I've started having trouble sleeping. I think I might have mentioned that I'm very, very phobic of the little bastards.
This all becomes highly relevant later.
But first rewind.
Saturday night was when it got interesting. A friend of a friend, here called Num, and I went to ni-choume, aka gaytown, and she got to experience the joy of really weak Japanese drinks. (If you drink enough to get tipsy, you've imbibed enough sheer volume of liquid to make sloshy and nauseous.) We hit Dragon, then Advocates, and swung round to Arty last to round out the set.
Now Num, being mostly heterosexual, had sampled the straight clubs in Shibuya and found them somewhat wanting. Nor was she entirely comfortable with asking straight Japanese men to dance, wondering if perhaps they would be completely turned off by Western female assertiveness. Admittedly, I've had little interaction with heterosexual Japanese guys, but in my personal experience, everyone is happier when the other person makes the first move. It's become socially accepted as the man's responsibility to do the pursuing, but I credit most of my success with guys (back when I wasn't one) to the fact that I believed in equal-opportunity pursuing and my conquests found themselves pleasantly surprised and totally willing to let me take the lead. I mean, who wants to put themselves out there for rejection? Nobody. Ballsy people learn to live with that risk, but it is flattering when someone finds you irresistible enough to make overtures.
We are in Arty, and it is -- as I promised Num -- like dancing on the Yamanote Line at rush hour. It is feet-stationary dancing. There are beautiful faces sliding in and out of the crowd, and I'm enjoying watching them, until one in particular catches my eye and I nudge Num's attention to it. (I think it was the hat he was wearing. I love me some fedoras.)
Num: You should dance with him, then!
Me: *waffle waffle* Okay! I shall show you how it's done round these parts!
An aside: How to Pick Up Boys at Arty:
1) Dance with them. If they dance back, proceed to step two. If they dance away, acquire a different target and repeat step one.
2) Ask them for their keitai address.
3) USE said keitai address. Be bold!
This is deceptively simple.
Communication is difficult, but proceeds as follows (well, translated from Japanese), both of us taking liberties with personal space as we shout into each other's ears:
Me: YOUR NAME?
Him: YUUTO. YOURS?
Me: [Ooh boy, here it goes --] GABRIEL.
Me: *sigh* GABRIEL. [thinking: I really need to make a gay alias like half the dudes here do, except it feels pretentious as hell.]
Me: NEVER MIND, IT'S HARD FOR JAPANESE PEOPLE TO SAY.
Him: NO NO, ONE MORE TIME?
Him: GAYBRUL? [draws back to look at me, plainly thinking he couldn't have heard that right]
We dance for a minute or so, then, inspired by the clothed public orgy going on in the knot of people next to us -- and also conscious of both Num's desire to dance and the fact that sometimes hapless straight boys end up in Arty and are just too polite to say no when asked to dance by gay boys -- I steer him bodily between myself and Num. Figured that even if he's not into me he can at least enjoy dancing with her, because she's blond and cute too.
The two of them made a few stabs at conversation as well, volleys that left Num looking somewhat confused, so I leaned in over Yuuto's shoulder to ask what they'd said.
Num: I ASKED IF HE WAS GAY. I THINK HE SAID 'I DON'T KNOW' ?? o_O
Me: [to Yuuto] ゲイですか？？
Me: [to Num] YOU HEARD RIGHT!
Then, on a whim:
Me: [to Yuuto] WANNA TRY IT AND SEE?
Then I glanced at my watch and realized it was 11:35, and that we had twenty minutes to catch the last Saikyo line from Shinjuku station. (It's not the end of the world if you miss it, because you can take the Yamanote line round to Ikebukuro and catch a few later ones, but getting stranded in downtown Tokyo when you have work the next morning isn't a risk you want to flirt with.) So I caught Num's attention, tapped my watch and hollered that we had to leave to catch last train. Then, despite being the most sober I'd ever been inside Arty -- or perhaps because of it -- I asked Yuuto if I could have his keitai email, and to my surprise he assented.
("You're lovely," I murmured before I left, taking the liberty of giving him a kiss on the cheek. Because what the hell -- I'd kind of assumed that nothing would come of this, and felt he ought to know that. I think he blushed.)
But even more surprisingly, he turned out to be a really good text mail correspondent, and by really good I mean prompt and seeming quite interested.
Me: By the way, it's totally okay if you don't know whether or not you're gay. I think being bi is way better anyway.
Him: Thanks! So are you gay?
Me: Hrm. Well that's a bit... complicated -- [Omniscient audience, feel free to smirk knowingly here] -- but I generally prefer guys. I have dated both men and women before though.
Him: Me too! I've dated both too.
Gentle readers, this is promising. I like bisexuals. I'm so sick of gay guys who find out about the lack of a cock and are like, "Oh. Well you understand, right, why I'm not interested now; because I'm gay." So am I, asshole, and you can fuck right off.
Him: By the way, you should teach me English next time!
Me: [O_O!! He's taking it for granted that there will BE a next time??] With pleasure! I'm a fabulous teacher.
We continued shooting emails back and forth at a brisk pace on my walk home, and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.
Until I walked into my house and found a cockroach the size of a Hummer in my sink, HOLY SHIT. I killed it, with enough nerve gas to make it probably unsafe ever to use my kitchenette again, then went outside to hyperventilate for a few minutes. This has reached critical mass, I thought. I have laid traps, I have put out repellent, I have vacuumed and sterilized and sprayed raid around my door every goddamned day, what more can I do? What BABIES did I ritually cannibalize in a past life to deserve this??
Even worse, I was stone-cold sober for all of this. I'd been coping by getting pleasantly buzzed every evening, so that I could relax enough to not care so much about the potential bugs lurking in every corner. Unfortunately since it takes a BOTTLE OF SAKE to get me tipsy, I'd decided that that was likely to get really unhealthy (and rather expensive) really quickly. So, sober. I took a Valium instead, the expired leftovers from the stash that I keep in reserve for trans-Pacific airplane flights, because I hate flying as much as I hate roaches.
It didn't work.
Four thirty in the morning, I am exhausted, still awake, frustrated to the point of tears. My alarm will go off in four hours, to greet a full eight-hour day, this hard on the heels of the previous day, where I got three hours of sleep and felt bloody wrecked. The answer comes to me like a blessing -- call in sick. I wouldn't have felt justified doing that if I'd been drinking, but I hadn't. It was only my fault inasmuch as I am damnably incapable of making myself get the fuck over this phobia already.
So I try to call in sick.
Long story short, Nova has no spare teachers. Get thee to the classroom, bitch. I want to murder someone.
Sitting, numb and unblinking on the train, I think about the manager's passive-aggressive voice saying, "Well could you try to make it to class today?" and fantasize about breaking faces and breaking windows. I have a vague recollection of being told, when a manager was going over the stipulations of my Nova contract with me, that I would be responsible for possible damage to the premises. I was like, Say what? And he said, Oh, that would be only if you went berserk or something and trashed the place, and we both laughed about it then. Now I see that it was cleverly done.
I can handle a half-day, I think to myself. Four classes before lunch is plenty of time for them to find some mid-level, trainer-type to cover a half-day for me. If they can't do that much, then I'm quitting, I resolve. I bloody well mean it this time.
On Sundays there's another teacher who comes in for a half day in the morning, and I was already planning to ask/beg/wheedle/what-have-you him into staying on for my afternoon classes and letting me go home early -- only to find out that he's sick too. He spends the breaks between classes curled up miserably in the corner of the staffroom, clutching his stomach and just as furious as I am about being made to work in his condition.
I'm so tired that it hurts. When I put my head down between classes, I can feel some chest-deep pain that worries me because it puts me in mind of a system strained to its limits and about to break. I catch myself doing that half-second, sleep-blink thing in the middle of lessons, my brain automatically going into standby mode when the students take too long to respond. I try to nap during lunch, but it's more of the same as last night, exhaustion that I can't transcend enough to sleep.
The other teacher finishes his shift and gratefully slinks home. I don't even feel envious, just glad that one of us, at least, gets to go rest. That cunt of a manager calls to tell me that there will be nobody coming to replace me, as if I hadn't figured that out by now. I'm not especially civil as I get off the phone with her, but what the fuck's she going to do, fire me? They don't have enough teachers as it is, and when I get off the phone with her I go straight up to the staff girl's desk.
"I'm quitting," I announce. "Giving my two weeks notice. Is there a form to fill out?"
She's somewhat used to my dramatic gestures, so I had to repeat myself, dropping into Serious Voice and polite-form Japanese before the message registered.
"You mean it??" o_O !!
"Huh. Well then..." She wanders off to look for the proper form. Given her general competence in other areas, I expect to receive it about the time I get settled with my next job. I think I'm going to sign it "Sorry for short notice, thanks!" the same way they signed my transfer back to the pit of morons known as Oimachi.
I don't know if it's a good idea, but at this point I don't care. I have about $5000 in savings, which was about what I had this time last year when I moved, jobless, from Ibaraki to Tokyo. I can apply at Gaba and Aeon and all the other places that are likely to suck just as much as Nova, but in a different way at least. I can scour those find-a-teacher websites and collect private students. I can go see if the foreigner butler cafe wants a trannie. I can--
Oh hey, I have a text message from Yuuto. "Hi Gabriel!" he says. "What time do you get off work?"
*blink* That question sounds... purposeful. "6:10," I write in reply, and then add, "But I've had a terrible day, because I couldn't sleep at all last night, so doing anything this evening is out of the question."
Then I erase it again. "6:10. Were you thinking of making plans?" Send.
Now by this point, I've made up my mind that I'm not spending another night at my house until I get the chance to do another round of -- probably futile -- attempts at making myself the only living organism in the room. Meridel is out of town, I've been entrusted with a key and the care and feeding of her pet rabbit and hamster. She never really gave me permission to be a squatter, but whatever. I'm desperate, and if she's pissed off I can make it up to her later.
So as the day draws to a close I'm considering what to pack for a camping trip to Meridel's house, a sleepover of one. Wondering whether I should take Yuuto up on the implicit invitation to hang out after work, or just drag myself off to bed and collapse. I finally finish my last class and stumble out of there like a zombie. Texting back and forth with Yuuto as I ride the train home, neither of us inviting the other directly yet, I still can't decide what I'd rather do. On one hand, I know I can make plans for the next evening when I'll be cleaner, better rested, and better dressed, and he'll know I'm not just blowing him off. On the other hand, the sheer artlessness of his interest and his eagerness to meet tonight is infectious and makes me want to go DAMN THE TORPEDOES!
And here, I think I've learned something: there is absolutely nothing to be gained from playing cool and playing hard to get. It just makes the other person think you're not so interested, and discourages them from continuing to pursue you. Just some food for thought.
Him: So what are you doing for dinner tonight?
Me: I was planning on making macaroni. I'm a pretty good cook.
Him: Pasta? Oh man, I'm hungry!
Me: [oh well, damn the torpedoes] Do you want to go out to eat together? As long as you don't mind it being a little later.
The response on that one was a longer time coming than the others had been, and I confess to being on edge waiting for the phone to buzz again, but also on edge because I was by that point in my house again, surrounded by the possibility of roaches as I shoved stuff in a backpack. The packing took longer than I would have liked, and I was on my bike en route to Meridel's house when the reply came. I'd been pulling the uniquely Japanese text-while-you-bicycle maneuver--
Him: "I want to have dinner at your house!"
--SCREECH, when I did a metaphorical spittake and remembered why that maneuver is illegal. Because hells yes, I'd like to take him home. I would be so down with that. I like cooking for guests, it gives me something to do with my hands while we chat. He could sit on my floor, we could watch movies on my computer, and then probably roll into bed with very little fuss. I don't even really care what we do once we get there; I just want to kiss someone, though I definitely wouldn't say no to more.
I like this plan. It is perfect in every way, except... except -- roaches. And I cannot believe they have managed to find YET ANOTHER way to incommode me, even more they already have. Invading my house, driving me to insomnia, and now COCKBLOCKING?! What did I do to deserve this??
Because there's no use pretending that they're not there, not when I've been averaging one every two days. I'd be nervous and jumping at every shadow, not to mention probably unable to cook on that stove without poisoning somebody. And when the inevitable roach did show its ugly little face, I would then promptly have a meltdown like the night before. Which is, all in all, totally not first-date material.
I confess that I entertained the idea of using Meridel's place for all of about 5 seconds, mostly imagining permutations of the age-old question "You did what on my bed?" that comes with the reveal. Which is one thing if you're a teenager on the make, but when you have your own apartment it begs the question, "Why the hell couldn't you have done it on your OWN bed??" Though in this case, there would have been a perfectly logical reason. (See Meridel, if anyone ever tries to tell you that I'm not a good friend, I present as counter-evidence all the HOT GAY SEX that I did NOT have on your couch.)
So I regretfully had to explain that I was babysitting a house, but said that if he was free tomorrow then he could come over and I would cook for him then. (Fuck this subtlety stuff, it keeps you from getting shit done.) We made plans to meet in Ikebukuro instead, which is apparently where he lives and works. (As a hairdresser, I believe I forgot to mention. さすがに, I said when he told me, because he does indeed have fabulous hair.)
It will come as a surprise to exactly no one that I didn't recognize him when I saw him again. I have a terrible memory for faces even under the best of circumstances, and sweaty strobe lights is not the best. Heavy, trendy glasses, I recalled vaguely, being better at remembering warddrobe features than facial features, though I did remember him as having particularly beautiful eyes. However, there were lots of boys with fabulous hair and trendy glasses loitering around. I was kind of worried that this was going to be a variant of the morning-after syndrome, like, "Hrm. You were... a lot hotter before I got a good look at your face," but then he found me (fewer gaijin to choose from) and he's still hot. Woot, go me!
We went to an izakaya and chatted over food. Yuuto is a little younger than me, he turns twenty-three this week, but he seems older. Perhaps this is just because I've sort of regressed to the age that I look since transitioning, which is somewhere between fifteen and eighteen. In his free time he likes singing karaoke and going to the movies by himself, and reading books about psychology. ("Have you been to karaoke before?" "Yeah, I love it." "We should go sometime!" "Definitely!" Me thinking: We should go right now, dark-n-private karaoke booth ahoy!) He asked about my hobbies, I told him net surfing, sci-fi/fantasy, and American football. ("It's fun, I play in Yoyogi Park." "I've never played football before, I'd like to try it." "We totally should!")
He asked if Num was my girlfriend, and I said, no, I'm single and I live alone. (That's actually not to be taken for granted in Japan, because housing is so expensive that a lot of young adults continue to live with their parents. So it's not as much the mark of a scrub here as it is there, but I imagine it could make dating them kind of inconvenient sometimes.)
"And you?" I asked.
"一緒," he said, which gave me a moment's surprise and disappointment, because that means 'together' and I took it to mean he lives together with someone, then he smiled and added in English, "Me too." So apparently that's an idiomatic usage I hadn't come across before, good to know. Also, hooray for no subtlety!
His English is quite good. I asked him where he'd learned it, and he said middle school and high school, which is no answer at all because everyone studies it in school and everyone forgets the hell out of it as soon as they can. He said that his friends have enough foreign friends that he gets regular chances to practice. Which is ni-choume in a nutshell, since I've found that Japanese gays tend to be way better at English than the mainstream population.
Him: Do you go to Arty a lot?
Me: Not really. I only went last night because Num had never been there before. Do you?
Him: Only when I'm drunk.
Me: [surprised, because he'd seemed quite lucid] Were you?
Him: A little. :)
Me: Ah. Quite lucky for me then. So do you go to ni-choume much?
Him: ...Only when I'm drunk.
Me: LOL, I think you are what we would call in America a "two-beer queer."
Then we finished our food and I nearly face-planted on the table from exhaustion. I suggested we migrate to a coffee shop or something because it was getting raucous inside the izakaya -- ("Are you sure you don't want to go home?" he asked, eyeing me dubiously. "I'm sure!") -- and we wound up wandering around the doujin alley area. He was surprised and amused by the unabashed yaoi billboards displayed in full view. We wandered into a park, where we totally could have sat down and made out if only it weren't raining, a nasty humid rain that makes me sweat through my clothes and curls my hair unattractively. (Seriously, this was like the Murphy's Law of dates.)
"Hate this weather," I muttered as we settled into a cafe. "Makes my hair go all frizzy."
"I like your hair, I think it looks nice."
"I like your hair. さすがに, hairdresser, huh." His, of course, is perfect, through a combination of skill and product and being naturally straight.
We had a similar conversation about five minutes later about eyes. He likes mine because they're very blue; I like his because they have a lovely shape, like cat eyes, though I sort of forgot to tell him. He had this tendency to watch me with those lovely eyes, the sort of eye-contact-maintaining body language that screams romantic interest even when there's no touching going on. I've noticed this from people-watching. I found it hard to meet his gaze, as I often find it hard to look at pretty people, just stealing glances now and then, because I always feel that if I start staring then I'm not going to stop. And staring at him the way I'd like to felt way too intimate for a coffeeshop.
Eventually we got kicked out of the cafe and went back to Ikebukuro station. All evening I'd been kind of bemused by the novelty of suddenly not being allowed to publicly display affection, even though I disapprove of PDA in principle. Well, more like I disapprove of public displays of heterosexuality, but I really would have liked to be able to do more of those small, exploratory touches that you have to do when you're navigating new relationship waters and trying to gauge reciprocal interest. This was driven home hard when we split at the JR gates -- how do you end a date when there are a thousand other people around you? Kissing was out, obviously, but what's the protocol here? A handshake? A hug? o_O Hell, even standing around and being visibly reluctant to part is sort of Brokeback.
When I got back to Meridel's house there was a text waiting from him, that put a sappy smile on my face: "Thank you for coming even though you were so tired. I'm really happy."
Me: "That was a very nice ending to what had been a really lousy day. I'm happy too."
In short, I'm all happy and all nervous, because I haven't been so lucky in a really long time and it feels too good to be true. We made plans to meet again on Thursday, but ooooh, I didn't want to wait that long. So this morning, after a restful 6 hours of sleep in an unfamiliar but untainted house:
Me: "You sure you have no free time today? I'd really like to see you again."
Him: "Want to go to a cafe for a bit?"
Fuck subtlety -- for serious.
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