Cutscene: Everybody I Know Can Be Found Here
Disclaimer: This cutscene contains mature content and topics, including frank (but not deeply explicit) references to sexuality and drugs. It should be considered a pretty hard 'R' rating. Read at your own peril.
EVERYBODY I KNOW CAN BE FOUND HERE
I killed my parents, ditched my girlfriend, and hit the road in quick succession. I'd secured necessary travel documents beforehand, having suspected it might come to this. They cost me a fair amount of what collateral I had left, which were my designer handbags. Parting with them felt more perverse than murder. I suppose I'd resigned myself to the notion that death was the endpoint of all human life, but nowhere in my accumulation of handbags had I prepared myself for sudden loss -- only the more natural-seeming process of items and styles going out of vogue. I took my father's stash of foreign currency, which would finance enough of my trip to get me started.
I needed clothes. One of the robots rampaging throughout Sumaru had exploited my building's decrepitude and reduced me to very nearly living in a hole. I only had the clothes on my back, from which I'd washed away my parents' blood. They were still damp when I made it back into the red light district, and even though the breeze was warm and a bit stuffy, I kept shivering, and I could feel my nipples threatening to cut through my shirt. I stopped in at a fellow hostess's apartment -- one who I knew was similar to my build. I told her a story that, honestly, I don't even remember, and she gave me some clothes and a purse that she deemed an acceptable loss. I suppose she had prepared for that sort of loss better than I had.
The one aspect of my trip that I'd neglected to cover was drugs. I'm usually pretty good about not getting too sick, but that's because I'm not an idiot who goes cold turkey, locking themselves in a room and biting through a leather strip while marinating in piss. If I prize one thing about myself, it's my self-control: specifically, my ability to ease into the skid when making a sharp turn out of a binge or a bender, and decelerate to normal consumption levels. I got on the plane about midway through the process and had to tell the cabin stewards that I was a bad flyer and that I couldn't help getting airsick. I hopscotched to Greece, miserable the entire way.
I wasn't too much better in Athens. I can speak Greek passably. I can order lunch, I can ask where the library is, I can give my hotel room number in the proper language. I can score. Even though I'd barely exercised my knowledge of the language in years, it came back to me quickly, possibly supercharged by pure need. Within two hours I'd scored and gotten a clean needle as well. As I said, I'm not an idiot. Athens was in the middle of some, like, economic crisis, and those predisposed toward pessimism were taking it pretty hard.
I talked to a bunch of people and all they could do was complain about the Euro or the job market or whatever, which was a drag. Granted, yes, the only people I talked to were users. I wouldn't have minded, because normally when people are total bummers I can just float away from them in a smack haze, but this was some pretty weak junk. I felt drowsy but not content. It was enough to turn me off of the country altogether, so I booked passage to Rome as soon as I managed to stumble away, hot and cranky, shielding my eyes from the city lights.
While I waited for the red-eye I tried to call Imaizumi-san. It didn't even cross my mind how expensive the call would be. The subject was rendered moot when, after a few rings, it went to his voice mail message, curt and impersonal. I hung up midway through the message and giggled, reflecting on it.
The flight to Rome was quicker than I thought it would be, and the bars were still open, so I was able to sneak into some ratty, fetching little number and try to drown myself a bit. I'd bought cigarettes but not a lighter, and had to ask a stranger for some. My Italian, thankfully, is very good. The man I asked was bearded and oddly well-dressed for such a dumpy bar. Once I was smoking, I felt more like I fit in. The Italian gentleman was rather brazenly intrigued by my relative exoticism, and kept talking to me after I'd passed the lighter back. Reasoning that I'd naturally need to light another cigarette, I kept him around.
He explained to me that he'd just returned from doing something up in the mountains... camping, or something. I wasn't really listening. I asked him why he was dressed so nicely, and he said he might as well return the question, which made me roll my eyes and turn back toward the bar. He must have known that he was losing his grip on me. He touched my shoulder, which I reacted to blandly, and informed the bartender that my drinks would be on his tab.
"In that case," I said, skimming the menu on the wall, "I'd like an angelo azzurro." I chose it partly because the name intrigued me, and partly just because it was expensive. He didn't even flinch, which impressed me enough to give him a little bit more rope for his noose.
"You know," he said to me, "I've just returned from traveling, myself. Burma. Do you know Burma?"
He was not deterred. "Burma. Asian country, rather... well, politically, you'd have a hard time finding worse." He laughed at his own joke, and faltered a bit when I simply stared at him, taking a polite sip of my drink. "There's a, you see, ah, a festival... well, lots of festivals really. The nats. The nats are these, er, spirits, that reside in these sort of transvestite witches..." He kept going on and on, and I kept pretending to listen. He was very quick to dismiss the transgendered element of whatever he was talking about, probably to seem more macho and hetero to me. Since that was the only part that had garnered any of my interest, I found him even more boring. He was already heterosexual and white, so that was two strikes right from the start.
I warmed to him more as the night wore on, because I was getting quickly and excessively drunk. I started laughing at his jokes and he told more of them, sensing a tenuous connection, and not really realizing the distinction between laughing at his jokes, and laughing with them.
Luckily, when I woke up, I had blacked out the actual sex act. If I must have sex with a man, I honestly prefer not to remember it. The whole penetrative process is dull and quaint to me. It's the rituals and the esoterica surrounding sex that really motivate me to seek more and to participate. Copulation at its most primal -- well, my body certainly allows me the biological minimum of pleasure from it, but no more than that.
Even the most 'generous' lovers become tedious after a minute of pumping. My body feels like deli meat left on a tray, regardless of the position. I give the wrong impression frequently: I thrash and buck and undulate, and men take this as signs of their imperial sexual power. Really, I'm just trying to keep myself interested. The longer it goes on, the harder I have to fight against the pure tedium, and so the more I invest, bodily speaking. I fake orgasms only out of a sense of decorum, and to avoid men slipping into solipsistic, childish worrying, which they're extremely susceptible to in the moments after climaxing in or on me.
My Italian gentleman woke up after me and made me eat breakfast with him. I drank coffee and smoked on his balcony, watching Rome come to life beneath us. He asked what hotel I was staying in, and I told him that I wasn't in one. He asked where I lived, with whom I was boarding... I flicked ash downward, imagining it a small meteor hurtling toward the Earth below. Eventually, he put it together that my clothes and my handbag were all I'd brought with me to Rome, and he offered to buy me some clothes, to give me a space in his bed, to colonize me and accumulate me. I accepted the offer.
He took me to Via Cola di Rienzo, which was the first thing I'd seen in a long while that genuinely amazed me. He sensed my excitement and steered me, directing my activities as a coach would a student athlete, or a grown man grooming a teenager. Through him and his credit, I bought a sundress, skirts, blouses, lingerie -- all things I'd been gifted by my Y-G daddies frequently, but somehow, all of those previous possessions paled, as if I'd been wearing flaky, brittle husks for my entire life, and only just then realized it. I found myself very susceptible to the idea of pure geological decadence. There was something coded into the ground, the air, the hangers on the racks, and all other matter surrounding me. I was becoming keyed into it, and it turned me on. I felt minor ecstasy creeping up my legs.
In a cafe near a row of taxis, I drank more instead of eating, and excused myself to the ladies' room to change. He assumed that I was trying to tempt him and reward his indulgence with a quick and submissive transformation, but my lust was reserved for these bags full of material goods. I wanted to fuck textiles. I changed in the handicapped stall and crammed as much of the other new things as I could into my handbag, wadding up some of the lingerie and a blouse before running out of space.
When I came back, he continued rambling about a trip to Israel, or somewhere, and started talking about the idea of "shalom," which means "peace," but some kind of, like, peace beyond what the word "peace" can actually contain. I listened for a while, and kept ordering us more drinks while he was lost in his endless explanations. Because I rarely interacted with his grand, sweeping statements, I came to suspect that he believed I was unintelligent, or worse, uninterested in intelligence, and thus lorded over me with theory as if it was the ultimate penis.
I smoked some more and waited for him to have to use the men's room. I asked if I could borrow his lighter, because my cigarette was nearly gone. He handed it to me and as soon as he was behind the door, I hustled into a taxi and careened toward the airport.
By the time I arrived at the gate, I'd forgotten about my Italian gentleman almost completely. I remembered the lapel of his jacket, his beard, and a few other indeterminate features, increasingly slipping from my memory. I no longer saw the lighter as his. I barely felt the need to justify my con. If prompted or interrogated, obviously I would have concluded that he deserved it and that he had been trying to take advantage of me and use me as some kind of trophy Japanese slut, and therefore anything I did to him paled in the face of his Orientalist misogyny. Et cetera. But no one asked, and I certainly wasn't going to spend time asking myself questions like that.
I opted to go to Berlin next, even though German is one of the few major European languages in which I can claim no proficiency. Fortunately, everyone spoke English, which I'm pretty good at. The smack in Berlin was excellent and I lost a couple days there.
When I arrived in Amsterdam via train, my mind had turned toward settling in one of these European cities. Not putting down roots, mind you -- that would be rather vulgar. The process I envisioned was more like strip-mining. In these quick little trips, I was slicing off small chunks of experience from the surface of things. These were certainly not enough to savor properly. I wanted to exhaust a city's possibilities, to test its endurance in the face of my appetites, and to leave only when my belly was full and my blood was gloriously impure.
I had no intention of doing such a thing in Amsterdam, though, and resolved to consider the matter further when I reached Paris. I fancied the idea of becoming a transplanted Parisienne, and assimilating myself into a culture that seemed to value the same things I did, at least on its face. To become a model, maybe, or at the very least work in an upscale nightclub... to indulge myself in a place whose language gave us the concept of the libertine. All of these fantasies excited me, and helped me to ignore the fact that I might have ended up a Parisienne by sheer necessity, since my wallet was becoming noticeably thin at this point.
I wasted no time in Amsterdam ingratiating myself with some locals. This was, again, an act born out of necessity, because I was feeling the withdrawal from my Berlin escapades and needed something that would, at the very least, make me feel human again. I turned to hash with the fervent drive of a cultist, and it rewarded me by being more potent than any I'd ever smoked in Japan.
One of the things I enjoy about life is accepting change, and simply letting things happen. A trite way to describe it would be to compare life to a river. I go limp, and let the water move me where it will. The hash made this policy an extremely easy one to enforce, and conversations led to more smoking and more conversations, and before long I was at someone's apartment party, talking excitedly with a native stoner who kept asking me to say things in Japanese. I guffawed like an idiot at every request. I protested: "Why?"
The strength of the drugs overwhelmed me. I began to hallucinate mildly, as best I can recall. I didn't see ridiculous things like talking lamps, but the spatial dimensions of the room, the furniture, and the people around me were constantly shifting relative to my gaze. I calmly accepted this, and attempted to live out this new strategy of existence on its own terms. I talked openly but blankly, as if I was mouthing along to someone else's pre-recorded tape. I confessed various things of little importance.
When the party dissolved, I was too stoned to find a place to stay, and the owner of the place was agreeable enough to let me crash on her sofa. "I think I'm a lesbian," I said, at one point, while wrapping myself in a thick blanket despite being fully clothed. "I just thought I should warn you, I suppose."
She laughed, and I wasn't sure what the laugh meant, and then she turned the light out and went into her room, leaving me there.
Still astonishingly high in an unstable landscape, I retreated into myself, which is unpleasant. I thought about the previous few days, and what I'd done, and why. I watched the film of my life in reverse. It became easy to forget that I was on a sofa, not in some hotel. I touched my own hair and imagined it was my father's. I used to touch Daddy's hair while he was on the phone, conducting business from the hotel room, or reassuring Mother that all was well and that the trip was going smoothly. He took me on his foreign business expeditions to learn, and when I was young, I learned that I had power over men, because they were weak and small-minded. It took surprisingly little effort to seduce my father. We are alike in two key ways: our slenderness, and our vulnerability to temptation.
Things clacked and muttered around me. I remembered the soft, determined patter of my father's voice on the phone. He would hang up, and I would drape my arms around him, and kiss his neck, then his cheek, then his mustache, and giggle, because it always felt funny. The blanket was against my lips, and I experimentally licked it, slowly, but found no pleasure in doing so. Still, my hand was between my thighs, remembering the solemn preparations, folding clothes, unbraiding my hair, presenting myself, hands clasped lightly over the fuzz, never quite able to keep the pink out of my cheeks, his hands on my ribs, the shower afterward...
With my free hand I fumbled for my phone, even as my knees bent tightly and my body arched in a sort of diagonal way that threatened to spill me off of the couch. I tried to call Imaizumi-san but his phone went straight to message. My desire faded almost instantly and I felt cold and alone until I finally slept. In the morning, feeling empty and hungry, I fled for Paris.
In Paris, I spent the last of my money on a pair of slacks and a belt that matched the Italian blouse and my shoes so beautifully that I would have hated myself for passing them up. While I looked and felt beautiful down to the deepest layer, I was still broke, and thus went on the prowl.
I ended up at a lesbian bar, which suited me all right, and did whatever tricks were necessary to get older women to buy me drinks. The con was only half-formed in my mind, but I felt confident in my ability to improvise. The third or fourth woman I talked to let slip that she was a schoolteacher, and I knew I'd hit paydirt. For the next day and a half I led her on, constantly keeping myself just shy of emotional availability, even in bed.
When she finally asked me what was wrong, I told her that we had a connection -- that I felt it, and that I knew she felt it too. "Of course," my schoolteacher said, astonished, obviously lonely.
I recoiled in shame and fright, nearly sending her into hysterics. I was in France illegally, I said. I would be deported unless I could bribe the right official into extending my visa, I said. He had named his price, but added that both cash and flesh were accepted. She was horrified and disgusted and scared, and she held me and I shivered in her arms. It wasn't easy to fake being distraught. All the drink and drugs were starting to get me down, and going without for a day was making me feel disgusting. I was wretched, and she took pity on me, and because we had a connection, she agreed to help me. She would pay the bribe, and I would pay her back as I earned my keep, and we would be together, blah blah blah.
I took her money and never looked back. I quickly forgot her, like all the others. She became just another part of my past, for which I have rarely had any use.
I spent two days in Barcelona after that, mostly on the beaches. I bought a bikini and other minor necessities. The beach contented me, even more so than the ideas of disappearing into Paris. It was perfectly in line with what I wanted out of life, which was nothing. I craved a life of complete absence, where there were no duties or responsibilities to perform, and no wealth of pleasures and distractions to stimulate me. On the beach, there is sun, sand, and water. I layed on my towel for hours, doing nothing more important than working on my tan. Doing nothing, letting my mind go blank, actually became easier with practice. Many people struggle to shush their thoughts, or see the very idea as abhorrent. I pity them.
I drank during the day, letting the sun wash over my oiled, topless body while I flirted with beautiful young Spanish men. I adore Spanish, even if rolling my Rs is a lost cause. The clingy naivete of my French schoolteacher had instilled within me a momentary disgust with women, or at least women older than myself. These Spanish boys, my age and seemingly uniformly pretty, were harmlessly macho, puffing themselves up in silly displays to win my attention, which I lavished upon them. All-night parties proved a fountain of good weed to chill me out, and even better coke to keep me dancing. I danced with the boys, but let it go no further than that. It would have ruined my bliss. The summer seemed like it could extend forever.
I felt less Japanese by the hour. My accent reminded others of it every time I spoke, and it was certainly something I couldn't ignore in the mirror, but my attachment to the people and places of my homeland was leaving me. Miyuu, Kyo Enda... their lives would go on, and it didn't bother me at all. I wished them well.
I did too much coke on the second night and my gleeful absence of thought was spoiled -- I'd revved the engine back to life, and indeed into overdrive. I tried to call Imaizumi-san a few times, but he didn't pick up any of them. Struggling to find some way to subjugate my thoughts and return them to oblivion, I fucked one of the Spanish boys, like an animal: when he went down on me I heaved, tongue extended, like an excited dog.
This transgression on my part was unforgivable. I had spoiled the sanctity of Barcelona, and the beaches became ugly, hot, and coarse, filled with bodies of various repulsive shapes, burnt and peeling. I had built defenses against myself and crumbled them in a single stroke. I left, ashamed of myself and bitter. The idea of London soothed me, like salve on a burn, its immensity too much for my mind to process completely, for which I was grateful.
When I arrived in London I immediately felt swallowed. The buildings crowded around me and whispered lewdly, demanding that I kowtow at their stoops and swear my allegiance. It was both an intoxicant and an aphrodisiac, and for hours I simply wandered, on the precipice of architectural satori. My changes must be swift and decisive. I forgave myself previous failings and let them go, abandoning what little guilt I was capable of feeling, and surrendering instead to passion. My first sacrifice was my hair. While I watched the hairdresser cut off piece after piece, I grilled him on the local nightlife. He was queer in the way that white men manage to excel at, clutching femininity between their legs without sacrificing the pure theatricality native to males. I paid him quite a bit of money to shorten my hair into something punkish and androgynous, and to tell me about the best spots around town to meet women.
I bought new clothes, too, trading my skirts and blouses for a tight rugby shirt, blue with a diagonal yellow stripe, skinny-leg jeans and heeled boots. I had never seen myself like this before, and I was taken with it. In a matter of hours, I had completely repainted the shell of my body. I was deeply tan from my beach excursions, short-haired and boyish, embracing my slight figure rather than attempting to put it in some kind of stereotypical, hyperfeminine stranglehold.
My hairdresser's advice was on the money. I lost myself in Ladies' Night, chatting, drinking, laughing, kissing, dancing. I bought mushrooms in the bathroom but didn't even get a chance to use them. My body was no longer my own. Some force, some deep chthonic force of London's love was co-piloting it, telling me exactly when to move my hips, how quickly to lift my arms...
I had introduced myself as Mariko but the girl I ended up with kept calling me "Mary." She was Indian, I think. Certainly somewhere in South Asia, but I didn't care enough to ask. She was glam and brusque and all but dragged me into a taxi, rudely feeling my stomach while amiably chatting with the cabbie as if she wasn't groping me the whole time. We danced at another club until it was time for something called "Queeraoke" -- I felt stupid for not understanding the name at first, once it was explained to me.
My Indian girl put me up to it. I chose Rihanna, of course. "S&M," of course. I sang, and I felt completely fearless as I did so, vamping toward the hoots and claps of the drunken crowd.
When it was over, I no longer knew where I was or what I was doing. My Indian girl had vanished into the crowd and I felt cut off from the lifeline of London. Its tendrils slid away from my face and my eyes hurt. I thought of Imaizumi-san, and Miyuu, and my daddies, and Kyo Enda, and Daddy. I felt like a clown, clad in mismatched, uncomfortable circus attire. I escaped and hailed a taxi.
With the last of my money, I booked passage back to Japan. Before going through security, I remembered the mushrooms and quickly slid into a bathroom to consume the entire bag. I started to come up while waiting in the gate, but willed myself into a stone-still refusal of existence. Dazed, I staggered onto the plane, where I had a window seat. As my body began to move at unbelievable speed and tilted upwards, I felt sheer, unmitigated terror. Then, I looked out the window and saw the lights, twinkling to me as the wing dipped to give me a better view. London transmitted its final message to me, and I was convinced that it was benevolent. It told me to go home, that it would be ready for me later, but not now. Now, I had to go back to the people I'd left behind.
"What do I need to do once I go back to them?" I whispered at the window, forehead pressed against it at an odd angle.
"Waves of joy," London blinked back, before disappearing in a sea of clouds. I leaned back in my seat and breathed out. Shalom -- shalom...