Listen, I might only have been in Japan for two years, but even I know that Japanese guys with sleeve tattoos aren’t just hairless hipsters with a penchant for ironically named music groups. No, having a tattoo takes on a whole new connotation in the land of the rising Sun. More than not, any public display of tattoos indicated that that person was a member of the Yakuza. Certainly, my best friend Saki knew that. In fact, knowing her, that was a part of the guys’ appeal.
“Are you trying to get us sold into the sex slavery?” I whispered into Saki’s ear.
“You read too much fiction,” she replied in her posh Japanese reminding me of her family’s position in Japanese society.
“Maybe your family could afford to pay the ransom, but, I promise you, mine can’t.”
Saki laughed as if I was joking. I definitely was not. While her father was the CEO of the fourth-largest phone manufacturer in the country, my father managed a car dealership in Eugene, Oregon. The Yakuza could mail as many of my fingers to him as they wanted, and the best he could offer would be 5% below sticker price on the newest model on the floor. Granted, that’s near cost so they would be a fool to pass it up. But, it probably wouldn’t be what they were looking for.
“You worry too much,” she assured me. “He’s just a nice guy who wants to talk to us and buy us a few drinks. Loosen up, Lexi.”
When the guy returned to our table with shots, I could see that he still had all of his fingers, so I considered Saki’s advice. Maybe I was being a little uptight. And, wasn’t letting loose what tonight was supposed to be about? After all, it’s not every day that you find out that your boyfriend of four years has been cheating on you since the day you left town.
Did the bastard not remember the conversation we had before I left? I knew that me taking my junior and senior year at a University in Japan would be a strain on our relationship. I was the one who offered him a way out. I told him that I wouldn’t be able to afford a ticket back home and that no matter how much we talked, he would get lonely. But, he was the one who insisted that he loved me enough to make it work. Since when did making it work include his dick in an untold number of skanky women?
So, while he was getting it on with anyone with a pulse back home, I was being loyal to him in a country full of beautiful men. Granted, none of those beautiful men ever seemed interested in me. But, that wasn’t the point. I should’ve been able to flirt openly and then shyly turn down guys for dates. Instead, I played wing-woman to my best friend Saki as she flirted with every bad boy she met.
Tonight was supposed to be a reversal of that. Saki had insisted that we go out and celebrate my freedom. Clearly, she had no idea what ending a four-year relationship felt like. But, to be honest, having sex after a two-year drought, didn’t sound that bad. I wasn’t horny enough to get myself sold into sex slavery in exchange for a few free shots, but, the night was young. And, it has been two years since I’ve had sex.
“O-ka-mi! O-ka-mi! O-ka-mi!”
If there is one thing I hadn’t heard in my entire two years in Japan, was a bar crowd chanting. Hearing it pulled me out of my horniness-versus-sex slavery analysis and pointed my attention to the folks around me. Such outbursts never happened in Japan. There chanting was practically a full-scale riot. There were so many cultural rules about speaking quietly and blending into the crowd that an American-style chant was beyond comprehension.
“What’s going on?” I shout whispered into Saki’s ear, drawing her out of her conversation with sex slavery Mike.
Saki looked at me and then the TV screen surrounding the bar.
“It’s baseball. Have you never heard of Okami?”
“Was I supposed to?” I said about to remind her that not every American cared about baseball.
“You should. He is the most famous baseball player on the Tokyo team.”
“Okay,” I reply as if that was supposed to mean something to me.
“He’s a big deal,” sex slavery Mike interjected.
How could he possibly hear me? And was this how my life in the sex trade was about to begin?
“He’s an American like you. Don’t all of the Americans in Tokyo know each other?” sex slavery Mike said with a smile.
Putting his glaring racism aside, I looked up at the nearest TV. My ability to read Japanese wasn’t great, but from what I could tell, the guy up at-bat was named Forrest Wolf. That made sense. Okami was Japanese for ‘wolf’. It was also Japanese for ‘landlady’, but I didn’t think that was what the crowd meant.
Being sucked into the action on the screen, I could see why everyone was so excited. The Tokyo team was down by two runs with all the bases loaded and Forrest Wolf at-bat. Apparently, he had two strikes and no balls. I didn’t know that much about baseball, but even I knew that, in the ninth inning, that was a big deal.
“He is going to go for it,” sex slavery Mike explained. “Okami always swings for a home run.”
“O-ka-mi! O-ka-mi!” The crowd chanted.
Okay, I couldn’t give two hoots about baseball, but I could see why it was so exciting. Every person in the room was transfixed on their American wolf who they knew would swing for the fences. As the pitcher wound up, there was an audible sound of everyone holding their breath. When Wolf’s bat hit the ball it did with a crack. Watching the ball climb higher and higher into the air, the crowd screamed. Everyone in the bar was elated. Even Saki seemed excited and I was pretty sure she knew less about baseball than I did.
“You Americans always come through,” sex slavery Mike said joyfully. “We need more shots to celebrate.”
This was something I could never get used to during all of my time in Japan. Going out was never just you and a friend nursing one cocktail for the entire night and then going home. People drank here. This was a Tuesday night and most of the people in the bar were businessmen uniformly dressed in white shirts and dark navy pants. Everyone in this room was going to drink until they stumbled home and then they were going to drag themselves into work the next day hungover.
If that wasn’t bad enough, they were going to do it again on Thursday night and once more on Friday. This was just their custom. In fact, when your manager invited you out, you dishonored them if you refused. Working for ten hours a day and then drinking for three was what you did here.
Maybe, considering the circumstances, it was time for me to get with the program. After all, when in Rome, get shit-faced and sex up an Italian guy, right? I’m fairly certain that’s how the saying goes.
“Fuck it. Yeah, we need some shots,” I tell sex slavery Mike letting my small-town roots show.
After the third shot, I really did start to loosen up. What had I been thinking staying loyal to my asshole boyfriend for so long? After all, I wasn’t even sure I was in love with him. I mean, he was okay. And, being with him was better than being alone. But was he really worth two years of celibacy? Hell no!
It really was time to change that. I needed to be bellybutton deep in some love hotel by the end of the night, and I needed it bad. The only problem? My only real options were a room full of Japanese businessmen.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always found Japanese guys to be super hot. With a few shots in me, I could admit that their hotness played a large part in me deciding to take my junior and senior years abroad. The problem, however, was cultural.
Number one, Japanese men had to be the shyest creatures on the face the planet. I can’t even explain to you how the country procreated for so long.
The second problem, and I’m sure that this was an even worse problem than the first, was that Japanese men were exceptionally body-conscious. Their ideal woman pretty much looked like a fourteen-year-old girl. I was not that. I was a woman with curves, a lot of curves. I outweighed half of all Japanese men. So, how could I not feel like Godzilla talking to one?
Could that be the real reason I never cheated on my asshole ex? Maybe. But there was no way I was going to give him any slack. He cheated, I did not. Nothing mattered past that.
Feeling buzzed and a little depressed, I turned to Saki who seemed to be having a great time.
“I don’t want to stay here. There’s no one for me here.”
I was expecting Saki to push back. To her credit, she didn’t. Instead, she scanned the crowd, nodded with agreement, and spoke to Mike in very fast Japanese. Staring at them like I knew what they were talking about, I contemplated how quickly she agreed that there was no one for me. I mean, it was one thing for me to think that no one here would think I’m attractive. It’s another when your best friend agrees with you. Japanese were just waaayyy to direct.
“Haruto says he knows another place we can go to. It’s Japanese-only but he says he can get you in,” Saki explained.
After figuring out that sex slavery Mike’s real name was Haruto, I wondered if Saki understood why I wanted to leave. How would going to a Japanese-only bar help me make really bad decisions tonight? Sure, going to a second location with a member of the Japanese mob qualified as a bad decision. But that wasn’t the type of bad decision I was looking for.
“Fuck it. Sure, let’s go,” I tell her settling on at least a change of scenery.
“Yay,” Saki replied in a way that reminded me of anime.
“I will have them bring my car,” Haruto said removing any doubt that he was Yakuza.
Nobody owned a car in Tokyo. Nobody! Okay, maybe Saki’s parents both owned cars. But no one even close to our age could afford one in the city. So, this was Haruto trying to impress Saki. And from everything I could tell, it had worked. She was pretty, but boy could my best friend be dumb, I think… as I follow her to a mafia member’s car.
“I’m not going to stay long,” I tell Saki as we approach the door to the bar.
“Oh. Why?” She replied genuinely disappointed.
“I don’t know. I’m just not feeling this place. Besides, are they even gonna let me in?”
“Haruto says he will get you in.”
“Saki, you know he’s Japanese mafia, right?”
Saki giggled. “Don’t be silly. He is not Yakuza. He is just a normal guy.”
Like I said, she was pretty, but pretty dumb.
“Okay. Whatever. But, I don’t think I’m gonna stay long.”
This time Saki didn’t fight me. Instead, she wrapped her tiny toothpick arm around mine and rested her head on my shoulder. Yeah, she was pretty dumb. But she was also pretty sweet. Her heart was in the right place and I appreciated that.
Now, I can’t tell you everything that was said between Haruto and the bulky doorman, but I can describe what it looked like. Imagine a bald sumo wrestler dressed in a suit. Now imagine a young, skinny, Japanese guy shouting at him belligerently as the nonplused sumo wrestler gave him the side-eye. As uncomfortable as it was, I had to give Haruto credit. He really wanted to get into Saki’s pants and he was willing to do what was necessary to get there.
Did any of this make me feel better about my night? You know what? Kinda. Here was a guy who was willing to fight for me. Sure, it might have been so he could sell me to the highest bidder. But, it felt nice to be wanted.
When the sumo sized bouncer finally gave in and we walked by him, I had to admit I was feeling a little good. My ex would never have done something like that for me. Maybe Saki had it right when it came to men. Maybe, who I needed was a nice bad boy. Someone who would fight for my affection and teach me what it feels like to be a woman.
“Shots?” Haruto asked about to head to the bar.
“Abso-fucking-lutely,” I told him in English.
He had had no clue what I was talking about.
“Yes, please,” I repeated in Japanese.
“See anyone you like?” Saki asked me when we were alone.
I had no idea why Saki wanted to play this game. But, alright. I would play along.
Scanning the room, I was not impressed. Sure, there were more than enough hot guys to go around, but what good did that do me. None of them would be able to see me as anything other than as a way too curvy foreigner. And, I was about to tell Saki that when I looked across the bar and saw one non-Japanese face.
Did my eyes linger on him because he was the only other non-Japanese? Nope, that wasn’t it. My eyes stopped on him because he was incredibly hot. He looked to be about twenty-five and he was solidly built. Looking at the squareness of his jaw, I could only imagine how his chest rippled under his T-shirt. How the hell did he even get in dressed like that? And why did everyone around him seem to be hanging on his every word?
“Do you know who that is?” Haruto asked returning with six shot glasses for the three of us.
Holy crap, how long had I been staring at him?
“No, who?” I asked him still barely able to look away.
“That’s your American friend. Okami.”
My eyes bounced back to Haruto to see if he was serious. Haruto seemed excited. It looked like he was.
“That’s the baseball player?” Saki asked suddenly focusing her feminine wiles on him. Haruto must’ve noticed it because his attitude instantly changed.
“He’s not that special,” Haruto protested. But I had to disagree.
You know that feeling when you are comfortably staring at some scrumptious eye candy and the eye candy has the nerve to catch you staring? Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t feel great. And, you know that feeling when you had five shots too many and your reaction time slows down to a crawl? Yeah, me neither. But, according to a friend, it feels like you’re being eye fucked by a famous baseball player in a Japanese-only bar.
“Is he staring at you?” Saki asked making me feel so proud.
“No,” I replied finally able to look away, but knowing that he totally was.
“Lexi, he was staring at you!” She said way more surprised than I felt she should have been.
“Come on. Stop it. He wasn’t staring at me.”
He totally was.
“You should go talk to him,” Saki suggested.
I get that Saki assumed that all Americans were very forward, but what the hell did she take me for? I wasn’t about to go up to some hot, famous baseball player in a bar. I had some self-respect. Sure, those shots were doing a great job of convincing me otherwise. But, as of this moment, I still had some self-respect.
As I considered how many more shots it would take to unburden myself of that self-respect, I looked up at Saki to see her eyes enlarge.
“What? What is it?”
Was something happening with Haruto that I wasn’t seeing? Was he trying to touch her under the table, that bastard?
When Saki’s eyes darted to something behind me, I realized that wasn’t it. Something was happening and Saki seemed to be using every ounce of girl telepathy she had to get me to not react. My heart thumped as I felt doom overtake me. Was this it? Was this when my new life as a sex slave worker was about to begin? I hope it came with healthcare.
“Hi, can I buy you all a drink?” The most gorgeous voice said in English.
My skin tingled with awareness before I consciously knew what was going on. Feeling my chest slowly pound, I felt lightheaded as the realization washed over me. I was hearing perfect American English. There was only one person in the bar it could be coming from. Holy crap, the hot baseball player had just crossed the room and was now talking to us.
Was he here for Saki? That could definitely be the case. He wouldn’t have been the first guy to cross a room for her. Was it the case now, though?
As I turned around and met his incredible green eyes, I discovered that it was not. Holy crap, the most gorgeous guy I had ever seen in my life was staring down at me. Man, did I need to pee.
“Do you speak English?” The disturbingly attractive guy asked me.
All I could do was shake my head like one of those big-head bobbleheads. And then I remembered that he was a Japanese baseball player, so there was probably a bobblehead of him. Man, my bladder was about to explode.
“American?” He asked.
I shook my head again.
“I knew it. I can spot another American anywhere. Hi, Forrest Wolf,” he said in the cockiest way possible.
Staring at his extended hand, I knew what I was going to do before I did it. Why, oh why would I choose to do something like this? Was I secretly hoping that my vajayjay would shrivel up and fall off? I must have been. Because instead of just taking his hand and accepting his cocky little gesture, I looked him dead in the eyes and said,
And I didn’t just say it once. I started a chant. That’s right. The fat, foreign girl who was barely let into this Japanese-only bar, lifted her fist into the air and screamed the chant, “O-ka-mi!”
To my surprise, by the third chant, others joined in. Quickly, it wasn’t just me humiliating the hottest guy who had ever talked to me in my life, it was a room full of drunk Japanese mafia and businessmen.
Continuing to stare into his eyes as I did it, I could see the exact moment as the swarthy arrogance left his face and he turned into a guy I might have run into back home. Sure, he was still the hottest guy I would ever run into back home. But at least he wasn’t presenting himself like some crazy Japanese icon anymore.
And, when his face started to turn from hot smalltown boy to humiliated, insecure teen, I stopped the chanting and felt bad about what I had done. I really hadn’t meant to embarrass him. Well, okay. Maybe I did. Maybe that was exactly my plan. But, in that moment, my heart was breaking for him, and I had to figure out how to bring the chanting to an end.
“Okami,” I said quickly before clapping my hands and blowing a wolf whistle.
To my relief, as well as Forrest’s, the chanting immediately came to an end. Still staring at him, I was trying to hold myself together. I now felt really bad about what I had done and I was doing everything I could not to run away embarrassed about it.
It was just as my eye twitched and my plastered smile began to loosen, as he said the one thing that I never expected.
“So you’ve heard of me. Great. I was scared I was going to have to start that chant on my own,” he said as his bright red cheeks rounded into an embarrassed smile.
“No, I sensed that,” I replied more grateful for his gesture than I could ever express. “Do you want me to do it again?” I opened my mouth fully ready to shoot myself in the foot with both barrels when he mercifully stopped me.
“No, that’s okay,” he said quickly. “Once is plenty. You wouldn’t want me to get a big head or anything.”
“No. I guess I wouldn’t want that.”
“No, we wouldn’t. So, now that we have established that you are definitely American, how about telling me your name.”
I stared at Forrest amazed. After I had done all of that, he was still trying to talk to me? This was insane. He was a crazy person. Did I really want to get involved with someone who was clearly off his rocker?
“Lexi Rubin,” I told him suddenly learning that I liked them crazy.
“Nice to meet you,” he said extending his hand again.
Wow, his hand was so big in comparison to mine. My hand was lost as it was engulfed by his. My next thought was, of course, how his large body would engulf my own. I couldn’t help it. It had been two years since I had had sex, and he was so hot that children and old people burst into flame as he walked by.
“I would ask you if you’re visiting Japan, but you’re a foreigner in a Japanese-only bar. So, that answers that question.”
“No, I’m going to school here. I’m with my friend Saki, and Haruto got us in.”
Forrest turned to Saki and Haruto acknowledging them. Haruto clearly didn’t regret the effort he made to get me past the bouncer. The man was smiling from ear to ear. The Japanese loved their baseball.
“Thanks for getting her in,” Forrest told Haruto.
“Hai,” Haruto replied probably incapable of saying anything else.