Let’s recall what Maria just said, beams of sunlight on her face and staring right into my eyes. “Daan, my man doesn’t give me enough sex.” I can’t believe it. Enough is enough. I had promised myself to take a break from the lifestyle – maybe even quit altogether. It had been one of the reasons for coming all the way out here in the first place. Now this woman just picked me up from the train station, made me one coffee and this is what I get?
I don’t respond.
“He doesn’t touch me anymore and it makes me go completely crazy”, she sips her coffee and stares outside.
“Have you ever brought up the issue with him?”
“It’d be useless”, she sighs, “oh god, I couldn’t believe it.”
“In Brazil we used to be such a beautiful couple. We were so happy. We fucked every day…”
“More than once. He used to be like that, a real man. We had so much sex and then we had a baby.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Ten years”, she moans.
“How old were you back then?” Settling in this role might save me.
“Twenty one. He used to make me so happy. He knew it so well.”
“So what happened?”
“We came back to Japan and everything changed. Without warning.”
“Warning about what?”
“In the presence of his parents, my man turns into a boy. Moreover, it’s indecent for him to touch me when they’re around. His parents have the right to walk in the door any time, so he won’t touch me out of respect for them.”
“Yes, sounds quite stupid, right? Now the really stupid part is that in these last nine years, his parents have never come in without calling first. But he still won’t lay a finger on me. Not even a kiss.”
“Out of respect?”
“What about the nights, when you’re in bed? Surely he can’t suppose the parents would sneak up to you in the bedroom?”
“He’s always tired from work, he comes home late. He leaves before six in the morning. Often times he’s drunk and smells like vomit.” Maria heaves a deep sigh and blows into her coffee. “But those are just excuses. I know what the real reason is.”
“In this country, from the moment you have a child you’re not a lover anymore but a mother, and the mother is not to be touched. Not that I wasn’t a mother in Brazil. But the day we set foot on Japanese soil he changed personality.”
“Can’t you divorce?” I am embarking on a slippery slope now.
“My baby”, her lips tremble slightly, “I’d lose her. It happened to friends of mine – some haven’t seen their baby for ten years. Those babies are big now.”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”
“It’s Japanese law. Very simple. In this country one of the parents will get the child and the other parent will never see it again. That’s the deal – and as a rule, foreign parents never get custody. Because they’re not Japanese. So I can’t take my daughter with me. If I divorce, I lose her. I have to stay. I am a prisoner here.”
The bell rings. It’s two o’clock – the black cat company is delivering my luggage. Outside a man in a white apron carries my ridiculously big suitcase up the stairs.
“Do you know what the worst thing is?”, Maria immediately continues when I walk back in.
“My daughter is turning into one of them”, she utters with visible loathing.
Them? Is this blatant racism? This girl needs to cool down, and fast. “Well that’s normal”, I answer with an air of cool, “your daughter grows up here, she’s goes to a Japanese school and she has Japanese friends.”
“No. No. It’s not normal at all. I can’t accept it. You know, I like to wear really sexy lingerie. Not just white lace, well…actually that too, but I’m talking more about corsets and garters here. Can you picture that?”
“…” I nod. Sure I can if you ask me.
Where is this headed?
“Listen. Three years ago I started noticing I was losing my most precious pieces. The first piece I lost was a piece with this delicate, intricate pattern of…”
“Did you ever find it back?”
“No. Well, yes. I looked everywhere for it. Under the closets, on the attic. You can’t believe how precious this piece was to me – I had never looked hotter than with that piece on. I even washed it seperately so the shine of the tissue would last longer.”
“Please go on.”
“Well, one morning I discovered where it had gone. From my kitchen window, I saw a man – an old man, maybe over seventy – with a small green laundry basket sneaking into the garden. He took his time: first he admired the pieces from a distance, then he touched and fondled them, smelled them and took his pick. With a smile. First I was petrified. Then I ran into the garden – shouting – to catch him, but he crawled over the fence and ran away. He never returned. You see how crazy this place is?”
I frown. “Maybe it doesn’t per se say something about this place or country. There’s crazy people doing foolish things everywhere. Even in Europe.”
“No”, she shakes her head vehemently, “it’s this place. Wanna know why?”
“Because it happened again last year! Another man, same age. Because three other lady friends, in other parts of Tokyo have had the same thing happening to them. Imagine! In different parts of this city, overaged men are cruising the streets with green laundry baskets – hunting for sexy lingerie to add to their collection. Give me a break! We got the last intruder arrested. We called the cops, they arrested him and he had to serve two months in prison.”
“On what charge?”
“Unlawful appropriation of lingerie.”
“In any case, I will never again dry my sexy lingerie in the garden. Because in this country you can’t!”
Maria finishes her rant with a deep heave. “You know what the problem is? Manga”, she continues, “that’s where they get their inspiration. That’s where everyone gets their inspiration. It’s quite sickening. Have you ever noticed the sexual obsession with children in their comic books? Pornographic images of girls in school uniforms. How can I deal with that? I’m a mother. They say it’s not real. They say it’s only images. Then why is it illegal in the rest of the world, I ask. It’s already sick enough to be reading that kind of filth at home, in your dark attic room, but here people just read it on the subways or in the shop. Doesn’t that just make your stomach turn?”
I stare outside for a brief moment. I have some reservations about this. I don’t know enough about it yet, but I don’t think Japan’s obsession with schoolgirls is to be explained purely in terms of plain pedophilia. I restrict my answer to a simple “Mm.” I look at my empty cup. It’s dried out and somehow resembles a barren crater. A swarm of birds outside paints dark flecks on the table lace. “So what are you going to do now?”, I ask.
“It’s not like I have a lot of choices. Stay here until my daughter turns eighteen. Then take her to Brazil.”
“That’s how many more years?”
“I know. I go out and try to have a lot of fun. I go home with men. It happens almost every week. He knows, but he doesn’t ask any questions.”
“Do you manage to enjoy it?”
“Absolutely”, she affirms, “I had my baby at twenty one – I never enjoyed the young life when I had to. Just catching up now.”
Head cocked back, Maria finishes her coffee in one gulp. It’s silent now. “Come one, I’ll show you your room.” I follow her up the stairs.