The Rain Story, 2017
Illustrations: Florinda Pamungkas
_Should we go out tonight?
_He wants me to come over to his bar.
_No, but that’s why. Can we drop by?
The breeze coming through the balcony doors was refreshing. After yet another night of careless partying, cool and young seduction, we were tired. Ray got up to make some eggs. That was all we ate that summer – sunny side ups with rice and soy sauce. I slowly propped myself up and lit the tip of an incense stick on the table beside me. The smell was comforting. I picked up the dirty dishes and brought them to the sink. The digital clock by the TV read 4:05pm. How did the day pass by so fast?
_Do you want to shower first?
_No, you can go ahead.
The cold water jolted me awake. The hot water gradually advanced through the hose and I was soon embraced by warmth. Showers make me feel so alive. Skinned out of old skin, I felt once again baby brand new. Ray plopped food on the table as I came out of the shower. The house special: eggs on rice with a side of miso soup and pickles. I quickly dried myself and slipped into a cotton dress. We ate huddled around a small round table – incense burning on one end; the smoke embracing two ravenous 17 year olds.
Ray had always been a slow eater. I watched her eat as I took my last bite. She had a pronounced nose, silky skin, and almond-shaped eyes. Her hair was long and frizzy, probably from all the hair dyeing. She was tall and as young as we were, signs of pubescent curves had already reached her. Her breasts were more developed than my own. I have come to realize that a woman’s inclination to compare is an inherited genetic disorder.
_I’ll do the dishes so you can hop in the shower after you’re done eating.
_What time do you want to head out?
_Maybe around 11:30?
_Okay, no heels tonight. My feet are dead.
We watched some comedy on television to kill time. Summer was hitting Tokyo at its fullest and it was making me sweat, compelling me to think if I should shower again. I moved towards the balcony instead, letting the gentle wind cool me off. Summer was always my favorite season; everything about it was perfect, the smell, the humidity, and the sound of the city. I left Tokyo last year in such haste. Betrayed by friends, I decided to uproot myself and finish studies in Malaysia. It was a decision not entirely void of consequences, but it was an honest decision, at the very least.
_Do we still have some black devils?
I lit one. Chocolate flavored cigarettes. I had not known at the time but these were cigarettes that would always remind me of summer 2009.
_Shall we get ready?
We left the apartment at 5 to 12. We had decided to walk and save some money. It would’ve only taken us 20mins if we had opted for the train. But walking cost nothing but an hour of our time. Time was on our side; it had seemed as if we had all the time we would ever need that summer. We had dressed down but our faces were painted thickly with makeup, just like many other girls heading out that night.
_Ouch, are you fucking serious? Watch it when you’re smoking.
_I’m sorry. Are you okay?
Slightly irritated, I walked in silence for the next half hour. Never had I been burnt by a cigarette before. It brought a lingering pain, a feeling that would’ve been synonymous to unrequited love. The city was beautiful at night. It’s silence loud. Turning the corner, we entered a small path. The road was dark aside from the shy light emitting from the house a block away. As if afraid of being bewitched by the night, the other houses seemed to be fast asleep. Suddenly, gripped with a tense fear, I ran up to Ray and grasped her arm.
_It’s a bit dark; I’m scared.
_We’re almost there.
She chuckled. Her laugh was infectious; though rough, it was sincere. We walked a little bit more and came into a big intersection. Instantly, the darkness that had haunted me the past 20 minutes was gone. I wasn’t sure if I could get used to this. The sudden transition from the depths of darkness to blinding luminescent lights. It was confusing. The lights made me feel self-conscious but long intervals of being in the dark made me feel too close to death. Tokyo was becoming impossible to understand.
We went into a bar and bought gin and tonics to loosen up. I had first met Ray in middle school. She came half way into the academic year and I have faint memories of taking the train with her. She wasn’t studious nor particularly popular but she was kind. I had left midway and after my exodus, we never kept in touch. It was only by chance that we had reconnected this summer. I was visiting my father who was living with my grandmother and aunt. The Lehman shock had left my father jobless in Malaysia. His return to Japan to pursue better opportunities was an option nobody in the family was against. Now, consumed with work, my father was never home. Then again, this was nothing new. I had an amiable relationship with my aunt. We were close and so I enjoyed the first week of summer in her company. My grandmother didn’t talk much. The days were long and quiet, the nights went uninterrupted. I was afraid summer would end and I would return to Malaysia with no stories to share.
It had been uneventful till I had gotten in touch with Ray, who was living in a small apartment in the city. It all started with coffee. It always starts with coffee. She had dropped out of high school and was in between different realities. She had gotten into the hostess business and seemed to have collected a number of suitors. Though from what I gathered, she was trying to get out of it but didn’t know how. I was enamored by her stories. Unknowingly, I began visiting her apartment regularly without even going home. Days became weeks. My father must have been concerned though he never showed it.
We left the bar after a couple of drinks. The alcohol had unleashed its control and we were beginning to feel bold. Ray led the way. She had held back telling me about this secret lover of hers. All I knew was that he was older. The street was beginning to crowd as the night opened. Women were veiled in sultry costume that meant to tempt and the men looked-craving to touch. Sex felt present and I was eager to participate.
Ray stopped in front of a slim building sandwiched between a McDonalds and a pharmacy. We entered, heading towards the elevator. She pressed 3. The elevator door opened into a room furnished with rich purple velvet. Fluff pillows decorated the sofa and bronze tables gleamed as it sat heavily on carpeted floors. No lights were on except a dim bulb on the second floor. Ray called out.
_I’m here. Come upstairs.
We went up the bronze spiral staircase. Mixing a drink was a stocky brown man. He must have been in his late 40s. So this was Charlie. The man often left in the dark during our late night conversations. Charlie had soft features, except his nose was outstandingly present. It reminded me of a walrus’ back. I wasn’t particularly impressed by his looks, though he dressed like a king. He donned a navy suit accented with gold buttons. The sleeves tapered, accentuating his body with Vitruvian precision. It must have been tailored. His oxfords were a dark brown, polished and laced symmetrically. His clothes made him look regal but I couldn’t understand why Ray would want him, especially during sex, deprived of all his expensive clothes.
Ray and Charlie shared a kiss. I stared with envy.
He motioned us to the couch and brought us our drinks, bright turquoise in color. The artificial looking fluid seemed like it came from an alien land. I sipped on it, thirsty from our journey here– incredibly sweet and strong. Charlie and Ray conversed as I looked around. I felt lost and misplaced. The overdone interior left me feeling empty. I suppose it’s easy to feel alone in a group of 3. I left for the bathroom.
I came back but Ray and Charlie were gone. I didn’t bother to search or call out, making myself comfortable on the sofa. Disturbed by the only source of light by the bar, I closed my eyes.
My mother had decided against coming back to Japan with me, and I had not made the effort to keep in touch since my return to Tokyo. My father doesn’t talk. Neither does my aunt. We’re just a silent bunch. If anything, we skirt around the problem. But this is typical. This is nothing new. We were never a vocal family. I don’t think I ever knew my parents growing up. My father was a workaholic and an alcoholic. Come to think of it, this was my first summer alone with him. I wasn’t particularly interested in spending a month getting to know him. I just didn’t know how. How do you communicate with a man who is there all your life but was never present?
My father is an architect. He now lives with his sister and mother in the house he grew up in. The house is old with a bushy garden. You’d think there’d be more balance in a Japanese garden complimenting a Japanese house. But it was a mish mash of flora that never looked good together. The apartment I grew up in, the one my father owned, was being rented out to a single mother. It’s weird to think that another set of children will have childhood memories in the same room I grew up in. Especially children I know I will probably never meet.
My aunt never got hitched and stayed home with my grandmother. They both bonded over gardening. Unlike my father, my aunt is gregarious. I never asked but I always wondered why she never got married. She didn’t seem lonely but the independent spirit always brings its share of loneliness. Being an only child, I know.
When I woke up, an hour or two must have passed because Ray was lying across the couch. The place would’ve been pitch black if not for the same dim bulb that led us upstairs. Charlie was standing at the bar; seeing that I had woken, he came over and sat next to me. He whispered something I couldn’t quite understand. Before I could return to sleep, he ran his hands against my inner thighs. I felt hot. My mind began to spin and my feelings were slow to come. I needed water. It must have been the drinks but I had had only two.
I tried closing my eyes-half hoping it was a dream and the other half, hoping with guilt, it would continue. He began to unzip my pants. His hand felt cold over my hairy sex. As he began to prowl down, feelings of shame forced me awake. Suddenly full of panic, I knew this was not how I wanted to lose my body. Embarrassed, I pushed him away and zipped myself, deaf to his coaxing words. He stepped away and I woke Ray up.
_Ray, we gotta leave.
_What time is it?
_Let’s go. Grab your bag.
As we stepped out of the building, the night had seemingly died out. My watch read 4:03AM. A light rain coated the streets. Slowly waking up, we set foot for home.
I no longer keep in touch with Ray. History repeats itself, I suppose. We lost touch as soon as I left. It’s hard to forget. I’m not sure I can, even if I wanted to. Then again, my memory isn’t trustworthy and this is now no more than another story.