Tokyo Nurse Fantasyby Brandon Edmonds / 12.02.2010
I lived & worked in Korea for 2 years, a little while ago, doing what it is you do with a B.A. degree: teaching English to little Gap-clad emperors with lungs as yet unharmed by those sloppy life-style choices that kill us, the deadly release of cigarettes and alcohol. They’re loud, kids, is what I’m intimating. Fucking loud. If you must have them, and, really, does the planet need life-sized souvenirs of your own petty carnality, bring them up in the quiescent Zen spirit of the greatest jape in modern classical music, 4’33”, by John Cage. This notorious piece has musicians sit and breathe without playing for that length of time. Sitting, that is, in silence. Seen and not heard. (The Victorians were spot on when it came to kids, and the erotic possibilities of complicated undergarments (see The Piano). They got just about everything else wrong though. Poor old Oscar Wilde!)
Anyway, where were we? Korea! I lived and worked there. It was a lonely time. Koreans live in deadening gulags of uniform high-rise apartments.
If you’ve seen Park Chan-Wook’s ‘Oldboy’ (2003), part of his occasionally terrific Vengeance Trilogy, or even better, Lee Chang-Dong’s raw downbeat masterpiece, ‘Oasis’ (2002), you’ll know all about the floating alienation of these towering forests of anonymity. They close in on you. They make you mad.
So with a summer holiday looming, I was determined to escape the gulag and got in touch with a girl close at hand. A Japanese girl I’d taught when working over there before Korea. She had since graduated and become a trauma nurse in Tokyo. She told me hair-raising stories of old men’s doleful dicks and manually palpating the tiny hearts of dying infants. Chika was her name!
She was a delight. We’d become fast friends thanks to her great English, roving curiosity and whip smart mind. We’d drive around back then in her father’s long black car, a Buddhist monk addicted to pachinko, her mother fallen recently to cancer, and I’d steal glances at her enflaming schoolgirl legs, (hence my current sad fan boy obsession with that outlandish post-feminist tigress, Yo-landi Vi$$er!) as she sang along to her favorite R&B smoothie, quite appropriately, given my intentions, that jailbait-schtupping rapscallion, R. Kelly! Good times, or, ‘gabaai tanoshi-kata yo!’ – as they say in ah regional Japanese.
I proposed a fun lazy week together on Jeju Island. All expenses paid, of course. Jeju is where most Koreans go to honeymoon when they can’t afford Hawaii or Tuscany. It’s a cut-rate pleasure dome, a raggedy archipelago, with its own ‘International Sex Culture Museum’ (more on that later). Very similar to Japan’s own forcefully incorporated pleasure-territory, Okinawa, with an indigenous populace resisting, and mostly failing, total absorption into the much more prosperous mainland. (Check out Takeshi Kitano’s wonderfully warm Okinawa yakuza-caper flick, “Sonatine” (1993), for a sense of slow-burning island life.)
Chika happily consented.
Then, knowing me, the agony of erotic projection set in!
What was my role here? Was I to be her Father figure, fun-loving foreign friend, guide, mentor, sweet Jesus, her lover? We had never gotten physical. I was always dating someone else and so was she. Chika was gorgeous, inevitably, disarmingly young, of course, sweet and beautiful with heavy breasts on a small frame. A salacious combination few straight men can ignore for long. We were chaste. Not even a kiss. I was her sensei, her teacher. That’s meant to count in a Confucian culture whose arbiters of knowledge are closest to the Gods. My life had descended into the overheated inanity of a Venezuelan tele-novella!
Teacher seduces student on saucy island getaway!!
But Japan is a hyper-modern place, at the forefront of design, consumption, fashion…hasn’t this imploded old moral forms? You can buy used schoolgirl panties at street kiosks. Manga has bashful girls brutally impaled by swarms of android bees, with out-sized electro-phalluses, for fuck’s sake! Was my thinking as tired and out of date as one of those withered old dicks she’d seen (and even manhandled) in a Tokyo emergency room?
Should I ask Chika to bring her nurse’s uniform? How many rooms should I book? Only the one, with, God help me, a double bed? Was that appallingly presumptuous? How about two singles, then? Would that disappoint my busty nurse? Was this a ‘seize the day’ scenario or a reign it in and be an adult one? Do I risk everything and go for glorious copulation, a single room and a double bed, or hold back, and save a valued friendship with two singles? Do I respect her or my teeming desire for her?
I couldn’t ask Jesus (what, in Aramaic?) because Jesus would have washed her sore, over-worked feet and made her cry and moved on. No, I had to ask Daniel – big, gay Daniel from Detroit, a fellow teacher and my closest friend in Korea. His sex life was a lot less complicated. Daniel, weighing in at well over 450 pounds, routinely fucked Marines from the nearby military base (Korea is riddled with combat-ready US installations and soldiers once flattened two pre-schoolers with a tank – so they’re not exactly popular with the locals!). These fighting men found Daniel online and tapped lightly at his door past the witching hour. Soft-throated, dog-tagged boys with combat tans and prickly hair from Ohio and Milwaukee. Daniel just snapped, pragmatically, “Ask her, Doofus! Just, you know, enquire. It’s called communicating. You’re generally good at it.” Catty, suave Daniel could afford to be blunt – knowing his lonely nights were covered by the US Defence budget!
Instead, not wanting to jinx anything by having it all out in the open, I shaved my head. (You can just about see it in the photos.) I thought it would make me look younger. Boy, was I wrong! It made me look…seedier. And I did sit-ups and drank a lot. What I didn’t do, of course, was talk to Chika about the arrangements that would suit her best. I left everything, like a prize Doofus, hanging. Until at last the day dawned for Jeju. Nothing settled, nothing booked.
She looked great. A hottie in an airport lobby, Chika looked sunny in a sundress and big straw hat, still tiny enough that I ducked to embrace her, and she was light as a balsa kite in my happy arms. Such luggage though, enough for a volley ball team. (Ooof, imagine a volleyball team of Chika’s!) And we sped off in a hired car. The island was bright and unknown. We were tentative. That was clear. It had been a while. Three years or so, and she seemed even lovelier somehow, tired around the eyes, work tired, and grown up. I loved seeing her legs again. The schoolgirl Chika I’d known was now a workingwoman. Did that enhance or diminish my prospects?
Then there it was: the Hyatt Regency hotel desk. We’d picked the swankiest hotel on the island. Why not? But what to do, a double bed in a big room, or two small rooms close together? It should have been two singles. Let’s face it. But I was lonely. Korea had drained me, deranged me. I was lonely and horny and thinking with my pecker. I told Chika to go with the bellboy for our luggage and she shot me a parting look – like, be sensible, I’m in your hands, we’re old friends – and my pecker ordered the big room with the double bed! I caved in to my Tokyo nurse fantasy. (Jesus, who wouldn’t?) I let what I wanted to happen shape reality. I got a big room with a double bed.
Say what you like about the Japanese, but they’re generally better than us at defusing everyday friction in the name of group harmony, albeit a group harmony won at the loss of your own private self. (The beautiful tragic films of Mikio Naruse explore the longing of post-war Japanese women trapped in social aggregates that ignore them to the grave.) All that just to say, Chika was like totally cool with the big room and the double bed. Or so she seemed. She even bounced on that telltale bed – up and down, as if gravity were less a law than a playground!
We dined poolside that evening and she said I was still the same ‘but maybe, little bit, unhappy’ as the Calypso hotel band murdered Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ (in July?). ‘This year/to save me from tears/I’ll give it to someone special’. George Michael meant his secret gay heart. I know how he felt though, the fearsome pressure of unspoken longing. We drank cocktails. We relaxed with each other. It was going well. We gambled in the hotel casino. We were up until I insisted we try roulette. I put everything on red, the color of romance, of lust, and lost. We stumbled into our room and I listened to her shower. A naked nurse a door away! I lay on my side as she sidled into bed in a fluffy white robe and we both lay listening to a version of John Cage’s ode to silence! The ocean waves brushed ashore like jazz drumming. Doors closed nearby and faraway lifts trundled in the eternal hotel ambience.
If the robe comes off, I reasoned, I would make a move. Just remove the robe, Chika, send me that signal, shoot that flare into my tremulous sky, and I’ll reach out to you across the dread sea between us, across that ocean of a hotel sheet; my hand a ship in the night, your body a harbor; just show me assent, Chika, my nurse, my curse, and I’ll act!
But the robe never fell.
Eventually she began to snore, lightly, gently, like a foal, like something soft and dreamy in a forest, stirring beneath autumn leaves. And I lay there in the hot embarrassment of inaction. Never in my life have I felt more redundant. A man awake in bed with a woman asleep, untouched. It was like being blinded seconds before Natalie Portman steps from the shower!
I felt enraged, impotent, gigantic and tiny at the same time. I was the still point of the turning world. Should I leap on her? Shatter her sleep? Should I take what I want? I couldn’t do that. There was too much tentative over-sensitive Hamlet in me. I couldn’t do that. She was still Chika. She made me laugh. She made me sushi. I had listened to her problems. She was a part of me. Hurting her was only going to make me feel worse. So I lay there, all night, burning and seething with desire. I thought the room would catch fire like in David Lynch’s ‘Lost Highway’. I hoped the nurse beside me would respond to my emergency, the weeping wound of my longing. How could she sleep through this? What a heartless oblivious bitch! It was a long journey through a night that taught me everything I’ll ever need to know about the distance between fantasy and reality.
Chika woke immune to my night terrors, eager to hit the beach after breakfast. She looked rested. Breezy and girlish, as if Tokyo and its calamites, its head wounds and broken bones, were a world away. I gave her the silent treatment. Japanese men invented the silent treatment. It was useless on her. I didn’t speak all through breakfast. She simply talked to other guests. I mumbled at the beach. She played Frisbee with the lifeguards.
We visited ancient volcanic caves. The old darkness down there matched my mood. We had to have it out in the echoing deep. “Did you sleep well,” I asked. Chika nodded and tested her voice, singing through the caverns like a siren.
“I didn’t,” I hissed, leaving it at that. Blythe Chika shrugged, her bikini straps still wet on her shoulders, like lines drawn in the sea sand of her Japanese skin.
My silence peaked at the sex museum. We drove there at her insistence. She still hadn’t responded to my mood. We looked at scrolls depicting bygone Egyptian coupling, drawings from the Kama Sutra, and parchments of ornate crudity, old cartoons lewdly depicting French monarchs at play. There were nude Manga dolls from her twisted country. There were glass cases of ticklers, whips, stacks of 70s Playboys, a chair like the one George Clooney builds in his basement in ‘Burn After Reading’.
The chilling, despicable irony was not lost on me. In this tribute to an act as natural as sneezing, as necessary as breathing, I wandered in the knowledge that the night just passed had amounted to nothing! It was a shrine to something I desperately wanted. Preserving precisely what hadn’t been!
So when we pose for a picture sticking our heads into the holes of a pasteboard tableau, depicting a bawdy mediaeval couple copulating, I laughed. The unflinching cruelty of life, this is no place for the meek, finally got to me. Fuck it! I laughed out loud and Chika too. We are laughing in the picture. A picture neatly simulating my desire – yes, at last I am fucking my Tokyo nurse, but it is only a game. An act. It isn’t real.
I got over myself after that. We had a great holiday. Easily the best holiday I’ve ever had. Chika enjoyed a romance with a young Korean diving instructor.
I was very jealous, of course, and immediately stopped paying for everything, but what can you do, the heart wants what it wants! We ate seafood and drove around. We got sunburned and drank too much. We gambled some more and she told me she and I were as close as family. And she cried saying that, remembering her mother. And I washed her feet.
Images © and courtesy Brandon Edmonds and the Jeju Hyatt Regency.