Published on Global Hobo, 16 July 2017. Feature Image by Liv Vizard.
I am barely five feet tall. He is a professional kickboxer, stocky and red, and a breath away from my face. His furious words land on me as spit droplets. His finger wags, like he knows everything in the world, and I know nothing. He calls me a little girl.
“Don’t point at me,” I say.
He steps closer.
I’m on the rooftop of a recording studio in Koenji, Tokyo. It’s a BYO party and everyone is cradling plastic bags of konbini highballs. My friend Bonnie already started drinking back at the hotel, but I’ve just had one syrupy vodka soda. It’s not long before two guys join us. The older one is showing us videos of his kickboxing moves on his phone. The younger one keeps trying to talk to me alone, but the group’s conversation is much more interesting. Something about dog-walking in Yoyogi Park.
He asks how long I’ll be in Japan, and then for my number, but not once for my name. It’s possible he just wants to be friends. Still, I tell him I don’t have a working phone and make sure I hide the evidence deep in my pocket.
He asks for my Line. “I don’t have Line.”
Facebook? “I don’t have Internet.”
Maybe if he added me instead? “I’m on private.”
He’s about to suggest Instagram, but it’s getting tiring. “I have a boyfriend,” I say, finally. He walks away and doesn’t look at me for the rest of the night.
Bonnie is getting along really well with the kickboxer. He’s probably two decades older than her, and he’s teaching her simple Japanese phrases. She keeps saying “iie, iie” – ‘no’ in Japanese – and they’re both laughing drunkenly because it sounds more like Russian. I’m a bit jealous of how easy it is for her to make friends here. Some people just have that energy.
I check Facebook on my phone. There’s a time difference at home, and my boyfriend is fast asleep.
“Miss you,” I write. I pretend to keep messaging him so I don’t have to entertain anyone else.
I pass the dance floor and see Bonnie with the kickboxer. Hers is the only body not bouncing in time with the heavy bass. When we lock eyes, she makes the face. Every female friend knows the face.
“Help,” she pleads in my ear. “He won’t leave me alone.”
Our male friend notices Bonnie’s discomfort as she stumbles to get some fresh air. He taps the kickboxer on the shoulder and suggests giving her a break. “You don’t want to come on strong, man,” he says. “Maybe come back later.”
It’s an easy out for the kickboxer – a way of hinting that Bonnie’s not interested, without actually bruising his ego. But he isn’t having it. He insists that Bonnie likes him, and that they’re going to hook up tonight, and continues to stalk towards her at the other end of the rooftop. I quickly take the empty seat next to her before he tries anything else. He wedges himself awkwardly between us, his back to me. He’s trying to ask Bonnie on a date.
Some sweaty guy pops a bottle of red wine behind me, and it flows all over my seat. I’m wearing white overalls.
“That’s one way to get a girl wet!” the guy shouts. Everyone laughs.
I need to pee, and Bonnie needs an inari to sober up after all that whiskey. I walk with her to a Lawson a couple hundred metres down an empty street. She sits outside on the concrete with her snacks as I wait for the toilet.
The bathroom takes a while – it’s the overalls – but when I come out, I see the kickboxer huddled next to Bonnie’s slumped body. She looks smaller than ever. He followed us here and waited until she was alone.
I walk up to him and ask him what’s up. He says he’s just talking with his friend Bonnie, as if I don’t know what her name is.
My tone is even. “I think you should leave.”
“Why?” he asks, innocently.
“She’s not interested.”
He stands up. “What did you say?”
“I said that my friend is very drunk, and that you should leave her alone.”
“No, before that – what did you say?”
I sigh because I know what’s coming next. “I said she’s not interested.”
He starts pointing at me, roaring that I am the rudest girl he has ever met, and the loudest. I never even raised my voice at him. He asks me why I keep interrupting their conversations, and why I won’t let Bonnie make new friends. He tells me that a girl has never dared speak to him like this.
The interaction is nothing new for a woman on a night out. A man who’s not getting what he wants. But I am exhausted, and my clothes are soaked in a gross dude’s cheap alcohol, and the next train home is in two hours. So when he’s berating me, loud enough for me to flinch, I don’t retreat. I don’t want to. I step forward confidently, meeting his gaze, and speak firmly.
“Do not point at me,” I enunciate. “Get your finger out of my face.”
He is silent for a moment, stupefied, and then we’re shouting over each other. I half-notice Bonnie waving her hand between our faces to defuse the situation. He’s livid – we both are – but I’m stubborn enough not to back down. My heart is pumping, hands shaking, and I don’t hate it.
“We’re leaving,” Bonnie says to him suddenly, grabbing my arm and brisk-walking me away from his death stare. I look back and he’s still fuming. “Thank you for saving me, but he looked like he wanted to kill you.”
I guess we both needed each other tonight.
“Was it my fault?” Bonnie asks as we wait for the first train home. She’s justifying her actions out loud. Maybe she shouldn’t have laughed so hard at his jokes, or maybe she should have told him to fuck off there and then. “I was just trying to be friendly.”
I shrug. “Yeah, you were pretty nice to him,” I say. As if that were a crime. ♦