The Perfect Foreigner

We are all trapped.

Someone, somewhere – it doesn’t matter who, tarnished or bright as the sun – stands like a beacon in our memories for the time we got close.  Close to what? Just close. That’s all I know. Close. Very close.

You might remember it as endless nights of the best sex you ever had. or the only time you wore your own skin comfortably. Or it lingers like immanence, a sense of falling and falling and believing for that one time, that you would be caught.

I remember it like drowning, of being unable to take a breath and not caring.  The weight of him, the vastness of him, and his everywhereness. Like there was no part of the world that did not bear his fingerprint. All I saw, all I felt, all I knew waited for him to give it sense.

He is dead now, says the email from his wife.  She says she found my email address amongst his things and felt she should notify me of his suicide. I don’t reply. I can’t reply.

What is there to say? Sorry for your loss? I gave him back to you and you lost him? Twice? I offered him up, like Abraham, back to his source, and it could not contain him? I did what I thought was the right thing, but I was wrong? No. I left him the way I found him. Floating between worlds.  Angry that they weren’t bigger and bolder and on fire.

He taught me the beauty of a compromised existence. The saintliness of shadow. He taught me that hypocrisy was a Western concept and that walking the walk was how selfish people journeyed. He taught me, early on, how to leave him.

He had square hands, nimble hands, like colts ready to bolt. And skin that always smelled like the sea.  It was, he said, because his father had been a fisherman, will balls full of saltwater. That he would never be free of the stench of tuna blood.  And perhaps that was true. He was the colour of a sun dying on a calm sea.

I met him outside, on the windswept concrete of the Southbank. Smoking in the rain even though, in those days, he could have smoked in the lobby.  He said he was enjoying the cool, wet air. The BFI was running a Japanese film series. I never asked, but I assumed he was there being a good representative for the home team.

He was always a good foreigner. Always ready to be charmed and impressed and grateful for the threadbare hospitality of the English, always particular about his suits being neat and quiet and pressed to perfection. The same with his shoes: shiny and tight, squeaking down drab hallways. His hair, clipped  into a cap, half an inch from his skull.  Its contours trapped light in the evenly distributed steel grey that never changed.

Kaito also taught me to endure a good, hard bite. Halfway between my neck and the slope of my shoulder, where the muscle tightens to stress. He would sit behind me, arms around my waist, press his teeth into my skin and listen to me breathe out the pain. Like a kitten learns to endure its mother’s grip, he said.  Go limp. I have you and I will not let you go.

He taught me all about pain: its edge, its ache, and its pulsing, insistent voice that speaks into flesh. About how skin parted and knitted back together, how bruises painted the skin, how sweat stained the air. He taught me that a body wasn’t an object, it was an act. A ferocious act of being. He taught me to love fear, to lean into its curve, to let it dilate my pupils and make me breathless and wet. He taught me to desire desire. To close my eyes, tilt my head and listen to it sing through the fibres of the flesh. To eat it like a snake tries to swallow its own tail. Never quite the circle you imagine it to be; always a spiral.

He taught me the dignity of indignity, of the exultant power of facing it down, and the hundred and one inappropriate things with which I might be penetrated. A tube of multivitamins, a pocket watch – he laid his head on my pelvic bone and listened to its tick, the bud of a red tulip. There was nothing, he said, that wasn’t worth fucking.

Except for his cock. That, he insisted, was for making children. Once I whined about it, he tied me to the bed and asked me if I wanted a half-breed child. I said I didn’t want any child, so he fucked me with the case of his reading glasses.

“See?” he said, afterwards, perching the lenses smeared with my fluids on the tip of his nose.  “Stop asking for things you don’t really want.”

But I did want him. I thought it mattered. I thought perhaps he saved his cock for his wife, back in Japan. Maybe that was how he managed to make his way through the twilight between my world and his. Keeping to rules he’d never explain to me.

When Kaito got drunk, he would talk about never going back to Japan. About getting divorced and becoming English like Kazuo Ishiguro. As time went by, he did got drunk more often, until I thought that all I needed to say was, “Do it. Be with me.”

That’s when I left and went so far I was sure he’d never find me, sure that I had escaped the trap of saying those words. The allure of altering the course of history. Because he’d taught me about duty. Because he’d taught me how to leave him.

Now he’s dead, and I’m still trapped. By the memory of being in the skin of that woman who knew him, who learned how to be what I was with him. And I can’t get out.

  32 comments for “The Perfect Foreigner

  1. karen
    March 26, 2014 at 11:31 am

    As always, I am speechless. You weave words like a spell that hits the part of a reader below the level of speech — which sounds strange, yes, but it’s very true.<3

    • Jane
      June 7, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Yes….perfectly expressed….”a compromised existence”

      • caro
        September 16, 2015 at 11:25 am

        i love the descriptive language, metaphor similes! a compromised existance for sure!

  2. Six
    March 26, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! For another wonderful story. I constantly marvel at the complexity and quirkiness of your word paintings. This character seemed intensely involved yet curiously detached. As detached as death itself. Was she feeling shock, loss, numbness or just plain relief? She seemed to enjoy the memories of her lost lover yet also seemed that she wanted to shed them like a snake might shed its skin to begin a new life.

  3. Laura
    March 30, 2014 at 6:04 am

    This is beautiful … and heartbreaking. I imagine it took a lot to write it, thank you.

  4. Shula
    April 2, 2014 at 5:17 am

    I always have to remember to breathe after reading your words.

    • yup
      February 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      I was thinking the same thing!

  5. olrick
    April 16, 2014 at 6:49 am

    This is an expanded Haiku to what submission to pain can create. Along with denial. I am too old to have reliable erections on demand. I have come to understand that simply fucking might not be an end in itself….it is the mind which gets fucked, and feels the pain, and the desires, and the fears of pregnancy.

    You have captured the essence of those things perfectly. I am still young enough to crave more….

  6. M
    April 21, 2014 at 7:21 am

    A true work of art..I understand myself because of your words…Thank u

  7. Jade
    May 29, 2014 at 10:48 am

    This can only be described with two words, “hauntingly beautiful”. Thank you.

  8. Anastaria
    June 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Im frusterated, yet still sated. I want a more detailed encounter with him! I want to know what he was like and why and I want him to fuck her but I still respect him in a way, though he was still cheating. Like how long was he gone from his wife? and what self control that must have taken, though japant teaches self control quite well if memory serves. Still i am stunned yet again <3

  9. Elle
    July 8, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Love the breathtakingly gorgeous way you put words and concepts together to create incredible works of art. Thank you…

    • July 9, 2014 at 4:44 am

      It’s not art until you read it. Thank you for taking the time to do that and to comment.

      • Jane Anne
        December 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm

        You capture the mind that turns a nugget of amber to understand the creature within. The art of gift giving.

  10. PGM
    August 16, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve been away for a long time.

    Thank you. Again.

  11. Spencer
    September 14, 2014 at 2:21 am

    A beautiful purity of language, open and true, always moving, I love your mind. Thank you again.

  12. Jay
    September 19, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    “He taught me that a body wasn’t an object, it was an act. A ferocious act of being.”
    I love this line. I haven’t quite processed why, but it resonates and I quite enjoyed it.

    As a piece, it communicated an amazing sense of haunting loss (as I’m sure you hoped it would). I also see the moral conflict between desiring someone and thinking they should be better off without you, of weighing altruistic sacrifice against playing god with another’s best interest.

    Am I too bold if I impose my ideas of “right” where they can or will not? Am I a monster if I create chaos to satisfy my own desire?

    Love it, as always.

  13. lauren
    November 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Wow, that was crazy! It was so relatable inside and outside of its content. I am pondering whether or not his death was accidental or not…

  14. Hana
    December 31, 2014 at 11:57 am

    This was a marvelous piece of work and wonderfully written. So eloquent and accurate. The descriptions of being trapped felt real and touched me truly. You have an anazing gift for weaving words into a glorious net that can’t help but capture our attention, mind and emotion. Thank you for that. It was a beautiful piece.

  15. Charcarter
    January 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    So this is my first read. I arrived at this website from places that have become repetitive, from a four inch deep puddle the size of the Atlantic. The nakedness of true feelings is what men and women breathe for. I will read more. Now I have to get ready for church. I find joy is finding no contradiction between these activities. Only people who practiced at denial believe that they believe everything they hear at church. They don’t, but they can believe you.

    • January 18, 2015 at 2:21 am

      I don’t see any dichotomy in believing many, apparently contradictory things.

      One of the things I feel that organized religion damaged is the concept of the sacred. They have all tried to paint it as something comforting and safe and sweet, but it isn’t. The sacred is transcendent. Beautiful and horrific in a moment.

  16. EssDee
    January 18, 2015 at 11:26 am

    As always, I’m in awe of your writing. I especially love “the beauty of a compromised existence”, I can relate in my life, and there is truth in how “walking the walk was how selfish people journeyed”.


  17. jose
    March 26, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    Very enjoyable. I admire your ability to create and share without fear of judgment.

  18. Seldom
    July 11, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    We are all trapped.

    Someone, somewhere – it doesn’t matter who, tarnished or bright as the sun – stands like a beacon in our memories for the time we got close. Close to what? Just close. That’s all I know. Close. Very close.

    Trapped by memories of close encounters and near misses or what might have beens. Trapped by memories of what was but seems no more. Trapped by trying to reconcile the moment with the past and paying with pain and sadness. Freedom comes fleetingly when grounded in the moment when lost in the past.

  19. Larry Dittberner
    July 29, 2015 at 9:04 am

    It catches my own feelings in the encounter, and clear, honest, no mincing of words.

  20. Jane Anne
    October 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    “He taught me the beauty of a compromised existence…..” What a remarkable phrase. I am reminded of your “Pleasure’s Apprentice” which has a learning element, a teaching moment, a memorable moment. You have such a gift for stretching a reader to be ready for the raised level of awareness that carries a reader forward. Inner light in the forest. Recognition.

  21. Bruno Lancefield
    November 19, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Highly descriptive and subtle are really good at this.

  22. Aaron
    January 11, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    It’s nice, but too short.

  23. hysteria
    January 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Mmmmm. Thank you yet again. I keep coming back.

  24. cab
    February 10, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    thank you. I enjoyed this, for me it explores several topics which I can relate to. loving two people at the same time, having a sense of duty, loving someone despite, distance, and circumstance. it’s brilliant you are able to cover so many things in a short story.

  25. James
    February 14, 2016 at 12:29 am


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