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.

  10 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

  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.

  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.

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