(Image Source: http://www.japan-guide.com/g9/3060_12.jpg )
I wonder if you know, how they live in Tokyo
Simran woke up to the sight of Tahir, in his red boxer shorts and a dishevelled blue tie flapping on his bare chest, dancing to a loud ‘Tokyo Drift’ playing on his phone, placed precariously close to the edge of a stool.
“Wake up, Simmi, Wake up! I’m so going to nail this interview.”
“Get ready, idiot. Put on some clothes.” They were the same age but he had the body of a teenager. A hairless, white, lean body with petite pink nipples.
“I’m in Tokyo already.”
“This isn’t even a Japanese song.”
His phone rang a retro video-game tune. The cab driver was outside their apartment.
“Shit, shit, shit”
He pulled into a pair of pants, straightened the tie, and stood in front of her with his hands on his waist. She sat with her knees folded on the bed, wrapped in a snug blanket.
“Do I need this tie?”
“You need a shirt.”
He was already out of the room. In the living room, empty and unfurnished, his voice echoed – “Wish me luck!”
They were in a small conference room, too many of them, some of them resting against the wall, scanning their resumes or stifling a yawn. The HR woman, who had conducted the written round, stepped in about every ten minutes with a stack of sheets and called out of names of those selected for the next round.
The written round was ridiculous. When Tahir saw the questions, he laughed and slammed his fist on the desk. He had seen those very questions a few days ago. He had browsed through the solutions and it had made perfect sense then. You’re given a maze, a starting point and an ending point, how do you get there? How could that be a difficult question? It was simple except that he couldn’t quite remember one crucial, silly, significant, small step. It was wicked. The second question was even more ridiculous. He had seen many such questions before. He could feel the answer in his head, shaping forth with great grace and fluidity, but only if he could recall that damned data structure.
The woman stepped in with a smaller stack of sheets. She read out names after names except his.
“Your next round is scheduled at 3 PM, you can head over to the seventh floor for lunch, collect the coupons from the front desk.”
As they filed out of the room, one by one, she regarded him with some confusion. She ran her finger on the paper, muttering names under her breath.
“What was your name again?”
“Tahir” He leaned back in his chair.
She flipped the paper around.
“Let me get back to you.”
She strode outside. He waited inside for ten minutes, or maybe more, he texted Simran – first a series of animal emojis and then a selfie with the tip of his tongue peeking from a corner of his barely open lips – she didn’t reply, he waited for some more time, he went outside the room, stood by the door and looked around at the long, quiet rows of cubicles. There were white circular clocks on pillars all over the place – the kind you might find at railway terminals – with sleek nameplates under them. New York. London. Tokyo.
It was 5:00 PM in Bangalore and around 8:30 PM in Tokyo when he stepped out of the building. He walked in the shimmering shadow of trees with white blossoms. He kicked at fallen leaves and tugged the straps of his backpack and then raised the backpack on his head. His shadow looked ridiculous. He lowered the backpack over his eyes, until he could barely see the pavement ahead. Someone walked past him and he heard a giggle. He let the backpack drop back on his back and turned around to see a girl round a corner, giggling.
Tahir greeted Simran at the front door. He wore a kitchen apron over a tight grey T-shirt that read ‘Us’ in pink. Simran’s last birthday gift from her bestie, Nikita.
“Don’t scream at me, I did exactly what you told me to, I washed all my clothes.”
The living room was unlit and Simran saw light in the kitchen and the scent of smoke and eggs and tomatoes. Tahir disappeared into the kitchen with a spatula in his right hand. Simran switched on the lights. There was a wet crumpled boxer on the floor. She didn’t want to think about it just yet. She walked into the dining room where he had arranged two plates facing each other with knives, forks and spoons.
“Have a seat, my lady!”
He carried an omelette on the spatula and placed it on her plate. She pulled a chair. He was back with another omelette and then, he sat down noisily. His body was moist with sweat. His white scalp peeked through his wet hair.
“What is all this?”
He laughed and licked a drop of sauce from the tip of his index finger.
“I was just watching this crazy video – you know, in Japan, there are places, like shops, really fancy shops, where you can go buy a boyfriend.”
“I mean, not literally buy a boyfriend, but you know, get a boyfriend experience. It’s ridiculous.”
“They’re like very young men from a Japanese boy band. They’re really… wacky. Remember that video that I showed you the other day?”
“The J-pop video, with cats that morphed into smaller puppies… and there are just so many of them…”
“No, the men, in the songs, there are just so many of them, it’s not a band, it’s an army, it’s ridiculous!”
He grabbed the edge of the table as he laughed. He couldn’t stop laughing for a while and then he choked on what he was eating, his ears turned red, he coughed and his eyes teared up.
“So, I was telling you about these boyfriends on hire, they’re these very beautiful men who serve their ladies, they complement them and then they offer Champaign-”
“I’d love some Champaign”
Her voice came out higher than she’d imagined it would. He beamed at her.
He jumped out of his chair, swung open the fridge.
He announced, “I’ll make us a cocktail”
There wasn’t much in the refrigerator. She had no time to do grocery shopping. A container of guava juice and a bottle of orange concentrate. He was pouring the guava juice into two glasses.
“Slowly, gently, it’s falling all over the place.”
He reached for the orange concentrate. She bit the last piece of omelette.
“These Japanese boyfriends, do take orders from clients?”
“They mostly just chat. It’s bizarre and of course, very Japanese!” He grinned. “I mean, it’s all craziness, they’ve school girls for hire and middle-aged businessmen pay a thousand yen just to have a chat with them and maybe hold their hands or something, it’s ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous” She whispered. “I don’t want the make-believe cocktail, I want you to come talk to me.”
He sipped from the glass with his eyes closed and smacked his lips. “It’s… what’s that word that starts with a D?”
“No, it’s not that, it’s right on my tongue-”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know” He almost shouted, his neck drooped and then he raised his T-shirt to wipe sweat off his chin.
“You didn’t just do that!”
“Just take off the T-shirt, will you? How could you just wear it? It’s mine. It’s a special T-shirt. You can’t just barge into my house and wear my special T-shirt and then wipe your sweaty face with it. It’s insane-”
He took off his T-shirt in a moment. He opened the fridge to place the orange bottle back in. Cold, swirling air in a yellow light rose against his moist supple chest.
He said, in a hushed tone, “What’s got into you, girl?”
He sat in front of her and nudged the glass of juice towards her plate.
“Try it, it’s not as awful as you think it is.”
She pursed her lips because her lips really just wanted to smile. Her tongue pressed against the ceiling of her mouth because it really just wanted to taste his neck. She folded her hands because her hands really just wanted to feel the tautness of his skin. Her eyes looked away, at the living room, beyond his wet boxer lying on the floor, beyond the curtain-less windows, beyond the dark purple sky, because they really just wanted to look at him, to keep looking at him.
She sipped the juice and scrunched her face.
“It’s awful, awful, so bad, so bad…”
She walked outside into the living room where her voice echoed, “so bad…” And then, she spotted the wet boxer again.
“Tahir! What have you done of my house? Come here right away and get this awful, disgusting, wet boxer -”
He walked almost right into her and then leaned down to pick up the wet boxer. A slow grin blossomed on his face.
“It’s delectable… the word is delectable.”