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A small night storm blows
Saying ‘falling is the essence of a flower’
Preceding those who hesitate

—Yukio Mishima

Ground Floor

[on which the passed is never passed enough]

It distinguishes itself from the surrounding scents like a thought bubbling up from the void.



Today of all days. The only day there ever was. He’s never noticed it in here since her? Has he actually blocked it out? Can a brain do that? Some kind of survival mechanism? Does this noticing it again mean it’s safe?

He looks into the mirror, avoiding himself.

He knows exactly who it is. This scent only matches so many. Blond. Natural. Moving aside for the others.

A foreigner.



Outside person.

Smiling. As if for him. But it’s for everyone. She knows how things work.

Something about her. More than just the perfume.

Reminds him of Sakura.

The nose? The graceful wave of the hair? Her aloneness.

His noticing her?


Must just be the perfume. God how it moves him. Steers him.

And finally, that’s what he’s going to do.


These distinctions and individuations. These boxes.

The right way this time.


In the operating-theatre-bright light that masks the late hour but reveals it in their bloodshot eyes and limp hair the lot of them congregate around the beer fridge and a debate takes place over real beer versus cheap low-malts, then each grabs what they intended to grab in the first place. Will takes two cold cans of premium Yebisu.

“Ooh, high roller,” says Sue, Greg’s girlfriend, a smooth skinned trier who never makes any attempt to hide the fact she’s interested in Will. She has two small fake beers in her tiny many-ringed fingers.

“Cans of chemicals,” says Will of her choice.

“It’s all chemicals, Will,” she returns, then winks, “What do you think your mood’s made of? Or your libido?”

“But that stuff tastes like garbage”

“It’s all shite to me,” she says. “Of course you’re the expert, yeah? What with your family owning a brewery and all?”

It takes a second for her comment to make sense to him, and in that second the whole night changes—the air gets closer, his jeans get tighter, his voice sticky in his throat, his ability to see good disabled—But only if I let it, he reminds himself. “Christ. I wouldn’t drink my dad’s shite if you…” Only if he lets it. “Fucking soulless swill.”

She takes a step closer to the till and he makes his legs respond in kind.

“Well, there’s no accounting for taste, but you can’t argue with price,” she says, turning from him to give her beer and money to the love-struck multi-pierced teen behind the till obsequiously bowing and smiling like Sue’s just told him she wants to sign his band.

Will tries to control his thoughts, resorting to looking at Sue’s fine legs, her white stockings leading up out of yellow Converse and around the bulge of her calves, fabric ending just under her knobby knees, the white of her American thighs leading up under her skirt. He does the math and realises it’s been two years since he’s been between a pair of these. But life’s about control and control’s about sacrifice. For a higher purpose, a greater good. He’s been making definite progress with his Zen training, but he’s well aware there’s a forever of hard work ahead of him—which is comforting in a way, meaning as it does that expectations are still low and a wellspring of forgiveness is available to him. And he knows he’ll be using up a fair amount of that before he pulls himself out of this ditch of vile mood Sue’s thrown him into by mentioning his father.

Back out in the enlightened darkness of the 3AM Shibuya streets, he hangs off the back of the giddy pack, drinking his beer in long pulls. The first time he’s drank in he doesn’t remember how long, and now more reason to do it. His goddamned father. A bloody brewery owner? He wishes he’d been a little more creative about that lie, but the irony was too good—the bastard is proud of never having had a drink in his life. As if drinking nothing but bottled water purifies him, absolves him of his sins, his sins of ruining so much and so many, all so he can live up to some fucked up ideal of power and competence and accomplishment, the élan of the elite; maybe if he’d down a bottle of Jack he might discover some fucking empathy at the bottom of it!

But Jesus Christ, how many times has he been over this in the last almost-three-years? Thirty-two months straight now of working and earning his own way, donating every one of his family’s dollars that he has access to? A thousand days of training, of trying to defeat his anger and tame his mind, maddest of horses. But everything is training, so he fends off the acidic pique and brings himself back to the humid streets that glow with their own sticky light.

“Can’t you guys give it a fucking rest with that damn song!” They’re bellowing a drunken Happy Birthday to Ted, yet again. “You sound like a bunch of tacky fucking yanks!” he yells at them, partly for fun, but mostly for the relief of yelling at someone.

“Hey! It is my birthday!” Ted calls back to him.

“Yeah, he’s likely not got many left, so let him revel!” adds Sue and they all laugh.

“And they love us tacky yanks here!” tries Frank. “This ain’t fookin’ France!”

“Shouldn’t you be at home meditating anyway!” says Phil, drunkest of them all.

“I’ll take him home and give him something to meditate on,” says Sue to everyone’s idiotic oohs and ahs.

He focuses on his one foot in front of the other, the technique he mastered in the Laurentians, focussing on the earth rotating below him as if he’s making it spin, like walking a barrel. But he feels like he’s falling off. He thinks of that fall and winter, those nine months he sequestered himself in his family’s isolated cottage in Quebec. He’d warned them he’d kill himself if anyone tried to approach, and it was pretty funny, if not scary, how seriously they’d taken him. He’d slept so well in that non-silence, at one with the aloneness, that throbbing vitality of place—the best months of his life. And all made ultimately possible by his family’s money, his dad’s ridiculous salary defending his corporate clients in the ostensibly blind justice system. A million a year at least, to manipulate and twist words and meaning and perception and understanding, and, ultimately, reality. Insane. More than insane.

They locate at last an after-hours bar and he trails his friends in, the scent of cigarette smoke, spirits and women’s perfume almost overwhelming. Everything that isn’t painted or plastic red or black is red leather, with red lamps everywhere casting the monotony in a cloying light. Heart-shaped stools sit around frosted glass tables and with about ten girls and three guys the place is half full. With the red and the flesh and the dark corners and the throbbing bass of the electro-pop, he feels like he’s stepped into the beating heart of Tokyo. And he feels a sticky sickness rising, a sweaty heaviness.