It wasn’t love. I sort of knew that from the start.
I met her first while bartending at Disco Vegas. She was a fan of dirty martinis. I had seen her before. When I was bouncing at DangerBar!. She came in with a group of girls. And all of them were gorgeous. I mean, they were the type that even a guy like me is a little afraid of approaching. I guess there were probably a few looks, a few smiles between us. But nothing special. She would come in with her friends and sometimes she would leave with one guy or another. And sometimes she wouldn’t. That’s what we all did. That’s why people came to DangerBar!.
When Yoshikawa decided that his first little underground venture was doing well enough that he could afford to open a second he asked me to come along. So I moved on up. And I got my own three feet of felt covered absurdity that could only be called a bar in a nightclub in Roppongi. Disco Vegas, baby. Why the fuck not?
And so Veronica started coming to Disco Vegas with her friends. It was better than DangerBar! because it was newer. And kitschier. And she was of the sort that followed those kinds of trends. Mostly because she could. She was just that type of girl.
So after a while of her coming in and ordering martinis, we got to talking, she got to staying later and later, and eventually we got to going home together. Her place. It was much nicer than mine. Even as a bartender in a reasonably trendy nightspot, I was hard pressed to find decent and affordable accommodations in Tokyo. Her place it seems was a gift from one of her wealthy benefactors. It seems that old maxim still rings true: if you are hot, blonde, and willing to take your clothes off, you’ll probably do ok.
Veronica was Australian. Like me she had studied Japanese in high school and like me, when she found that she didn’t really want to do anything after college, she had come to Tokyo. Sure all the fast money of the late 80s was nothing but myth and legend now, but somehow it seemed like we were doing better because we were so far away from home. She had come to Japan as a model. She had done a few magazine spots or whatever. Maybe a billboard or two. I didn’t really listen. But ultimately it hadn’t worked out. And so she did what any reasonable girl in her position would do: danced naked for old leering men. It’s not like she could go home. There was even less for her there. Sometimes you just can’t go home. I knew I couldn’t. Something was missing. And I just wasn’t ready.
And so we sort of started dating. Really what it was is that I got to see her during the day. And that was great. She was great. And we were pretty fucking good together. Things just worked out. And we always had fun. There were a few fights here and there. Sometimes I had to go back to my place at the end of the night instead of staying at hers. But mostly we didn’t take anything much too seriously. We just had fun together. And we left it at that.
Then it was August. I had been in Japan for 2 years of my young life. And I had been dating Veronica for the last 8 months of them. She was starting to get restless. Her eyes were wandering more and more often. There were more nights than usual that she went “out with her friends.” It’s not that I was being possessive. She was just moving on. And I suppose it was about time I did some moving of my own.
I finally cashed in my return flight. Things had been stagnant for far too long. Making the same damn stupid drinks for the same dumb fuck stoned bastards night after night just wasn’t doing it anymore. And now with Veronica starting to get that old familiar itch, things were exactly stable on the home front.
I didn’t tell her anything for the next 2 weeks. I just didn’t know how to bring it up. And I was secretly sure that if I told her she would try to make me stay. Not so much because she really wanted me to, but just because that’s what you do when your significant other tells you he’s flying back to America in a few days. I knew that if she asked me to stay I would. And then I would die here. Slowly. Long after she had moved on to some other guy on a faster track to wealth, fame, or power, I would still be slinging booze for Yoshikawa at one his “hip night spot for upscale youths.” I couldn’t do that to myself.
The last time I saw her was at the train station. She was going back to her place. And in a rare move I was going back to mine. I had packed up yesterday. Still unable to tell her anything. We had our last kiss. Nearly as passionate as our first. I was this close to going back to my place and unpacking, saying to hell with it all and staying. Just for her. Just for that. Just for one more. I watched her get onto her train. She waved as it pulled away. I waved back. It was raining. I just stood there on the empty platform staring at nothing for a long time. When I finally came out of my trance and looked at my watch I realized that I had missed my own train. I had to wait 40 minutes for the next connection.
And then I just left. I would like to think of it in terms of the Lone Ranger riding off into the sunset. But that wasn’t it. Maybe it was closer to chasing Bob Lind’s elusive butterfly. Or maybe I was just cutting and running. Leaving her before she left me. whatever it was, I didn’t want to go into it. So I left. I couldn’t say goodbye. I didn’t know how.
While I was in the airport, right up until take off, I kept thinking about how many times she would try calling. About what she would do when she finally went round that little shit box apartment I had called home for far too fucking long and found it emptier than usual. About how long it would take her to find someone new. And if she would miss me at all. But once the cabin doors closed and the plane started to taxi, I realized that I didn’t care.
As we were taking off I thought about Amy for the first time in a long time. I wondered if she still felt the same was as she did when I left. I guess it was about time I called her.