It wasn’t love. I sort of knew that from the start. We really just aren’t the sort that falls in love. Not often, anyway. And I think I had already fucked up my chance.
I met her first while bartending at Disco Vegas. She was a fan of dirty martinis. Well, talked to her first at Disco Vegas. Got to know her first. But I had seen her before; when I was bouncing at DangerBar!. She came in with a group of girls. Bitches really; every one of them. Or at least they gave off that ‘I’m so much better than you so leave me alone’ vibe. The kind of shit that has always pissed me right the fuck off. So I mostly ignored them. As an attention whore myself, I knew what would bother them the most. That and the bored and slightly exasperated look I adopted when I let them jump the line. Eh.
She was different. Strayed a bit from the pack. There was something in her eyes. Something… honest. Or true. Innocent? Genuine. There was something genuine in her eyes. Just the thing to reel a degenerate like me right in. Of course I didn’t make a move. Not when she rolled with that crowd. For all my bluster and bravado, there are still some girls that I am afraid to approach.
I guess there might have been a few looks, a few smiles between us. But nothing special. She would come in with her bitch posse and she would leave with one guy or another. Or she wouldn’t. She might just get trashed with the girls. But that’s what we all did. That’s why people came to DangerBar!. That’s why we were the hottest fucking joint no one had ever really heard of. And when it started getting too popular, I got to move on.
Once DangerBar! became the “scene,” Yoshikawa decided that his first little underground venture was doing well enough that he could afford to open a second. We had become pretty good friends by that point. I wasn’t just another ex-pat bouncer. So he asked me to come along and run the bar. 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. Disco Vegas. Why the fuck not?
Veronica started coming to Disco Vegas a few weeks after we opened. 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. She had enough money and enough borrowed taste that she could afford to be on the cutting edge of cool. Not that I really minded. After all, she was beautiful. And what with me being the only bartender, the communication barrier was broken. Hell. Yes.
So after a while of her coming in and ordering martinis (with gin - you know, real martinis), we got to talking and she got to staying later and later. She started coming in on off nights. And without her uptight buzz kill friends. One thing led to another and that led to sex. 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. Not that that was really the reason her place was better than mine. She didn’t fucking pay half what I did. Her place was like a fucking gift from one of the wealthy gentlemen that fell in love with her at her club. She was always getting nice stuff from her “benefactors.” I never asked too much about it. I never cared too much about it. What she did when I wasn’t around, just didn’t bother me. I guess 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. Things were broken back home. And even if they weren’t perfect here, at least they were good enough.
And so we sort of started dating. Really what it was is that I got to see her during the day. Afternoon really. We both worked and drank all night long, so it wasn’t like we were awake during the morning. Not a fucking chance of that. And that was great. She was great. And we were pretty fucking good together. Things just worked out. She was the piece that had been missing during my first year or in Tokyo. And we had fun. We had fun. That was enough. 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 I left it at that.
Then it was August. I had been in Japan for two years of my young life. And I had been dating Veronica for the last eight months of them. And it had been a great 8 months. Or six and a half. We had been getting into more and more fights. Over stupid shit too. I couldn’t understand why she was always blowing up at me over the smallest fucking things. She just kept getting pissed that I didn’t care that other guys wanted to sleep with her. Of course they wanted to fuck her. She’s hot. Then I got it. And it fucking blew me away. She wanted more. More than I was probably able to give. More than I really wanted to give her. I think it was getting past time I got the fuck out of Dodge City.
I cashed in the return ticket that had been sitting on my dresser for two years. 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. My job wasn’t changing enough and my girl was changing too much. Life, man. It fucking gets you every time.
I didn’t tell her anything for the next 2 weeks. I just didn’t know how to bring it up. I was sure that if I told her she would make me stay. She wanted everything and all of me. There was no fucking chance she would let me leave. 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. Or maybe we would stay together. And I could tell my mother that I was “in love with a stripper yo.” And I would still die here. Unfulfilled. Unfinished. And incomplete. Because no matter how much Veronica was in love with me, there was another girl. She was 5,000 miles and 5,000 years away and yet somehow whenever the subject of love came up, she was the only one that ever came to mind.
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. Or maybe I actually though I had a chance at fixing what I had broken years ago. Whatever it was, I still left. I couldn’t say goodbye. I don’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 really miss me at all. Knowing all the while that she was probably better for being rid of me. 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. I guess it was about time I found out if I really could fix all the shit I fucked up. I hope so. I hope so.