A wise or more occupied man would have stopped frequenting the BL at this point. But roughly two weeks later, I went back, for lack of a better idea. I’m proud to say that it was not in forbidden anticipation of once again encountering S, but rather in spite of the possibility of. I’m pretty sure.

The day was the vernal equinox, I believe, which in Japan is a national holiday. My Kiwi friend and I were out drinking “bears,” as he called them, at a gaudy but hidden burger joint called Honey’s Diner. It was one of the few places open on the holiday, but two drinks in, they were closing shop.

“Could sure go for another round,” my friend said. “Any places around here gonna be open?”

“Eh, I guess there is this one place, but. . . if we run into any familiar faces, I’m counting on you to bail me out of a situation.”

“Bear.”

Honey’s.

Sure enough, BL was in business as usual. In fact, with every other bar in town closed up, it was extra populated. Also sure enough was the presence of S, sitting alone at the bar, mango juice in hand. With no immediate alternatiave, I perched down next to her and my friend next to me.

Recognizing that this was the disturbed girl from previous conversations, my friend did his best to keep S’s attention off me. “So say there, S, tell me about yourself. What do you like in a man?” I wished he’d picked a more neutral topic, like, I dunno, darts.

“I like big muscles,” she said, possibly because he had big muscles and she was psychotically lonely.

Yeah, that’s the stuff.

“Phew,” I thought. “Maybe I’m off the hook then.” I didn’t have big muscles.

“All right, all right,” my friend went on. “So what don’t you like in a man?”

My friend spoke in simple English, but not simple enough to prevent the most grievous misunderstanding in the history of the world. While a simple “Ear picking” or “Bad breath” would have sufficed as an answer, what S responded with was a full account of the worst thing a man had ever done to her–not what she didn’t like in men, but what she hated about one particular man. It was so awful that I’ll neither consign it to the written word nor say with complete confidence that I believe her. But my gut reaction at the time was to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, in the time it took S to regale us with the account, my friend had become distracted and irritable. As the Worst Thing I’d Ever Heard entered my left ear, my oblivious friend leaned over and muttered into my right. “Ehhh, it’s too feckin’ smoky in here, mate, let’s go.”

I still wonder if that terrible, terrible timing was planned. I glanced around the bar. Packed. Probably not a great time to leave an unpredictable woman in a fragile state. On the other hand, I was trying to break old habits, and besides I had my friend to worry about. I sputtered out a word sympathy and made haste for the door.

Outside, I was in a cold sweat. “Wow. Oh my god. I mean holy hell.”

“Nice place,” my friend said. “Too feckin’ smoky though.”

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