Aya and I sit in the upper floor atrium in the IMS building, a giant golden dildo of a building in the center of Tenjin. Looking out over the city, which stretches with gray monotony from the bay just north of us to the point where suburban obscurity butts into a low range of mountains east and west of the city. A number of shallow rivers flow when the mood strikes them.

I used to stare out of Mie’s eighth floor apartment in the eastern suburbs of the city and watch planes fly over that bleakly uniform cityscape wondering why there weren’t any skyscrapers. I asked Mie, but she didn’t know. I ask Aya now, and she says there are plenty of tall buildings in Tenjin, the golden dildo to name one. She doesn’t call IMS that, of course. Only I do. I tell her that fifteen stories do not a skyscraper make, adding that there aren’t any buildings over fifteen stories high in town. She says, really? I say, yes really. When she tells me she’s never thought about it, I tell her, this is why I am here, Aya: to make you think about these kinds of things. She says, oh. I say, oh, indeed.

Aya is in high school, by the way. An American girl might hide her young age when talking to a man older than herself, but in Japan the girls seem to wear their youth like a badge of honor. I recently asked a group of high school girls I’d been teaching if they were happy to be graduating. A few were, but most weren’t. Personally, I couldn’t wait for the day I was finally paroled from that all male Catholic correctional institution of a high school I attended. So, it struck me as odd that anyone could be ambivalent about graduation. Their answer: we don’t want to grow up. Who does? But if growing up was the price to pay for being done with high school, I could afford it.

Aya has just started her second year, making her fifteen, I guess.

“I’m sixteen,” she corrects.

She doesn’t look it. She’s not only assertive for her age, but she’s got a woman’s body, as well. She tells me men always think she’s older.


When I hear that she goes to the exclusive Catholic girls’ school in town, I say she must be an ojô-san, that is, a girl from a good family.

She replies that she isn’t, that it’s just the image. Most of the girls going there, she tells me, are the daughters of pachinko shop owners, Koreans, yakuza and other nouveau riche.

Aya’s own father is a doctor, but only because her mother who runs a couple of hostess bars and a mahjong parlor happened to fuck a doctor the day she was ovulating. Aya has a younger sister, she says. The girl is the product of a lawyer who happened to squirt his sperm into her mother’s birth canal, like a lawyer serving a subpoena. “She’s ugly and stupid,” Aya says of her younger sister. “She’s an embarrassment to me.”

I’m not particularly interested in this Aya. When you’re twenty-six, high schoolers just aren’t quite the turn-on I imagine they must be for middle-aged Japanese men. Salarymen are seemingly tortured with lust every time they see a girl sashay by in her sailor uniform. Still, this Aya is funny in a jaded kind of way, so we meet again a few days later during my afternoon break.

We walk through Maizuru Park to the castle ruins. The momoji trees have stretched out new leaves like the open hands of an infants waiting for the sunlight to pour over them. The ground below the sakura, which have lost all their blossoms to the wind and rain of the past weeks, is speckled with soft pink petals. Under the cool shade of centuries-old oaks, sculptured azaleas are starting to bloom.

Of the former castle grounds only the stone foundation and a few wooden gates remain. At the center and highest level where the Lord’s residence had once been, a steel observation deck has been constructed offering a view of the city far more attractive than the view from the IMS building.

When I tell Aya that I come up here a lot, she asks me why on earth for. To think, to look at the sky, to make sketches, to write, even to study. She tells me that she can do all that in her bedroom. So, you can. So, you can. She calls me a romantic. I tell her that’s just another way of saying someone’s a hopeless fool. She says she knows that.

She’s wearing her school uniform, a navy blue pinafore dress with the schools badge above her left breast, a white blouse with rounded collars under it, white socks with the school initial and black patent leather loafers. She hates it, she tells me, wishes she had a simple sailor uniform like the girls at the Buddhist girls high school have. I ask her why, and she says this uniform makes her look like a child. With those large breasts of hers pressed against the bib of the uniform, a child is the last thing Aya resembles.

Aya tells me a friend of hers met an American who then took her to a love hotel and had sex.


“I couldn’t believe it.”


“Because he was too old.”

“How old?”

“In his thirties. And he was a college professor, too.”

I can’t help but laugh. What a country. I tell her he could be put in jail for that in America.


That evening after work, Reina says that she saw me walking near Ôhori Park with a high school girl. “She’s not your girlfriend, is she?”

“No, no, no. That’s just someone I know.”

“That’s hanzai, you know,” she says with a playful smirk.

“What’s that?”

“A crime.”

“Is it?”

“No, I’m only kidding. It’s not a crime, but this is a small town and people will talk . . . ”

“Small town? The population’s, what, over a million.”

“It’s a small town. Trust me. Everyone knows everyone in this town.”


“You can do what you like, Peador. I don’t care. Have sex with high school girls . . . ”

“I haven’t . . . ”

“It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do. What matters is how it looks.”

“And how is that?”



Loli-kon. Oh, what’s the word in English. Loli . . . Loli . . . ”

“Lolita complex?”

“So, so, so, so. Lolita complex.”

“I don’t . . . ”

“Like I said, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t let our boss or Yumi find out about it.”


Aya calls late Wednesday evening. When I ask if her mother minds her phoning me at such a time, she replies that her mother doesn’t know what she does because the woman’s never home. Despite my oppressively conservative up-bringing I’ve managed to emerge surprisingly liberal, and yet, I can’t help but feel something’s wrong with this picture and tell Aya that I’m sorry to hear about it.

“Don’t be,” she says. “I can’t stand the bitch. The less I see of her, the better.”

On Friday night while I am alone in the condominium, Aya phones again. She sounds impatient, and right off the bat asks what I think of her. I answer that I find her funny, but she isn’t interested in what I think of her personality, she wants to know if I find her attractive.

To be honest, she’s no knock-out. I know, of course, that I could do far, far worse than Aya. I need look no further than the past weekend to be reminded of that. What she lacks in appearance, though, she makes up with her youthfulness and a bust line that most women would envy. For the evangelical Christian, Jesus saves; Aya, however, is redeemed by those glorious tits. But then, this is the awesome power the breasts have over me. Your average girl sporting G cups will easily turn my head, but when she’s as beautiful as she is stacked, she’ll break my heart the way that Mie did. I tell Aya that she’s a very pretty young woman. It’s obvious that’s what she was hoping to hear and is lucky enough to have found me in an obliging mood.

Aya asks if I would mind her coming over on Sunday. Mind? Not at all. Do come, do come.


Aya calls me from a pay phone as soon as she arrives, so I walk down to the weathered station to meet her. She’s sitting alone on an old wooden bench, looking beat. I ask her if she’s tired and she says, “Of course, I’m tired, it took forever to get here.” She’s not exaggerating. With some luck, you might be able to get a train that will take you all the way from downtown Tenjin to this neglected little station in the middle of nowhere, but more often than not you have to transfer one or two times, as I suspect Aya has, making the trip even longer.

I apologize to her, then taking her knapsack which is surprisingly heavy, lead her around the station, over the single rusting railroad track, down a gravel path that runs between two untilled rice fields and over to the condominium.

The building I am living in looks rather impressive from the station. At ten stories high, it’s the tallest building throughout the otherwise undeveloped countryside. It’s not only huge by any standard, but beautiful and modern, as well. But like a Mayan pyramid rising out of the jungle, it makes you wonder what the hell it’s doing here. This is a mystery that needn’t keep me up at night much longer; with Reina’s help I’ve found a modest apartment two blocks away from work that I’ll move into next Sunday. Convenience in the end has won out over comfort.


I give Aya a quick tour of the apartment. She asks if I live here alone. “I guess you could say that, yes. Rumor has it that I have roommates, but damned if I’ll ever see them.”

“Must be nice to have such a big place all to yourself.”

“I don’t know. It’s so quiet and lonely here. The size just makes if feel all the more so.”

She sits down on one of the horrible recliners in the living room before I can say, “You don’t really want to sit . . .” They’re large and boxy abominations, covered with a broad piss yellow and shit brown tartan fabric. I am often appalled by other’s interior decorating choices, but the furniture in the condominium left me speechless when I first laid my eyes on it.  Granted it isn’t as bad as what my apartment in Kitakyushu. It had been furnished with whatever my boss could scrounge up during his rounds through the neighborhood on that monthly festival of profligacy: Non-burnable Garbage Day. Where my old apartment was a grab bag of miserably dilapidated second-hand furniture, there seems to actually be a theme to the horror in the condominium: Scottish Proletarian.

I bring can of Kirin and two glasses from the kitchen and sit down on a woolly throw rug on the floor. I pour some beer into Aya’s glass. She leans over, takes the can of beer from me and pours beer into my glass. It foams up, running over the edge of the glass, beer drips onto the carpet. She apologizes, but she needn’t do so. She’s only sixteen for chrissakes. I couldn’t pour a beer myself when I was that young.

Kampai,” we chime, clinking our glasses together.

“I’m not supposed to be drinking beer,” she says.

“Yeah, not for another five years, but ain’t that the beauty of this country?”

“No, no, it’s not that. I’m not supposed to drink because I’ve become a Mormon.”

“You what?”

Although the first Christian mission in Japan was set up four hundred and forty-four years ago by the Francis Xavier, for all the trouble he and countless missionaries after him went through, ninety-nine percent of the country has had the sense to turn a deaf ear to the Christian message. The Catholics, who were the first to come with good tidings for all, have all but stopped proselytizing and now keep quietly to themselves. A little repression at the hands of a brutal shogun goes a long way, indeed. Since the end of the war, however, armies of bible tottin’ dimwits have come to Japan to give converting the pagans another shot. And now, the Japanese housewife is bothered by dowdy women who knock on closed doors until their knuckles bleed and stand like abandoned pets in the draughty hallways, until someone who doesn’t know better opens the door and accepts a copy of The Watchtower. Other Christians, tired of having doors slammed on their noses, have resorted ingeniously to opening private secondary schools where they have a steady flow of impressionable youths with no choice but listen, take notes and regurgitate the Gospels on tests. Even though this subtle brainwashing of naïve youths only succeeds in producing a handful of converts a year, the schools have become cash cows keeping coffers in America’s Bible Belt filled and funding missions to countries more receptive to Christianity’s loving message that if you’re not one of them you’ll burn for all eternity in Hell, like Korea where as many as fifty percent have succumbed.

The Mormons, however, are brilliant. They’ve taken missionary work and made it a flashy, marketing bonanza with a sales staff of clean-cut blond virile men from the Theocracy of Utah. If the power of The Word isn’t enough to win over the souls of the heathens, well then maybe good looks and a smile will captivate their hearts. The Mormons even offer free “English lessons,” and who wouldn’t take them up? I certainly would if I were a pimply teenage girl with my crotch wet and itching for a blue-eyed American with gleaming white teeth. And what bored housewife wouldn’t open her front door, if not more, a little wider for the two charming young men in white shirts and neckties who’ve paid her a visit?


But what’s the deal with Aya? Why the sudden interest in Christianity? And why did she turn a sympathetic ear to the Mormons rather than the Catholics who have been duly inculcating her for ten years? Bit of a home goal there, ain’t it sisters?

Aya tells me she wants me to look at something as she digs into her backpack. She pulls out two copies of the Book of Mormon, one in Japanese, another in English, which she hands to me. So that’s why the bag was so heavy. We all have our crosses to bear; she schlepped those two bricks around with the vigor of a convert. I’m tempted to boot her and her two copies of the Book of Mormon out, to send her back to the re-education camp she came from. But as repelled as I am at the prospect of bible study, I am also drawn to the promise of those mounds of flesh under Aya’s burgundy sweater. I find myself surrendering. It just isn’t fair.

“You don’t really expect me to read this, do you?” I say.

She pulls at the ribbon bookmark and opens the bible for me. “Here, read this,” she says pointing to a passage.

“You are aware that I am Catholic,” I protest. “I was force-fed this most of my life and the mere thought of returning to those dark, insipid days gives me the willies.”

Aya doesn’t answer, just taps her gnawed down fingernail on the passage she wants me to read. I look reluctantly at the page and sigh dejectedly. Did she really come all this way just to chat about her personal savior Jesus H Christ with me? I mean, is the girl nuts?

“Just read it, will you?”

“It’s the bible right? I have read it. I, I can’t count the times. I’ve read it, been read from it, been hit on the head with it, I know the bible like the back of my hand . . .”

“Then you’ll recognize this passage,” she replies. She’s worse than a Jehovah’s Witness with one foot in the door.

“I’ll read it, but tell me one thing first, Aya. Why did you . . . What does it mean for you to be a Mormon?”

“Not much, I guess,” she says with a shrug. “They’re nice, but they have too many rules. No caffeine. No Coca Cola. No green tea, no alcohol, and . . . no sex.”


“You can’t drink and you can’t have sex until after marriage.”

“Well, where’s the fun in that?” I say refilling our glasses with beer.

“Yeah, like I said, too many rules, but . . .”

“But what?”

“Some things they say are nice.”

“What things?”

“Like this,” she said tapping on the bible again.

I give in and look at the bible resting heavily in my lap.

“Read this,” she says pointing with those short tanned, fingers of hers.

I skim the pages to see how it’s organized, to try to understand how it differs from the bible I was indoctrinated with throughout my sixteen years in Catholic Gulags, but it’s all unfamiliar gibberish. There are far too many “Yea’s” and verbs ending with “eth”, the kind of window-dressing, which tries to make simple and self-evident truths sound like the monolithic and oppressive Word of God.

She opens her own bible to where a cloth divider was marking the page and follows along in Japanese as I read aloud in English. Words like “puffeth” and “proudeth” dribble clumsily from my mouth. I end up focusing more on style, than on substance, and the meaning is lost on me altogether. Aya then reads to me the Japanese translation which is refreshingly straightforward. No sooner does she utter the first verse than I recognize the familiar quote from Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind . . .”


I ask her what it means to her, and she replies simply that it’s beautiful. “Yes, but what does it mean to you, Aya?”

She struggles to find an answer, so I tell her what it means to me: unconditional love. Love without strings attached. Unconditional love. It’s what I wanted from Mie and other girlfriends before her, what I had expected of my parents, but what no one has been able to deliver. I wonder if it is also the kind of love that this high school girl has come here to find today. An unconditional love to wrap yourself up in and warm yourself with when the cold reality of our shitty, disappointing lives is too much.

Given that my theories as to what may have really motivated Aya to come all the way out to see me this afternoon isn’t as rock solid as, say, my erection currently is, it is with much trepidation that I make my move. I put the bible aside, and kneel before her. The girl is eleven years younger than myself and still my heart is racing. I am self-conscious, nervous, lack the confidence a man my age ought to have. This awkwardness was Mie’s parting gift to me. I offer my hand because I haven’t the courage to take hers. Her small hand opens slightly and I take it, then, ever so gently draw her to the edge of her seat towards me, and into my arms. How long has it been since I embraced someone? Six months? Seven?

I hold Aya tightly, feel her hard breasts pressed against my chest, inhale the fragrance of her skin, and am overwhelmed by unwelcome memories that make me miss Mie more than I’ve missed her in weeks. I long to the feel her body against mine, to smell her hair, to hear the sound she uttered whenever I kissed her neck. Why, why, why, why goddammit can’t it be Mie in my arms now? I am so despondent. My body shudders and any moment I threaten to break down and start crying.

Aya asks if something’s the matter. I am so close to tears that I can’t talk. I kiss the girl, instead. She kisses me, soft awkward kisses, the kisses of a high school girl. I lie down on the rug and gently pull her off the recliner to my side.

Aya lays next to me, eyes closed, face turned towards me. I want her to take me in her arms, to kiss me passionately, to pull my clothes off the way Mie did that first night, but Aya just lies there, waiting.

I kiss her neck, but Aya doesn’t stir. Is she nervous? Scared? Her arms remain frozen at her sides, she doesn’t seem to know what to do with those cute hands of hers, so I move them above her head. I then begin to lift her burgundy sweater up. She says, dame-dame (no, no), but arches her back to help me all the same. I maneuver the sweater over her massive chest and off revealing what I found so captivating about her. Locked away in an industrial strength, utilitarian white bra are her breasts.

The bra is more engineering and mechanics than lingerie and art. It serves a function: supporting a load and preventing unnecessary jiggling, the kind of jiggling that gives middle-aged PE teachers a fresh boner and inspires hour-long lessons of sprints and jumping jacks. It’s the kind of bra your dear old mom would have worn after having given birth to and breast feeding a half dozen kids until her breasts had become flaccid sacks of useless flesh with big ol’ nipples.

I sit Aya up, so that I might better fiddle with the four latch-like iron hooks groaning as they contain her breasts, but undoing the bra is no easy task. It requires concentration and strong, but nimble fingers. With a little practice any amateur could master undoing the support of a woman less endowed, but this bra has been designed to stay put, to defy the laws of nature. With a snap the first hook is freed, with a second snap another hook comes undone. She utters another dame-dame, but doesn’t fight or push me away. With both hands tugging on the strap, which is as taunt as the cable on a suspension bridge, I manage to get the slack needed to loosen the third hook. But as it comes free the hook snaps open, catching the skin of my index finger and lodging itself deeply, painfully into my flesh. I bite my lip, to keep from howling. I’ve made it this far; I will not be discouraged. From this point on, there is little you can do, but hope for the best. With the burden of that marvelous chest of hers reigned in by the last remaining hook which was never designed to withhold so much pressure alone, nature takes charge and with a grating, achingly remorseful croak, and yet another dame-dame from Aya, the hook surrenders, throws up its arms in defeat and lets the bra fall unveiling the most glorious pair of tits a sex-starved man could ever hope for. God and I look at what He has created and we both agree: it is good, very good. What Aya lacks in looks, she has more compensated for: a body that would terrorize a man in his dreams. Full, beautiful, bluish white breasts, hard as boulders, with small pink nipples, like pickled cherries on rice. I kiss them, lick them, tease and fondle them. I pay obeisance to those breasts as a true believe would before an awe-inspiring manifestation of the Almighty.

Six months have passed since Mie left me, and for the first time in all these sad, lonely days, weeks and months, during which I have wandered aimlessly like a somnambulist, I can feel life trickling again through my cold, dry veins. As I suck on Aya’s tiny pink nipples and listen to her soft, meaningless protest of dame-dame, I feel as if I am finally beginning to reclaim my life, one small kiss at a time, finally starting to laying the past to rest, one nail at a time.


Remember that feeling I had of life flowing again through my veins? Well, it doesn’t last very long.

As the inbound train approaches, the off-tune chime of the railroad crossing starts clanging away, I take Aya into my arms and hold her tightly. With her face buried in my chest, she tells me she loves me.

The words are spoken softly, nervously; they’re unsure of how they’ll be received. I knew this was coming. Aya had been wearing the grateful, yet forlorn look of an abandoned dog that’s just been fed, the look that compels you to take the poor mutt home with you. And so, I tell her that I love her, too. The train pulls into the station, the doors open. Aya kisses me once more before boarding the train. The driver, leaning out of a small window and looking back down the platform, blows a whistle. The doors close and the rusting, sun-bleached train begins to move forward. I remain on the platform, watching the train as it ambles down the single track and takes Aya out of my life. My love for the girl is neither patient, nor kind. It is rude and self-seeking. It doesn’t protect and it cannot be trusted. My love for Aya fails and as soon as the train disappears around a bend, the familiar emptiness, another one of Mie’s parting gifts, returns.

© Aonghas Crowe, 2010. All rights reserved. No unauthorized duplication of any kind.


All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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