He’s Not Your Fantasy
Kitsune, Kyoto. A sticky summer’s night. You’ve been drinking by the river in Gion-Shijo with your friends, Strong Zeroe’s from the 7/11 down the road, but they didn’t have the sour lemon so you’re sipping on grapefruit, wondering why this flavour even exists.
In the club, you lose your friends in a haze of lights. The alcohol is fading from your blood and you’ve smoked your last cigarette, a clove that someone gave you, its sugary sweet residue sticking to your lips.
Your mouth is so dry that when you bump into a stranger and say “sumimasen” your upper lip sticks to your teeth in an impression of Dracula. When you turn around, you see he’s not Japanese and switch to a “sorry”, mumbling something dumb about how loud the music is.
“Oh, you’re speaking English,” he says, putting a hand on your arm as he leans in to hear you better. It sends electric shivers across your skin.
You tell him you’re on exchange in Osaka, that this is your first time at Kitsune. Your faces are so close you can feel his stubble on your cheeks, his breath in your ear. The bass of the music reverberates through your body in the dark space. It gives you the courage to reach a hand up to his neck as he tells you he’s an English teacher in a small town in the coastal prefecture of Fukui. He’s half-British, half-Jamaican. You tell him you’re from Sydney. He’s twenty-nine, you’re twenty-one.
Talking turns to dancing. His hands grasp skillfully at the exposed skin of your midriff. You dance for hours, wanting to kiss him but afraid he might realise you’re a desert.
Around 3am, a text from a friend tells him another friend is lost and that he needs to come help. He kisses you once before he leaves, his mouth like a rose after rain.
He adds you on Facebook and then he’s gone. Your body is suddenly cold. You walk out to the sun rising over the river and go for ramen.
Recalling the details to select people, you tell them about the beautiful older man who knew how to hold your hips, who told you that if you ever wanted to come to Fukui you’d have a place to stay. He becomes a bit of a meme as the ‘hot daddy’, and every time you tell the story, you feel like you’re getting closer and closer to ‘intrepid’.
You message back and forth for the next fortnight and eventually work up the courage to ask to visit, typing and deleting the message in a thousand versions of a symphony until you strike the right balance between casual and desperate.
He replies three days later and you book tickets for the night bus that weekend, barely sleep the night before and almost miss it. It rains the four hours there and you watch the skyscrapers of Osaka turn to vivid green and mountains hidden within mist. Visions of a romantic weekend bundled up in a coastal love nest scroll through your mind.
When he picks you up from the station, your hands shake and your mouth’s dry again. Seeing him in daylight causes fantasies to dissolve into reality. During the 40-minute drive back to his area, you say complicated things in an attempt to sound intelligent, but just end up sounding complicated. He listens and says simple things.
Fukui is rice fields in every direction, tiny houses with square cars in dirt driveways and little stores owned by locals who’ve lived there their whole lives. The windows of his car are down and you smell raindrops resting on leaves, drying on concrete roads.
He takes you to a small beach with grey sand and rubbish littering the shoreline, the waves gentle to non-existent. You walk together under plastic umbrellas, holding yours in your right hand to give your left the chance to graze against his. When your eyes meet heat tingles across your skin, your fingers twitching to reach out to him.
This heat stays with you all night. At the sushi restaurant with his friends, where you try to impress him with how chill and mature you are for your age. After dinner, your feet soaking in the volcanic waters of an outdoor Onsen, sweating and so close you can smell the raw fish on his breath. He tells you the story of the ‘Andy’ tattoo on the bottom of his foot, and at the time you thought it was poignant but now you just think it’s dumb.
Later, you get tipsy on his couch drinking beers from the conbini. Flushed cheeks, warm lighting, quick breath. Music plays from your phone and you’re looking into his dark eyes, fixating on his lips as he compliments your music taste.
“Has anyone ever told you how beautiful your eyes are?” he asks as if he’s special for noticing them. Your mouth isn’t dry as you shift to kiss him like you’ve wanted to all day. Roses in the desert.
It goes from there in a replica of your fantasies, except you weren’t anticipating how much he would sweat. You shower together afterwards and sleep blissfully in his single bed even though it’s 30 degrees at 2am and he doesn’t have air conditioning.
“Tomorrow we’ll go to the mountains,” he tells you as he drifts off, “and we’ll have lunch with this sweet old lady named Yuka, if you’d like.”
“I’d love to.”
In the morning, he gets a message while you’re in the shower.
“Do you remember my friend Megan? The one who got lost that night at the club? Well we sleep together causally and she’s not cool with you coming today. I think she’s not being entirely honest with me about her feelings. I’d hate to ask this, but would you mind if you maybe don’t come? I can lend you my bike to ride around.”
You’re not sure if you’ve heard him right. Blood pools hot in your cheeks, the naïve assumption that you were in some way special dissipates faster than the water droplets on your bare skin.
“Oh. Sure… That’s fine, I’d hate to be a burden,” you say, pulling clothes on.
He kisses you before he leaves. How were you to know it would be the last time.
Sun beats down on the pavement outside, drying the rain and erasing any signs of yesterday. Besides the convenience store worker who sells you your egg sandwich, the loaned bike is your only company for hours. Mostly you spend the day anxiously contemplating what will happen when he comes home, riding aimlessly until thick drops of rain start to fall and the sky darkens.
He gets back 10 minutes after you do, and instead of indulging you in the company you craved all day, tells you Megan was so angry she didn’t talk to him today at all and wants him to call her.
“Oh… yeah sure, I’ll just take a walk outside for a bit, give you some privacy.”
You walk through the dark to the deserted playground near his house, pull out a pack of cigarettes and smoke five in a row. You figure an hour is generous, returning to claim the attention you feel entitled to.
His silhouette is outlined by the moon on the balcony; you hear his voice, low and different to when he talks to you. You go back outside, walk around the block a few times, finish your pack of cigarettes. Fingers shaking, heart beating irregularly. You give him another 30 minutes and when you go back he’s still talking to her.
“Sorry,” he whispers. “I’ll go out.”
He leaves you alone in his house. Cicadas chirp from the open door of the balcony. It’s 9 o’clock and you’re starving, nicotine coursing through your blood. You open your computer, but you can’t focus on anything and your fingers continue to shake, eyes flick to the window every time there’s a noise outside. You work at suppressing the irritation that swells in your chest, but after the second hour his tiny house looks more like a prison than a love nest.
Of course, there’s nothing in his fridge, he’s a 30-year-old bachelor with the mind of a 13-year-old. Three hours in you walk to the supermarket, looking for him as you go, but he’s nowhere to be seen. You make pasta, blasting music to distract yourself. He doesn’t have any wine glasses so you’re drinking red from the bottle.
After four restless hours, the door clicks open. He appears like a mirage in the living room, joining you on the couch.
“Hey, sorry about that. What’ve you been up to?”
The nerve with which you were going to confront him dissolves with his materialisation. His knee brushes up against yours, sitting close to you now in the warm space.
“Just messaged some friends, slept, cooked. There’s some on the stove if you want.”
He tells you what happened with Megan. Opens up to you about their relationship, his past. You listen like a friend, hoping to be a lover once again. But his words flow from a well of reservation, and you find no comfort in his ‘vulnerability’.
That night you sleep like soldiers next to each other in the tiny bed. When you open your eyes the next morning the world is too bright, and there’s a sweaty man snoring next to you.
Cover by Charlie Howell; inset by the author