“Son of the bitch!” My mother slammed the door. My father stood out on the front lawn in his boxer shorts and house slippers puffing on a cigarette. He took a small case out of his left pocket. He was switching to a cigar. If you’re getting cursed at, might as well smoke the good stuff.
“What’s going on?” said Grace. Her white face had somehow managed to become even whiter.
“My Mom’s mad at my Dad. Let’s go play at the park.”
Ten minutes later we were dodging other children on their swings and had forgotten about the violent display of anger we had been subjected to.
Well, I pretended to.
There was always a small seed of hot, white fear inside me whenever the shouting began. It was commonplace, yes, so I developed a tolerance for it. But somehow, deep down, I always felt terrified. Did I do something wrong? Will they hit me?
They never did, but the brinkmanship they were willing to engage in with each other – well, my mother toward my father more than anything – was close enough to the real thing that it had a long-lasting psychological impact.
So when I traveled to Susanoo’s Diner in the middle of Kaidan and was met by a hostile fat man in a red samurai outfit wielding a long spear that could have belonged to the Norse allfather Odin, it was far enough removed from reality that it had no effect on me. Also, he was rabble-rousing in Japanese, which I don’t speak. I’ve seen enough Akira Kurosawa and Takeshi Kitano films to be able to guess what he might be saying. I get it, you’re a gangster swordsman.
I met Gozen, leader of the local demon-slaying clan. Despite the protests of some of my more fervently patriotic (i.e. older) Chinese relatives, I adore the Japanese aesthetic. Simple, sparse, elegant, orderly. Polite. A refreshing change of pace from restaurants in which families throw their finished chicken bones on the floor underneath their table and hover over the eating surfaces of others who are almost done with their meals while taking photographs of “foreigners” – ahem, people who aren’t us – ten feet from their bowl of congee.
I sat and listened to the music for an hour, just long enough for my legs to become completely numb while sitting on them before a floor table. I don’t particularly adore the Japanese way of sitting while dining, however. I’ll take a high-backed chair at a waist-height table any day.