“Did you brush your teeth?” my mother asked my father as they tongue-wrestled. It was her way of making up with him. It wasn’t anything like those romantic embraces I’ve seen in the movies where breathless lovers sweep themselves into one another and kiss passionately with their eyes closed. No, my parents stared at each other as if they were looking out for the knife held behind the back in the arm that wasn’t party to the intimacy.
I was watching through a small hole in the door handle where there would normally be a spot for a key. Mother had taken it out one evening while they were fighting – her way of saying that she was angry with father – so father couldn’t escape her by locking himself in the shared bedroom. They never bothered to replace it with anything, so it was possible to see inside if you concentrated hard enough and my parents were in just the right spot.
They were, so I did. Then they started taking their clothes off. I slid down the hardwood floor of the hall on my striped yellow and orange socks as quickly and as quietly as I could. At thirteen years of age I was just learning about these things and I didn’t want one of my first lessons to come from the people who brought me into this world.
“Unsee! Unsee!” said Tokiko when I told her about it. “How many months of therapy?”
I thought for a while. It was often difficult to think about things that involved my relatives and then relate them sensibly to people outside the family. Things like counseling and therapy didn’t exist for us – any problems we had were discussed within the family. “What’s depression?” my Aunt Chi Yi asked me one day when I was reading aloud from the dictionary.
That pretty much sums it up.
Prior to arriving in Tokyo, my fieldwork suddenly became very gory. The Orochi were breeding super-kids in some demented underground laboratory – standard Orochi stuff – and, in a predictable course of events, observational filth specimens got out of hand, infected a whole bunch of people, and then murdered everyone else.
They do have a nice reception area, though.
I didn’t take many pictures on my phone, as I typically do. I had no desire to see them the first time, let alone review them. Unsee, unsee. My brain’s been scarred permanently. I only kept the photos I needed for my report back to my faction handlers. Secretly, I’m blaming them for hijacking an otherwise peaceful life crunching numbers for some nice company – one with a reception area that has windows overlooking a faux cliff side – and replacing it with the script for a slasher movie.
Tokiko was fond of telling me that if I got a job working for her uncle, I wouldn’t have to do any reading (I can read their kanji but not the kana they use for grammar and loanwords). I’d get a paid, hour-long lunch break. And they even have a “reverse” Valentine’s Day where the men buy white chocolate for the women. A degree in finance or accounting would get me all kinds of perks at a Japanese company as long as I didn’t mind working long hours sometimes.
I traded sweets for murderous misanthropes and a mental catalog of scenes from a horror novel. I guess that makes me an educated fool.