Richard Krause

Japanese

She did everything you did.  At first you didn’t realize it.  Living alone as you had for so long, looking in the mirror every time you passed the sink had become second nature.  She ate exactly the food you did, and in the exact same proportions that you cut right down the middle as close as you could get, bending down to overcome your shortsightedness and control the knife blade as accurately as the naked eye allowed.  And if you missed by even a small margin, there was the quick exchange of food back and forth to establish to each of your satisfaction the exact proportion that your stomachs could live with.  As if your plates were both flat scales.  Curious how the appetites could be so balanced.  She liked everything you did, had cravings for the same foods—the rum raisin ice cream, the Sara Lee cheesecake, the yōkan, the late-night popcorn bathed in butter.  There was nothing she either refused or asked for.  Simply went along.  Even worked her jaws in rhythm with yours.  Took popcorn with a timing that was uncanny, how it complemented your reach.  The mouth was never still, the hand never quite motionless.  You imagine too her salivary glands were on schedule.  It was one appetite.  And you were thirsty too at the same time. Could get her a glass of water, orange juice, or tea whenever you wanted it. And in lovemaking, at times you experimented, held back, wanted to see if she’d have a preference, initiate something, but not until you sprang into action or took a new tack, or directed her with a gesture, a nudge of her hand, or the small pressure on her thigh, arm, or shoulder would she move, declare not so much a preference but the open extension of what was your wish.  So that your wish disappeared entirely into hers.  Became hers in fact.  And cleaning up, the same thing.  Right down the middle.  One washing, the other drying, and alternating.  One folding the futon, and bed covers, the other putting them away, and vice versa.

And sleeping, you drifted off to sleep at the same time, both opened your eyes together, got up in succession in the middle of the night.  Knew when one had finished, as the cue for the other to rise.  Even napped in midafternoon in each other’s arms.  Whenever you felt sleepy, so did she.

One time, however, you found her talking in her sleep; this alarmed you but since it was in Japanese, you didn’t mind, though you were startled somewhat at the uncustomary independence, since it was the only time she emphasized the language difference between you.  The rest of the time she reproduced your own speech with a remarkable faithfulness.  The exact nuance of your sentiments about people, places, events, those about whom you admittedly had an unfair opinion, all became her own.  That too worried you, but no more than how you both grew fatigued at the same rate.  Almost an identical fatigue.  That you began to worry about her health, but quickly realized it produced in her the same anxiety about your own.

In fact, her opinions echoed yours even about her own country, its language, its customs, subtly, delicately you voiced, rather whispered them, till finally even the ranting echoed her sentiments of how things should be changed, the outright injustices, and even though she studied sociology, she quickly adopted your own social perspectives.  It was as if each of you were bifocal eyes that mysteriously resolved the world into one image.  As if you were mirrors of each other, or one was the reality and the other the shadow, the honne and tatemae, as the Japanese say.

It is my intention, however, to prove that I am the substance by beating her to the paper, but still I can’t be sure that I alone am writing.  For she too keeps a diary, that she is secret about.  Yes, secret like the mimicry of the butterfly pretending to be the leaf.  Perhaps at this moment nearly the same words are being written down by her.  Maybe, in fact, all this is as much her own fabrication as it is mine.  Or my fabrication over having anyone Japanese.  Or perhaps there is someone that both of us cancels out.  Maybe she doesn’t exist except insofar as my love for myself divides itself up with her, along with the cleaning, the eating, the sleeping, the shared opinions, and finally of course the physical intimacy, that too takes place in the mind as much as it does anywhere else.

Richard Krause has two collections of fiction published: Studies in Insignificance (Livingston Press, 2003) and The Horror of the Ordinary (Unsolicited Press, 2019). “Crawl Space” & Other Stories of Limited Maneuverability will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2021. His two collections of epigrams are Optical Biases (EyeCorner Press in Denmark, 2012) and Eye Exams (Propertius Press, 2019).  Recent stories can be found in GNU Journal, Umbrella Factory Magazine, and Headway Quarterly. Krause lived for nine years in Japan and currently lives in Kentucky where he is retired from teaching at a community college.

A Song for Richard

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