ed. note: Written for one of my judo partners in crime while at Toryo JHS in Hobara, Japan, where I taught English for three years. Over the course of a year, I watched one of my female students flirt, adore and worship one of my male students, who enjoyed the attention but was seeking greener pastures. It was hard to watch, but inspired this little vignette.
“Some say a heart is just like a wheel,
When you bend it, you can’t mend it.
And my love for you is a sinking ship,
And my heart is on that ship out in mid-ocean…”
When hearts are stung, no love can be won. I know it happens frequently. What I can’t understand, oh please god hold my hand…why it should have happened to me? And it’s only love, it’s only love that can wreck a human being and turn him inside out…
“it’s only love, it’s only love, it’s only love…” these were the only words left to me, stuck, choking in the back of my throat, a mantra to the disposed. For those who want to be possessed. Or thought they were.
Dressed in the skins of man, with the gait of a natural predator, there are things you overlook when your eyes are clouded with fascination. And maybe there was something in the laying on of bodies, pressed intimately together in an imitation of lovers when the first rush of hormones attack the innocent. It was the first time I had ever seen a flat, male stomach, the taper of triangular hips, and felt the heat stain my cheeks in embarrassment for my half-concealed looks. I was only a girl when I met him, thin and shapeless, an interloper into this male world of half-naked boys playing as warriors and men. I was still cocky, the self-consciousness of womanhood just beyond my fingers. Cocky and strong, and immune to the sweet odor of boys and the uncomfortable feelings of loosing a hand and wrist between a boy’s legs.
It’s a bittersweet thought, believing that maybe I had him in the palm of my hand for three seconds. So much better to believe it than to know for certain that everything I did, that we did, was for nothing. I had the skirt at my thighs when the door slid open, completely, resolutely, and his eyes met mine…startled and the breath was stolen from my throat. “Sorry, sorry…” He stammered, and I could only stand there while he continued watching, making no move to leave. There was something in his eyes, something that I didn’t have the experience to read. Something that if I had been someone else, would have explained his distractedness during practice, and the strange, outright looks he’d press on me when he thought I wasn’t looking (boring into the back of my head, making me believe that something about me was aberrant). I knew he had a girlfriend. An unknown, faceless entity who I never really associated with him. If he hadn’t had been the one who woke me from girlhood, providing the essential ingredient to the toxic brew of chemicals in me, I would have never moved near him. I would have pretended he did not exist, that he was just a boy. But he wasn’t just a boy. And he always knew that he had me.
I felt the brunt of his radiance immediately, keeping me warm and making my stomach turn in excitement. It was intoxicating, and I slept early each night to run back to him every morning. From an awkward smile, to a quick look…even the times when he appeared to have not noticed me, just his mere presence electrified me. I was wobbly, I was unbalanced, learning how to walk and speak and move again under this new wonderment. I was blinded. I was completely happy.
We talked in long, moving prose. Things I dissected in a million ways afterwards, not allowing my eyelids to flutter close until I’d figured out his hidden messages. I tested the word ‘love’ on my tongue, completely bypassing ‘infatuation’ and ‘crush.’ Self-consciousness battering my strength, I passed him my love, handed him myself, handing him a letter that spelled out my affections.
Two hours later, I was cut. His eyes never found me, his radiance turned like the moon in the evening sky. I burned…no longer with his pleasant heat…but with abject shame. What had I done? Where had he gone? I went to practice, and he was surrounded by girls, moving around him, chattering, blushing, laughing. I called his name and he never even turned around. I felt the hot sting of tears before they fell and fled to the judo room, into the girl’s changing room, slamming the door behind me, so hard they ricocheted and crumpled, sobbing into my uniform.
It was almost sickening, the smiles and idle chitchat he offered me, the smell of the other girls still strong on him. I was cold. I was bruised more than bodily.
I had him underneath my hands, working along the heavy fabric, his only protection, feeling the skin of my fingers opening up beneath the course material as I moved against him. He was unprepared momentarily, my blood spotting the white of his shirt, my legs cutting his legs, his head as it jarred the tatami. It was unnatural the way he fell, I drew in my breath, still clutching his sleeve, as his head slammed against the mat, bouncing and then he was still.
“Open your eyes…” I said, nudging him with my knee, now kneeling on the tatami.
Dressed in the skins of man, the eyes of the predator were gone.