I've recorded a "final edit podcast" of 1.13 like the first one for 1.12 - Indecision, which I will post in a few days. A few clues for you all as to the creative process behind the serial novel. Thanks for continuing to read and follow. #AriPark #endurancewriter
Under the scissors’ flash, fine hair drifted into a small sink set with a faucet that dispensed water every time the toilet flushed. Cramped was an understatement, yet this was the one place with the required combination of running water and privacy. Just outside, Eve could make out occasional tenants padding in and out of the communal washroom. With the neuroticism of the newly clipped, she tried the doorknob, making sure that her closet-sized sanctuary was secure. Memories of oma’s bedtime stories hovered, cautionary fragments that had put her to sleep and thus were deeply ingrained. Just as in early 1970s Jūrmala, it was imperative that she become invisible.
Eve examined both sides of her hair carefully in the mirror, lifting semi-layered strands and letting them fall through her fingers, take their natural form and heft. That seemed about right. Retrieving latex gloves from the dye package and stretching them across surprisingly steady hands, she poured the two foaming agents into empty bottle and shook it until something appropriately textured came out. She dug the chemical mixture into her scalp and lathered it through in sections. Her hair was mercifully short––dying it to a similarly drastic shade in high school had taken hours.
Waiting for the dye to take, Eve came to a realization that, not only were her hands steady, she was no longer shaking inside. Having discovered a pair of unexpected allies––David and her dead grandmother––her situation was starkly clear. No more murky half-truths, survival was a basic aim. She recalled a favorite phrase of oma’s, placed within the most innocuous of stories. Hush child, the wolves in the woods are away, full with lambs who are no longer bleating.
Eve turned on the shower, waiting for steam to rise. Dropping towel, she stepped into the abbreviated stall, acutely aware of her nakedness and of what was still inside her, moving toward some kind of life-after-death resolution. The water was strong and hot and for a moment she simply let it run down her neck toward a fern planted valley that turned to waterfall. Shuddering at this postmortem reminder of biological imperative, she redirected the shower head at her hair and rinsed it out at various angles. The last of the dark streaks trailed in shifting ribbons to the drain as she tried to piece together what she had really known about Ken.
A day ago––it was hard to imagine, but a day ago––Eve had been humming along as one of the top earners at Peach & Pendulum. A world away from street-level clubs designed to lure drunken punters, Peach was a discreet affair set on the top floor of a high-rise sprinkled with the offices of lawyers, investment bankers, and the like. The clients almost all Japanese––too polite to turn into demands the suggestions of well-compensated liaisons that flowed after a few drinks.
Eve had a reputation for denying all comers and that, along with the sheer power of exoticism, made her worth entry-level $200 bottles of champagne. Each customer presuming that the wits and self-confidence that had allowed him to rise up through the ranks would translate into success with a naturally blonde woman with natural curves who had denied all colleagues, bosses, and rivals.
Some whispered that Eve was a virgin, others that she had girlfriend––she could usually distinguish who had heard what––and she made no attempt to dispel the rumors. She supposed they had originated from her mama-san, Ms. Shimizu, with her usual pecuniary motives. Then last week everything had changed. Not in any outward way, but in the heave and churn of emotion she had kept under tight wrap since coming to Japan.
There was the usual calculated ruffling, each hostess arranging herself to best effect. As usual, a couple of girls had excused themselves before the customers even reached the table. Nominally on their way to apply makeup, they were taking themselves out of the hostessing pool. It could be personal distaste, a previous bad experience––more often than not, they were hedging that a higher paying customer would arrive within the next hour. The mamasan––fair in all things––allowed each girl a couple passes a night.
Eve straightened in the lineup, trying to find a comfortable position for her hands, feeling oddly vulnerable. There was no reason why she should experience butterflies like this––the younger man was nothing much, judging by out-of-date messenger bag slung across loose clothes, either hipster or handed down. He was definitely not the one who would be paying. Yet her attention was resolute, unwavering. She held her breath as Ken turned and scanned the talent, not quite stopping at her. Then his eyes returned with purpose and locked onto hers and she could not pull away. Starstruck innuendo, a wash of attraction––the kind of connection that never happened.
Signal given to waitress and relayed, Eve let herself be led by the mama-san to stand before the young customer and await his final nod, formally initiating their relationship. His gaze was direct and simple, unaffected, the opposite of everything the city seemed bent on fleecing and corrupting. She slid softly into the brushed metal booth beside Ken, their elbows awkwardly bumping. It was all a pattern, this job, and suddenly she couldn’t remember how it went. The awkwardness lasted until Ken made an off-hand comment about the view reminding him of Paris. She looked out the window, the Tokyo Tower standing sentinel––at night it did seem more than mere Eiffel-imitation. Something solid and radiant, a calming beacon among fractured city lights. Their conversation turned to Paris––both had visited its well-worn cafes. A city haunted by threadbare painters and their unconventional lovers––Picasso and Modigliani roaming streets dead on credit, full of opium dreams and wartime premonitions. A city that had been unashamedly in love with itself, in a way that Tokyo could never be. Even in this moment of hovering spirits, of the cafe-bombed and the shell-shocked concert crowd….
As their conversation turned down narrow, cobbled streets, Eve must have given some unconscious sign of interest, a subtle positioning of her hand on thighs––Ken’s fingers found their way to hers. Something in the warmth of his voice insinuated itself, the way he inflected each word with a subtle change of pressure along her palm. She found her hand opening, fingers drifting and then curling around his hand, drawing him in. The quickened pulse between them a shock as their eyes met with an unspoken recognition that there was only one way this could end.
Hot water from the dangling shower-head jetted back and forth against her stomach and thighs as Eve lathered soap across her neck and shoulders. What had she really felt for Ken?––love, of sorts. Not love of the long-stemmed variety, but something loose and wearable, covering untold interstices of need and desire. Her hands dug deeper against her scalp, as if to compensate for the memory of Ken’s touch. They had not actually slept together that first night. It was as if, reaching the precipice, they had agreed to take a long step back, a breath before the plunge. The second visit to the club, Ken had gone straight for her, hungry––her body flushing even before his first touch, his presence in her dreams those past nights making acquiescence a mere formality.
In bed, at the love hotel, Ken had attended her with an urgency she had never experienced. They had made love once, twice and––after a long floating hour––once again. Curling on her side with Ken’s arm draped loose against her, she had watched the light of day grow faintly visible through the curtains.
Eve ran the shower-head against her scalp. What had she really known of Ken? Not much beyond his name––not his home town, not even his last name. All rational discussion had fragmented in a storm of knowing each other by touch, tug, lick, and scent. Her thoughts shifted unwillingly to that moment of recognition. Sprawled unnaturally on the floor, a hallucination that would not go away, Ken had gazed out at her with a disquieting calm that gave no hint of the savage intaglio across his chest. Eve held her breath as she brought the shower head flush against the top of her skull, water curving around her face in tendrils, flattening against the nostrils. She breathed through her mouth with fishlike gulps.
Toweling off, the question again––why she had fled the love hotel? There was no good explanation. Shock had been part of it––more than that, she’d had a feeling, deep in her bones, that staying there was to leave herself horribly exposed. Reaching the gaijin house, Eve had shared everything, unburdened herself to a complete stranger. Again, there was no explanation, just instinct––after hours crouched frozen against a concrete wall, unable to move––that if she told David the truth he might be willing to help. Whatever danger his alerting the authorities presented, it was far less than the danger of being stopped if she stepped out in this well-patrolled part of Tokyo. It came back to her then, David’s steadying voice. “Alive,” he’d said, rocking her in an almost painful embrace, “You are alive.” And somehow––instinct attuned to survival––she was going to have to let that guide her through.