Humanity Declaration

Photo: © Stefan Hengst. All rights reserved.

Things he used to say like, “There’s an important distinction between engaging archery as a path to Zen-mind, and Zen adopting archery because it requires a mind similar to zen,” made me sure of my boyfriend’s brilliance, but he never saw how it all related. He would never slap me. Or bite my shoulder, pull my hair, or spank me. Once, when I asked him to push my face into the pillow he laughed, hoping humor would dissolve the appeal. It dissolved the appeal, but not my fantasy.

~

We were doing long distance for a year before I went to visit him in Japan. He had gotten a job teaching English in primary schools and he took it very seriously. He wasn’t a Japanophile, just type-A. The apartment they assigned him was too small for us, so we got an Airbnb in Koyama, Tokyo. The Finnish girl who owned it hung Finnish charms from the ceiling: a deer antler, a stuffed wolf head, little wind-spun magnifying glasses shot the spectrum across the walls. She called it a maja. I thought it might inspire some new tricks in my boyfriend. I was wrong. He was just his usual affectionate self; he either always had a hand on me or was snuggling my neck for a kiss. I certainly missed being touched, but sometimes it just tickled too much.

~

I tried my best to be astonished by being in a new land, but he exposed me to so much that I felt like I belonged there. Another reason I loved him: he gave me experiences I usually neglected just to spite people who say I’m missing out. He showed me this yakitori place that hired cats to deliver skewers. One cat, named Jizo, was our regular delivery cat. He’d come with a little cargo harness full of orders and meow at the door. I’d answer, open his satchel, find my order, and slip money in its place. If he didn’t have any deliveries left, he would hang out and talk to me about my relationship issues. Eventually, I asked if unfulfilling sex was important enough a reason to leave a boy who did everything else right. Jizo asked what was lacking.

~

I gave my virginity when I was thirteen, and the boy I gave it to—we still talk—had this theory that we had sex too early. He thought we looked to bondage, for example, as part of some need to recover from the shock of early, albeit consensual, sex by performing a sort of containment of our bodies. I just thought we had had more time to get bored of the usual stuff. I’m not sure trauma is required to like someone ordering you around in bed.

~

My boyfriend thought I wanted it rough just to keep it fresh—as in, for both of us. He would assure me it was fresh enough for him. Without being restrained, however, sex was little more than his twice-a-week communion with my body. To top it off, he had this half-hearted cockiness about the fact that he enjoyed eating me out, which, he thought, since he had “solved” the female orgasm, there was nothing more to learn. But my sexuality didn’t stop at finding the clitoris.

~

One day, my boyfriend and I went to Shinjuku Gyoen park for hanami under the cherry blossoms with some of his friends from the teaching program. There was this girl there. She was cute but curt, which was what he liked. It was obvious she was avoiding me. My boyfriend kept putting his head in my lap, forcing me to pet him, but I knew it wasn’t just to perform his commitment for my sake. It was more for her to see that he was gladly taken. We all watched those trees shed their pink petals across the park and basked in the magic of it, but after a while I began to wonder if there was some bell curve of our appreciation. We love those trees more because their beauty comes and goes in four weeks. Well, sometimes I wished I had lost sleep over him while we were an ocean away. Instead, his beautiful heart and mind and devotion were ever flowering.

~

Jizo gave me the grass-is-always-greener speech one night while we shared a stick of tsukune I had just bought from his restaurant. Perched on the rail, he cleaned his face with his paw and reminded me, the moment I got what I craved from some stranger, I’d immediately want to be in my boyfriend’s arms. I told Jizo it wasn’t solely about being tied up or dominated. I wanted to do it with someone who loved me like he did. I considered love the easy part because he already loved me. And he loved me well. We were quiet for a second. Some children in the schoolyard across the street were planting seeds in their garden. Jizo asked if I had ever told my boyfriend what I had just told him. I kind of shriveled from shame, and Jizo purred at me.

~

The next morning my boyfriend woke me up with a breakfast of delectable pastries, green tea, and aloe yogurt, all displayed on the porch outside our bedroom. I sat down in my jammies, my head a nest, crust in my eyes, and he still kissed my cheek. After we ate, I said I wanted to talk about my needs. He listened. Then he explained easily that it wasn’t his thing. As in, my desires didn’t involve his participation, like going to a concert, model trains, or “the game.” I wanted to ask what the hell was wrong with him, but I could hear Jizo in the back of my mind cooling me down. I settled for asking if these things I wanted could be on the table. If he could indulge me. Could that be how we distinguish between a difference and a compromise? He said he wasn’t comfortable with any part of it. I sat back and felt demented, undeserving of the otherwise wholesome morning. I quickly let it go and kept myself from resenting him with a very cold, very deliberate numbness toward our stalemate.

~

We went on to have an amazing day walking around Shibuya, plotting to smuggle American Army jackets into Japan next visit as the price of vintage American clothing in Tokyo was absurd. Later that night we hopped a few bars in Golden Gai and hobbled home sharing a Strong Zero, burping and laughing like best friends. Then, as we got to the stairs to the Airbnb… he did it. Or tried it, rather: before I could get up the stairs, he put his hand over my neck and squeezed—the wrong way—my trachea was getting smooshed. He tried forcing my hands behind my back, only to follow it up with cute little kisses on my cheek. I let the clumsy execution slide. I was so thrilled I could hardly enjoy it. I kept hoping it would go on and on. He took me by the hand and led me up the stairs and threw me in bed. I tried to shake my drunkenness so I would remember it all the next day. After a few overly conscious attempts at my fantasy, though, he dropped the act, and we proceeded to have porn sex: from behind, mistaking jackhammering plus my moaning as a prospective orgasm. I tried hinting a couple times for more of what he started on the stairs, but he stuck to his hits.

~

I sat there the next morning watching him minutes away from waking up hungover, the Finnish charms dangling above in our little Finnish hut. He was gross and his hair smelled like sweaty cod roe and kimchi even though we didn’t eat any kimchi the night before. I thought, is there any dormant sexual awakening in him? Are my desires phony because they’re the product of television, or marketing or something? Are they culturally constructed? How could I tell if I needed them—deserved to demand them—or could and should drop them like a bad habit?

~

When he woke up and crawled into the shower, Jizo came over. In his harness he had this rolled-up ad for Rolex he’d clawed out of a magazine. Beside the fancy watch, the text read, “Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” The quote hardly sank into my dried-out brain. I strained to focus on the hour hand of the photoshopped watch. It was a shiny metal arrow, with an illuminated green point shooting straight at twelve, but nothing clicked for me. Jizo had another delivery so he ran off down the railing. I thought more about the bell curve of appreciation. How many more times would my boyfriend grab me in the years to come? How much more special would those moments be to me in their rarity? Maybe that was the key to keeping it special.

~

When he got out of the shower, he still looked miserable, so I laughed and made him some toast, burnt it, and sliced him up some underripe banana to go with it. He hardly ate what I made. I didn’t blame him. He just got back in bed, and I sat there on my phone looking at pictures from our night in Golden Gai, curious about the sex lives of the bartenders who had served us. All of them were women whittled away from the delightfulness other Japanese people showed tourists; made to be a little fierce maybe after years of dealing with us drunken foreigners. I fantasized—with good faith based on their self-assured seductiveness—that they had found satisfying sex without shame. Over the yelling and the laughing and the clinking of sake glasses, the bartenders had explained to me in broken English and furious passion the history of the photo they had blown up and framed behind the bar: a black and white of the Showa Emperor, defeated after World War II, standing short and mortal beside General MacArthur, who had just demanded the Emperor deny all claims of his divinity to the world. I heard my boyfriend sniffling. I looked up from my phone to see he was crying to himself like a little boy with his back turned. I asked what was wrong, and he said, “I just wish you would rub my back without me having to ask for it. Is that so hard? I feel like shit for God’s sake.” I sat there, feeling both guilty and freed, and watched him shudder, because I knew I didn’t want to rub anyone’s back.

 

by Nicholas Nakai Garcia

 

Nicholas GarciaNicholas Nakai Garcia is a writer from Boulder, Colorado. He earned his BFA in fiction and screenwriting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He currently lives in Los Angeles, writing scripts and his first novel. He is featured in Driftwood Press 5.2 and is a guest editor for Driftwood‘s upcoming issue.

 

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