This is my girlfriend Miu. This is my girlfriend Riko. This is my girlfriend Shiori. This is my girlfriend Ai. And this is my girlfriend Natsuki.
Why such a horn of plenty? I'm a gigolo, sometimes called a host, in other cities called other things, and I hasten to add it's a profession very different than the American gigolo, because to be perfectly and irrevocably blunt I'm not sticking it to or in any of these women, a truism I know that my American audience especially may have some trouble with, where the issue is credulity. Which isn't to say that I'm sweet, asexual or opposed to intercourse, because I'm a big fan of it, and I have a lot of it, but with these girls there is no custard-eating, Old Spicing, or grinding nutmeg, all of them sex acts that are super popular in Osaka, and two of which I'm quite skilled at it. (Old Spicing is filthy.)
From the Rules & Regulations published storefront at club Wieder Zweigenblitz: "No straight-up f@!%. No back-door f*#@&!$. No taking a @#%& if the #*&@ is sexual in nature. No biting. No custard-eating. And no rubbing if the rubbing leads to climax for either participant." In turn, a proscription stands on sex with clients outside the club, which is probably a good thing since I'm not concupiscent or lust-filled for any of them, and all of my girlfriends, without exception, are crazy bat-shit. Like crying at a party crazy. C-R-A-Z-Y.
But in replete fairness you would have to be if you signed up for this. What these girls need is a Psychiatrist, spelled with a capital "P" and Harvard-educated at that because you're going to need all that education to sort these weepy stiletto girls out. Versace girls. Dolce & Gabbana girls. We have different names for them as doubtless they have multifarious and colorful names for us, the gentlemen entertainers of Osaka nightlife.
I present to you the hand-wringing document (which I herein acknowledge is ethically dubious) that a girl reads and signs when she comes to the club, although whether she reads the paperwork in full I have serious reason to doubt because both the club (and I) run on reputation and the language of said document is not super transparent: "You agree to an informal arrangement, not acknowledged by the Osaka governmental authority or recognized outside club Wieder Zweigenblitz, with Yori Takahashi (that's me), to the principal exclusion of Ryuu, Daichi, or Tsubasa; erotic dalliances are prohibited inside club Wieder Zweigenblitz and any 'feelings' initiated by said arrangement with Mr. Takahashi are the sole responsibility of signee." It's enough to make a girl swoon.
Whether girls read this I don't know, but no-where does it say that I'm a Psychiatrist, although honestly, ladies, it feels like I am. Truth be told, I feel like Sigmund Freud his bad self whose patients were principally middle-to-upper class Viennese ladies with malfunctions and crossed wires of all kinds, which isn't so different from the clientele I keep. I'm paid like a tsar, and I wear Versace like it's a second skin, but the money is still not enough for this gibbering shit.
Look at me, I'm wearing the Spring Collection, drinking champagne, and surrounded by girls; it's another Thursday night at Wieder Zweigenblitz. I will make two thousand dollars tonight without unfastening the button on my drawers, but gentlemen, it's not worth it, because next to me is Ai—girlfriend number three. She's a high-powered something at Locksmith Kline or Tokyo Electric. I haven't paid too much attention, not least because she has the face of a Rottweiler, but where she should have brains, readers, she just has crazy.
Were I a doctor, and for legal purposes I have to reiterate that I am not, I would diagnose these women with Juliet Syndrome, which I've defined on my blog as the condition of wanting to be perpetually and tragically in love (and I've copyrighted it, thieves, so don't think of passing it off as your own). Because what we sell here at Wieder Zweigenblitz isn't for the reasonable minded.
But enough about them. I'm tired of the champagne grind, tired of stumbling back to my apartment at six in the morning, tired of spending so much money on grooming. Am I a dog? I'm pooped, tuckered, fatigued, and all the other words you can think of for exhausted, because I'm exhausted by this erotic whirligig. Which is not a contradiction of the above testimony, because even though we don't have sex, believe, readers, that there is enough Eros here to shame a love-sonnet by Sappho.
"The quickliest money in Japan!" read the advertisements in papers all across the island soliciting bumpkins and Oliver Twists like myself to the sex district in Osaka to work as a gigolo.
"There's a competition between boys," says my boss Jun, for the umpteenth time in our monthly meeting, where the newbie gigolo Yuuto listens to this speech with most assiduous noob ears. The boy with the most girlfriends gets a bonus; the boy who sells the most liquor gets a bonus; the boy who makes the most money gets a bonus. You must be groomed. I'm talking double-breasted suits, socks that you can pull up to your f$#@& balls, shoes waxed until your toes bleed, and teeth whiter than an Eskimo's d@&%#!" And so on and etcetera. Ad infinitum. Maybe it is the easiest money in Japan. To be honest, this is the first and only job I've had, so I don't know if Japan's sleepless attorneys have it worse. I don't care if I'm leaving behind a job that's plush, though, because I've made up my mind: I'm leaving. For good.
This is Jun. Tall, fat, and redolent of unimaginable riches, he smells like the Vatican or what I imagine the Vatican to smell like, by which I mean centuries of obscene papal wealth and cloying incense. "The best I've ever seen!" is what he tells me and everyone else at our meeting on month four of my gig at Wieder Zweigenblitz, an announcement that I admit warmed my iron heart and made me all the more eager to please my surrogate father figure. But he's dejected and morose, now, because I've just told him that I'm going to retire. At twenty-five. Let's be honest: as preposterous as this business is (some people call it a scam but I'm inclined to call it a business operation with opaque moral borders), it'd be even more idiotic to be thirty and popping bottles. Am I right? What temperate and ill-fitted success would I have in this enterprise at thirty? Plus, I haven't been feeling so well lately. Maybe it's the unremitting and constant partying I've enjoyed for seven years straight, but my body hasn't been keeping down the booze Ai, Miu, Shiori, Natsuki and Riko have been buying for me lately.
Here I am on my knees in the club bathroom. I can't even seem to keep the fruity cocktails down, and fruit has vitamins! So I've been masquerading with water, eating antacids, and popping aspirin like candy. Which is something else I can't eat.
"If you have another glass of champagne, I can promise you—hand on Galen—that your stomach will explode and your liver will shrivel like a slug covered in salt. I'm a doctor. So you should probably listen to me." Well, a lady doctor, so I'm suspicious. I haven't done her gender the most ennobled service and maybe there's a hit out on me among the female professional classes, so I tell the next doctor that in addition to these complaints, I'm also increasingly and worryingly paranoid. I'm visiting doctors left and right now, more in the span of a month than the whole twenty-five years before it.
Her name is Doctor Satou and she is a Psychiatrist (capital "P") with a degree from Tokyo Pepsi College. I've come to her because, like I said, I'm worried now that there might be a secretive cabal of gentle-sex-professionals executing revenge on me for my checkered history with women. Because now, apart from purging in the club bathroom, I'm also having piercing stomach tremors now, along with Tsunami-size migraines, and I seem to have developed insomnia.
Says Doctor Satou to me, "You have an obvious substance abuse problem and you're dissatisfied with a job that deceives women out of tremendous amounts of money. I don't think the math here is that hard."
The math is that hard! Trust me, the math is decidedly upper-division. And I flunked out of primary school because of math-e-matics, Doctor Satou! Nevermind that this woman is nothing like the psychiatrists I've become so familiar with in movies, and nevermind that I am no less convinced after our appointment that she isn't trying to kill me. I've tried to get out, and doctor, I can't! For the life of me I can't! And for the death of me too! Because, you had better believe that things got macabre in my attempt to extricate myself from what fat Jun calls "my obligations." Because his melancholy at my departure was very quickly supplanted, readers, by an intransigent refusal (backed with all manner of legalese) to let me go. He raised a legal obstruction, doctor: "The heretofore signed thusly and so forth agrees to the remission of privileges and rights as pertaining to admitting documents (a), (b), and most significantly (c); and in so much as reading this document prepared by Yamamoto Yamamoto and Associates waives legal recourse to defense." It could just as well be in German!
What I gathered from Jun's demonstratively putrid attitude was decidedly more enlightening, and in my self-pitying despair (and also in my desire to escape being a prisoner of Wieder Zweigenblitz) I took a woman's razor blade to my wrist. I, first, watched an internet video demonstration but obviously something went awry because this isn't a tale from the dead; this is decidedly and most emphatically a story of the damned. Nothing I've done has ever misfired so badly, and it doesn't take a Shakespeare of the imagination or a Kenzaburo Oe of invention to conceive that I, Yori Takahashi, lifetime resident of Osaka, have done some imbecile things in my day. In addition to a hospital bill of ten thousand dollars, which included what I presume is the world's longest and most humbling psychiatric evaluation, my stint in Genki Desu Hospital for attempted self-manslaughter ratcheted up my notoriety (and demand) as a gigolo. God!
"You poor thing! How tremendously tragic and melodramatic an act that was! Let me take care of you, dear Yori, because I've never felt closer to you than now, darling!"—ad#@&-curling and shining example which I've plucked at random from the conversations that now dominate my time at the club.
What's worse, thanks to this Broken Wing Syndrome business (which you can read all about on my blog), I'm making more money now, as a gimp, than I was at the top of my game, which doesn't endear me to my Plan To Escape. Doctor Satou, I tried to get out! Doctor Ito told me that I'll have cirrhosis of the liver within a year if I don't completely and indefatigably quit tossing them back with messed up bitches. It was his word! I swear on the wrinkled, syphilitic dong of the Marquis de Sade that he said it! I've tried to retire but my retirement party, which came complete with a chocolate cake and seven liters of premium Italian ice cream, and for which I dressed in a replica uniform of that which Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the day he was shot (an inside joke and maybe also a sign of the crushing decadence in my life), turned into an "anniversary party instead, replete with above said bitches. That's right, readers, Jun hijacked my retirement party for his own rude purposes, and fate manipulated my honest courtship with death. (Although I do acknowledge that I only waited four minutes in my claw-foot bathtub before calling an ambulanza to retrieve me, because in addition to all the above problems and complaints I have Restless Legs Syndrome and a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which altogether makes waiting laborious.)
"You were almost free! You inglorious idiot! But you didn't have the man meat-balls to choose a surefire means of escape, like, I don't know, a gun!"
Slow down my other, more explosive self, (an interior critic whose intimate knowledge of me and my shortcomings I find unsettling), because I have discovered an escape for us. The problem was that I merely had ambitions to retire when what I needed was something grander and more luminous. So I'm done with Japan. Don't get me wrong, our sushi is decidedly top-shelf and our women, although imbalanced and clingy, are aesthetic triumphs, but I've never understood the Japanese culture of the gentleman gigolo. Sex I get; trust me that needs no profuse explanation, although if you wanted to explain it to me in pictures I wouldn't object. But simulated, fake, samizdat romance leaves me baffled. My own tireless and fraudulent profession leaves me utterly and unspeakably bewildered.
I will leave this business of the Japanese gigolo to be combed over by the world's most eminent sociologists and cultural historians, because (1) I'm decidedly not suitable for the task, and (2) because I still have to tell you about Franz Kafka.
Kafka was a writer, Austrian and Jewish, who had some thoroughly distressing paternal issues and wrote a book about a bug, or so I gathered from a British Internet encyclopedia article that I read. I will let you know well ahead of the plot-turn that I haven't read anything he wrote (nor do I have any intention to when I am retired), least of all the prophetic novel Amerika, which I found in the men's bathroom at the club when I go to up-chuck champagne and some blood clots. It's terribly clear what the effect of this book, which I did not read, has on me, because when I'm finished coughing up my left lung and well enough to stand without holding onto the stall door, I decide that suicide was a stupid choice. I can so easily move to America. The land of the free. Sort of. Because what I understand from the crawl at the bottom of the TV in my apartment is that this Elysium has quite a bit of debt, which some commentators have called "crushing," "forbidding," and "wholly devastating." But I'm disproportionately opulent, so I believe my wealth, accumulated in the male brothels of Osaka, will make me a king in this democratic paradise.
"My name is Yuuto." So says the man. "You are indubitably the best gigolo in all of Osaka, probably in all of Japan, a legend and a god, and from what I understand fabulously wealthy." He wants advice on being successful in such a patently non-traditional avocation: selling false affection to women for the super-low price of bottle service and a case of champagne. He's painfully young, his hair is impossible, and he's wearing something clearly from the closet of Elton John or Liberace, because the noob can't yet distinguish between fashion and flamboyance. Which is not to say that he's sweet or a homosexual, although two homosexuals do work at Wieder Zweigenblitz. Ah! When I'm roiling with self-hatred and self-disdain, I think of our resident homos and assuage myself with the fact that I, at least, am not doubling up on deceit; one serving is enough for me, thank you! I'm not unctuously liquoring women up and out of money, feeding them bon mots and pretending to lend an ear to their interminable anecdotes. (Most of which are about female betrayal or the unforgiveable sins of prior boyfriends; two of my least favorite subjects.) Honestly, I'd rather read a novel than suffer through these meandering therapy sessions.
You want advice Yuuto? Don't do it. Don't! You'd be better off working in the rice paddies or janitoring at a public school or any other back-busting, knee-cracking, humiliating and insufferable job than making a career here with the sexual riffraff of Osaka.
At least the homos go home to inconceivable sex with their male partners, while I must go next door to the Midnight Plum and release my frustrations under the aegis of a professional. A whore. I told you at the beginning that Wieder Zweigenblitz sits in that district of Osaka the government has zoned for all that's sordid . Everyone calls it The Strip, and I admit that I depend on the resourcefulness of professional women.
I've come here again tonight; although instead of f@#&*% we talk, by which I mean mostly I talk to this unattractive whore about the innumerable injustices that have befallen me, Yori Takahashi. Because I was stopped at the airport gate, readers, turned around, and marched (that is not an overstatement!) back to Osaka. "It's slavery!" I tell the whore. Her name isn't important and besides I don't know it. "It's twentieth-century servitude! Woe! Tears!" Etcetera and so on; because the breaking of legal bonds and paper agreements is taken very seriously here, and apparently I signed something at my first intake as a gigolo, infinitely handing over to Jun the legal fullness of my person and my services as a gentleman entertainer. To which the whore responds to me cooingly, "Well, baby, I'd prefer to f%&@; I'm not really a listening doctor and I'm not that invested in your melancholic plight; so why don't we have you whip out that precious little red piece of yours and f@#% because that's what I'm good at, and that's all I'm going to do."
Title graphic: "Night Service" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2013.