10.06 PM


“What shall we order tonight?” You said as you turned the menu book. Your skin glowed under the neon green pub sign. I fixed myself an ashtray, and shrugged.

“The usual?” You glanced toward the ceiling. There’s a certain kind of comfort in watching your eyes preoccupied with the space around us. I chuckled “Really? After eleven years together?”

You took a long drag of your cigarette and let the smoke filled our corner. “After eleven years together, but not really together. You were the one who left me for that architect and suddenly decided that marriage is for you” you said in the most monotonous voice, still reading the main course. “Two bottles of dark beer, fries, and salad?” I nodded. It’s only fair that way.

You placed our order and looked me dead in the eyes. This was our annual meeting, held at a cheap local pub where we first met. Two foreign travelers lost in a neon city called Tokyo. I still remember the way you laughed at my naive attitude back then, and how I criticised you for being on your phone replying work emails and writing lyrics that you had in your head at that time so that you wouldn’t have to remember things when you got home. “You know how my family functions, and how pressure is bad for my mental health.” I finally opened my mouth.

“I understand. Don’t think about it.” You smiled and traced the movement of a raindrop on a window next to us. “I’m going to the West tomorrow, Scotland.” you said calmly, as if it was expected that I would simply nod and you would continue with your trip itineraries after the pause. “Land of whisky and Burns” the five year old in you came out, you knew how much I love the face that you make every time you mention something that you truly love.

The server came with our drinks and food. I quickly grabbed several fries and ate them all in seconds. You chuckled silently. You raised your drink for a toast, for freedom, you said. I tried to hold myself back from reaching to your face and kiss you. I’ve never seen you in this light before; full of hope, warm, and content. “Do you know that scene from Before Sunset where the guy misses his plane for the woman?” I asked. “But you didn’t know that he missed it until the third film was released. It was a cliffhanger.” You lit another cigarette and chugged your drink. “I don’t give a fuck.” I said while watching a group of school girls laughing and cheering in front of our pub. One of them smiled at you. Yeah, who wouldn’t smile at a guy like you. “I’d love to do what Jesse did. Missing his flight back home and…”, “And leave his spouse behind?” I fidgeted. The sky grew darker. It was a typhoon season after all, but I liked to think that it was my heart that was controlling the weather. “You know how much I love you and your wits” I mumbled. You smiled again. Fuck. I wanted to slap your face. “Don’t you love him? Your husband?” You held your cigarette in your right hand, and looked at me with the most mischievous purse of lips. “I love him, but I’m not in love with him.”

You laughed so hard that the next table gave us a nasty look. I was taken aback, I thought everyone in Japan was drunk at that moment including us. “Isn’t it funny? We’re in love with each other, but decided to live miles away from one another, and one of us is actually married to someone who’s able to literally give her the world?” You laughed again “I can’t afford you the kind of lifestyle that you currently lead.”

I stared blankly at the couple in front of us, it was clearly their first date, her cheeks were the colour of the sunset and his hair was coiffed like a high school boy on a prom night. “Remember that evening in your apartment? It was 5.15, golden hour, and we were listening to Al Green” I continued, my sight was still fixed on the young couple. “It was Sunday, and you danced. You’ve never danced before” you finished my memories from that historical day. “I almost killed myself again several months ago, and my mind automatically played me that monumental evening over and over again like a broken film.” I completed my sentence. You sat still. You knew how hard it was for me to share my suicide attempts for the nth time. “I decided to stay alive to relive that evening again”

“You knew better by staying with your husband. You knew that it has always been easier for me to love people from a distance.” You lit another cigarette. I tried to focus on my meal, and completely ignore your statement. You’ve said it million times before. “I want to see Burns on stage and get drunk on whisky and talk about the history of humankind in a random park until sunrise comes.” I said flatly. Besides, I knew how much you missed me complaining about you never turning off your night lamp because you would only sleep after 3 in the morning. You would spend the night drawing or reading about astrophysics and Robert Burns’ poetry. You kept texting me saying that you wanted me to turn off your lights forcefully since your electricity bill hiked after I left.

You leaned closer and kissed my forehead. “Then come,” you whispered. For the first time in years you finally told me to come. Every year, I’ve always asked to come with you, and you’ve always said no. But the thought about my husband finishing his sketches late at night and how he would always make me a huge glass of hot chocolate every rainy night like this suddenly crashed inside my brain. I felt guilty as charged. He must be sitting in his studio alone studying geometry and reading news as we were having our dinner, but I didn’t think it was healthy for me to only meet the love of my life once a year in another country. I didn’t want to lie to my husband again about fake business trips. He’s a good and pure person, he deserves better. You sat up straight, “but that would make you an asshole for leaving your husband.” You finished your whisper loudly. We still have hours to go. It was only 10PM, and in this neon city everything comes alive at night. I laughed hysterically, as if I just chugged a crate of beer.

I’ve always been an asshole.


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