Today I’ve been smitten with nostalgia. My little possee of lovers are usually regularly in touch on facebook or by email. But l realize I’ve had no reply in months from my last email to my first Japanese lover, Shoji. Of all of them, he is the one who seems to have survived the aftermath of our coming together least happily. It suddenly felt like a sad end to something that had started with so much optimism and hope. It hit me: I really would never hear from him again. Propelled by a distinct and sudden sense of loss, I scrolled to the folder on my desktop marked Shoji.
There they all were, the hundred or so emails, the evidence of an adventure with the gentlest of beginnings. It was always a story with such clear echoes of the operatic legend that you will all know, Madame Butterfly. But there were differences of time, place, personality and sexuality that invested this version of the familiar tale with its own compelling interest. Fortunately too, there was one ultimate difference: no Last Act suicide.
Shoji Nishikawa was almost eighteen years old, cheerful of nature, meticulous of habit and irresistibly drawn to images of the western male. The day I posted a message on the Japan Goes West website was just the beginning of the excitement for this Boy Butterfly. I scanned the first few weeks of our mails. I had forgotten just how early in our communication Shoji had announced his determination to lose his virginity on his eighteenth birthday. After all these years, it was still surprising. For me, as the intended recipient of his intentions, it had come as quite a shock.
Age: 17.9966 years
We had bonded easily, liked the same music, hated the same celebrities, had similar aspirations of a relaxed and simple life far from the stresses of the modern world. He amusingly described himself as Shorty Shoji. His photographs showed a cute face, exotic hairstyles and the hint of a smile. He seemed to like mine too.
So he booked to fly from the security of his homestay in Christchuch, New Zealand to the tropical mystique of Bali where I would be staying for an interview assignment. He arrived, smiling broadly, at Denpasar Airport. We embraced awkwardly. It was the last day of his seventeenth year.
We spent the day exploring some of local temples, stumbling across a street market, and identifying the obvious tourist sights for our remaining days together. The early awkwardness subsided. He seemed relaxed, affectionate and remarkably comfortable in the company of this stranger. He raised the subject that had brought him to my side.
“Please be gentle tomorrow morning. I know it will hurt a little. I am quite small, you know.”
I assured him that he was in experienced hands, as indeed he was. I will leave it your imagination to conjure up the sweet scene that saw him shed his virginity on the kingsize bed in my rented studio apartment. There were no tears of regret, just moans of pleasure, a squeal of ecstasy and mumbled declarations of affection and happiness.
We spent the subsequent week of his stay in a state of abstract bliss, drifting around the island, strolling the beaches and sampling the delights of Bali’s cosmopolitan eateries. He settled comfortably into the life of the newly launched gay lover. He sought no discussion of any shared future. It seemed that he had sensibly set himself a goal, had achieved that to his satisfaction and would now reset his compass for the life that awaited him.
We said farewell without tears and promised to stay in touch through the essential and well-tried tools of email and Internet. His jaunty gait as he waved goodbye and disappeared beyond the departure doors left me believing that this was a job well done.
Age: 19 years.
Only later, as the flow of emails became less frequent and tinged with something like regret, did I begin to wonder. He had completed his schooling in New Zealand and gained entry to UCLA. His studies there were progressing well, but a relationship eluded him. I asked why. He replied that no-one seemed to relate to him with the easy warmth that I had. I assured him a few times of his attractiveness and appealing personality. He was slow to respond, then, slower and slower. I asked him directly if he still wanted to maintain the email correspondence. His answer signaled its end.
“Yes, I sort of do. But it kinda keeps the memory of my time with you so sharp and real. And I can’t shake off the feeling that it can’t come again. Then I feel sad and alone and can’t see my future clearly. So, maybe I sort of don’t. Am I confusing you? Probably, haha! Well, let’s see. Please don’t be concerned for me. I’ll have a great life. You always told me that. But if you don’t hear from me again, maybe it’s better you don’t reply any more. Thanks again for my Bali moment, the most wonderful few days of my life. I’ll say goodbye now. Shoji.”
Age: 20.00 years
I had replied to that, accepting his suggestion and reminding him that our Bali experience had been a special time for me too. Since when: silence. Had I innocently played Pinkerton, the loathsome American, to my Boy Butterfly? Would he soon find the love and happiness that would eclipse his memories of me? I hoped he would. Today, I find myself still wondering.
Age: 21 years?
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