Dream Girl: Part 4

Kenji lay in bed, from the light making its way through the blinds it must have been at least noon. He had emailed Ito-san to tell him the doctor advised him rest for a day. Tomorrow it wasn’t as if anything would be better. He didn’t have enough savings to leave work, he couldn’t call and ask his mom for money. Ashi Suzuki, Midori Kano, and the rest would all be there smiling with barbed tongues. He held his wife closer and pulled the cover over his head. He played his part, he did his job, why wasn’t that enough? Ever enough. If Midori did turn out useful Ashi would take the credit, if she turned out badly he would take the blame. Midori would go along with it either way. He started to cry into the little stuffed doll in his arms. At least he still had her.

A few hours later his stomach grumbled fiercly forcing him out of bed finally. The only ramen left was the flavor he hated from the variety pack he sometimes got. Still, he couldn’t go outside, not today. He picked up the phone and dialed delivery. He sat down in his boxers on the floor in front of the TV, grabbed his playstation controller and sat there. He didn’t have the will to turn his TV on. He pushed the button, asked his wife to sing for him and lay down there, pushing trash bags out of the way to make enough room. There he lay looking at the ceiling. This wasn’t so bad as last time, his house hadn’t been invaded, he knew she would betray him like that all along, everyone 3D does. Tomorrow would be the same as any other workday past, present, and future.

He resolved to put on the episode of one piece where Luffy has Sogeking destroy the world governments flag, declaring war on the whole world just to save his friend Nico Robin. Tears rolled down his face they always did during that scene. If ever there was so much beauty to be found in the whole world. He pressed the button and Miku began singing a song he stared at her.

A gentle knock at the door. “Just leave it at the door!” He had already paid. The knocking continued. “Just leave it!” The knocking did not abate. Kenji threw on sweat pants, a shirt, and his robe and opened the softly knocking door.

There stood the apple faced girl Midori holding a bag. Fear gripped him as he walked out into the cold air closing his door behind him.

“Saito-senpai! I am so sorry if I woke you up! Please it’s cold why don’t you go back inside?”

“It is fine Kano-san, I needed some fresh air and please, san is fine.”

“I heard you were sick so I brought you some okayu and ginger tea.”

Kenji bowed his head and looked at the bag wondering what trick was being played. “I’m fine, it is really nothing. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“I’m glad.” She smiled. “They said you rarely miss work so I was afraid it was serious. You are such a patient teacher Saito-san, I was afraid I’d have to be trained by Yamamoto-senpai.”

Kenji flinched. Yamamoto was one of the three colleagues he had over that day. If she wasn’t poisoned on him now it was only delaying the inevitable. “Kano-san, how did you get my address?”

“I asked around, not many people seemed to know it.”

“Was it Yamamoto-san?”

“Yes, he seems to know about everyone.“

Cold sweat dripped down the back of Kenji’s neck. He reached out for the bag grabbing it but her grip didn’t loosen. “Thank you, very much, I think I should go back now.”

“Saito-san! You are looking so pale why don’t you lie down and I warm up the porridge for you.”

“No, no. I’ll be fine. Really, thank you.”

The delivery man came interrupting their conversation and handing him his takeout.

Midori frowned “You shouldn’t eat such oily food all the time especially when you are sick.”

“Yes, I’ll eat this later and your porridge first.”

“Promise?” She seemed different that usual.

“Promise.” She let go of the bag. “Otsukare[1],” Kenji said as he quickly went back inside making sure the door never opened too widely. He was panting. Looking through the peep hole he saw her linger for a moment, she looked just a little sad.

Hungry for the fried pork and rice he unpacked his delivery but was struck with a funny feeling. He put the delivery in the fridge knowing the breading would grow soggy. He took out the okayu and microwaved it slightly. The rice porridge was extra thick, and very bland, with two pickled plums on top. He felt guilty he wasn’t really sick. Her face was too innocent looking to hide malice. But he had been mistaken before. He remembered her laughing at him with Ashi. Opening the door to the fridge he pulled out the fried pork cutlet and took a large bite.

He pressed the button. “I don’t need anyone but you.”

“I’m good at dancing!” She placed her finger on her cheek as she had done thousands of times and began one of her performances. He watched her dance eating his slightly soggy cutlet. 

The next day was once again Friday. His plan for the weekend was to finally try to play Bloodborne. He had all the From Software games but had barely progressed through any of them. You were supposed to die, but with each death he couldn’t help but feel a sense of discomfort and failure making it hard to pick up the controller again. Evasion was what he practiced, even when the safe predictable 2D world got too hard. He knew after his first death or so he’d end up picking up dragon quest but it was worth trying anyway. Today he wore his dark blue tie that went with his dark blue suit, no need to think too much about it. He arrived at the usual time but to his surprise found the door already open. There was Midori going around and setting up the office.

“Saito-senpai!” She said as cheerful as ever, her cheeks a bright ruddy red.

“Kano-san, you have the keys?”

“I started the morning duties yesterday. I can take over for you now, so you can get more sleep.” She handed him a cup of coffee.

He took a sip to his surprise the coffee was pretty good. “I don’t mind helping in the morning, really.” He went around with a pile of blank paper checking all the printers.

“Everything good?” She asked.

Kenji nodded “I guess you are a fast learner after all” he smiled. He opened his briefcase and took out the tupperware container and thermos. “Sorry I almost forgot to give these back.”

She nodded her hair bobbing. Then she looked at him with sweet seriousness. “Saito-senpai, are you really okay?”

“Of course, just a little stomach problem, thank you for the porridge really did the trick.”

He sat at his cubicle and began going over the work he had missed, explaining to her the procedure for each. She had a new notepad, presumably having filled the other one.

She pointed to the picture of him holding his Miku doll. “Can I ask, if it isn’t too private what it is like being married to her?”

Cold sweat beaded on his forehead, they had talked about him. Not that there was anything to be ashamed of, it was pure. “She is very sweet.” He said changing the topic back to the proper filing of form 36B.

“She is very pretty,” Midori said.

“Did Suzuki-san or Yamamoto-san tell you about it.”

“No! You are really famous with her fans is all. I’m a pretty big fan though I’ve only been to two of her concerts.” She made the classic gesture of a sideways V in front of her left eye. Her voice sounded sweet, but he knew it had to be a trap. If he focused on work there would be nothing to mock him with.

“I don’t go to them, there are too many people.” He only went to one concert since the wedding, they gave him a special place, but really he was just one man in the crowd. There were men crying in the first row, crying and holding onto their Miku dolls. He had the real thing at home.

He went over in detail how to fill out the form 42A for the third time, and answered all her absurdly specific questions. He could feel his head getting hot. “Are you not listening to me? Or is it that you’d rather have Yamamoto-san teaching you. I’m sure that could be arranged.” Someone else would probably just end up taking the credit anyway.

“Saito-san… I prefer to have you as a teacher Yamamoto-san is… loud. You have a very gentle soul Saito-san I can tell. More like the people in the countryside.”

Kenji stared at his desk. “What exactly did Yamamoto-san tell you about me.”

She moved closer to him. “Saito-san I told you he is loud. My father always said ‘loud people make no one look bad but themselves’.”

In a low voice Kenji replied. “Thank you Kano-san, your father sounds very wise.”

“He died in a car crash with my mother when I was nine, I wrote down every piece of advice I could remember him telling me, but I know I forgot a lot. My memory isn’t very reliable.”

Kenji did not know what to say. He knew he was terrible at comforting but at that moment he felt especially foolish.

“So your grandma raised you, and you recently lost her. I am so sorry, I have nothing good I can think of to say.”

She smiled, “I miss them all very much but I’m fine, ‘live each new day away from the shadow of the past!’”

“Another saying of your father?” Kenji looked at her, she had such an honest expression.

She nodded hair bobbing, then she wiped away a tear from her right eye and smiled. “Anyway let’s get back to it. I’ll do my best I swear.”

“Don’t worry Kano-san, you are doing great. I was upset about something else but it is gone now.”

At lunch she sat again with Ashi this time when she looked over and smiled at him, he smiled back. He focused on his manga and tried his best not to pay too much attention to the table.

He left work at six, only an hour after the supposed time he was supposed to leave. Midori followed him out her big cheeks reddening in the cold.

“Have a good weekend Kano-san” Kenji said.

“Saito-san, do you have any plans for the weekend?”

Videogames and sake. “Just the usual.”

“Since I am new to Tokyo I thought, maybe, if you weren’t too busy you could show me around?” she waved her hands frantically. “Only if you want to of course!”

To his surprise, he smiled. “Sure, why not, lately I haven’t seen it much either.”

[1] Note: this is a Japanese word for saying goodbye after someone does something nice for you. There is no good simple translation.

3 thoughts on “Dream Girl: Part 4”

  1. I like this story since I saw something questioning the existance of love.

    (A question in my head: does Kenji really love the 2D girl?)

    It is interesting to argue whether one should say if there is love until one’s death, i.e., whether love should be defined only when it is permanent. (I think some years’ love still counts.) We could say that love includes being altruistic even though there would be no profit, and the person sacrificed himself for his family and died in his youth is considered as the most happy person (maybe from Aristotle).
    Love seems to be more about being rather than doing. (In the end, I think doing is even more important and the being is just making sure the habits of doing.) Kenji has them both, but I just had a hard time seeing Kenji’s love as voluntary, since there is other motive and incentive hidden behind his love (afraid of being mocked).
    And one can also think that a true love has to include the fear of being separated, or the joy of being unioned, and the amount of them being balanced properly. This implies that one gets happiness from loving and being love, and if happiness is the incentive, then every love has some incentive and motive at least. This is how people define being in love.
    However, I still think that love another one is more complicated and require more than that. Since love is a reciprical relationship, one has to include pretty much his/her utility into his own intrinsic function.
    I hate to think love as finding the people with the most similar gene and be prepared to sacrifice for him. To me it feels like people are being manipulated by genes and get no controll over it. Just a thought, but evolution is what pretty much everything is about. Hard to reject that.
    The approach to love, in my way, is to see which couple loved the best, and observe what kinds of action they did under what feeling. We can either approach from having the right feeling or trying to love as how they would do, step by step.
    Kenji will have a hard time to find a right state to love the 3D girl, but I believe him!

    Your reader


    1. I can tell you’ve given a lot of thought to the concept of love. I think English (and Chinese) are impoverished in that we have one simple word that is an umbrella for so many dissimilar meanings. Romantic love, physical attraction, parental love, love amongst friends, love for your favorite shows and hobbies etc. These are all very different(actually the greeks had unique names for each) but they do share one general commonality- some form of excess, it is caring well past where the cold hard calculus of practicality would point you. Everything we humans do is mediated in same way through our feelings (such as a random act of anonymous kindness) but I think it is overly reductive to say everything has an incentive, as while this is always true, doing something that makes you feel good because it is out of love is a whole different story from doing something for your narrow self interest!
      It is bad form to overly explain a story to the reader (as your interpretations, in the end, are what matter) but I will say my original intention was an exploration into the motives and feelings behind a society whose members in many ways increasingly become atomistic and retreating to the safe facsimile of 2d along with the question of how truly nourishing such a retreat is.
      Thanks for reading!


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