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"DAISUKI."Translation: "I love you."
Japanese Title: 「大好き。」
Published: September 28th, 2012
Time Period: December, 2011 - July, 2012
Editor: Lindsay York
Cover Photo: Wisky
Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: "Daisuki," or, "I love you." As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding "I love you" with a side of marriage and romance.
But Reina doesn't understand complex concepts like "love" or other heavy emotions. She's spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn't that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the "feminine" and the "masculine" worlds, it's bad enough she's trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.
Some words need not saying, but "I love you" is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.
Tokyo; December 17th, 2011
She knew Reina loved her.
Ask anyone who knew them for who they were, and they would say, “Yes, they are so in love! I’ve never met a couple like them before. They inspire me!” It made Aiko blush as if she were a shy teenager again. It made her blush like the day Reina first asked her out on a date.
“Do you remember?” Aiko asked her girlfriend, as they sat in a fancy restaurant and dined in celebration of their anniversary. “You came to me after your rehearsal, and told me you wanted to get ice cream with me.”
Reina put down her wine glass and considered the floral centerpiece on their table. She rarely made eye contact with Aiko in public, even after so many years. “I guess so. It was a long time ago.”
“Nineteen years.” Aiko smiled, the corners of her mouth bashing away her blushing. “Can you believe it’s been nineteen years since our first date?”
“I suppose. You’re the one who keeps track.”
Aiko cleared her throat and pushed aside her empty plate of chicken alfredo. Reina fidgeted with her utensils and her glass, as if convinced everyone waited for them to do something non-platonic. Aiko searched the room: other Japanese couples, all of them heterosexual; an upper-middle class family with two teenagers; a small group of female friends toasting to good times. She and Reina were the sole same-sex couple in there. Doubtless anyone stealing a glance at them would assume they were good friends, or sisters, maybe cousins. The fact they were lovers would never cross anyone’s mind, except for maybe a perverted foreigner.
Reaching out to put her hand on the table, Aiko looked to Reina for reciprocation. They went easy on the public affection, but the restaurant was dim and nobody watched the quiet ladies in the center of the gallery. Aiko invited her girlfriend with a timid gaze.
Reina studied Aiko’s hand and looked away.
It stung, but she was not surprised. Not here. Not in a place like this. Aiko was the one who suggested they come to a nice restaurant for their anniversary. Maybe if it wasn’t in the neighborhood Reina worked in – somebody from work might see them holding hands.
This was not Reina’s element. Aiko liked elegant things, but the fact her girlfriend dressed up in a pantsuit and combed her hair down was a miracle. She loves me. She dressed up for me. Reina would rather go to a bar in Ni-chome where the lesbian bartenders would tease them about their steady relationship. They were regulars at almost all the stops. But that was in Reina’s playground. Here was Aiko’s fantasy life.
“Are you all right?” she asked. “Do you want to leave?”
Reina finally smiled, her eyes lighting up and meeting Aiko’s for the first time since they stepped into that stuffy restaurant. “You know what I want.”
They took a taxi home to avoid the crowded trains. Aiko spread a coat between them and held Reina’s hand underneath so the driver, an old conservative-looking man, couldn’t see. Reina kept her eyes on the window while Aiko fought back titters over how happy she felt. Probably from the wine. She hucked back the last of it because Reina was in such a hurry to leave.
Everything changed the moment they walked through their front door. As if a switch flipped, Reina turned more into her “old” self and kicked her shoes off like a slob, leaving them upside down in the genkan. She grabbed Aiko’s arm and pulled her into a kiss.
They scurried up the stairs, their clothing falling off their bodies as if nothing but air. By the time they reached the second floor Reina had plunged both hands into Aiko’s hair. She couldn’t breathe as her girlfriend covered her with kisses and nipped the nape of her neck; she flung her arms around Reina and asked to be carried to their bedroom.
She may have been taller, but that didn’t mean she could whisk Aiko up and haul her around like in some romance movie. The best Reina could do was pick her up at the waist and shuffle her into their bedroom where they had fornicated every few days for fifteen years.
Reina was intense that night. She was always intense during sex, but this time Aiko swore a new passion burst behind every kiss and thrust and guttural moan. She imagined they were like the majestic tigers she saw on the animal shows on TV, cunning cats swatting and rolling while they attempted to tame their mate. Another silly fantasy. Reina was the tiger here – here and everywhere in their relationship. All the other women thought so.
And thus Aiko thought the same thing she did every time Reina brought her to the heights of her pleasure: She’s mine. Other women come and go in this room, but it’s me who sleeps next to her every night.
Reina was, for lack of a better word, an onna tarashi, or a lady killer, a womanizer, or any other silly term their American friend came up with. Reina had the uncanny ability to approach any woman and at least get a giggle out of her. Given the right atmosphere, Reina could get more than a giggle. When Aiko met her, Reina was a twenty-year-old in the entertainment industry who spent all her wages on cigarettes, alcohol, and cover charges for lesbian clubs where she would pick up anyone for casual sex. Now Reina hovered around forty, and although she handed in her long hair and glittery stage dresses for a business suit and cropped hair long ago, she still spent her allowances on cigarettes, alcohol, and entertaining other women when she and Aiko went downtown on the weekends.
To stay with Reina was to understand that’s how she lived. Reina didn’t think in terms of “monogamy versus polyamory,” or “my girlfriend versus every other woman.” But sometimes Aiko wondered if there wasn’t a like-minded woman over twenty in Japan whom Reina hadn’t been on top of at one time or another.
But now she’s on top of me, because she loves me.
Aiko felt her girlfriend’s skin and traced circles with manicured nails. A pleasant lull in their heated love-making. Reina was silent, as usual, aside from her heavy breaths and her curt announcement, “This is the last one.”
“The last one” meant Reina was done playing with her lover and wanted to claim her own gratification. The only time Aiko ever heard Reina’s low voice peak high and almost feminine-like was in a split second during her climax, when she would let out a small squeal in Aiko’s ear. She had heard it many, many times, but it still made her smile.
It didn’t take long for Reina to roll over and grab a cigarette. Aiko didn’t like smoking in the house, but she let Reina smoke in their bedroom after sex. She sat back in the bed and cradled Aiko in one arm, a cigarette passing between them. The only time Aiko ever smoked, unlike Reina who could go through a pack a day.
After Reina finished, she cleaned up. She wandered in and out of the bedroom, naked, her feet tripping over Aiko’s dress, thrown down on the floor when they first stumbled through the door. Reina reached up and turned off the bedroom light before crawling back into bed. Aiko curled next to her and put her own head on Reina’s flat chest, listening to her breathe and feeling the heat of her skin.
“I love you,” Aiko said, her hand massaging Reina’s arm and her lips pressing against the cleft between breasts. Nineteen years. The weight of those years felt like feathers on her heart. Maybe Reina felt the same.
Aiko waited for a response. But all she heard was Reina’s steady breathing and a car passing outside. The lights flashed by the bedroom window and illuminated Reina’s face, her eyes open and her lips slammed shut.
“I love you,” Aiko said again, louder. She didn’t know what she expected. Anything, for their anniversary.
Reina closed her eyes. A few minutes later her grip eased as she fell asleep.
No matter. Aiko closed her eyes as well. She wouldn’t let the silence bother her.
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