The End of the Moment We Had

Toshiki Okada

THE END OF THE MOMENT WE HAD

Translated by Sam Malissa

THE END OF THE MOMENT WE HAD

THE SIX OF THEM were in a clump, talking loudly, relentlessly, sometimes shouting, from the moment they stepped into the last car of the Hibiya Line metro. They carried on, leaning against the glass of the conductor’s booth, sliding their backs along the lateral bar. You’d think they were trying to drown out the rumble and screech of the train. But no one on the train there with them was thinking that. They were stuck with these guys. They couldn’t escape the shouting. Robbed of their solitude, they stared at the screens of their phones, or at the ads, or at the floor. No one said a word. Some maybe were thinking, these guys will get off at Roppongi, so it won’t be much longer. Which was what happened.

The six guys were drunk, but it wasn’t until they got to Roppongi that they realized how drunk they were. The doors opened, they were sucked out, and they were still shouting. It wasn’t one conversation, each was talking with whoever happened to be nearest them, so Minobe with Suzuki, Azuma with Yukio, Yasui with Ishihara. But more or less they were a group. All drunk. They were louder than anyone else around, but they didn’t notice nor care, or maybe it was their intention to be loud. As they climbed the stairs to the exit, they never once lowered their voices. At the wicket they lined up behind one another, as if it were a ritual, to pass through the same gate, shouting the whole time. Ishihara was the last in line, and when he fumbled through his pockets and couldn’t find his ticket, he yelled out to Yasui, who was in front of him and at that instant about to pass through the barrier. Yasui stopped in his tracks, and Ishihara pressed up behind him, crotch to ass, and the two tried to pass through the barrier as one. The sensor went off, beeping its high pitch, and the flaps of the electronic barrier slammed shut on them. No problem. Yasui and Ishihara busted through with the full force of their drunkenness and fell forwards onto the ground. The others were right there watching, howling with laughter, loud as ever.

Moving in a mass, they made their way above ground, where, afraid they wouldn’t be able to hear each other, they raised their voices even more. At one point they must have figured they could turn it down a notch and still be heard. Even so, definitely, they were loud. As they headed towards their destination—the SuperDeluxe club-slash-event space—their voices made it to the other side of the street and bounced back, even through the clamour of Roppongi Drive. The endless flow of cars and exhausts, and on top of that a jumble of noise. Clamour: it gets caught up in an invisible whorl, gets warmed by night air and starts to rise, rise until it’s looking down over the whole scene, the dots of light blurring as they grow more distant, bleeding into each other until they look like thick haze hanging heavily over the ground.

When Yasui was little, he had gone up to the observation deck of Tokyo Tower and been startled by how all the cars below seemed like toys. It had been during the day, but the night laid itself over this memory and he now saw the buzz of Roppongi from a bird’s-eye view. He was at the back of the group, rubbing his thigh where the flaps of the ticket barrier had slammed into him. A bruise was forming, but he didn’t know that yet. He and Ishihara—trashed, semi-conscious, words tumbling out of their mouths—were going on about girls. Ishihara’s eyes were glazed over. When Yasui asked Ishihara where are we going again?, Ishihara didn’t answer, maybe because the question didn’t register. So Yasui just followed along. It wasn’t really clear that anybody knew where they were going, though it appeared they were going somewhere.

There wasn’t a moment when one of them wasn’t shouting. The configuration of the group was constantly changing, like when Minobe and Suzuki turned around to stare at the girl who’d just passed, saying something at high volume about her legs—really just the back of her knees—and Azuma and Yukio brushed by them and ended up at the front of the pack. And then Minobe, who had been talking with Suzuki, suddenly yelled something to Azuma and Yukio about the girl, and Azuma yelled something back. Yasui tried to catch what they were saying but didn’t quite get it, because he’d been in the middle of a sentence talking to Ishihara, and Suzuki was basically shouting stuff to himself. You get the picture: a mash of meaningless noise.

When they stumbled into SuperDeluxe, the eight o’clock performance was still waiting to start. But they almost didn’t get to the place at all. The sign for SuperDeluxe was small and not easy to see if you’re not looking for it, and the six of them were talking (or shouting) away, paying no mind to anything. They were almost down the slope of the hill, when Azuma, regaining awareness, noticed that the Nishi-Azabu intersection was up ahead, growing larger as they got closer, and wondered if they’d gone too far. He kind of mumbled it to himself, which no one heard, and they all kept going. Finally, Azuma was totally sure they were way past where they were supposed to go, so he stopped, and said loudly, loudly enough so the other five stopped to listen, hey, I think we like went too far. But even though he was shouting, it still somehow sounded like he was talking to himself. He looked over his shoulder, up the hill. Then he turned his whole body around and started back the way they came. The others didn’t say anything, they turned and followed. Just like that. They were paying much more attention now, and this time they spotted the sign for SuperDeluxe, which was so nondescript that the six of them started moaning loudly about it, before pushing open the door to the place and spilling inside.

It was a wide room with a low ceiling, which made the space feel flat. Low tables were set up randomly, surrounded by sofas and chairs of different shapes and materials. The furniture was purplish and yellowish, although it was hard to say for sure because the space was dark and the lighting was tinted. Some of the seats were covered with shag. There were stools with pink reptile-skin covers, and big plastic things that weren’t quite sofas or benches but had curves that made them look warped. Almost all the seats were taken. Along the farthest wall was the stage, which was painted white and had mic stands and guitars and amps and chairs, and a tangle of cords snaking between them. Right in front of the stage was the only open spot, a low table and exactly six chairs, which Yasui saw and hurried to claim. The others followed. They dropped their stuff and made their way to the bar. They ordered individually and paid for their own drinks. They all got beer.

SuperDeluxe was supposed to have some kind of performance that night, but five of the six guys didn’t know that. They had just come as a drunken mass. They didn’t know what was supposed to happen, a performance or whatever, or even that the place they were in held performances. The only one who knew anything was Azuma. He had heard about the performance from a girl he’d met at the movies a couple of days before. She’d said she was nineteen. It was a small movie theatre in Shibuya, open only a few years, the upholstery on the seats still smelling like a clothing store.

* * *

She looked nineteen, for sure. On account of her skin. But her face was busted. It was like she knew better than anyone how busted her face was, and that made her extra-friendly, and you could see that in her face too, which only made it worse. It was all smushed and embarrassed-like, hard to look at. There were plenty of empty seats in the movie theatre, as always, but there I was, watching the movie with her sitting next to me, on my left. For the whole movie I tried to make my left side cold and unwelcoming. When it was over, the left half of my body was numb. That numbness went away, but it feels like it’s still there, waiting just under my skin. As soon as we got into SuperDeluxe, I started wondering if she was here. I looked around the room a bunch of times. The room, everything between the concrete walls and the floor, felt kind of soft, because of the pulse of all the people, the smell of everything, and the music and the lights. I prayed I wouldn’t spot her, but I kept looking for her.

How I met this girl: A couple of days ago I pre-bought two tickets to a movie, one was for this other girl I was seeing—I guess she was my girlfriend, whatever—but then she texted me that she couldn’t make it, and I was like that’s cool. I figured I could sell her ticket, no problem. Some days in March are warm and some are cold, and it was cold that day, but I waited outside the theatre to catch someone who was otherwise going to pay full price at the box office. A guy showed up first, so I didn’t offer. Next was another guy. Then several more guys, and guys with girls, so I just looked upwards. Near the top of a building, there was a square electronic billboard, like it was floating in the sky, playing through a loop of ads over and over and over. Then, finally, a girl came by. That was her. I might have been pickier, but I guess I was worried that she was my last chance. She was pretty chunky, like she snacked all the time or something, and the way she walked was like sad and apologetic. But I said hi anyway. She came over, and she bought the ticket, and we were standing there, and I start ...

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