Coco de Mer Geisha Gag, $165
My back’s flat against a black sheet of stage that’s speared with a pole, and warm air over my bare legs is like a comforter. A couple of two-dollar bills melt into one between my teeth, pillowed by my wet tongue. Lured by that make-out Monopoly money, a topless Japanese girl slithers over me, her skin powdering my nose, her head nuzzling my thighs, pausing. Then her hands massage my breasts as she crawls back, kissing me, biting the fake money into her mouth. She pecks me on the cheek, chirping, “Arigatou!”
“No,” I giggle. “Thank you.�”As vulgar as the world might make watching naked, thin girls strip to buy clothes and food, Japan styles the experience as gracious, as graceful, as losing your virginity on your wedding night.
Only maybe more mildly mannered.
I sit back down at my table, with a hostess. Her eyes are wide, their slant exaggerated with false eyelashes and lips constantly curved up. “She good dancer, yes?” She echoes my declaration from a few minutes before.
I smile. “Hai!” I say, with a short nod. The only Japanese I�ve spoken my two days in Tokyo is “Star-uh-bucks-oh,” “Yes,” and “Thank you.” Excepting my Engrish chant while hunting for soy lattes, this seems to be the most Japanese spoken by the natives, too. With such soft language, what little I’ve seen of the megacity makes it feel feminine, despite city myths of men groping women in crowded elevators, in spite of the aisle of rape porn I stumbled onto in a six-story sex shop.
Tokyo is just too polite to feel fully dirty and urban.
Though the metropolis is dense with thin buildings nodding to the sky, heavy skyscrapers bending under the clouds, and a tower that flatters the Eiffel with its likeness, it’s urbane about its urbanity, completely clean, only littered with bowing trees offering to shade your stroll on the sidewalk.
It’s partly this prettiness that makes exploring Tokyo vibe like virtual reality: everything is blinking and bright and light and seemingly safe, so consequence-free. So I wondered through alleys, sky walks, and sidewalks, finally entering Kabukich, a district that was hardly lit in the red it’s famed for: instead it was flashing yellows and greens and blues, and the whites of Japanese men’s eyes, against the gray of their European business suits.
I walked down the broad backstreet, passing men finally overcome of their native shyness, offering escort calling cards like missionaries handing out flyers. I saw a sign for “Sexy Club,” its stairway into a heaven of dark. I climbed the steps, curious like a child, and opened the door. The cashier made an “X” with her fingers: “Close-uh.” Two Asian men passed me, paying and sliding through an inside door.
I left, I kept walking. Doors were open down all the alley, but their lights out. Imperial Clients was the only club so shining, with rhinestones spelling out its name. I tugged the doors open, unveiling a ghetto fairy tale: a pink chandelier flashed on the jewelry of geisha girls in prom gowns, tiny hands smothering giggles, bodies balanced on the laps of business men. “Open?” I ventured. The door man tapped his watch, shook his square head. No.
The glitz was still in my eyes as I paused outside at an easel showing photos of girls: a menu of strippers. I climbed the stairs, an echo of earlier steps, and entered an empty lobby buzzing, fuzzy, with dark red lights. The cashier trilled a string of Japanese, and I assumed the club was “close-uh.” Still I asked, “How much for one?” I held up a finger, pointing towards heaven.
“Seven-sousand,” she said.
I gave her my credit card, and she bowed, handing me the receipt. A man opened a door that moved like a curtain, revealing a thick of fake fog sliced with ruby laser lights. Deeper in, an almond-eyed girl strobed against a silver pole, dancing on a black lacquered island in a sea of sitting, smiling women and men suited, sly. Pointing at the menu, I ordered a drink.
I sip the iced oolong tea I was served half an hour ago, its mild taste spiked with Korean liquor. I’m silent, watching another dancer, her latex thigh-high boots sticking to the pole as she climbs it, moving to her own soft rhythm, like a woman dancing with her husband.
The hostess next to me giggles, foreplay for talk: she’s probably more used to feminine quantities of conversation from Asian business men, than the masculine, comfortable quiet of an American girl.
“So you from Ros Angeless?” she asks, punctuating her question with a titter.
“Yes.” I smile like we’re sharing a fresh joke, though I think we�ve already spent five minutes talking about Los Angeles, and her visit to–
“I just visit,” she says. “I go shop-ping. On Mel-uh-throse.”
“Oh, yes.” My eyes wonder back to the stripper, my interest in the conversation lost, like a husband who years ago discovered his wife�s mind less deep than the wrinkles developing on her face.
Off the side of the stage, I watch a man slide money to the bouncers, and tug the hand of a woman who makes herself smile as she disappears behind a screen.
Suddenly it’s daylight in my mind, internal sunlight cheapening the shady scene: the club’s a refuge for pleasure-starved men who married women they’re too polite to divorce, the dancers sell a sex fantasy most everyone’s too nice to demand the reality of, and hostesses politely pretend money has nothing to do with the attention they pay guests.
“Hai!” The hostess nods. “I also go shop-ping to Kitson.” She pinches a yellow charm hanging around her neck, with the store’s name “Kitson” stamped on it. A little heart of fake gold, bought overpriced in a Beverly Hills boutique made famous by sex-tape celebrities who are paid to pretend to shop there.
I smile automatically, and she mirrors me. Her teeth shine white in the dark, little Chiclets, each tooth almost exactly like the other, ready to eat me.
I look around the room: white bodies of Japanese girls close a circle around me, each on the arm of darker men who better blend into the walls covered in a blood-red velvet; the girls are like little teeth, the club like a mouth ready to eat me.
At least it’d use a hot towel before.