a pair of drunkards from two years ago

i spend the afternoon at akihabara, and then i take the train to yoyogi.  there’s some distance between the station and jingu stadium.  my eye is trained on the sky.  at akihabara it was blue.  at yoyogi, the colour of lead.  shortly, the moans and groans, and then heaven’s bottom falls out.

at the gate i meet my friend.  he wears a poncho, and under that a tigers toritani jersey.  he is morose.  ‘look at the weather.  look at the staff.  they’re herding us away from the seats.  it’s gonna be a bloody rain delay.’  he stares at me.  ‘look at you.  what are you dressed for, a day at the fish market?’

i am in a pair of berms, a tennis shirt, and sandals.

‘don’t you have a yakult swallows jersey?’

‘no.’  i pause.  ‘even if i did, considering you’re gonna make me sit with the hanshin tigers fan contingent, do you really think i’d wear it?’

he snorts.  ‘if you’re a true fan, you’d do it.’

‘i’m an international student.  my loyalties are pliable.’

he’s not listening.

‘look, they’re barricading the entries.’

from our vantage point halfway up the stairs to the third floor galleries we see the crew scrambling like ants.  and then, a lady with a loudspeaker, shouting above the fray.

a collective sigh from the rabble.


my friend is beside himself with rage.

‘they should have bloody told us two hours ago!’

‘well, it wasn’t raining two hours ago.’

‘then what’s the bloody weather forecast bloody for?’

‘oh shut up.’  i suddenly realise i don’t have to spend two hours in a downpour with ill-tempered hanshin fans.  i am amicable beyond reason.  ‘we’ll get a drink.’

i tug him fuming into the downpour, and then out of it, into Hub the pub.  in one fluid motion his poncho is off and into the dustbin.  the waitress sidles towards us.

‘a jumbo long island iced tea.’

two jumbo long island iced teas,’ i correct him.  the bar fills up with irate hanshin and resigned yakult fans.  ‘and a small bowl of nuts, please.’

the television shows seibu lions against rakuten eagles live from miyagi stadium.  we watch in silence.  it is the third inning, and nakajima has just scored a hit against tanaka.

‘it ain’t raining in sendai… the lucky bastards.’

the iced teas come.

‘cheers.’  i take a sip.  he drains his glass. the waitress advances.

‘a cocktail tower, please.’

at the top of the fifth inning it comes, a one-litre measuring cylinder brimming with pale yellow liquid.

‘what’s inside?’

‘this?’  he shrugs.  ‘last i heard, vodka, tequila, whisky, gin and rum, washed down with three cans of red bull.’

i chuckle.

‘if you’re wondering, no one’s asking you to help me with it.’

‘and i certainly won’t offer to.’  i watch his hands, trembling, the iced tea already doing him a good once-over.

‘good luck.’

‘just shut up and pass me the nuts.’

tanaka dispatches ginjiro.  my friend hydrates himself over five seconds.

we sit there in silence.

‘plans for tomorrow?’  i venture.

‘none.  sunday is a day of rest.’  a shrug; and then pensively, ‘come to think of it, though, the human security essay is due next week.  might get down to it.’  he looks up.  ‘you’ve done it already?’

‘yeah.’  unlike all the japanese law modules, that essay was to be done in english.

‘ah, screw you.’  a long gulp of the devil’s brew, and then a stare more baleful than sullen.  ‘i wish i could write a good english essay.’

‘when you’re done, send it to me.  i’ll take a look.’

‘thanks.’  he prods my empty glass, then looks in the direction of the bartender.

‘another jumbo long island iced tea.’

‘i wanted a cassis.’

‘wimp.  you’re taking the long island.  it’s on me,’  a belch.  ‘on the condition you really do take a look at my essay.’

‘you don’t have to.’

‘consider it advance payment for the time i next need to bribe you, then.’

the long island comes.  he raises his cylinder.  an unsteady toast.

‘after you graduate,’ he slurs, ‘you’re going back to singapore, right?’

my mind is on the long list of international students who’ve failed to graduate from the faculty of law in the usual four years.

‘yeah,’ i am melancholy. ‘as and when i graduate.’

he snorts.

‘you’re one to worry.  you’ve got a job waiting for you, your life is set, you just need to bore a hole through your law texts and you’re home free.  when i do start looking for a job i won’t have anything else to do over the weekends except fill up entry sheets and attend job seminars.’  another snort, this time pure derision.  ‘you lucky bastard.’

‘we are all lucky in ways we don’t readily see.’

‘oh screw you.’  his hand has been in the bowl for the past thirty seconds, attempting to extricate the last splinter of walnut.  ‘and your philosophy.  truth is that you’re so much bloody luckier than others.  you’ve a tuition fee waiver, you’ve a living allowance, you’ve a job.  count your bloody blessings, won’t you?’

‘i try my best.’  i don’t know where all this sudden heat comes from.  ‘i’ll try harder.  what job are you looking for?’

‘don’t know.  whatever comes my way.’

‘no preference?’

‘you know _____?’  he mentions the name of a senior.  ‘he submitted applications to thirty companies, from trading to electronics to banks, and he was gonna take any of their offers, but none came.  at least he passed the government exam, so he’s considering his options at the ministries, but think about it.  he’s not the worst case scenario.  if you’re not from todai, you can submit to fifty, seventy, even a hundred companies.  and you still mightn’t get a job.’  a swig, and then he continues, ‘i think you once called this kind of thing ‘carpet bombing’?  or was it ‘throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks?’ ‘

i remember that conversation – monday morning, 0830 hrs, right before the criminal law lecture, my friend and i both sleepy and foul-mouthed.

‘yeah, i did.’

it’s called a sense of urgency,’ each syllable more spat than spoken, ‘and then, for the unfortunate, it becomes desperation.  ambition only becomes reality for those who are as lucky as they are brilliant.  why hedge your bets on something as important as a future?

‘dude, cool it.’  he drains his drink.  his face is flushed.  ‘let’s go for dinner.’

‘nahh.’  he slams the cylinder on the counter.  ‘it’s been a shit day. i’m going home.’

i help him off the bar stool.  he insists on walking without assistance.  i have no fear of him merlioning on the streets of tokyo – his pride won’t allow him to, and he instinctively fears dirtying his toritani jersey.  but he is starting to meander, through the crowd and into the rain.  i settle the bill and lurch out of the door, my umbrella and his bag in hand. by then he’s gone.