Half Japanese. It said so on your T-shirt.
I don’t know why a similar taste in music should pave the way for sexual intercourse, but it often does.
You liked Half Japanese, but you said it wasn’t one of your favourite bands. The reason you wore the T-shirt was because you actually were half Japanese. Your father was Japanese, your mother was Belgian. At least she was at the time, now we would have to call her Flemish.
We met on the second afternoon of Pukkelpop. I only go to music festivals when a girlfriend drags me along or to get over one. That time the latter was the case. We were in luck.
Normally I only like the atmosphere in the camping area. When I’m in front of the stages I always catch myself watching the band on the TV screens. Why go to a music festival if you are going to just stand there in a meadow and watch TV? I can do that much more easily at home, without feeling like a cow staring at passing trains. But I like the camping grounds and the smell of pot that gently floats among the tents, like a marijuana sea breeze. I like the fragmented bits of conversation that come to my ear and it makes me feel young and free and neo-hippie-like to see people wash their hair out in the open. And I like having sex in a tent with music in the distance and bass beats shaking the earth under our twirling bodies.
You were there, because you worked there. You helped build the stages and you were supposed to take them down after. In the mean time you were free to catch some of the concerts. The only reason you became a roadie. That and the sense of freedom the irregular working hours gave you. You had ‘the 9 to 5 world ain’t no place for me’ tattooed on your wrist. In some kind of very aggressive pink, that made quite a psychedelic mixture with your Asian complexion. I guess roadie is one of the few career options open to someone who has that kind of a tattoo displayed in full view.
I was in the middle of getting over a break-up. So when I was walking back to my tent, after our first conversation, I was telling myself: this time it’s going to be different. This time I am not going to make the same mistakes again. Not that you had just agreed to a life long relationship or even a short festival fling, but one can dream, right?
We agreed to meet in front of a stall that sold something that was called Chinese food, but wasn’t. You knew Asian food, so I didn’t argue. “You were in China?”, I asked.
“Yes, is that strange?”
“Isn’t that a bit like a German going to Russia?”
“How do you mean?”
I wasn’t making much sense. The sun, the vibes of the masses, quite a bit of beer (I drink at the end of relationships and at the start of new ones, and here the two situations blended, so yes, quite a bit of it) and the old butterfly feeling was making me blurt out crap.
“Nevermind, I was just wondering how Chinese people look at Japanese people. Knowing what a rowdy time the Japanese had in China right before and during world war two.”
“Right”, you said, “you are one of those guys who read history books. I guess you haven’t got a sixpack under that Daniel Johnston- T-shirt then.”
You looked at me like you’d just said: “Right, you are one of those guys who wake up every morning in their own vomit and like to brag about it.”
“Nevermind”, I said again. And caught myself rubbing my stomach to feel if any abs were there and I threw a guilty look at the beer I was drinking .
“Yes, Nevermind”, you said with one eyebrow raised, “great album, though In Utero and Bleach are my favorites.”
“You look like the bass player of Shonen Knife”, I said.
“Which one?”, you asked.
Right, had to admit;
a) I didn’t know they went through more than one bass player.
b) I didn’t know any of their names.
“It doesn’t matter”, you said, “they’re all good-looking. So thanks.”
I like girls who can take a compliment. Girls who don’t fend off compliments, usually have no trouble stating what they want in bed.
“Do you want to grab a bite?”, I said. Being so near to all those food stalls, it was the most logical thing to ask.
“No, I am not hungry.”
“Are you one of those girls who never eat?”
I can’t stand girls who don’t eat. They don’t have calories to burn in bed. Or tent. And if they have trouble ordering food, they do have trouble stating what they want in bed.
“No, I eat. I’m sure I’ll get a bit peckish when the sun goes down. It’s just too hot to eat anything now.”
“Are you sure? Because you are really slim.”
“Seriously, you should feel my thighs.”
You pulled my left hand down and put it on your right thigh.
“Maybe. Broad is more the word for it. Only lumberjacks like to stare at my legs.”
“Seriously, you’ve got a great waist and you’ve got killer legs.”
“You sound like a monk on his first day out of the monastery.”
You were wearing black shorts. So short, the rim barely peeked from under the rim of your T-shirt.
“I’m serious. I once dated a girl who was on some Olympic swimmer team, and she had legs just like you.”
That wasn’t a lie. Those were two half truths. Yes, I dated that girl, but nothing ever happened. And Fay’s legs were great, but not Olympic. But whatever. Great legs are enough of a scourge to my hormones.
“Really”, I said after a pause.
“Ok, ok, enough with the compliments.”
“Sorry, but it’s true.”
Grinning and silence.
“Ok, give me an other one.”
“You got a very feline look.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“That’s a very good thing.”
“Ok then. Give me an other one.”
How many compliments does it take till you get to the centre of the…?
I didn’t keep count, but we put up a separate tent that night. All the way in the back. You moved out of the one you were sharing with your friends, I moved out of the tent I was sharing with mine. It sort of felt like moving to the far corner of the island to engage in mystical initiating rites, which was a good feeling to have. At least we could make a little bit more noise there. And we were closer to the toilets (and the typical festival cess-spit stench, but I only had to bury my nose in you, to escape that) And it wasn’t like we needed to be close to the concert area any more.
“You smell like basmati rice, but better.”
“You talk too much.”
“But come on, go on. How do I taste? And please don’t say something like hot Sushi.”
You tasted like the most expensive cocktail on the menu which an experienced bartender in a very good mood took all the care in the world to get just right, and you don’t want to lose the taste, ’cause you can’t afford another one.
You sat on my face.
“Now you have your cocktail on tap.”
When you rolled away, you asked: “Doesn’t it make your tongue hurt?”
“We are those who ache with amorous love.”
“It’s the title of an album by Half Japanese, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I know. Stop trying to impress me. You already have me naked.”
I was really starting to like you.
The tent at the border of the island, seceded from the rest and formed its own little kingdom. We only crossed back to the main island when we ran out of food. Which we didn’t buy at the stalls. We walked all the way to a supermarket.
“I am what you would call a skinflint. I like that word to describe my obsession with saving money.”
“I suppose a roadie doesn’t get that much pay.”
“Ow, it’s ok. Saving money is more like a hobby. Or a challenge I can’t resist. Has something to do with a residue of old Samurai perfectionism.”
Being cheap never sounded so sexy.
I had promised myself not to make the same mistakes again. But it all felt so right, so I copied that habit of yours. And every time I pick up a new habit, I overdo it just a tiny bit. The first month of our relationship, I managed to save over 70 percent of my salary. Which wasn’t much, I was working or pretending to be working as a teacher, that time, but it’s amazing how much you can save if you really want to.
After Pukkelpop we filled the gaps in your tour schedules with fucking. The fucking was long, the gaps were short. Every time you left, it felt like the waiter snatched a big dessert I had barely touched right from under my nose.
We texted the skin of our fingers off. Saving money didn’t seem to count for our phone bills. Sometimes we even spoke on the phone. Every other day at 11 am. You were very given to routines for a girl who vowed to hate the nine to five world.
There were a lot of pauses when we were on the phone. Half of the time there was silence, the other half of the time we were looking for a topic to talk about. We had agreed not to fill telephone conversation by repeating over and over how much we missed each other. I hated missing you, your physical presence and your laughter, so much I drew up a wall between us, to not get too emotionally attached to you.
That’s not very smart. Going into a long-distance relationship while rejecting the pain of missing, is like declaring war while rejecting the violence it will cause.
During our last telephone I said: “Who needs the disappointment of a telephone call?”
“It’s in a song by Razorlight.”
“I know that. Tell me the title of the song.”
“Just say the title.”
“Who needs love?”
“Yes, if you can’t fucking handle the distance, then fucking have the guts to tell me so, straight on.”
You hung up.
Very girly thing to do.
I didn’t call back.
Very boyish thing to do.
I still can’t listen to Half Japanese without craving your body and wondering in which tent you are sleeping tonight.
But at least we could blame it on the distance. We never found out those annoying habits that would drive us up the wall. A relationship that gets killed by distance, keeps the promise of ‘it might have been that perfect match, that one true love’, alive.
But it’s a sham. That one true love would have conquered the distance.