So We are a Couple Now …
“So we are a couple now …” Kareshi said, slumping clumsily on the bench near Kanojo, a bench in Shinjuku Chuo Park.
“Yup,” she replied.
They surveyed the starry sky as if they were searching for UFOs.
“So what now?” Kanojo asked.
Kareshi scratched his crew cut. “I’ve never been in a relationship before. Maybe we should do couple things — like sitting close to each other?”
“We can try that.”
They wriggled until Kareshi’s school pants touched Kanojo’s pleated skirt.
“You’re warm,” she said.
“You too,” he replied coldly.
Kanojo turned to him. “Can I rest my head on your shoulder?”
Kareshi mirrored her move. “Sure.”
In almost slow-motion, Kanojo leaned against Kareshi, her head and his shoulder fitting awkwardly like wrong jigsaw pieces.
“Are you nervous?” she asked.
“If I were, I would be stiff.”
“Are you aroused?”
“Same answer as above.”
Kanojo readjusted her head, without removing it from its current position. “Maybe we should try something more daring? Like holding hands?”
“Yeah, that sounds more adventurous.” He set down his school bag on the bench and held Kanojo’s left hand with his right one, holding it up.
“You’re sweaty,” she said.
“You too — hey, what are you doing?”
Kanojo withdrew her hands from her nose. “I’ve always wondered what boys’ sweat smells like. Um, the answer is miso soup.”
Kareshi sniffed his hands. “Girls’ smells like sunscreen.”
“I applied some today.”
They shut their lips; now only the sides of their hands, arms, and hips connected them to each other. This pause in their conversation continued for a few minutes.
“I think this is a good time to kiss me,” Kanojo said, setting the air particles surrounding them into motion again.
“I think I shouldn’t have eaten fermented mackerel for dinner.”
She released a sigh. “You might as well have eaten organic fertilizer.”
He touched his chin. “I wonder what it tastes like.”
“Wait here.” Kanojo sauntered to the vending machine and returned with an opened coffee can. “Have this.”
Receiving the drink in his hand, Kareshi said, “You want me to use coffee as mouthwash?”
“Sorry, do you prefer tea? I don’t have chewing gum.”
“No, it’s okay.” He took a sip, stirred the liquid in his mouth, then swallowed. “My breath is ready.”
The two stared at each other until their eyes watered.
“What?” Kanojo asked.
“What what?” Kareshi questioned back.
“I’m waiting for you to kiss me.”
“I’m waiting for you to close your eyes.”
“All right.” Kanojo clamped her almond-shaped eyes shut, keeping her peach-colored lips ajar.
Bending forward, Kareshi slurped Kanojo’s lower lip while she did the same with his upper one.
When they unlatched their mouths, she said, “It tastes like plain noodles — with fermented mackerels.”
“Yeah,” Kareshi said, “not sure why they make it such a big deal in movies, anime, and manga.”
“Maybe we should try French kissing?”
The two joined their faces again. Synchronously, as though they’d choreographed the scene, they opened their lips and let their tongues do battle. They stopped to wipe their drool.
“It tasted like raw octopus,” Kanojo commented, “and fermented mackerels.”
“I think that’s enough kissing for today,” he said. “Plus, your descriptions are making me hungry.”
She stared at her shoes. “Maybe we should skip this and go on to the next step?”
“Next step?” Kareshi parroted, blinking his tiny eyes.
“I’ll tell you about it in there.” Kanojo pointed to the fortress of bushes behind.
Kareshi and Kanojo stood face to face, surrounded by head-high bushes. They’d be in blinding darkness if not for the blue-green, icon-filled, screens in their hands.
“So what’s this next step?” Kareshi asked.
“Step closer,” she said instead of explaining.
As soon as he did, Kanojo put down her phone and felt up Kareshi’s chest from under his shirt.
“Are you sure about this?” He stood absolutely still.
“We’re a couple,” she said, “that gives us permission to fondle each other freely — mmm, just as I thought. Sticky and soft.”
“Do I have authorization too?” Kareshi ventured.
He repeated the procedure that Kanojo had performed on him. “Just as I thought: flat and flat.”
Kanojo squinted at her shirt. “Maybe they’ll grow more in high school.”
Kareshi peered at his pants. “I hope I grow more too.”
She squatted down until she was on eye level with his zipper. “Lemme check.”
“I thought size didn’t matter for girls.”
“It doesn’t. I just wanna take a look.”
“Okay. Why not?” Kareshi bent to unbuckle his belt, lowered his school pants and loose boxers to his ankles, then re-assumed an erected position.
“I’m a little disappointed,” Kanojo said.
“This is what happens when I’m cold,” he gave as an apology.
“I mean, it’s just some hanging skin.”
“What did you expect? A standing sculpture?”
“Guess it’s fair.” Kanojo checked her chest. “Since you weren’t expecting much from me, anyway.”
“Actually, I was — I know it’s a bit too fast, but I thought maybe we could have sex.” His penis pulsed like a heartbeat.
“I’m sorry.” She offered a short bow. “I’m not in love enough to give you my virginity.”
“Are you in love enough for anal intercourse?” Kareshi asked.
“Nope,” Kanojo replied.
“That one is all right.” Kanojo switched her phone to her left hand. With her thumb and index finger, she gripped Kareshi’s developing boner and began stroking it. Peeking up, she asked, “Does it feel good?”
“Yeah — just a couple of adjustments: use your whole hand, grip harder, and stroke faster. And maybe smile a little.”
She followed Kareshi’s instructions. “Like this?”
“Yeah — something is missing, though. How about you make some sounds?”
“You’re not a kitty.”
“You’re not a cow. Or milking one.” Kareshi stroke the nape of Kanojo’s neck. “Try saying something naughty.”
“I can’t think of anything.”
“How about stuff you’ve heard in movies?”
“‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat,’ Kanojo recited, without slowing down the speed of her hand. “From Jaws.”
“Try another quote.”
“‘Calling it your job doesn’t make it right, boss. Cool Hand Luke.”
“‘I drink your milkshake!’ There Will be Blood.”
“Forget it.” Kareshi dropped his arms to the sides. “Just say your own thoughts.”
“Mmmmm … Oh … Ah! I know wh — ”
“Oh … Ahhh. I just ca — ”
Kanojo lifted to her feet and sniffed the liquid pearls in her palm. “It smells like bleach. And fermented mackerels.”
Kareshi pulled up his pants. With a tissue he produced from his pocket, he wiped Kanojo’s hand. “For some reason, I’m not hungry anymore.” He scanned the locked screen of his phone. “Speaking of eating, it’s already six. We better go home.”
Kareshi and Kanojo shouldered their school bags and slipped out of the park. Twenty minutes later, they ambled side by side along the sidewalk that led to their apartments, shop signs guiding their steps, stagnant silence replacing their conversation.
Kareshi was the first to break the quiet. “So, that was our first date as a couple.”
“Yup,” Kanojo said.
“Good — actually, it wasn’t that good, was it?” Kareshi gazed at the full moon, which was partially concealed behind a cloud. “But I don’t blame you or me. Us. I think people romanticize romance.”
She nodded. “Or fall in love with love.”
“Or like someone just to be liked back.”
The two arrived at the Y-junction where they had to say bye-bye.
“Here’s where we part ways,” Kareshi said.
Kanojo stopped in her tracks. “Forever?”
“Dunno, what do you think? Or rather, what do you feel?”
She glanced at their joined hands. “This is my first time being in a relationship. That’s why I’m not sure. Not even how I’m supposed to feel.”
“Same here. So what do we do then?”
“For now, I take this left road and you that right one.” Kanojo let go of Kareshi’s hand and used hers to wave at him.
He nodded, glancing at his palm. “This is the best way to solve this. At least for now.”
“See you later.”
“See you later.”
“I’m home.” Kanojo slid off her shoes, her school bag, and strolled to the kitchen table.
“Don’t forget to wash your hands!” her mother scolded from the kitchen sink.
She examined her dexterous hand. “Right, I forgot.”
When Kanojo returned to the table, her mother asked, “How was school?”
“Still boring,” she replied.
“How are your friends?”
“How is your boyfriend?”
“Still with me … I think.”
“Do you really like him?”
“I don’t know.” Kanojo stared at the blurry moon on the other side of the window. “How do you know when you like someone?”
Her mother gazed at the immaculately white ceiling. “Let me see … your heart beats when you’re with that person.”
“My heart also beats when I’m not with him,” Kanojo said.
“You miss that person when you’re not with him.”
“Why would I feel like that? I see him at school all the time.”
“You think about that person all the time.”
“What’s so special about that? I think about food all the time too.”
Kanojo’s mother beamed at her. “Sounds like he isn’t the right one. But don’t worry. You’re still young, so you’ll meet many other boys. There’s no need to hurry.”
“Guess … not …”
“Now, quick. Let’s eat. Or the food will get cold.” Her mother ferried the dishes one by one to the table.
Today’s menu consisted of curry rice, soba noodles, miso soup, and fish sprinkled with what seemed to be lumps of salt. Or rice. Or bacteria.
“That’s naresaba, fermented mackerel,” Kanojo’s mother said, flitting her gaze between the dish and her daughter. “I bought it from a shop that opened across from your school — since you haven’t tried it yet.”
“That’s not totally true.” Kanojo picked a mackerel with her chopsticks and pecked at it.
“How is it?” her mother asked.
“Better than I thought,” she replied, as her lips, gently, gradually, curled into a smile, while her fingers rested on them as though to make sure she’d remember the taste. Or never forget about it.
“Are you okay?” her mother asked when almost a minute had passed.
“Sorry, I have to do something. Continue eating without me.”
Kanojo dropped her chopsticks and darted to her room on the second floor. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she phoned the first number in her call history. The other end picked up after one, two rings.
“Hey,” Kanojo began, skipping greetings and pleasantries, “we are still a couple, right?”
“Yeah,” Kareshi said, “we said ‘see you,’ didn’t we?”
“I see. Great.” Kanojo waited, as if to let the words fade in the air. “Because I want to see you after class tomorrow. Like today.”
“Actually, I was thinking the same. Or rather, feeling the same.” He let a few thoughtful seconds pass by. “So, we go to Chuo Park again?”
“How about eating together?” Kanojo suggested. “Maybe fermented mackerels?”
“Nice idea. That way my kiss will stink less this time.”
“See you soon.”
“See you soon.”