A Lonely Life

by Jon Peters

Taking the east exit off the Shonan-Shinjuku Line late one evening, I wrestled my way off the train and into a steady yet comfortable flow of strangers heading into downtown Zushi. I stopped in Docomo Shop, right off the line, grabbed a quick coffee, and proceeded down to the McDonald’s, one of many American businesses in Zushi, where beautiful and polite Ai worked as a cashier.

I inquired as to when she would get off work, to which she replied, “Two more hours only, cherry blossom!” and went back to greedily eating her pocky in front of me, without even asking if I would enjoy a treat.

“You are a fatherless child and your mother was a busu!” I puffed my arms out like a big chicken, which in truth I was, and Ai laughed so hard that chocolate flew from her mouth and onto my pretty yellow dress.

“Majide!” I shouted and jumped backward. Ai cupped her mouth with a manicured hand and whispered sorry over and over, into the folds of her palm, pausing only for fits of laughter. She then extended a tissue and a piece of her poky. I accepted both.

The McDonald’s was packed for a Friday evening in normally quiet Zushi, and as I wiped the chocolate freckles off my dress, I asked Ai why it was so busy.

“Don’t you know? Kenzo is here!” Ai squeaked like a cat toy when she spoke. I found it her best and worst trait as a person.

“Ah, Ai-chan, we must go see the most famous Sumo in all of Japan! I demand you leave work so we can attend this event.”

“Gomen ne. The match begins in one hour. Maybe next time.” She took a bite of her pocky and rang up a customer for a hamburger and coke.

“I should ship you to Vienna and let the virulent men of Europe have you for eternity!” I shouted under my breath after the customer left. Ai’s mouth opened in shock, her tongue chocolatey black.

“You take that back, or I swear I will push your mother into the waters of Zushi beach, naked and shivering!” Ai squeaked back at me.

“Gomennasai,” I said, eyes downcast. I’d gone too far with the joke.

“Now, let me finish up and I will see you back at the flat. And did you go job hunting today?” Ai’s tone was too serious for me. I was ashamed.

“No. Well, yes. I filled out one application. But that was all.”

“One is better than nothing.” Ai’s tone softened. Another guest ordered a hamburger. She quickly obliged. “Do not give up hope. Why won’t you come work here with me? Yoko-san will hire you. She likes you. As long as you don’t eat all the fries.” Ai glared behind her back at an older woman with puffy hair.

“Maybe I should. Maybe I will.” What I really wanted to do was take a walk to the beach and let the waves carry me away into the forgotten sea.

“Don’t look so sad, cherry blossom. This too shall pass. This too shall pass,” Ai’s voice rang out like a faraway church bell, distant and charming. She smiled sweetly at me and handed me a free small fry.

Night deepened on the streets of Zushi as I sipped my coffee and ate my fries in silence.