I wrote this story while listening to Sakamoto–one of my favorite contemporary musicians; he’s right up there with Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin for me–, so I highly recommend that you do so. For the first two chapters I primarily listened to Energy Flow, so click the link below if you’d like to listen. 😀
Read the first part of Sakamoto Girl here.
02: Back to the Basics
I heard the sound of her knock on the door even before her knuckles made contact with wood. “Coming,” I said as I quickly went to open the door.
There she was, her bright red hair vibrantly standing out against the pale cream colors of the hotel walls. She raised her right hand in recognition of me and quickly let herself inside my room. She looked around, her lips pursed as she took in the finer details of the hotel’s interior.
“Were you hoping for a presidential suite?” I joked. She shook her head without saying anything while she studied a painting hanging near the couch.
“Do you want something to eat?” I offered her. I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants; I had never noticed before that I have sweaty palms. She looked at me curiously and smiled.
“You look so nervous,” she said as she took a few steps toward me. Placing her hands on my shoulders, she gently whispered, “relax…it’s just me.” Hearing her say those words made me shudder and more nervous than I was a minute ago. I cleared my throat and looked away, and as I did, she removed her hands from my shoulders and clasped them behind her back.
“Do you—ahem—want to eat anything?” I asked yet again. The hotel room became even smaller with two people around. It didn’t help much that any room with only her and I would become too filled, too small, too enclosed.
She suddenly looked at me with bright eyes, and for a moment I thought she was hungry. But one moment later she would be occupied with fishing something out of her bag. I merely watched her as she rummaged through her worn messenger bag, waiting for another one of her surprises. No matter what she did, she could never stop surprising me.
“Here it is!” She exclaimed. She took out a CD case and handed it to me. I looked at it briefly and tried my best not to roll my eyes at her.
“I’ll lend you my copy for now. You seriously need a dose of Sakamoto, really.”
I sighed and looked at the cheery redhead who was currently looking inside the refrigerator. I really couldn’t understand her and her utter liking of—no, more like intense obsession with—this Sakamoto. I really couldn’t see what the fuss was about.
She must’ve sensed what I was thinking because not a moment later she said, “Listen once—just once—and I swear you’ll love him just as much as I do.”
“I’m not gay,” I joked, which made her snicker.
“You know what I mean,” she said in a serious voice. “Oh, and take care of my CD. I’ll get it back after two days, so be sure to make good use of your days with my precious CD.”
“Yes, mother.” I felt her slap me on the arm. We both laughed afterwards.
We ate a hearty meal together and watched a bit of TV together. I didn’t know much French, and because she claimed she was particularly gifted with the language, translated into Korean what we were watching. Some of her translations were somewhat ridiculous, but I couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not; she looked completely serious as she said in Korean what was being said on the television.
I couldn’t remember much that happened after that—I knew we dozed off for awhile and then she woke me up. She said she needed to go; she still had something to do.
“Don’t forget to listen to Sakamoto. Two days—remember!” She said as she was in the hallway. She was walking backwards, facing me with a big cheery wave. I nodded and waved goodbye.
I closed the door and turned towards the ‘living room’ of my hotel room, back to where the Sakamoto CD lay.
“You can put that box over there,” I said to Geng, a friend of mine who was helping me move to my new place. I carried a few things myself and placed them by the window. I asked him if he wanted anything to drink.
“A glass of cold water would be nice,” he said in his broken Korean. Until now, after many years of living in Korea, he still hasn’t fully grasped the language…or maybe I was only picking on him after the many times he picked on my Chinese.
I opened the refrigerator and took out an unopened bottle of water and threw it in his direction. With the flair only Geng could have, he successfully caught the bottle and twisted the cap open.
“Thanks, by the way,” I said to him as he chugged down the contents of the bottle. Because the elevator of the building was being repaired, we had no choice but to walk from the first floor to the fifth floor, where my new apartment was, resulting in quite a bit of an exercise. That was the reason I asked Geng out of all my friends to help—he was the least likely to complain…even if he did, it would only be in a joking kind of way.
“You’re treating me to dinner, remember?” He said as he sat on a dining chair.
I made a face at him. “I never agreed to it.”
“Oh, but I already did my part, so you should, too. It’s only natural—or else I’ll tell your fia—”
“Fine, fine,” I quickly droned. He grinned at me.
I looked outside the window and murmured, “I can’t believe you still remember…”
“Huh?” I heard Geng say. “Remember what?”
I turned and looked at Geng curiously. “Didn’t you just threaten me that you’d—”
“—tell her that you’re being mean to your friend, yes. And I never thought my threat would actually work,” laughed Geng. I frowned at him.
“Being mean at you? That was your threat?”
Geng nodded and raised an eyebrow. “What did you think my threat would be?”
I quickly looked away; for a moment I saw a blur of red that must’ve been a trick of the light. “Nothing. Just me…over-thinking things.”
I turned back to Geng and tried to change the subject. “Hey, while you’re here, you should help me arrange stuff a bit until…you know, she comes,” I said. He nodded and took a few things out of the boxes. Before long, we were both putting books into shelves and plates into the cupboards. We were so busy putting stuff out that both of us weren’t talking, until Geng spoke.
“Hmm…you have this CD?” I looked at Geng, who was holding up a CD case with a white cover jacket. It didn’t take me long to recognize what CD it was—even if he held it from a distance, I could easily tell. It was something that would be embedded into my mind for a long time.
“Oh…that. It’s kind of cool—I gave it a try and it wasn’t half bad.”
“Really?” He asked, looking at the back cover and then opening the case. “I’ll borrow it, then—”
“NO!” I shouted. I quickly moved in front of him and snatched the CD away. Geng looked at me, obviously surprised at my reaction.
I looked at the CD in my hand, and I could feel my grip getting tighter and tighter until my fingernails rubbed against the hard plastic CD case.
“Siwon…I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was important to you.”
“It’s alright,” I softly said. I apologized to Geng as I placed the CD on top of a book shelf and went back to arranging my things. It took twenty more minutes and then we were finished with only the bare minimum to make things look a wee bit tidier. As he was about to leave, I thanked Geng once again and promised to treat him sometime.
I closed the door and sighed. Quickly, as if I were in a hurry, as if I were scared that it might’ve been lost or stolen, I took the Sakamoto CD from the shelf and opened the case. Before I knew what I was doing, the gentle sounds of Energy Flow could be heard inside the small room of my new apartment. I closed my eyes as I sat down.
“Listen once—just once—and I swear you’ll love him just as much as I do.”
No, until that moment I still couldn’t understand what it was about the Japanese musician that she loved. But she wasn’t completely off the mark, though.
It took me just once.
One listen—it took me just one—and I loved her just as much as she loved her Sakamoto.