Kaki Sounds Cool by Kristopher Hartrum
Kaki Sounds Cool
I woke up at 11:00 am. It was raining. I could taste the meat between my teeth from the night before. Stomach, I thought. The meat tastes like stomach lining. I stood and drank water from the faucet in the kitchen. I went to the freezer and ate two coconut cookies. They were very cold. I slid open the window and looked out at the rain over the river. The ducks were along the narrow gray banks. They were not moving. I made duck sounds and heard my roommate Herbo mumble beyond the paper doors in the hall.
“You hungry?” I asked. He farted. I thought it was intentional. No telling.
I went to my room and sat down at the computer and called my brother. It rang for a long time. There was no answer. I showered and sat in the kitchen and ate some cold rice and pickles from a plastic container. I need some coffee, I thought. There wasn’t any coffee. I went outside to my bicycle and wiped the seat with my sweater. It had been raining. The sky was grayish. I rode along the river to the busy street of Omekaido and went up towards Shinjuku station. The people I passed walked holding damp umbrellas. I stopped at Seven Eleven and bought a pork bun and a can of black coffee. I thumbed through some magazines and found a comic book about an older woman with large breasts lusting after younger men. One of the female characters was being penetrated by a demon’s long, red nose. I couldn’t read most of the dialogue, but the woman made moaning sounds that looked like ah, ah, ah, ah.
My roommate Herbo was sitting on the black sofa in his dark room playing a video game. Herbo was an Australian. He’d lived in Tokyo longer than me and spoke the language well. Better than me, at least. We met while drunk in a karaoke room in the city of Nagoya three years ago. We became good friends because I karate kicked a table of drinks onto a group of Canadians.
“It’s getting cold outside,” I said.
“Where’ve you been?” Herbo asked.
“I met a new girl. Miho.”
“Is she a babe?”
“Another language exchange?”
“Did you fuck her?”
“Is she into me?”
I drank my beer and watched Herbo kill zombie Nazis with a sniper rifle.
“This game is a kind of dumb,” I said.
“Shooting games are just repetitive as hell.”
“Street fighter is repetitive.”
“Street fighter is very beautiful. It’s the shining comet of modern competition.”
“Fuck that. Street Fighter is brilliant but there are more complex things out there.”
“The simplicity in Street Fighter is what makes it perfect,” I said.
“The third one is perfect. The new one’s just OK,” he said.
Herbo said fuck and started a new game. He said that he felt like ramen and hand-job. I laughed and went to my room and watched videos on my computer. I jerked off to a video of a girl having anal sex in a bathroom with a man wearing sunglasses. The two characters did not speak. I had to be quiet because the paper doors were very thin. Herbo turned up his music in the next room.
I went to the balcony and smoked a cigarette. It was dark and the yellow street light came through the sliding glass door. I watched an old man climb onto the tin roof of a neighboring building and take persimmons from the tree that grew against the railing of the balcony.
“Some guy is stealing the persimmons,” I said.
“Some bum?” Herbo asked from his couch.
“Doesn’t look like a bum,” I said. “Just some old guy and a kid.”
The boy stood below the tree and collected the fruit into his shirt.
“Maybe it’s his persimmon tree,” Herbo said.
“I doubt it. He’s running away now.” The man took the child’s hand and the boy held all the persimmons and was laughing as they turned down a narrow street towards the Kanda river.
At nine pm I walked along the river. There were trees hanging overhead. Their nearly bare branches reached down and touched the water. Leaves were scattered along the path. I stopped by a drink machine and bought a can of coffee with milk. It was hot. I tossed it between my hands until it cooled. People walked their small dogs that looked like small foxes and raccoons along the stone path. The trees drew shadows across the stone.
I followed the river beyond Omekaido to the Nakano ward of Tokyo. It was not far. I bought a beer from a Family Mart and stopped at a wellness park and did three sets of seven pull-ups. I sat on a bench and watched people jogging. A girl and her dog walked past. The girl looked at me from the corner of her eye, quickening her pace. It was very dark. I must look like a rapist, I thought. White guy sitting in a shadowy park. A J-girl’s worst nightmare.
I walked under some trees. I did not know what kind of trees they were and decided I should learn more about trees. I thought about my friend Budd back in Carolina. He probably knew something about trees. Remember to call Budd, I thought. Beautiful, mustachioed Budd.
I remembered the fat frogs that jumped across the brick sidewalk from the river during the summer. A couple stood next to a drinking fountain near a small public bathroom. They argued and spoke quickly. The girl cried on the man’s shoulder. She noticed me spying on them. She said something in the man’s ear and they walked away holding hands.
I felt very alone and creeped out by the darkness. I thought about my brothers in Carolina for a moment and walked home on the opposite side of the river, watching the path ahead to avoid stepping on any frogs. Too cold for frogs anyway, I thought.
Broccoli with garlic sizzled in a pan on the gas stove. I cracked 3 eggs over the broccoli and stirred it. The long, Shinjuku apartment was empty. I listened to American talk radio on the Internet. The coffee was boiling on the stove. I sat on my grass-mat floor called Tatami and ate the eggs and broccoli. I can’t taste it, I thought. I smoke too much, so I can’t taste anything.
I poured chili sauce on the eggs. The layer of sauce was very red and translucent. It made the food look fake. Chemically enhanced. I went to the balcony and drank the coffee, smoked a cigarette and watched a boy and a girl ride their bikes in circles near the persimmon tree that grew through the railing.
“Yadda! Yadda!” a girl said.
I looked at the persimmon tree. Kaki, I thought. Kaki sounds cool.
“Kaki,” I said aloud, blowing smoke.
The persimmons looked ripe. A bird pecked some of the fruit. The meat inside was light-orange. I imagined a sunset from the 1980’s. The sunset poster on my parent’s wall in Florida when I was a baby. Anna Maria. The rat and soccer-field lights.
I looked up and thought the sky was a good color. Neon colors.
Kris Hartrum is an American writer working out of Asheville, NC. His work has appeared in Fondle Magazine, TYOmag, Village Idiot and The Appalachian Anthology. He is the editor at spokenwordinc.com