CODA

 

 

Three frustrating days of surfing the oceanic and I am beached; the tide has mysteriously stopped ebbing. No more verbal bridges to lead me to further Schlieman texts. So is this cassation, closure, the end of the line? I combed again through the shredding lexical curls of Miyako's lush pillow book, foiled by a thousand mis-readings of her elective affinities, the montage of escalating phrases without issue, but after painful hours of dejection, nothing more was revealed. The links in the nohzone map remained unchanged. I tried variations on the last line of Miyako's pillow book text and found only a song with this title by Bob Dylan: about a girl from the north he had loved when young.  If I could find the lyrics, maybe it was relevant. But I simply had no energy left to surf ...

     I again finished the half-fulfilled project of 'packing my bags'. In truth I had enjoyed the chicanery and artifice, the arty and chic stratagems of this tenacious flâneur. I would miss the old rogue, now presumed to be well and truly dead. I'd not discovered his 'real' whereabouts because I'd not 'really' tried and he'd not 'really' disappeared; gone to ground perhaps, but could the whole story of his imminent death be pure pulp fiction? The symbolic Last Man! Hardly! This was not the 19th Century when such an idea might have seemed scary. Nowadays, after our finest two 'great' World Wide Wars, (see www.worldwidewars.net) we were all the Last Man ... (even the women!!) ... the perfect crime (the murder of reality) being finally accomplished so elegantly by the internet. Everyman his own doomed Narcissus, not-living out a non-life in a virtual-world of ever-more virtual empty meaningless echos: in which n-o-t-h-i-n-g-i-s-r-e-a-l-l-y-l-i-n-k-e-d. Webster's money spent in vain? Not for me ... I was feeling strangely uplifted, as if MS's death had, after all, touched me, a brief encounter I was happy not to have missed. Never boring this guy. How he had achieved this ambience of the visceral with his trickster's sleight of hand, I was dumbfounded to understand. (The daughter as trickster?) Maybe Webster would feel redeemed, he had done his best to help a friend. I was at least returning with a satchel full of mis-connected texts, if not connected to their own inner logic then apparently to the mind of a man who had bothered not to be bored, who had idly dreamed them up. And seduced me with his dreams.

     But tonight I realised, unexpectedly, that I had discovered some consequence in all this. The Situationist theory of the dérive, which had often lured me ... wandering around the city with no fixed aim, thus empty and truly free to enjoy the unexpected, not seeking a purpose (there may be none) except to fulfil another day ... might seem to be a useful innovation as regards the city, in which to walk anywhere or nowhere is a possibility of escape from the hideous pavements under which the sea had receded back into the measureless caverns ... but the true strategy should be to leave the city, as MS had done. The dérive is only authentically truly an ideal strategy while walking across a mountain range ... the body and mind given to the rivers and the wind and the ancient tracks of marauding or migrating animals ... waiting for the birds to find me, the nightingales to sing for me, the crows to mock me with their squawking  or shitting onto my hat, whatever was their telos of the moment ... did they think I was an old scarecrow? ... but nowadays, this mindless exploitation of the dérive as a rationale for endless endless (music by Kraftwerke) surfing the internet, idling on autopilot, indolent y wandering, not even noticing the aimless passing of time, drifting from link to ever more lukewarm link ... forget it. Better drown in the whirlpool of nature, the lush arms of Charybdis while in flight from the Scylla of the city heights ... ... aim to die in style on a snow-clad summit of an extinct volcano ... sculpted by the gods into a hawk's head.  Or an Eagle's head. Not like the people, maybe the birds, especially the raptors, are bigger in Japan ...

     Yes, drift in the city, if bored; drift through the forest if dreams can still speak to you; hope to die quickly in a Battersea basement if merely drifting with your fingers hitting plastic keys ... Battersea under which the sacred River Falcon flows ... flew ...

     Everything was ready for me to leave. It was just after midnight. Knowing that I was becoming a bit like MS, fearful of irony, I knew it would be too galling to arrive back in London and find I had left precisely at the wrong moment! Recalling MS's reminder it was always darkest before the dawn ... though it was some way off the real dawn ... I gave it one last throw of the dice, hoist by my own retard ... hit the plastic keys, one last reluctant attempt to access a new site in the nohzone ... And there it was! A new word had entered an empty lozenge ... but as I read the words, suffering a harsh pain in my heart, surely resembling angina, I was hoping and hoping beyond hope that NONE of all this story of interwoven stories had been true! Not even remotely true ...    

 

*

 

   CODA

                                               

A letter pushed under the door of Michael's room, unfound, unread:

later sent by Hotel Reception to the address registered by Schlieman on arrival: Schlieman, c/o nohzone.net, Dove Cottage, 69 Mean Street, Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom. For a non-existent recipient at a non-existent address. Nowhere.net. Delivered to a second-hand bookshop recently closed, friends of the curator of Dove cottage ... a bitter coincidence. 

 

Yoko's letter ...

 

The envelope, expensive saffron-dyed rice paper flecked with a dark blend of temmoku and burgundy suggesting the glaze known as Hashihime used on tea bowls of the sixteenth century. Michael's name hand-written in black ink in a neo-vorticist script copied from a photograph of Eric Gill's Elegy carved on the tombstone of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, or his script on the plinth of his sculpture:

 

Red Stone Dancer. 

 

The Silk Weavers' House.

 

Dear Michael,

                   Forgive me for being informal ‑ but surely all veils of propriety have been effaced between us, unplaited by the cruel fingers of a fateful, unforeseen circumstance? Even Lady Hanako's fan could not preserve her true identity. Having been unmasked, can I still hope to remain unread, essentially unknown? So why take the risk here of revealing too much? I do so, not for myself but for Miyako.

     I feel compelled to write to you for her sake, even though (or because) I was forbidden by her to use words (in aggression or defence) when we were together. Her scenario. In mine, here, I steal a key from her to unlock a secret door covered with shimmering gold leaf inside our family's most cherished lacquered cabinet. You may have seen it in its dark alcove in our beautiful old house. Such a classic, even though haunted! I must try to banish the opaque shadows of the past and return to the perilous incandescent present.

     Please forgive my English - not so fluent and literary as Miyako!             Forgive me also if I reveal facts to you that you do not want to know. All is paradox. But Miyako promised me she would explain everything to you so I hope you might now already understand why she behaved as she did. I want you to forgive! This is a plea for your compassion, to restore what her telling might have shattered in the dark glass, in that necessary two-way mirror that strangers (we four strangers who met in the dark) invariably set up between themselves. Us. I don't want you to be too harsh in your judgment of her. I hope by writing this letter, a confession on behalf of both of us, you will be sympathetic, discovering why she has become what she is. Deposed, and yet with such courage, refusing to be fallen.

     You may wonder why she went to such lengths to stop you reading Kawabata's 'Snow Country'. She was afraid you might realize too much from the text after so many ominous coincidences (we see such portents as premonitions, visitations from the gods): the snows coming so early for no reason and you arriving on the train with me. And of course my name; Yoko! And a dying man. All foreseen in the novel's text. But worst of all the coincidence she most wanted to conceal, her work as a prostitute, which I presume you know all about now; I hope she kept her promise to tell you. The burden of her lying to you has been, she says, too much to contain, once she started to respect you as more than a mere 'customer'.

     Miyako did all she could in recent years to sever herself from her family ‑ of which I am such a hard part for her to accept - but she has not succeeded. You can cut down the willow tree and use its wood to make a bow, and hunt (the spirits) with it as shamans do, but the tree's roots are still in the ground and the tree will grow again, albeit twisted and stunted. I feel guilty she betrayed you but her betrayal stemmed not so much from deriving some perverse pleasure in it (though I think she does) but because she was trying to protect you, your feelings. Your pride as a man.

     But after the final act of her play (she was always the author and director of our perverse charades) she wanted you to know the truth about her, her feelings for you having become unexpectedly deep. She had not used the word 'love' for at least ten years! She was scared to suddenly feel so much for you, a stranger (and a man), after the years of aridity. She felt her past would come between you. She imagined (maybe it was irrational) that even if she succeeded in hiding her past from you, one day she would have blurted it out. Love cannot be valid unless based on truth, however hard some of the confessions must be. But she feared that such a truth would destroy any real feeling she might have inspired in you. In Japan it would have been possible to find someone who would have 'taken her on' - as in the old days of geisha. Has everything really changed so much for the worst, crushed as we are by the modern, here as elsewhere?

     I heard you have decided to stay longer in Japan - because of Miyako. I am hoping you will see her in Tokyo. She is a broken child and needs the help of someone like you whom she can respect (intellectually) and trust (morally). It is from a sense of honour then, that I must tell you the wider truth about her, the causes for her terrible fate; whose life she re-lives in this fraught reincarnation. Please do not think I have been part of the conspiracy to hide the truth from you. After all, a century ago, Miyako's behaviour (and mine too - though doubly complex), her decision to lead the life she lives would not have been such a dishonour as it seems now. Especially to my father, who as you know, died some days ago. He was my step‑father but because I was an orphan given away at birth TO him, I have always felt him to be more truly a father than my real father (American) who abandoned me before I was born.

     Miyako is indeed studying again at university, preparing a thesis on modern fiction, especially the influence of Kawabata, the subject finally agreed by her tutors during her stay here, to include a bitter  comparison of his first and last novels, 'Snow Country' and 'Sleeping Beauties'. She is fascinated and appalled by the vexed question of Kawabata's use of the Buddhist 'Bodhisattva whore-virgin concept' in his life and writing. Especially when everyone knows he was so much 'into little girls'!

     But her life in Tokyo was a disaster from the start. In her first year, my father - a powerful man economically and politically - he developed the country's nuclear industry, most of it located here in the north - he had the means to 'survey' her life with his contacts in the Intelligence Services and was given undeniable evidence that she was living with a foreigner, a corrupt and similarly 'powerful' man - alas, in the mafia - he dominated most of the heroin traffic into Tokyo. He also controlled the lucrative import business of Thai prostitutes. Clearly he cared about nothing and no‑one.

     My father, in a desperate attempt to save Miyako still posing as a student, threatened to cut her out of his will, but she laughed this off. Being so young! To hurt her father she said she would then have no choice, intending to keep on with her studies, but to remain a 'geisha'; a very modern one, alas. It probably started as a joke, but she soon earned enough money to pay the costs of her studies as well as buy all the silly fashionable things she wanted, as do all our style-conscious modern young women. Unfortunately she studied less and less and played more and more, it went from bad to worse. Drugs, mostly. You might even get to see some of the sado‑masochistic pornographic films she was in, if you buy such things, most European tourists seem to do so in Tokyo. Such a past life lives forever, alas, when filmed! What is film but recurring dream? In this case, recurring self-degradating nightmare. We had abandoned all hope of reclaiming her, until she decided to go back to university.

     When my father became ill (after an accident in one of the nuclear plants he controlled, a ghastly story involving some fake Mox material from Sellafield, the government still waiting for the right moment to leak the full story, not doing so because of American Embassy pressure) he was given three months to live ‑ but he defied the doctors for well over a year. Miyako went through some kind of sea change. She left the man she was controlled by and started seriously studying again. She was always very bright - she received an excellent first degree (she had only her final year to catch up) and won a research scholarship. Then she chose her quite courageous subject - a feminist deconstruction of Kawabata's work. Not a subject to be accepted easily by the stuffy traditionalist academics at the university! 

     But we suspected she was still an active prostitute. Old habits, like traditions, are difficult to lay aside. Perhaps she remained loyal to certain men she served, two of them she once told me she was rather fond of, high flyers in the government. Perhaps there was the threat of blackmail, the exposure of my father. But she seemed to be seriously trying to change her ways.

     My father relented and offered to pay her expenses to continue studying. But the most painful irony for her! Miyako was her father's true daughter and only child, Miyako's mother having died at her birth. I, an orphan, was adopted as company for her. Single children, my 'father' thought, grow up lonely and disturbed. Like most men of his kind he was never home, always away on business building nuclear power stations, trying to find alternative sources of energy, working recently with gravitational energy, the Tachyon field. He had a friend in England, a scientist from Cambridge university, doctor Matthew Sutherland. Miyako met him several times in England. She never told you she had been there, she says. She went to Sellafield with her father.

     All this before she 'snapped' - and went feral.

     So, as children, we were mostly left alone. That's how Miyako and I came to play such weird sexual games together which finally got so out of hand. Oh, the games and dances we contrived! We were 'perfect' for each other, but in a cruel, unforseen, perverse way the games split us, pushed us to extremes. She became a prostitute, I became the eternal virgin. More on that bedevilled subject later!      

     My father never married again but had many mistresses whom he kept in fine style; like the Heian prince he was reincarnating! He never hid them from us and we have been witness to many dramatic scenes with these beautiful girls over the years. Many of them were actresses from the cinema and theatre ‑ his yujô, his dancing girls - living out battles and scandals with my father that were more passionate and wild than the scenes they acted on the stage and screen. My father was a great lover of women ‑ and why not? Why collect erotic scrolls when you can collect passports to the real thing? He even financed a number of their films. The last one was the most recent version of 'Snow Country' - trying to launch his new mistress! Miyako had a small part in it, one of the girls in the 'brothel'. No wonder Miyako decided to make pornographic films! Spite? The ultimate revenge?

     When my father knew he was terminally ill he made generous financial allocations to his recent mistresses, who are all missing him - sincerely! Many are our friends. He was a very cultivated man and an expert on English literature and poetry. In his younger days he was a great friend of Kawabata - met him on his visits in the north - for a time this great writer had a house in the mountains before he decided to live with his crazy menage-erie of live birds! He financed many of the literary prizes Kawabata suggested to him. I'm sure they must also have shared many dancing girls! K did seduce women from the theatre though his true passion lay elsewhere. Hence Miyako's thesis, somewhat incestuous and inbred. Doomed from the start, she will be mocked for it, but at least she speaks her mind. I always told her she should give up her desire for revenge and write novels! 

     But the question of his immense wealth has been a difficult one for Miyako and myself. My father, deep down, could never truly forgive her. He made a reasonable bequest to Miyako ‑ she can live modestly, if she is sensible. The house in Tokyo and the major part of his fortune he has left to me. This is the source of Miyako's bitterness towards me; I can truly understand it. All this on top of her hatred of my virginity! She, who was so easy and careless with herself to the extent that she could callously sell herself for money to buy herself the latest Gucci shoes. And me? Happy to be a nun! Reserved for the creator of the universe.

     You can understand her hurt, the bitter irony that she, legitimate, is not heir to her father's fortune and power. I, an orphan and a half‑caste ‑ I'm sure you noticed, and worse, half‑American ‑ I have received the major part of it. It is not just a question of the amount of money, I could give what I like to Miyako and will do so. But this gift expresses his profound love for me. Miyako knows that my restraint and imperturbability were what our father loved in me; my adherence to traditional values, although my reasons are complex. Having been my elder sister's sex slave as a child is probably not irrelevant to the equation.

     But there have been other problems. It hurt me deeply to discover that she had told everyone recently that I became my step-father's last and most cherished mistress, having been first seduced by him when I was twelve or thirteen! That was her story, probably based (debased?) on her reading of Kawabata - her fantasy about my father and me being nothing other than a sleight-of-hand Kawabata short story - as this letter is fast becoming! She was always an avid reader and kept notebooks on everything she ever read. Or maybe she thought (dreamt?) it was really true?

     One reason she forced me to agree to our bizarre act of theatre (I agreed to the dance - Noh plays have always been a passion) may  have been to discover whether I was still a virgin or not. I had no idea her hate went so deep as to drug me! Drug us both. And plan for you to take my virginity without your knowing.

     But even under the drug I could still hear some things, and heard her tell you I worked in the 'House of the Sleeping Beauties', even though she knew you hadn't read the book. Have you, by now? To know our story, perhaps you must. Her monologue was full of devious deceptions, but she was always like that. Perhaps she hoped you might think that although I was still a virgin, I was also a whore. In Japan this is still possible, as you may know. In our own special theatre of sado-masochism some girls make a fortune remaining virgins, selling themselves for 'sex'. And years later they can still marry well! A  complex and dangerous race, we of the Orient, I say it myself.

     Apparently she over-drugged me, and you too; we had a terrible fight afterwards. Alas, in rage - very cruel of me, careless, with such harsh words - I threw her out of the house! I heard she came to you in the hotel having nowhere else to go. She was so angry she threatened to burn the house down with me in it! The house that is now mine, of course. She could be an utter bitch at times. If she had tricked you into taking my virginity I might have killed her! What if I had got pregnant, where would we all be now? Back to the beginning of our story?

     She knew the story of my mother's seduction, which one day I may write as a novel. It would be hard to tell it as truth. I am grateful my fate was not in the end to be corrupted by the wickedness of my sister. But she tells me it was your decision, and a conscious one, to hold back. You could have committed the 'perfect crime' (as she puts it) easily enough, but you didn't; you acted with respect and restraint.

     Which is why I can write to you knowing my confession will not be abused. Deeply indebted to you I look forward to really meeting you soon - you will discover that I speak English almost as fluently as Miyako. My father insisted we were educated at home by English tutors. Some were found for him by Kawabata! Alas for Miyako!!

     I will always support Miyako. She knows this but it is humiliating for her, and I don't know how she will deal with it. At times I fear she may go back to drugs ‑ not cocaine, which is merely a game for her. But heroin. The modern opium. Or she will kill herself. I often wondered if suicide was to be her fate, or mine. She has always known the sex trip as a death trip and often said she intended 'to take it the whole way.' My interest in death, by contrast, comes from my pursuit of a life of the spirit - for want of a better word. Hence my lack of hair!

     So I inherited the house here which you visited. I shall restore it, maybe make it into a museum. I shall look out for a small house in the village for Miyako, buy it for her so she will share our roots here. That might help her to pull herself out of the mud.  

     Perhaps now that our dear patriarchal father is dead and gone, and so much with him, Miyako and I can become true true friends. Maybe Miyako is free at last to be herself; not burdened with the deep shame she felt in dishonouring my father. Miyako lost many battles with herself but the hardest was knowing that my father felt that something intensely important to him, deep within his soul, had been forever compromised, destroyed. He did not agree with Miyako's theory that the geisha was an elegant, sensible and necessary part of our tradition. The Artiste! We had money, my father said, it was not necessary, she could easily have married well, had anything she wanted. Why choose to give herself away, trash, for mere cheap money?

     He could never have known (as I know) that for some obscure reason, she needed it. Enjoyed it. It was her sexual trip; abuse! Who abused her? For a lot of people nowadays sex has become meaningless. If religion was replaced by literature, as Kawabata said, what has sex to be replaced with? Fashion? Technology? The internet? Terrorism? Food? Miyako needed to be brutalised, treated as an abused object in order to become sexually aroused. But love? Where could she find that? Sadly, the privilege and honour to be truly loved, she had indeed imperiled. What about an Englishman who would never know the truth? She dreamed of you taking her away from it all, back to the Lake District you loved as a child, where you might  retire to write your memoirs - she said. She would help you. Then she blew it with the crazy Noh play scenario, which she saw as a perfect means of revenge against me. You had gazed at me too intently - she saw it with deep pain - especially after you had spent the night together. And in that fateful gaze was the bitter provocation for the whole tragedy that knit us together in such a sad web of deception. But she was always like that, preferring theatre, Kabuki, Noh, the sensual music and erotic dance, making love to herself - preferred it to the sick grayness of her real life, or its even grayer opposite, domesticity, the boredom of order, endless repetition. Daughter of darkness, mistress of despair, like the whore of Eguchi. She was Narcissus and I was her Echo. What else are we haunted by except genes and hormones? Her need for pain was a brutal fact. It was never easy for me to be her whipping girl, whipping her, and me not being whipped; but I was weak, scared, young and curious. When I found my own voice, it finally said. 'No.' In that conscious negation it was she, also, who was rejected. My myth was to 'wait' ...

     My father toyed with the idea of having the man who controlled  Miyako eliminated, in true Samurai style. It is possible he actually did this which is why Miyako drifted back here. My father even considered suicide. He died in spirit long before his body followed.

     So why did I take the risk of being dragged into Miyako's sexual charades? She told me it was the only way she could make you love her! She had read your book, decided you were perverse, a sadist. Like a fool, a loving fool, I believed what she said and did it for her. She would give me as a gift, but not for sex, an object of beauty; a girl who merely danced for you! I gave myself to her; a gift. Having read your Brontë book also, she gave it to me, not so much about literature but sexuality - we both agreed Emily was a lesbian, enjoyed romps with Charlotte, she hinted at it several times - she decided you were  perverse and without the element of spectacle, you the voyeur, sex would be boring to you. If she could 'pull' girls for you, you might actually need her and love her. Mad! But that is the language, one of the counterfeit codes of the world she has lived in, and it is difficult to filter out the sick values so deeply ingrained, such black poison, black bile in her blood.

     But I also hoped it would bring us closer, she and me. How stupid I was! Or maybe not? Time will tell. After all, we had hardly spoken a single word of truth to each other in the last few years. Suddenly she came to me with the suggestion that I dance for you, to enact our version of a Noh play - we always had our favourites (the more sexually suggestive ones, I  confess). So I was seduced by the proposed innocence of it. The sex games we played as children were always about madness and possession, swapping clothes and sexual roles - always the big question, who would play the man! Ironically, even then, I was the only one who could ever say; No. I drew the lines, the limits, because I was the victim, not really wanting or needing the pain that she really needed. I was invariably caste in the role of the girl. She wanted it, I obeyed. I continue to live on the surface, very reserved, but at peace. She is entombed in the flesh and at war with herself - the two extremes we Japanese relish! And the English too, I think, just a little?

     I too am starting a course at the university next year to study English literature. It runs in the family.

     Alas (I confess with some shame) I was intrigued to see Miyako making love. I admit it, with a deep sense of disgrace. Was it connected with a need to relive and so transcend our lurid past? As if at last the images we had toyed with, at first coyly, then hedonistically, had finally been realised and exorcised on the plane of reality. A poisoned chalice, alas ... the imaginary man who would come to us from the city and love us truly and seduce us with tenderness, love us and leave us as in the novel and play; both texts all about this poet's promise to return. He does so. The poet is the channeller of the ghost. With 'whom' we made love, vicariously, all those sad lonely childish times ... the father who absent, who had time to read us bedtime stories.

     Called to perform with her, how could I refuse. 'We will bring him back!' she said. Is not that first poet who loves us both, rejects us and promises to come back, not always the father? The poet who comes back years later, is he not a man who most resembles that father, your first love? So I agreed ... in so doing we might kill our ghost ... I'd free her and maybe myself too. And he came! Faceless, nameless, but radiant! To me at least. Yes, I saw him! She said I could dance and then you would both make love, aroused by watching me dancing as in the old erotic prints especially those based on the tales of Genji Monogatari. Childish Pastimes. I didn't really understand what she wanted, what she had imagined. But I was naively curious!

     Why am I telling you all this when I know I don't need to? In Japan, the endings of novels are always left floating; closure unsaid. Not like yours, the motives for the crime must be revealed in the final pages, the murderer exposed, apprehended, sent to gaol. In our plays there is often something similar to an ending though not an ending, still leaving everything poised so it can restart again. Nothing is terminal. The Coda. 

     I am half-American; being a half-caste has not been easy. Two girls in one! A cultural orphan as well as a real one. How to free myself from those guilt-drenched images? Enact them, exorcise them? Foolish to think it, but I did. Exorcism by ghosts, is that not the function of all theatre, all cinema? Catharsis the Greeks called it, no? Am I right? Miyako making love, a modern geisha, a black-and-white photograph, an Ukiyo-e print. Perhaps there is a touch of perversity in me, also - I doubt I could have avoided it - but my full, wholesome surrender to it must be reserved for the man who will one day come to me, a prince like Genji, eager to find a true sleeping princess. I have always been fond of the toad we call ShÇki, the 'Demon Queller'. He rids the world of its demons, as does the prince in the mind of every virgin! Do you know him? Such a fierce croak and yet smiling face. The toad, not the prince!

     Did you know that Noh plays were originally acted and danced by Shinto priestesses, but not for an audience of people? They were presented to the silent all‑seeing audience of gods. My favourite dance, by the way, is the Kagura. Did you like my music? It was originally the music in three parts, the jo, ha, and kyu, for a modern Noh play re‑arranged by a friend of mine, a brilliant young avant‑garde musician who writes all the music for us. You probably didn't know there was a group of women actresses who put on pseudo Noh plays? Not Noh at all, but taking their archetypal plots as a point of departure. I act with them from time to time. Recently we did Mishima's modern version of Dôdôji. About a girl who hides inside a bell which is just about to be consecrated. One day I will emerge from the bell, I hope! With my body, yes, but my mind - intact? I am sorry about all these literary references but Miyako and I lived with them all the time. It was always such an amusing and fascinating game, as children, lonely, growing up together, between fighting (mostly tearing each others clothes off), exchanging references, letters, poems as if we were lovers from the distant past, courtiers in the Heian court: we were, of course, in our own special way. Courtesans ...   

     Like Miyako I spend some of my time writing, for its own sake, even now mostly letters with no lover to send them to. Now I send one to Miyako's lover! An Englishman old enough to be our father! You! Murasaki Shikibu would have approved. Writing helps me to understand myself. Forgive me if I have allowed myself to be 'carried away'. Perhaps you can still love Miyako? In the old days and even quite recently many novelists married ex‑geisha. Like Sato Haruo. But then he divorced the geisha and married Chiyo, the wife Tanizaki was trying to get rid of, to leave him free to marry Nezu Matsuko ‑ with whom he enjoyed a very successful marriage lasting for more than 25 years. The essence of literature - or mere gossip? Godsip - god's sibling - the sister of god? It is she who is the source of all the best gossip!

     Can you forget Miyako's past and love her, nevertheless? Or was it just a casual affair for you as she said it was. 'He's another Shimamura', she said of you. You were always 'elsewhere', she said, dreaming, in love with 'someone' else. No wonder she wanted to love you, having written a book about Emily and 'Wuthering Heights', her favourite novel as a young girl when she was initiating me into many of her devilish 'bed games' (as Charlotte called them). She was reading Emily's delinquent novel when she was first seduced. He raped her. An English tutor. My father had him taken care of. Probably shot!

     Life! I have already seen too much and I am only just eighteen. Last week. Miyako is 23 by the way, amused you thought her younger. I intend to live here quietly until my university course starts. Yes, I shaved my head as we do in Japan when we have given up on the real world; the Buddhist's chosen exile from the burning house of the 'real' world. At university I will let it grow. I quite enjoy being alone. I will enjoy restoring the house in which live so many of our family's ghosts. I will adopt them as generously as my step-father adopted me.

     The Japanese word for loneliness is kodoku. Ko=orphan;  doku=alone. Kawabata  was  an  orphan which is why I always felt touched by his work. Maybe you should read 'Snow Country' after all. Perhaps it will seem utterly irrelevant to everything that arouses your curiosity and desire about us. So much has changed to Japan since then, it hardly bears thinking about. He was just so sad, really, at times so bitter, not being able to truly love a woman, sexually - loved them only for their beauty and when they were so young. Too young! Such a lonely life being cut off from everything you might otherwise enjoy possessing - the fulness of a passionate woman - love is not possession, though sexuality certainly is! No? I must wait to find out ...

     Meanwhile I can be at peace with myself, restoring our wonderful old house, as I promised my father I would do. In his memory. It was his dream, but in life he was too busy with his mistresses! I will make it perfect, whole, as it once was. I am already looking for furniture of the period so I can create an authentic time capsule of our cherished past. Why do we want to escape the past?

     Please try to love Miyako. She said she thought you were half way there! The way sisters talk? Crazy how she is still a romantic child after all her degrading experiences. She has been foolish but at times we love to be fooled. Isn't that what romance is about? Isn't it quite healthy at times? But I couldn't have you falling in love with her and then finding out the truth about her a year later and in rage, killing her, as could happen here in the hands of the wrong family. Or man. Men (of business) can be very violent when it comes to such women who have been whores, allowed the body they are supposed to cherish, in which they will incubate their shared children, to be a mere commodity. How can it ever become sacred again? The body, once abused?

     Miyako told me a crazy story that you are an MI6 agent - she may have gossiped or warned people. You may have felt the Japanese delegates steering clear of you. I hope not. An MI6 agent who writes books on the Brontë girls' sexual fantasies and opium addiction? I think she got it wrong - she knows you also write sleazy spy and detective novels under the pseudonym Milton Crookshank. But she was always close to a friend of my father who was deputy head of a department in Intelligence HQ. Probably one of her clients! All these networks and webs that conspire to entrap us with truths we would prefer to keep hidden. That is how she found out your secrets, she says.

     Despite the harrowing scene we shared together in the shadows of the wonderful old house ‑ a dream which you might think is best forgotten - I shall always have reverential memories of it. After all, we were daring enough, bold, wild, confronting profoundly disturbing truths that most people avoid. Once I loved Miyako even more than myself. Even physically. But then I grew out of it. It is not often we have the privilege of sharing such disquieting mysteries, except as spectators in a theatre. Or temple?

     How much longer are you staying? You could leave a letter for me at the old house if you want to, as they used to do in the old days, when Murasaki wrote her 'Genji Monogatari'. Or a poem? We love writing poems to each other! A simple waka, perhaps, in reply? In those days, after the erotic events of the night before, the poem was as important (if not more so?) as the love making. Why not? How can we know without attempting it? Or did poetic licence absolve them from the necessity, always, to tell the truth? What kind of truth is embodied in poetry? As you asked in your book. But did not truly answer!! Fiction and poetry as lies, lies without which there is no romance? Lies, told even to oneself. Love dwells in the domains of the imagination not the domains of truth. The domains of desire, which should be nameless! 'I will love you forever as I always loved you, even before we met ... '

     Will you reply to a young girl's poem, as a true man should?

    

 

                        Two birds in a nest

                        Hiding from freak autumn snows 

                        One eats the banned fruit

                        The other, reserved, says No 

                        No, not yet wishing to eat   

 

 

Apologies to the Rig Veda. And the Noh.

 

Affectionately. With true respect.

 

Yoko.                            

 

 

***

 

Back Top of Page Map