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Two Chiekos - The Conductor's Cabin

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Two Chiekos

Very well. Personal. I can be personal if if will sell three copies or four of my poorly-translated opus.

There have been two women named Chieko in my life, and I have loved both of them. I have often thought about the symmetry of Chiekos, my sister and my academic advisor, both older than I, both shorter than I, both beautiful, both bitter.

My sister Chieko was the first to publish me: she printed out my bits of tourist blather on glossy paper and handed them out with ice cream cones at the intersection of three holy avenues leading to a Shinto temple, a Buddhist Shrine, and a pachinko parlor. I loved her utterly, in the way a young boy always manages to love the sister closest to him in age. When our family bathed it was her half-grown breasts at which I stole glances. Her music I listened to (vile electronic stuff), her boyfriends I imitated. I associate the taste of sweet potato ice cream with her still, purple and thick and cloying. Once, she took me up through the forest behind out house and let me kiss her while the cicadas screamed all around. Children play, it meant nothing, but the insect shriek of the summer even now arouses. One of the boyfriends got her pregnant and they married at the temple near her ice cream parlor when she was nineteen. She sweated through her diadem and I was sad for her. She had wanted to go to university, to study chemistry, but her child (a daughter, then two sons later on) kept her firmly at home, and she withered up. I don’t speak with her now. She has nothing but bile for the world.

My academic advisor Chieko was beautiful and cold and fifteen years older than I. She was my first lover and I did not need to steal glances. She didn’t like kissing or cocksucking–nothing that meant she must use her mouth. She had no children, and did not want any. I found that radical and fascinating when I was twenty. She also hated ice cream. She was thin and brittle and brilliant, and whatever she says in her interviews, it was I who broke it off, I who ended our professional relationship. She was not faithful—she collaborated with other men. When we went to Hokkaido, chasing down an old conductor by the name of Nakamura Taro who had retired to the snow after losing his thumb while repairing an old engine, she stayed on with Nakamura for three weeks while I went back to Honshu, doing who knows what that she wouldn’t answer for, and Nakamura an old man with no thumb! How can one work with such a woman? I don’t speak with her now. I did not tell her I was coming to America.
Perhaps to be named Chieko is to torture men named Kenji.

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