He didn’t want to go home after work, so he sat in the convenience store parking lot smoking Melvius brand cigarettes and reading comics on his phone. He tried to forget about his day, the assembly line at work, his wife. He texted her: “working late again.” She said: “On your birthday?? That’s rough. Hurry home XO!”
Toyozo liked sitting there. In the rightmost parking spot underneath the uncut camphor trees from the shrine next-door, he could become almost invisible. He could vanish in his Subaru beneath the branches and watch the old women and salarymen enter and exit the Family Mart as if he was removed from the world. When it got late enough, when it was quiet enough, he dematerialized from the Earth and into his comics, his 11% cigarettes. Forgot about everything else.
But it was noisy tonight. A clump of high school boys were drinking from plastic bottles and hollering at each other in front of the hood of his car. YUUKI, one cried. The boy was smiling. He was carrying a large bag with a baseball bat, swinging from his shoulders and across his chest. SHUT UP, he said. All four of the boys pushed and punched at each other and began to scream laughing. Their mouths were tall and black and studded with little stars of teeth.
Having to share a reality with these clapping, hooting boys drove a jealous anger through Toyozo. He hated their grinning faces. Young men, he thought, are always so loud when they laugh. He heard them through the windshield. They must remind everyone that they exist, they must make everyone hear them and acknowledge them, he thought. Anyone in a young man’s path is simply living in His world. The pang of envy in Toyozo deepened as he considered it. Free young men who did whatever they pleased, forcing him into their world and gloating that they could do whatever they wanted to. He imagined starting the Subaru and running them over. He imagined the sound their skulls might make as he crushed them. Perhaps it would be like a tennis racket making contact with a ball as the bones popped and revealed a well of knotted pink grease inside.
He locked his phone. He couldn’t escape tonight, not tonight. But he didn’t want to go home either. His son would still be awake and his wife would want to talk. He wondered instead if he could sleep and drop into a dreamless dark for long enough to forget about his thirty-seventh birthday and his family and the sustained bellow of the assembly line transporting Honda engine parts from one side of the factory to the next. He was always thinking of the factory: the never-ending line of machines and traction belts and the smell of something permanently on fire. Outside, the high schoolers were simulating sex on each other and screaming.
There was no sleeping no matter how many minutes passed on the digital clock. 21:35. How much longer can I sit here, he thought. The high schoolers were still there. Toyozo was stuck in the world.
So he lit another cigarette and watched a minivan ease into the spot aside him. A Honda model. The sight only sunk him deeper in, thronged up his being and fossilized him into the silt of the Earth. They manufactured parts for the same model car at his factory.
In the van’s flat brown paint, Toyozo saw his face reflected. How gaunt it had grown since he was as young as the boys outside. He had been so masculine. A suggestion of the man he once was lingered in the square of his firm jaw. It was all that remained of how he envisioned himself, how he had been before. Never particularly beautiful, but young and handsome. His body laced with muscle from long shifts moving cargo off the boats in Toba. Attractive enough, he thought, I was attractive enough. When he imagined the notion of “Toyozo” in his head, he saw the athletic and strong boned man he had been in his twenties. But the real reflection was thinner and beginning to sag along the lines of his face. His eyes were still big and brown. They trembled.
A woman got out of the car he was staring at.
First, he saw the chest. The weight of two substantial breasts pressing into the cream material of a sweater. Since a young age, reading girlie magazines his friend found in a dumpster, Toyozo had been fascinated with breasts. A particular shot from one of these magazines stuck with him: a long haired woman sighing and pushing the tissue of her breasts together to create a single, round line. He couldn’t recall her face, only the crescent pleat of her chest. When he was working in Toba, he had slipped his penis between the breasts of a girl he was fucking and penetrated her pushed together cleavage until ejaculating on her beautiful neck. He regularly thought of this when masturbating. It seemed so long ago and so distant that he could never be certain it really happened. It was like a dream. And the thought of it now, along with the faceless woman’s pushed together tits, trailed through him like smoke from stray ash as he watched the flesh move beneath this woman’s turtleneck sweater. Not in several years had he seen breasts like this in person.
Toyozo sat up straight and put his cigarette out into the plastic cup. It was stuffed with dozens of extinguished bodies from today, yesterday, the day before that. He leaned toward the passenger side window as the woman walked around her Honda minivan and into the Family Mart. She disappeared into the brightness and he was shaken.
In the gruesome convenience store light, Toyozo thought he saw a black hole. It was in the shape of her head. He wanted to crawl into the little hovering aperture and surround himself with it so there was nothing else. Even from that distance, separated by the windshield and the windows, the sallow fluorescent lamps and the high school boys crashing into one another, even with all of it between him and the hole, Toyozo felt it ripping gravity apart as it inhaled the world. He could not look away.
She came out of the store with two white bags around her wrist. He suddenly began to forget the contents of his own car and all the plastic garbage and the water that caught his cigarettes and the used up packages of chips, they all slipped away. The high school boys did too, as did his wife, his son and the whir of machinery at work. Soon he was only aware of a tensing heat in his crotch.
He started his Subaru without thinking. He took it from the parking lot and out the west exit, behind the woman’s car. He drove after it. He was, for the moment, freed from all thoughts of the real world. But this is the real world, he thought: pursuing the sidereal pinhole in the driver’s seat of that Honda.
So long as he existed in the orbit of that beautiful thing and its breasts, he thought, there didn’t have to be anything else. He never thought of where he was going or why. He was no different from the metal coils and screws and car parts placed on the factory’s assembly line and godlessly sped away for who knows what. Producing a terrible, primordial groan.
Whole blocks of the city were replaced for rice fields as they drove. Any buildings left standing in the black squares of water and grass were old and crumbling: wherever he was looked nothing like the city. He hadn’t been here before. It was unusual for him to stray so far from the path he took everyday. Drive the thirty four minutes from his apartment to the factory, from the factory to the convenience store, convenience store go home. Go home to Mitsuko and say, I’m so tired. I’m going to bed now. Goodnight.
Perhaps he should have been frightened, drifted so far from the universe he knew. But it was exciting. The new world around him was not the world he had been pinioned against. For so long. How many years since he married Mitsuko? About eight now. Five years since the baby and then the increased hours at the factory job, the Honda job that was supposed to just be an in between job and not a forever job. But he had to work somewhere. He was still a man, despite his decalcifying male form, despite the very unmanly life he led. Despite his unattractive wife with small breasts and despite his involuntary abstinence and his job. Somehow, he was still a man. And he had to provide.
Though he didn’t have to provide here. He was no longer in that world and he felt blank and empty. He was unattached. His cock twitched against his jeans.
The Honda sparkled against his headlights. It decelerated. It pulled off and stopped as if the atoms around it simply ceased moving. The hazard lights came on, and in those several seconds Toyozo wheeled against the side of the street and the edge of the rice field.
On either side of his car, the world appeared obliterated in black. A single metallic beam lit up the Honda and that was it. The hazard lights flashed. Toyozo thought he should drive away and forget it, go home and die, but he got out and he proceeded to the minivan.
He tapped on the window and it rolled down.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m okay.”
What should he do. He thought, What should I do? He thought, Why did she stop? What am I doing here? Her mouth hardly parted to speak — she was wearing lipstick that accentuated the stillness on her small features. Her face was very small. She looked straight ahead and he could not see her breasts in the darkness of the driver’s side seat.
She asked him why he was following her.
“Oh,” he said. He pretended to be surprised. “It’s not like that. I was just driving home and I saw that your hazard lights were on.”
“I don’t care if you were following me.”
“I swear I wasn’t.”
“Well, if you were,” she said, “I wouldn’t be angry. I would just want to know why.”
He wondered if she was going to reveal a can of pepper spray or an axe. Or if she would throw him into the street and macerate his head with her high heels, stomp though the bones composing his face and annihilate him completely. He wouldn’t mind that, he thought. His skin was stiff with drying sweat.
“It’s because I saw you in the convenience store and I thought you were attractive.”
“So what did you think you were going to do,” she asked, “coming all the way out here? Did you think you were going to fuck me?”
Toyozo was silent.
She looked at him. “You can if you want.”
And he apologized.
“Don’t say sorry,” she said. “If you don’t want to fuck me you don’t have to.”
No, that’s not it, he said. I want to. I really want to. I just don’t understand—
“Alright then,” she adjusted in her seat so the light moved in from his car. It fell across her chest and the beige seems of fabric.
“How should we do it? The backseat’s kinda messy so I’m not sure that would work. And there’s no hotels around here. But I guess I can clean out the back if it suits you.”
He saw the shadow of two child seats behind her.
“Anywhere is fine.”
“What about the road? It’s not too dirty, is it?”
“No,” he stopped to look at the asphalt beneath his sneakers. It was spotless save for some cracks of agitated weeds toiling upward. “It looks alright to me.”
“Great.” Her long fingers went to the door-handle. “Excuse me,” she said.
Toyozo stepped back to make room for the door as it swung into the pool of light. It was impossible to imagine anything outside of it.
“Why don’t you tell me what it is you find so attractive about me?”
“Ah,” she said. “They’re pretty big, aren’t they.”
She peeled the turtleneck over her shoulders and revealed a simple white bra. Nothing that couldn’t be bought at a drug store. After undoing it, after it fell into a pile on the street, her chest managed to support itself in an upright and attractive face. The two nipples were small and pink in a muddy complexion. The areolas unassuming and short. These are perfect breasts, he thought.
“This is what you like?”
“Do whatever you want to me,” she said. And she lied down face up with her eyes cast into the sheet of lightless stars.
For a moment, Toyozo was motionless and still. Scrutinizing the body before him. He quaked as he slowly unlashed the metal stirrup of his belt from the hole. His zipper and then his jeans seemed to fall into nothingness with the belt, outside of the light and into the shadows. He removed his genitals from his boxers, leaned down and pressed them into the flesh of her breasts. He was suffused with sudden and extraordinary heat in the whole of himself. It was almost all there was.
But he could see her face. The headlights were exposing her features and he did not want to see them. If he could see what she looked like, she could not be the girl from the magazine. Or the girl from Toba. And the ideal woman was no one.
“Wait,” he said. “Turn around.”
The woman waited for him to unseat from her. She stood, turned and put herself back down. Into the same position. The headlights blew out Toyozo’s form entirely so he was only a mass of glistening whiteness atop her with his penis moving through and out of her breasts. He could not help himself.
“Put them together for me,” he said.
Her face was blasted away in the light; the voice came from nowhere. “Like this?”
Not quite. They were uneven from the pressure she applied to each side, so he realigned her fingers to distribute the weight.
“Like this,” he said.
And then they looked how he wanted them to. He penetrated the perfect, silent crescent. She was the girl from the magazine and the girl he fucked in Toba and every girl ever. This is everything, he thought. He wanted nothing else. The arrangement of her bright skin and the quivering meat and the long, beautiful line. Her flesh incinerated the road beneath her and their two cars and the light and the world all at once.
Something inchoate and primeval came from Toyozo’s mouth. He groaned. A fervent and carnal noise of satisfaction, fulfillment, so base it could not be a word. It could not be language — it was too basal. Gaspings and cries she too began to vocalize with her own mouth, like her voice was merging with his.
“Be quiet,” he said. He put his right hand over her open mouth, felt the tongue on his palm. Pushed against her teeth, pushed against the long haired skull until the woman was only her breasts. That was all he could see. Be quiet, he said. Silence and night around him. Space, and only the breasts and Toyozo inside it. He could barely think, but he thought in some inexpressible conception, Pleasure, Content, Perfect.
That was what he thought before he orgasmed through her cleavage, pouring semen across her neck, onto the pavement and atop her invisible lips. He said nothing. Thoughts returned to him as he felt a breeze on his back — he was shivering. For the first time, he noticed the sound of cicadas and frogs droning from the rice fields like small machines.
The woman asked without standing if he wanted to do anything else to her. No, he said, thank you, and she cleaned her face and collarbone with a tissue from the dashboard. She fixed her bra, she put her sweater back on and she bowed to Toyozo before driving away. He watched the Honda minivan disappear into the ether and thought he should try and remember the license plate number. But he immediately forgot it once he was in front of his own steering wheel. Driving home.
As he went back into the city, the headlights cast from his Subaru were no longer gold or bronze but flat and colorless like the overhead lamps in the convenience store. And it was terribly noisy, he thought. Wind lashed at the windows. It howled trying to get in. Stoplights told clumps of teenage boys coming home from cram school and old women with their dogs that it was safe to cross the street.
His son was still awake when he walked through the door of his two bedroom apartment. It was messy and cold; the dishes were yet to be washed.
And his wife said from the kitchen, “Happy birthday.”