Steve thought Japan was awesome right from his first night in the country. Fresh from Broken Hill, we let him drop off his bags then took him directly to our local, Bar Accredit. There was some sort of DJ event on and the place was packed.
What Steve immediately liked was that the music was great, everyone was dancing, and the J-girls were so friendly that they were taking off the foreign men’s shirts and doing sexy dancing with them.
One girl in particular took a shine to him but she spoke no English. His usual game hamstrung, he decided on a more blunt approach that could not fail to be understood. He took her by the hand, pointed at the door and said, “Sex? Sex? Sex?” They disappeared together and he copped a handjob in an adjacent park. Not quite a score, but impressive for a bloke who’d only touched down seven hours earlier.
Steve was the archetype of the kind of foreigner J-girls love. Blonde, blue-eyed, baby-faced, confident but soft and easy going. There’s an old joke – what do foreign men and Versace handbags have in common? No matter how ugly they are, every Japanese girl wants one. The fad for westerners has long since faded but blokes like Steve never go out of style.
On about day three of his sojourn he made it to the local supermarket and a cute girl spotted him, introduced herself and gave him her phone number. They were dating a short time later. To say that I was not at all jealous of his luck would verge on dishonesty.
Now we must make a short digression. On the outskirts of a giant Japanese city there lays a suburb called Kitashima. Kitashima is most notable for the fact that it is utterly charmless. The only real feature is a giant, ugly shopping centre where Yankis and Brazilians play arcade games. But in this unlikely place where we were sometimes sent on assignment there was hidden a rare and precious jewel. Her name was Keiko. Every red-blooded male in my company (including my red-blooded self) was hopelessly in love with her. Not only was she uncommonly beautiful, she was also kind and sweet and friendly. She was not the kind of girl you’d have a wank over – more one you’d fantasize about having grandchildren with.
Many tried to win Keiko’s affections and approximately the same number failed. But then Steve came along. He politely asked her out on a date and she agreed. On the date she asked him if he’d yet had a Japanese girlfriend and he nervously said no. He quickly dumped the other girl and from that point on Steve and Keiko were an item.
Some time later a few of us boys were talking as boys are like to do and we were bemoaning the fact that no J-girls were on the pill, meaning it was condoms or nothing. Steve mentioned that Keiko actually was on the pill. We gasped and another mate grumbled, “You just get fucking everything, don’t you.”
A couple of years later a comical situation occurred when, by pure chance, the happy couple and the ex-girlfriend ended up in the same nightclub at the same time, the couple upstairs and the jilted one below. Some mutual friends were aware of the aforementioned shenanigans and realized that the two women could not be allowed to become aware of each other’s presence or identity, and assorted hilarities ensued. But they pulled it off.
The last time I saw Steve he came up to stay at my house in the mountains for snowboarding – his first time. He fell badly in the afternoon and hurt his side. A year or so later he visited a doctor for another reason and discovered he’d actually broken a couple of ribs. But he had a good day.
We gradually lost touch but through remaining connections I heard he and Keiko married, returned to Broken Hill, had kids, came back to Japan and he got a great job. But then Steve got a rare form of cancer. I heard he had surgery and it all went well. And that was some years ago.
But just the other day an old friend contacted me and told me that he’d suddenly taken a turn for the worse and died. He was thirty-six years old.
Of course it is tragic when anyone dies, but when it is such a young, successful person who loves life, adores his family, and who wants more than anything to continue living, it is heartbreaking.
Here I am constantly whining about the various miseries of my life, and yet I am alive. Steve grabbed every opportunity, treated every difficulty with studied grace, and he loved it all. But he is gone. There is no sense or justice in our universe.
So charge your glass and have a drink for my old mate Steve. Consider his life and remember to appreciate your own, and the friends, family and lovers who are in it with you, because nothing lasts forever and you or they may be gone tomorrow. Don’t bewail life’s transience – appreciate it and be as happy as you can while it lasts.