Underneath the scarlet and white lights, an all girls punk band thrashed about the tiny stage in much the same way that children do when they’re let loose on a playground full of energy. The lead singer clutched the microphone in one hand while her other held tightly to a black, cushioned bar positioned under the ceiling and just in front of the stage – a move that was cool the first few songs but was getting difficult to get excited over again. The guitarist and the bassist strummed and plucked consistently as their feet carried their banging heads and flailing black and blonde hair in every which way across the stage. A big, bright green glowstick hovered in the background, surrounded by a pair of teeth that belonged to the relatively calm drummer plunged in the dark behind the others. The whole ensemble reminded me of the way I’d jam out in my own homes over the years. Any and every door frames substituted for the overhead, padded bars, cheap chopsticks, other utensils, or my hands stood in for the drumsticks, but they were hardly used; I much preferred the pretend, Rock God strumming of a plastic, yellow broom with the imaginary image of a microphone stand in front of me.
The place was called Sonset Strip, a basement level punk rock experience tucked inside a space as large as a two bedroom apartment. But this was a city in Japan, land of space saving, so this didn’t come as a surprise. Neither did the random placement of English words in some of the songs the bands played. Neither was the consumption of highballs, or the seemingly uninterested Japanese audience who just stood as if the music only placated them over time, or the forty or fifty year old mother with the small child in her arms in the center of the crowd. This was all only of mild interest. While the bands may have been inspired by all the punk rock bands and shows in the world, the crowd was Japanese to the bone, they wouldn’t be doing much dancing anytime soon.
Rebecca and I had been conversing for a week over the internet, getting to know each other and feeling pretty good about what we had been seeing. I hadn’t put a lot of weight into online dating before but it was something I felt was worth a try considering my newness to the country. Good vibes came from our conversations, though, so it felt a little different. We exchanged recommendations on books (it all kicked off on books – we had both read a book that was both incredibly uncommon and described ourselves well), talked briefly about music we liked, and a little bit more about ourselves. It was an unnaturally natural online conversation between two people who were obviously looking for something.
So, I was feeling incredibly nervous. More nervous than I had in recent times, in fact. I had been feeling a standard confidence in myself since I left the States, riding on a couple make out sessions and some language that could only be spoken by eyes. I even had a first date not two months before and felt nothing of worry during that time, despite it not going well at all. Its ending was more reminiscent of Arthur Dent’s meeting with Trillian in Hitchhiker’s Guide more than anything else, only shittier. All in all, there was no reason for me to be considering anything other than, “Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes!” when Rebecca sent me the invitation to join her and her friends at Sonset Strip.
I dithered about while I tried to make up my mind to go. I checked with a friend to see what he was doing to see about getting a wingman, someone familiar to help me with adjust to the unfamiliar, but he was busy celebrating a half of a year with his Japanese girlfriend. Ah well, I told myself, at least that’s forced me to make a decision. I pulled out some extra month from a Seven-Eleven ATM near central park before I made the trek, on foot, to the location.
Striding across a quiet section of downtown, opted to find the landmark that was three convenience stores located almost right next to each other. It took me about forty-five frantic minutes. Most of that time I knew I was on the right path, but when I figured that I was looking at the wrong block, for a few minutes, I thought I was heading in the opposite direction. A unnecessary fear gripped me. As it turned out, I was indeed, heading to the right place and eventually happened upon the three “conbinis” that were across from Sonset Strip.
When I found Sonset Strip, I was clad in a new, gray jacket I had just bought hours earlier and my small laptop bag which housed my Nook reader, a charge pack for my phone, and a pair of wireless earbuds. I suddenly felt improperly equipped for the task at hand – wooing a lady of which I felt a decent deal of admiration for. Even in the best of situations, equipment wise, I’d have felt a tad nervous. But with that sudden realization, I started doubting myself.
I stood out on the sidewalk, looking at the building’s off-white colored stone business board which displayed a number of places including Sonset Strip on B1. A slim staircase led down into the first basement level and to Rebecca, but I wasn’t quite ready. I peeled myself off to the other side of the sidewalk and took off my jacket, thinking that maybe I could fit it into my small bag. Somehow, it fit, but it looked ridiculous, I decided. So I removed it and put it back on. Then I looked at my phone and tried to give myself some excuse for standing outside for a little while to let the jitters go away. It didn’t work. I looked back up at the stone business board, illuminated in it’s modest, dirty yellow under glow and decided it was time to get a move on.
And so it came to be that I watched three Japanese punk bands rock their faces off while the crowd stood around, save for the four gaijins and the few close friends of the bands who took up positions in front of the stage. During that time I got along swimmingly with Rebecca’s two friends, who were a couple themselves – both of different countries – and had stashed my jacket and bag in a convenient personal item locker that was provided by the venue for 100 yen. We drank, rocked, and talked whenever we could between songs or sets, her English accent fighting through the ringing brought on by the music in my ears.
Rebecca and I danced together, too. Timidly, at first, as I felt like she was out of my league entirely, and then constantly. Her long, curly golden hair moved playfully along with her moves and her big, white grin made me feel good and silly. She was wearing a short sleeved blouse of a deep red, a silver necklace that tracked its way between the curvature of her breasts, and a nose piercing on her right nostril. It could be that it glimmered silver like her necklace, but I seem to recall a deep blue as well. The blue could have easily come from her eyes, however. Even in the darkly lit and sporadically flashed area that was the venue’s dance floor, I could see the deep set of light blue eyes that she had. Gorgeous would be the descriptor I’d give for her eyes, though I find myself overusing the word. Not everyone is made for blue eyes; I remember a previous girlfriend who had colored contacts for a while and kept wearing blue iris contacts. They didn’t fit on her at all. Rebecca, however, made the oceanic blue eyes as they made her. I’m sure I was just one of many fools to float myself along in the beautiful reflection.
I certainly found myself thinking about her eyes when I pulled her in for the first of many kisses that night. That was the last thing I remember before I kissed her for the first time. It was true for the remaining long kisses we had on the middle of the dance floor, around a bunch of passive Japanese people and bands who longed for a return of the energy they put out. They certainly got it from us, singular in our moments entwined.