In one if his doomed attempts to kindle something approximating a relationship, when I was a child – probably around five or six years old – my estranged father took my step-brother and I to the cinema for a Saturday afternoon matinee showing of Hook with Dustin Hoffman as the eponymous pirate. Though disappointed that we weren’t allowed the buckets of pop corn and candy like the other kids (he had smuggled in cheese rolls and bottles of Panda Pop) I was enthralled by everything: the swashbuckling action, the Lost Boys, the crocodile, and on the car ride back to their house Simon and I made a promise that one day we would live in Neverland together.
However, that night I had a terrifying dream in which I was Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, and in battling with Hook, he ran me through with his cutlass, again and again. As the life drained from me he cast me overboard, and as I floundered in the briny sea I heard the tick-tock tick-tock of the crocodile’s lethargic approach. But rather than try to escape my paralysed limbs began working against me and I found myself magnetically drawn towards the beast and its terrifying jaws of impending doom. Finally, just as the teeth clamped around my soft flesh I awoke screaming in my bed and my mother, signalled by my howls of fear, came up from the bar below to soothe me.
From that night onwards I was too petrified to sleep, believing that one day the devilish croc would finally catch me and take from me my everlasting life. I had been an outgoing, adventurous child, but the incident changed me, and I became haggard and timid as the spectre of the amphibious keeper of time loomed over both my waking and sleeping hours.
As good doctors, I am sure that you could find something telling in my childhood fears that reflect upon what I became, what I have become, what I was. But for now I am not interested in this, in your no doubt Freudian theories. Now I mention it simply because this very real fear that permeated my childhood days pales into insignificance when compared to the moment I met her, on that night in Ikeda Koen, Satan herself.
I don’t remember how I first glimpsed her, my memory is not necessarily as reliable as it once was. Maybe it was a shapely tail disappearing down an alley, maybe it was a flicker in an eye – but I know that I was drawn to her.
There had been plenty of temptation, of course. There were the usual calls of hawkers summoning me to bars of flesh and fancy, there were the usual whispered offers from middle aged sex workers of illicit massages and promises of JK dates, but still, once I had seen her, I knew I was fated to meet no other. She frightened me, she appalled me, of course, but like the ticking of Hook’s nemesis, I was powerless to disobey. I was entranced
She led me by scaly hand through the streets, and to the lift of what seemed like an old apartment building, but judging by the downcast eyes and remorseful, sated demeanours of the men exiting the lift, it was clear that, though they may have laid down there, they weren’t there to live.
Once in the lift, perhaps knowing my fear at encountering this, the most evil of angels, or perhaps sensing my inner resilience, she touched me with alluring gentleness on my arm, my skin crawling at her touch.
“Don’t be afraid,” spoke the Beast. “Just come with me and I will look after you.”
Now knowing that it was my destiny to battle her, I followed her in through a door where she led me to a small dimly lit room with a futon, a table and barely anything else.
“You look tired,” she said, sensing that I was at my weakest. I retorted that I hadn’t eaten for those last fourteen hours and she offered me some otsumame. But I now knew that she intended to do me harm, and refused.
“Whatever,” she said, but I could tell that she was disappointed that I had resisted her first temptation. “Take off your clothes,” she whispered from her forked tongue, as she shed her skin-tight tiger print dress, “and I will make you feel like the king of the world!”
It was then that the words of Gabriel, my archangel of the subway, returned to me, and I defiantly retorted: “But I all ready am the king of the word, for I am Joshua, the second coming of Christ.”
These words obviously confounded her, this Beelzebub. She could see my awesome power and she was shaken.
“I think you should give me my money and leave.”
“Money? For what? You haven’t done anything but try to tempt me. But you will not succeed, devil woman. For I am Christ!”
This pronouncement obviously startled her, and she left the room with her serpentine tail between her legs, but before I could celebrate my conquering of the evil one, two of her minions, demons in black suits and slicked hair stormed in and dragged me out of the establishment. They pulled me to a stairwell, beat me roughly, emptied my wallet of the piteous sum within and threw me down the first flight of stairs. But though I seemed defeated, the battle had just begun.