It’s fair to say that I didn’t immediately recognise Josh for what he is, whatever that may truly be. No, at first he wasn’t really someone who you recognised at all. A nondescript sort of guy, he looked like the sort of person who had never successfully interrupted a conversation in his life. Which is pretty strange when you think about it, seeing as much as I have now seen.
No, when I first met Josh on that Halloween night he was something of a piteous, maudlin character and, as someone who has a tendency to gather waifs and strays, I felt sorry for him and took him under my wing. We had a few drinks, though not being much of a drinker I opted for water, but when he returned with nothing but wine I at first took it with good will. When it happened again I have to say, though it shames me to say it now, I was a little disgruntled. It wasn’t until the third time that I realised what had been happening, that his mispronouncing of ‘mizu’ had come out as ‘mitsu’, but I didn’t have the heart to put him right.
That night we all drank too much, though it has to be said that Josh was certainly on the upper end of the scale. At first his attitude – I don’t want to call it obnoxiousness exactly, perhaps over exuberance – was tolerated, but eventually there was an altercation with one of my friends. Masa claimed at the time that it was due to Josh’s overzealous advances towards one of the girls we were with – a claim that Josh has since refuted, and that Masa has now agreed that he got the wrong end of the stick. Whatever the reason for it, Josh kind of disappeared, and I presumed that it would be the last I would see of him. Fortunately I was wrong.
It saddens me to say that in those days I enjoyed the company of ladies who you would perhaps not consider to be the most ethically employed, ostensibly plying their trade as masseurs, though their massages were very localised below the belt and little else.
Anyway, that evening having drunk more than I was usually able, I staggered around the streets of Ikeda Koen looking for a few minutes of blissful relief, and I had just arranged a price with one such woman when I heard a commotion across the street outside a non-descript building well known (to me, at least) to be a den of assisted onanism. Curious at the uncharacteristic tumult in an area that likes to keep disturbances to a minimum lest it attracts the attention of an officious kind, I glanced over, and what did I see but Josh clatter to the ground, beaten black and blue.
Now I was faced with a conundrum. What should I do? Should I ignore him and go with my chosen lady whose arm was all ready linked through mine? Or should I come to the rescue of the hapless Englishman? I’ll admit, I was torn. I could have taken the easy way out and followed my masseuse into her room, but my avuncular feelings towards him overtook my lustful urges and I hurried across the road.
With the people around us studiously ignoring the desperate figure of the bleeding gaijin, I gathered him up and was able to help him stand by leaning on my shoulder. I was fortunate in that for a gaijin he has something more akin to a Japanese stature and I was able to half carry him away from his stricken position and into the bathroom of a 7-11 where, dunking him into the sink I managed to wash most of the blood from his face.
The entire time in which I was cleaning him up he was chatting away, though it was at such a speed and impeded by a swollen jaw that I was unable to follow his English. But finally having swabbed the blood from his face and picked the dirt from the grazes on his bleeding palms, he looked somewhat presentable. To show his gratitude he insisted on buying us some cans of strong chu-hi which, despite being much the worse for wear, I accepted quite readily.
Wanting to get away from the shame and disappointment of Ikeda Koen – not to mention any further reprisals from the Yakuza hoods who had taken it upon themselves to assault poor Josh – I lead him across the city to the closed Oasis 21 shopping centre, where we climbed the stairs and sat upon the high rise platform overlooking Central Park and the TV Tower, and we sat in silence, swigging from our cans, gazing at the beautiful city below.
“So, do you want to know what happened?”
It was Josh who broke the calm.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to tell me,” I replied, not out of any sympathy for the boy, but simply I had decided to finish my drink as quickly as I could and perhaps see if the Chinese girl was still available.
“You’re my friend. I think you should know.”
Having just met the Englishman I may have cringed a little at this sudden emotional statement, though if my face showed it, he made no sign of acknowledgment. Besides, the way his face was beaming in spite of his bruises, it seemed that no matter my reaction he had to tell me something. It was literally bursting from within
“I was tempted Jun, truly tempted. Do you know who by?”
“I can probably guess.”
“Can you?” At this he turned and the way he looked at me made me realise that I probably couldn’t.”
“It was the devil, Satan herself.”
Before I could respond he was all ready talking on, a stream of thought, of consciousness pouring out of him, like he had no control of what he was saying, but that his soul was skittering from his tongue.
“Some strange things have happened to me today, strange like you couldn’t believe. In fact at first I didn’t believe, but now I am sure.”
“Sure? About what?”
And then he told me. He told me about the subway. He told me about the dirty futon. He told me about the temptation of the stairs.
And the way he looked at me, I could see that there were only two options: that either this gaijin was crazy, befuddled by booze or… Or. Or that he was just as he said. That he was Iesu. He was Kiristo. That he was the Son of God.