Author: Guede Mazaka
The teahouse is nothing like the graceful origami austerities of her childhood. Its walls are common plain wood that has no art hidden beneath its crude grain, its ornamentation is cheap paint that in this heat bubbles and reeks faintly of turpentine. The stains are not masterly imperfections wrought to bring artificial objects back to the natural beauty that birthed them, but merely filthy traces of man’s baser instincts. There is no nature here; there is only wildness. And even that is not of the wilderness, for the smell of diesel oil filters up from between the floor planking and saturates the cheap straw mats that scratch at Miho’s bare feet. Occasionally the blare of a car-horn sounds over the clinking of the chipped cups and flask.
It is in her blood to hate such things, to long for the vanished mountains and fairy cities of a land where honor and war saw no difference between them, but nonetheless she does not hate them. She’s come to love the city with its broken-backed snarl and its long tail of strange cracked souls. More importantly, she’s come to know it.
O-ren’s hair is half-loose from its tight bun, tendrils stuck to her skin and more looping like frayed rope over her back. She sprawls like the girl her eyes say she never was and the obi of her kimono has long since found itself puddled to the side so her robes gape open. At the top they show shadows curving to breasts and a thin, shining line of sweat that dips between them, and at the bottom they show fresh red scratches about white ankles where the splintery maw of a hole had briefly caught them. Her mouth is a smudged slash of red lipping over her cup, her knees knock wide and rub slowly against Miho’s thigh.
“I don’t think I’ll kill him,” O-ren says, tilting back her head. Flush creeps from the line of her jaw downwards, making the arc of her neck over Miho’s face a pink one.
A lock of hair knotted with dry blood slips from her shoulder to brush against Miho’s nose. Miho pulls it away, wraps it around her fingers. The blood flakes off into brown powder, then coats when a drop of saké falls on it. That is the color of O-ren’s eyes, which are hazy the way that steel seems crooked when slid into water.
The sleeve of O-ren’s robe falls over her shoulder in an unwieldy mass of brocade; she wears finer and heavier silks than does Miho. The overrobe crumples completely once it has lost its hold on her arm, but the gauzier underrobe is sticky with sweat and clings to her. Saké dribbles down the side of her cup, beads beneath her chin, dots her crushed-blossom mouth with pearls. “He was only carrying out orders, and now he’s renounced Matsumoto.”
A thin wavery stream of white issues from the top of the saké flask warming in the corner. It has grown too hot and if Miho wants any more, she should take it off before all the alcohol boils away. But instead she turns inward, leans on her arm and licks the drops from O-ren’s neck, lips.
Saké should be drunk at room temperature, and Miho finds that the best seasoning is salt from skin and the memory of blood fuming the air.
O-ren smiles at nothing, staring at the irregular fissures in the wall while Miho’s hand follows the line of the opened robe from her neck downwards. She jerks a little when Miho’s thumb runs over her nipple, peaked but soft in the heat, and spills her drink when Miho draws the heel of her hand slowly across the lean muscles of O-ren’s belly. The cup clatters muffled on the mats, counterpoint to O-ren’s low dreamy slur. “He has strange eyes for a gaijin.”
The dampness seeps through Miho’s hair, plasters it to her scalp so when O-ren bends and presses her mouth to it, sucks it dry, laughs against it, it feels as if O-ren is bathing Miho’s mind in sweltering pleasure. In the darkness of O-ren’s robes, Miho palms the flow of belly to hip and then the sharp bony turn of hip into thigh. She grips the muscle, rubs thumb-circles upwards. Sweat rolling downwards into the cleft of O-ren’s legs has caught and steamed beneath the kimono, trapped so it has softened the hair Miho’s fingers pull and comb, changed it from coarse wire to fur, fur stroked to silky one way and slivering like grass the other.
“I didn’t listen to his voice. I know the voices of men now, and their little tricks. I didn’t take his honey words. I watched his eyes and they never faltered.” Slow, slow as the rise of O-ren’s pulse against Miho’s mouth, the other woman lets her head loll and hang down. Her lips fall from Miho’s ear to the hollow between Miho’s collarbone and throat, then slide off to turn a wide, blurry smile up at Miho. She twists a hip to let the robes fall away from her body, leaving one long strip of skin from her reddened, lazy face between her breasts that press softly against Miho’s own to that patch of hair half-covered by Miho’s hand.
One finger, and O-ren lifts her shoulders in the elegant shrug of the flirt. Two and her knee grinds over Miho’s stomach down to press against Miho’s clit through silk so thin that Miho can feel the edge of the callus on O-ren’s knee. Three and the halves of O-ren’s swollen mouth arch apart in a silent cat-cry that bares harmless fangs.
Three, and Miho lingers awhile, twining herself over the other woman till her robes slip open, till her breasts swell in sure sword-steady hands, filled with heat that makes nerves jump at the slightest touch and flesh turgid, moving only when O-ren’s fingers shape them into doing so. She takes her teeth to O-ren’s face, scraping saké and sweat and flush from the skin. O-ren laughs, runs the sharp edge of a nail over the scars that crisscross Miho’s back. She giggles when Miho turns her hand parallel to O-ren’s thighs, spreads thumb and little finger so they squeeze the delicate, faintly throbbing flesh of O-ren’s clit and tease at the rougher entrance that lies further up between O-ren’s buttocks.
“His name’s Bill, and he has the eyes of a snake,” O-ren says. Loops of her hair lie in the spill from her cup, which reflects the yellow light so there looks to be a pool of liquid gold soaking into the straw. It matches the disarray of her robes, so like the petals of a flower ripped apart by a careful hand. “He understands.”
Miho slashes the character for ‘four’ with her tongue against O-ren’s throat, twists in her little finger with no care at all. She laughs then, silent and mocking so her teeth will shine in the light.
And O-ren twists beneath her, eyes now wide with anger, but Miho’s hand pinches her clit and Miho’s four fingers pull her strings from the inside so all her struggles are nothing but the jerky movements of a puppet tangled in its own strings. Her lips move, but they have been made sluggish and distorted with saké’s heat, and when they at last work around that Miho closes them again and again till blood is drawn.
O-ren screams, curses against Miho’s tongue while she drinks the blood from it, while she slaps her own coppery taste into Miho’s mouth. Her nails rend at Miho’s back, her hips ride every thrust and twist of Miho’s hand. She catches Miho between her knees, her thigh brutally chafing brocade against Miho’s cunt, and she fights closer instead of farther. Because Miho knows even when she doesn’t understand.
Understanding would be like the irregular slick of glaze over porcelain that is so prized by tea-masters, the conscious ruining of skill, the nodding look in the eyes of someone who thinks just the same. Knowledge is the bulge of glue from between fragments that keeps a repaired pot from ever being the same, the unthinking way Miho squeezes her thumb into the fold of her palm when O-ren rises against her and pushes her hand into hot, hot flesh which strength crushes around her wrist. The way it is neither too soon nor too late, and the way O-ren sobs into her mouth for it.
O-ren is wide and shuddering against the floor, her silks knotted into Miho’s, and her head thrashes with every minute movement that Miho makes so their mouths are never quite empty of hair and salt and stale blood. When Miho flexes her hand, rubs her knuckles into the slight bumps, O-ren cries out. Her voice is echoed by the shrill song of the saké, now boiling so hard that the steam shrieks out through the small neck of the flask.
Miho keeps her hand inside, gloved in O-ren’s body, while she ruts herself out to a snarling end first against O-ren’s thigh, then against the shaking hand that shoves down between them. When she does take it out, she turns it so her largest knuckle drags across the yielding hump of flesh that jerks O-ren’s whole body into a half-curl.
“He’ll help me rule Tokyo, and finally I’ll have avenged my parents. With his help and borrowing his name,” O-ren says, voice a thready whisper. Her face is hidden beneath a black veil of hair.
There’s still a little saké left in Miho’s cup, which she had set aside early in the night. She takes up her saucer without wiping her hand and when she sips, she sips so her lips overlap her thumb and thus the tastes can mingle. Then she raises it in a toast to O-ren, who believes that not listening is better than not seeing, and drains it to the dregs.
What lies on her tongue afterward is sour, but Miho does not grace it with either a blessing or a curse. She might miss this, but the city will send something new to chase away the taste. The city is transience and so is Miho. She does not envy those who lie crumpled on the floor in their soiled finery, clinging to their dreams of something true.