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Saturday, October 30, 2010

One Steamy Night In Kyoto

In Kyoto, Japan, the August nights remain almost as hot as the days, hovering in the high 80s and unbearably humid. On just such a sticky Friday night in 2008, I rode my bicycle down to Kyoto's famed Kiyamachi Street, long-known as the shame of Kyoto for its throngs of drunken university students and rows of sleazy hostess bars, love hotels, and porn rental cafes. The man-made Takase River, barely a  trickle of water running over the cobblestones, divides the street down the center.
I was going through a phase where I didn't want to care about anyone, so I danced the night away alone, surrounded by friends. Exhausted, dehydrated, and sweaty, I left the club at 4:00 am. As I left, I was approached by a boy with dark skin, a hawk nose, rich brown eyes, and shaggy black hair. Left hand in pocket, right hand outstretched, he strode over to me, belting out in a chipper British accent with an assuring smile, "Hey! I'm Amrik." Just another guy, I told myself. Don't get attached.
And recycling this mantra in my head, I managed to maintain my cool, collected, don't-give-a-damn facade, barely looking in his direction as he chattered away good-naturedly to me.
I quickly informed him that I was on my way home, an he offered to escort me to my bicycle. I let him come along with me. When we reached my bike, he asked for my phone email, and I gave it to him, figuring it couldn't hurt, and assuming I'd never hear from him again.
About a week later, I received an email from him: "Hey! It's me, Amrik, the short brown guy who couldn't dance." His straightforward manner of speaking made me smile.
We hung out soon after. I got beer with Amrik and his Australian band mate, Phil, and they entertained me for hours with their playful, cinematic Monty Python-esque banter. Still, I wasn't impressed. I maintained my reserve, and sincerely considered him a friend, and nothing more. I didn't want a boyfriend. I didn't want a husband. I didn't want children. I didn't want anyone.
About 3 months passed, and we continued to spend time together. Surprisingly, the possibility of making him my boyfriend didn't occur to me during all of that time. However, I did start to appreciate Amrik more and more--his kindness, his optimistic nature, his non-judgmental and relaxed approach towards relationships. 
One November night, we met up for a drink in our favorite hole-in-the-wall, a place which had that brilliant, Eliadian Go, Dog, Go quality of being barely on the edge of the cosmos, barely what it was. A few bottles and some candles were the only evidence to denote it as a bar, and when asked the name of the bar, the owner, Kazu, will reply, "no name." It's a place of raw potential. At the urging of a kinky French fellow foreigner we had met moments before, the three of us began inhaling cigarette smoke and exhaling it into each others' mouths. Amrik inhaled and faced me. As he began blowing cigarette smoke into my mouth, I didn't know that our lips weren't supposed to touch. My bottom lip grazed his as the cold, comforting taste of smoke sent a familiar numbness into my fingertips. Baited. A few minutes later, as Amrik stood up to go order drinks at the bar, he looked down at me and asked me if I wanted anything. I couldn't say anything, and he realized what I wanted. He leaned slowly forward from the waist, as if bowing, and his face was swallowed by shadow as I grabbed his tie and pulled him in.
I'd heard stories about people seeing fireworks, but I didn't really get it until then. When I kissed Amrik, it was like taking a sip from a tall, cool glass of water after a long run. I didn't see fireworks exploding, but there was a definite electric quality.
I didn't realize immediately that I loved him, but within a couple months, he officially became my boyfriend. I got sucked in. We traveled together countless times, spent day after day doing anything and everything together, and something unbelievable happened: we didn't start to hate each other.
I love Amrik more now than ever before. Since we met, I've experienced some of the most difficult things in my life, and he's proven himself to be a true partner. I learn new things about him all the time, and relish the opportunity to learn more. We've changed each other, and changed for each other, in a completely organic and effortless way. I'm the river carving my shape into him, and he's the riverbank preventing me from splashing away in every direction.