The African Nipple Pinch   Leave a comment

April 10th, 2009

Tonight my nipples will be pinched twice by a large African man.

It’s Friday, and I roll out of my apartment on my bike, blasting dancehall music in my ears, buzzed from cheap pre-gaming. Pre-gaming is a lifesaver for the monetarily conscientious social drinker. Drinks everywhere range from five to ten dollars (a world average), and to get buzzed it takes on average six to eight drinks. You could easily drop 80 bucks in two hours, when you could run to the 7-11, buy a flask of whiskey or rum, a coke for a dollar and do the same for less than one tenth of the price. For now, I’m the one tenth kind of guy.
I planned to head out around ten o’ clock. My evenings usually consist of a brief game of Street Fighter IV which ends with me calling the last boss a “battyguy”, and then I find a bar somewhere to chill and mingle.
I’m having an interesting time in the city, for a few reasons.

Firstly, I’ve never been in a culture like this one. Its not different in a way that makes me run home every night and weep before I wake up to go to work, but socially, I haven’t calibrated yet. I’m a roaming kind of guy. I like bars with people I can talk to, a variety of events to visit and enjoy and that sweet spot with cheap drinks that people flock to the most. Every city I’ve lived in has these places. In Hama town, I think I’ve almost found the three key things I need. Sure there is the sea a train ride away, hot springs and rivers and temples somewhere over a hill or valley, but I’m boring that way. Once the city satisfies my needs, I never leave.

I lived in New York for four months, and I didn’t leave the city once. In fact I spent more than ninety percent of my time in a twenty square block radius. During the day I worked on Spring street, near the waterfront. Ten blocks away at night I was always in Union Square and the Lower East side. Across from where I lived were restaurants and a Jamaican place that sold two patties and a soda for five dollars. In the Lower East Side there were tons of foreign women, dive bars and places with cheap drinks and relatively friendly people. I had my Karaoke night, a club I’d hit up on Tuesdays, my Wednesday pad Thai place, the Thursday dive bar where a beer costs a dollar fifty, and St.Marks and other cool streets on Friday through Sunday. In four months, I didn’t go to the beach in Brooklyn, see the Statue of Liberty, or even visit a museum. I had everything I needed and I was fine.

I want this in Hamamatsu.

I’ve discovered a few interesting bars, run mostly by ex-pat people, but I’m keeping the search going. Tonight I’m supposed to head to a place called Planet Café. They are holding a house music party there. On the website, are images of packed crowds with a sea of pale hands in the air. It looks like a fun spot.

I’m riding my bike and singing along to Mavado’s “I’m so special”, scaring the be Jesus out of old Japanese women in my wake. The alcohol is kicking in, and I promise myself I won’t drink anything else.
Friday night in Hamamatsu feels like a city. There are people everywhere. Around me are a sea of girls in cute skirts, guys with video-game hair of a video game and bright lights. As usual, when I pulled up to the crosswalk and wait for the light to change, a few guys take me in. They speak rapid Japanese, but I hear the word “Gaijin” popup at some point in their conversation.
They might find me interesting, but it’s really not that serious.

I ride low through a street with my video arcade spot. I get off my bike to navigate the bodies. I get more stares, but I’m watching the cute girls. I still haven’t figured out what to say to any of them, and I take a detour and head towards the spot I’m going to, No Name.
The funny thing about Japan is that my friends were all living vicariously through me before I got here. “Japanese girls!” everyone kept saying. “They love black men!” I haven’t proven this theory. I think there is a touch of truth to it, but to date not one girl has said hello to me on the street. This has happened to many of the ALTs I know who are white. Strike on that point.
Also, I’ve heard horror stories about guys who’ve said hello to girls on the street, and the girls report them to the police, and they get tossed in jail for months at a time. In Japan you are guilty until proven innocent, and even if you are innocent, you will lose your job, be banned from public arenas and probably have to move. Saying hello seems like it comes with a steep price.
I’m not that paranoid, but for now, I’ll just watch the cute girls wobble around with that awkard walk so many of them have.
I reach the bar and leave the bike outside. I go in, and its packed with people. I haven’t taken ten steps before I get ten hellos and ten handshakes. Its hard to believe that I’ve only been here for three weeks.

Femme Fatale is in the building. “Sit beside me.” She says. “Let’s talk.”
She jokes constantly about a scarf I’m wearing. The scarf is pink and white with a checkered pattern. Its turned frontward so the knot is in front of my crotch. It certainly has gotten her attention. She touches it, tugs it and keeps laughing at how it brings attention to my lower extremities. I try to stop her, but she’s very persistent.

Most of the people I’ve met don’t met so far aren’t the craziest dressers. The Ex-pat crowd here reminds me of DC. Mostly faded t-shirts and jeans. When I come in wherever I go with fitted pants, armbands and a scarf on my waist, people tend to balk. “This isn’t New York.” People keep saying to me. I’m not sure why they say this, I mentioned living in New York and having fun there, but I never said I was there for any length of time. It’s a stamp I’ve received, something to explain my fashion sense. But no one says anything about the Japanese guys who run around town in teddybear costumes, pants too tight for human circulation, and the hair that uses four bottles of gel per three days to maintain.
At the table with Femme fatale, are two faces I know and two African men. The conversation revolves around my scarf for a few minutes and then settles on the second-most popular topic since I’ve been here. Jamaica.
Tony, the owner of a club here, gives me a discerning look. “You live in Hamamatsu? This is the first time I’m seeing you.” He says in a thick Nigerian accent. He looks on me as if he should know me. He has the eyes of a business man, and the smile of a top-billed Vegas stage performer. I can tell he’s doing well.
The other gentleman’s name is John. “Just a Christian name.” he tells me, as if expecting me to be surprised his name isn’t Ubuku or something of the sort. Someone buys me a drink and I down it a little too fast. Jokes start flying around the table and I get teased a few times about childish things.
The Africans are getting excited. John is talking about me and Ghana. “I do not care.” He says, “You can go into the airport and they will not even need to look at your visa, they will say you are Ghanaian. I have been there, and that is how you look.”
“I claimed Ghana a long time ago.” I say to the group. “Since all the Jamaican slaves come from there.”
For some reason this makes everyone laugh, and it confirms to me that I, and everyone at the table are drunk. “He tells me that I look Ghanaian and he”–I  point to Tony–“has the name of my father!”.
This tickles Tony to no end and he grabs at my chest with a hearty laugh. He has massive hands and forcefully pinches my left nipple. “Hey!” I say in surprise. He laughs and does it again. I laugh too. I was a man pinch, the kind people do in locker rooms to piss you off or just annoy you. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

Femme fatale is at the bar. I’m really buzzed now, and someone else buys me a drink. Its Jim, a sleepy eyed American with a beard who’s lived here for a long time. I thank him and sip on it. Going to Planet Café is a distant memory now. I’m feeling the mental lull that comes with the rapid consumption of alcohol, and I know the only place I”ll be going soon is my house. I head to the bar and take a seat beside Femme Fatale.
I look at the crowd. It’s a mix of people I’ve been seeing for the last three weeks almost everyday. I rarely see a new face, or girl to meet in here. “I think I’m heading out.” I say with beer breath. “Everyone here is either married, in a serious relationship, or gay.”
Femme fatale takes this personally and gets upset. I didn’t realize that a close friend of hers was nearby, who is also gay. “You are talking too loud.” She says. “In Japan you have to be discreet.”
I didn’t get it. This was the same Femme Fatale who was on the dance floor, being dry humped by an openly gay man while a group of flaming Brazilian men cheered her on a week before.

The alcohol made me apologetic. So much so that she got up and went to another side of the bar. “You are standing too close to me.” She said when I walked over to talk. I was confused. She was basically toying with my balls earlier, with one interesting disclaimer:
“Your penis means nothing to me.” She said. “I could whip it out, take pictures of it and roll it around. It has no effect.” Now I was standing too close. The proximity a function her earlier statement. I was trying to be discreet. To make things worse, her best friend who is six foot three and about two hundred and fifty pounds appears by my side. “Aw, he just wants to apologize. ” the big guys says. I agree with him immediately. To do otherwise probably wouldn’t be smart. Femme Fatale has a nonchalant but friendly expression on her face. It doesn’t worry me.
I tried patching things up, for one reason. There is something in this city called “Dramamatsu”, and I got my first taste of it.
The city is small, and it will be impossible to interact with the same people and not have arguments, learn about people cheating or unintentionally offend people. Femme fatale knew everybody. I didn’t want to be on her bad side.
“I’m not angry with you.” She said. “You just have to be more aware of who is around you.” I grumbled a response.
I hate explaining myself these days, but I don’t’ like falling out with people over foolish things. A guy I knew told me her friend was gay a few days earlier, in front of a  large group of people. Femme Fatale was there too. This added to my confusion but these days I don’t sweat things–unless of course, I’ve been drinking and gain some added sensitivity in the right places.  “This isn’t New York.” She added, and then I gave up. I’m not from New York, and yes New York has a lot of gay people, but I didn’t see what that had to do with Japan. I nodded and did a kampai (cheers) with her and left.

People that mean nothing to me would never get my attention like that. I only do it with people that have meaning to me. Femme Fatale was cool peoples.

The next night, a girl named Megan would tell me that I left the bar, came back in and then told her I wasn’t able to play darts with her. I don’t remember this. I wake up the next day alone with my pants on one of my tiny chairs and groan. On my desk is plastic bag with Ramen and a little pastry packet. I vaguely remember buying it.
I sigh, put some water on the stove and prepare for another day.


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