Graduation day

by Gordon Engels

she sat a little drunk on the tatami mat it was two am the side of her face nearest him displayed a pimple the size of a fifty yen coin she had saved all her money for this day it was raining and wet wind shook the old wooden house why had she come here on her graduation day he turned the conversation to her future plans what was she going to do now she looked away without a word and stroked the cat along its back she wore a long white shirt over a pair of sleek black pants her lips were still painted red the telephone was unplugged the door locked they ate strawberry cake and drank champagne on her graduation day iíll get a job she sighed and gazed up at him her chin down wind whistled outside he felt guilty that she was here on her graduation day on his own graduation day it had been a carnival of gestures smoking a joint under the cross on mont royal a tacky rented tuxedo with lapels you could land a cessna on what he recalled most vividly was ersatz exoticism at the kon tiki polynesian bar where blue dry ice smoked served in coconut shells they saved the tiny paper umbrellas and rode around in a black limousine until dawn he felt old now as he stared at the side of her face in his sitting room he knew she didnít really want to get a job now she really wanted to study fashion design he knew she had natural talent and could become a good designer if she focused and did the work but she didnít have the money to pay for tuition and it seemed her parents didnít either and so she was off to work this was the end her graduation day she folded her long legs and leaned forward her elbow extended over the kotatsu and pivoted her palm turned upward fingers describing a slow dreamy arc in front of her face beautiful sadness warmed the room he filled their glasses with champagne and kissed her cheek where the round red pimple was her lips quivered she wrapped her arms around his neck she had been at the new otani hotel earlier for her graduation day party her hair was freshly styled her clothes carefully chosen accessories perfect still there was the large pimple it seemed to bother him more than it did her actually when he thought about it afterwards this realization had been the first hint of the osmosis of their respective graduation days everyone had cried she explained everyone but her they had eaten and drunk and played games and spoken with their classmates and teachers he imagined these conversations as ceremonial and perfunctory here she was now he felt a resentment well up inside him for the whole of facades and endings and sadness a carnival of gestures she deserved better he wanted to do something to give the day real meaning for her after a long bath together he lay her naked body on the futon and with believe it or not a single prepared eighteen watt red light bulb to illuminate the scene coaxed whipped cream covered graduation day cake strawberries inside her he saw himself exotic lover now teasing tasting warm red graduation day fruit this really is something special he thought as she arched her back and moaned long and low ha ha this is why sheís here on her graduation day he triumphed and she smiled as they met the dawn and fell asleep but actually when he thought about it afterwards his red light strawberry cunnilingus stunt strangely reminded him of blue cocktails dry ice smoking served in coconut shells at that kon tiki polynesian bar years ago and actually when he thought about it afterwards it seemed that most of the sadness in the room that night had been his own he laughed now at the whole ensemble of constructed ersatz exotic ambience that he had excavated reincarnated and with absolute sincerity wrapped her up in on what when he thought about it afterwards was actually their graduation day


New Jersey-born Gordon Engels, 29, is an ex-taxi driver who now lives in Suginami Ward, teaches English, and reads at various Tokyo poetry events.
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