The inside doorways in my apartment have no doors on them. There is no way to shut the kitchen or hallway off from my bedroom/living room. I gave the Boy the bedroom. Light floods in from the fire escape, and the hallway. I had to do something. I was not up for beaded curtains like some sketchy cheap strip joint. Japantown has some cute little shops that sell things from the old homeland, I particularly enjoy going into Asakichi in the main mall. It always has the cutest cups, nicest chopsticks and sweetest little nicknacks. Hanging by the yukata-summer-kimono was an entire rack of noren. Japanese door-curtains. Some of these are only shoulder height instead of covering an entire doorway, and used in shops. Others are sweeping long coverings for inside houses. They are spectacularly good for keeping heat out or in, and providing some shade. Daiso had tension curtain poles for a dollar fifty. Seeing the noren were on sale, I made the snap decision to buy two sets and cover up those doorways.
I was admiring two swimming carp in black and orange, a large maru perfect O in a brushstroke design, and wondering if the mountain lion curtains were too fussy when I noticed the Boy had paused by an extravagant set depicting a kabuki theatre samurai. There he was with his umbrella signifying his high status, his katana and his war painted face, staring out from the thick fabric in an attitude of revenge. “I love this, ma…” the boy admired the angles of his face, and the fact that despite wearing what is essentially a dress, full make up, and carrying a very pretty higasa sun umbrella, Sukeroku looks badass, dangerous and utterly manly. He ran his fingers down the kanji. “I know this one…and this one…so I can find out what this says,” the boy looked serious and monkish a moment, in some ancient flashback to ancestors from far away. The phone came out, “Su….Ke….Ro…Ku”…..It is his name!”
The boy looked thrilled to have solved the kanji puzzle. I couldn’t read the flowing script, but I do know Sukeroku. He is famous. The main character of the Flower of Edo, one of the Kabuki Juhachiban, or the 18 great plays. “Ah, kiddo! this is the Japanese Hamlet!” He looked at me as vaguely impressed as any young teen can ever be by his mother. “He is angry because his father is dead. and whilst he has no interest in his mother – unlike Hamlet – (Ewwww ma! Come on now!), he has plenty in avenging his father’s death. The story goes that Sukeroku’s favorite geisha was upset with him for forever starting fights, and demanded to know why. At that moment, as if to prove her point, another samurai-san called Ikyu enters the stage and tries to pull Agemaki, the geisha, away from her beau. Sukeroku tries to start a fight with him, but Ikyu refuses to draw his sword. A sake seller turns up who turns out to be Sukeroku’s big brother in disguise. Sukeroku explains that he is trying to provoke other men into drawing their swords in order to see if they are holding his father’s sword. If they find the sword, they find the man who killed their father. Ikyu tries to persuade the brothers to join him as Ronin. Sukeroku cleverly tells him that he doesn’t follow any man he doesn’t respect, and that he doesn’t think Ikyu is strong enough to lead them. Ikyu draws the sword, and slices the legs off an incense burner, showing his sword, the mystically named Tomokirimaru. Tomokirimari was his father’s sword. Ikyu is Iga Heinaizaemon in disguise, an enemy of the Sukeroku and his father’s killer. Iga is traditionally where ninja were from, and ninja are cultural shorthand for honorless assassins. Sukeroku kills Iga, and the play ends.
The Boy picked up a set of Sukeroku noren, and I grabbed the Maiko geisha set for the other door, reuniting the lovers. I hung the vengeful honorable Samurai on the kitchen door, and the Maiko young geisha separating my bedroom from the hallway. A sofa sits between the bookshelves, and a sidetable is next to my bed with my headphones and a glass of water on it. Life is transformed, not by revenge or by fighting, but in the little deaths and the big ones, the changes and the things that stay the same. I have a life. Mine to mend and progress. I am my own person for the first time possibly ever. I put down the weed, and picked up the pen. Put down the guilt and picked up a bunch of flowers for myself. Walking up to the pretty younger woman at the checkout, I passed the bunch of chrysanthemums, the flower of Japanese royalty, over to her to scan, “oh thank you! For me!” she cooed flirtatiously. “Anytime, sweetheart” I replied, shuffling my orange vans and leaning like Jimmy Dean. I always did admire his nonchalance. I guess valium would have helped this bash, but I’ll have to make do with peering over towards the wild side, and bleaching my hair like Lou.