She walked in to the rustic bar area, looking around the room. She saw wooden plank walls, large fishnets hanging from the ceiling, a pool table on the one side and a large fireplace on the other. Behind the bar, which looked like it had been crafted from an immense piece of driftwood, was a black man, with rough skin, heroic lips and shrewd brown eyes. He smiled as he watched her enter.
She chose to ignore him for the moment and concentrated on the other person in the room, a slim Japanese man of almost elfin beauty. Turning to look at her he smiled, shyly, his teeth perfectly straight and white.
‘Hi, I’m Yolande,’ she held out her hand firmly. Her features were classically Afrikaans in that rare way that sometimes creates creatures of luminous beauty, with strong features and lupine eyes.
‘I am Yen,’ she took his hand but his grip was like a piece of drifting silk, utterly without strength. He did not flinch as his bones were put under strain by her grip.
‘Pleased to meet you.’ she waved vaguely at the barman and asked him for a beer. ‘Is this your first visit here?’
‘Yes,’ he smiled slightly, his lips were silky smooth.
‘I had to come up here because it’s too depressing being on your own in Cape Town on Valentines Day.’ She laughed self consciously.
‘Where I come from we don‘t celebrate this event.’ said Yen.
‘Yes,’ he gave her an impish stare, ‘or it could be said that we celebrate every day as an opportunity for romantic play.’
The beer arrived and the black barmen stood entirely too close to her. She declined to react as he brushed against her with a lazy, indolent strength.
‘You guys are really conservative though right, sexually I mean?’ She took a big hit on her beer and reached for her cigarettes.
‘We have some customs that would make you blush.’ His grin widened, spears of his straight black falling across his eyes, before being pushed aside by graceful hands.
‘Oh come on! Tell me one thing that your culture celebrates that could be considered racy. I dare you.’ She sat upright in her chair, her arms hooked over the back, pressing her pretty breasts forward. Her T-shirt was tight fitting but sort of ripped and tatty, with a print of Che Guevara on it.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘have you heard of Yobai?’
‘It is the ancient Japanese custom of night crawling. In a place like this,’ he pointed toward the beach and the prefabricated tents they were to sleep in. ‘it would be perfect for Yobai, the night crawl. In the old days, a young man would creep into the house of his beloved to be with her, but now it is often the case that at executive business weekends, where we are all camping in a place like this, Yobai begins.’
‘You arrange it with each other?’
‘No’ he said with intensity. ‘It is a matter of mystery. Often, if he is a masterful night crawler with sensual talent, she will allow him into her tent, or even, as I have experienced, pretended to be asleep.’
‘You’ve done this!’ She suddenly felt a bolt of excitement in the pit of her stomach.
‘I have done this.’
They talked for about an hour. He was charming and erudite, like a diplomat. At length she decided to take a walk along the beach. It occurred to her as she walked away, pulling her shorts out from between her buttocks, that she hadn’t asked him about his job or why he was even visiting the beach camp. He was a total mystery, a collage of erotic Japanese fables.
The coast was a sumptuous scattering of ochre boulders and foamy, jewel blue seas. Inland lay the vast fields of indigenous fynbos, flattened beneath a peppering wind.
She was thinking about him. After he had left she had found on the table a piece of red felt with a black symbol sown onto it, like a bashful invitation. She did not speak Japanese but imagined it to be a sort of exotic custom. Apart from anything else it was so sweet! It was challenging and erotic and yet somehow innocent, almost coy.
She imagined a whole bunch of Japanese village folk, running through plum blossom streets, nipping in and out of each others houses. The next day would see all the girls giggling in the town square, with one dejected looking boy trying to pretend that he hadn’t been rejected. A whole night life of erotic frangipane ninjas ruled the social scene of that ancient Japanese village.
By the time she returned it was almost dark and as she stumbled along the moss slick boulders of the newly turned tide, she decided she would throw caution to the wind and submit to this fantasy. She was his plaything – she wouldn’t even open her eyes while he worked his medieval customs.
She walked into the candle light and all eyes turned toward her. A whole school of obese Afrikaans family folk were circling around the bar. She was wet from sea spray and it made her shorts cling seductively to her hips, alienating at least half of the audience.
Turned out he wasn’t around. She didn’t ask anyone but assumed he had retired early. She felt almost lonely without him. She didn’t know any of these people. They were all so loud and different language sounding. She ate her dinner, consisting mostly of fresh fish that had burned long enough to give off a carbon dating reading and some limp greasy potatoes. Eventually, emotionally exhausted, she went to bed.
He arrived at about twelve, or at least it was way after everyone else seemed to have gone to bed, joking and farting and being generally homo erectus as they stumbled through the dark camp to bed. She had fallen asleep briefly but woke immediately to the sound of the tent flap being gently lifted.
She remained still, eyes tightly shut, her heart ripping around her chest like a crazed cat trying to escape a cage. Over its deafening roar she could hear the distant sounds of the ocean rumbling into shore. She focused on it and stifled a body spasm as his hand gently slid over her hip. His touch was firm but gentle, although his skin was slightly rougher than she expected.
His breath smelt of honey and almonds and freshly ground coffee. She was swearing a skimpy pair of white hot pants and he slid these down with absolute confidence and no sudden movement, as though he were hoping she were asleep. Involuntary, she jerked her right leg, bringing her knee upward and causing the blanket to fall away and expose her completely. He froze, his hands becoming perfectly motionless. This scared her more than anything than had happened before.
She stifled a scream and tried to control a tremor that rippled through her body. She focused on the sea and slowing the manic fanfare of her heart. She breathed in deeply and slowly and then, as if lazily chasing a dream, allowed her to leg fall outward. The sudden acute awareness of her recent shaving habits almost forced a giggle from between her lips.
His hands moved again, sliding slowly over her pelvis, brushing gently into the soft tip of her clitoral folds. She visualized sea anemones in the not too distant ocean waving aqeously in the moon filled ocean as he started to slide his fingers back and forth, as though he were a boy playing in a beautiful field from his youth, so joyful and carefree were his movements. Finally a moan escaped her lips and now, though they were both aware of the truth, he did not stop his dance and she did not open her eyes.
When he left she didn’t know, but the fluid of her desire was streaked across her inner thighs and sheets. She held the vision of his beautiful face in her mind and thought of the ceremony of Yobai as she drifted off to sleep.
She woke up at dawn and felt like the sun was rising between her legs. She felt like she had been sun burned from within. Dressing quickly she ran out into the camp. He was not there and neither was anyone else. From some of the tents she heard the evidence of snoring elevating to elephantine intensity, as though amassing a final assault before the coming day. It made her laugh. Those poor wives!
‘You need to get yourself some Jap boy nooky,’ she whispered as she walked from the camp, ‘some Samurai Yobai.’
She walked for several kilometers through a beautiful morning, thinking about her exotic adventure and exactly how many of her friends were on the ‘need to know’ list. There were at least ten, maybe twenty, not counting her parents. This would be the closing bell of every book club in the country. This was Femina and Vogue penciled under a pseudonym! This was glorious.
She marched back into the camp restaurant and flashed her glanced across the dining area, taking in the wobbly, moustache wearing crowd. He was still not there. She walked up to a table and spoke to an immense tree of a man, who looked grey with age and friendly.
‘Have you seen that Japanese man from yesterday?’
He looked puzzled for a moment and then lit up with amusement as he turned to the table, ‘you mean the man who I tuned “howzit my China?”’
The table erupted in uproarious, bush pig laughter and she felt a spear of despair for the state of humanity slice through her heart. That beautiful mystical man from such far shores and a civilization that had eclipsed their own millennia before it was formed. To them he was a sub-human, almost as bad as a black.
‘He was Japanese,’ she said acidly, ‘so he probably didn’t catch the joke.’
‘Anyway,’ he turned to face her, ‘he left yesterday before dark. He came with a happy snappy Chinese tour group.’
‘Japanese,’ she whispered but already her voice was retreating down her throat.
Her heart went icy cold and the voices were suddenly drowned out. She whipped her head around and looked at the barman. He was looking at her calmly, almost sadly, with his large hazel eyes. Around his neck he wore a love necklace, a cord attached to a bit of red felt with a curious Xhosa symbol sown onto it.
He smiled, winked and turned back to his work.