Tuesday 07 October 2003

Super Best

Mark Pilgrim posed an “addiction koan”:

Your spouse, who hasn’t had a cigarette or a drink in 12 years, comes home late one night with smoke in their hair and alcohol on their breath. What do you do?

I picked up Ayako at her apartment one Sunday morning, many years ago. We were meeting some friends for a picnic in the Royal National Park, an hour south of Sydney. Waiting for the lights to change at the intersection near her apartment, I leaned across and kissed her. Mingling with the Listerine was the unmistakable taste of whisky.

“You taste of whisky,” I told her.

“I do not,” she replied.

Enka singer Ishikawa SayuriI knew better than to argue, remembering her habit of flatly denying inconvenient facts. So we chatted about the weather, the onigiri she’d made as part of our lunch, and our plans to spend a couple of weeks in Shikoku the following spring. I popped a cassette into the player, one I’d made the night before from my favorite enka CD, Ishikawa Sayuri’s Super Best. (It’s oddly gratifying to find, on the Ishikawa Sayuri page at Barbara’s Enka Site, that Super Best is Barbara’s desert island enka CD: “If someone really forced me to choose one performer and one album, here it is.”)

Ayako pretended not to like enka, dismissing it as obasan no ongaku (“music for aunties”), but I could tell she secretly admired Ishikawa Sayuri. As Barbara says, “She pours feeling into every song until it bursts, but somehow she does so with a beautifully elegant restraint.”

Arriving at the park, we drove slowly along until I saw our friends in the distance, carefully laying out the contents of their picnic basket on a bright tartan blanket.

I parked the car and turned off the ignition.

“I have a confession,” said Ayako. I waited for her to continue, and the words tumbled out in a torrent.

“This morning, when I met Shinobu for coffee, she offered me a cigarette and I couldn’t resist. I know you don’t like the smell of cigarettes but Shinobu told me that if I washed my hair and had a couple of sips of whisky it would get rid of the smell of tobacco and the taste. And then, if I drank a glass of milk, that would take care of the whisky too. But the milk didn’t really work because ten minutes before you were due to pick me up I could still taste the whisky in my mouth. So I gargled twice with Listerine and hoped you wouldn’t notice. But you did. And now I feel a little bit drunk.”

Though I’d once told Ayako that it was much nicer kissing a woman who doesn’t smoke, I hadn’t expected my casual remark to have such an impact.

“They must have been big sips of whisky,” I replied. “Next time you have a cigarette it might be best to go with just the milk and Listerine.”

I leaned across and kissed her again. The barest trace of whisky on her tongue tasted indescribably sexy.

“We’d better get going,” I told her. “Emiko and Ken are waiting.”

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Comments

Ah. A very Jonathon narrative. Nice...

Posted by Lisa Firke on 8 October 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

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