TOKYO – I am on a layover in Narita International’s Terminal 2, where it’s 7am and I’m drinking a $7 Kirin. I just bought a book of short stories by Pulitzer and Booker Prize-Winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro that I knew I wouldn’t finish but I bought anyway. It cost $15, which is way more than a paperback should cost, and somehow I still bought it. Why did I do that? I guess I wanted the Japanese girl at the counter to think I was cool or interesting because I bought a book. No, not a book – a prestige paperback. I don’t know why I specified the counter girl was Japanese. This is Tokyo. Of course she was Japanese. I got to talk to her as I paid, and I like talking to Japanese girls. There’s something about their exotic pronunciation. And their mysterious, breathy cadences. It’s like they have ancient secrets they want to tell me.
Anyway so now I’m in the food court, where I was gonna make an effort to read this book and then I remembered I made a Facebook post in Vietnam before I left, so I put the book away and got on airport Wi-Fi to check the stats and now I’m sucked into the Matrix. As of this moment my post has 65 reactions. God damn this post is killing it. God damn I am cool. 65 reactions is a lot for a middle-aged white man. 65! I am reading the list of people who reacted to it, and imagine that they are all thinking about me right now. Not doing anything else at all; just hanging around, thinking about me. If they are guys, they want to be my best friend. If they are girls, they definitely want to fuck me. When I first tried cocaine, you know what it felt like?* It felt exactly like getting a lot of Facebook likes. Dopamine baby. The first syllable is “dope” for several reasons. I did it again, of course**. But it was never as good.
All right, so I’m on the way to Boston for my first homecoming in years. I don’t want to go; I am extraditing myself in order to fulfill familial duties. I must kiss new babies, attend my mother’s wedding, and charm my grandparents to solidify my spot in the will. It will be a state visit pretty much, I will pretty much be a diplomat. Also, I will be forced to detox, which if I guess I do need. I’ve been getting high and trying to write the next day and that doesn’t work. The drugs zap my head. I feel my thoughts dissolving before they can connect. Feel my vocabulary shrinking. The posts I’m working on become unsolvable mysteries.
As much as I need to go home, I’m fighting it every step of the way. I’m looking out the big windows and I feel like I would kind of rather just stay here in Tokyo. I like the simple novelty of a different country. Especially Japan. There is a mystique to Japan in the winter. There is a clean voltage running through it. You feel like you’re Somebody here, you feel cool here, and you feel smarter than you actually are. Japanese people don’t feel this way in Japan, because they are always in Japan. You don’t feel the novelty on your block, you have to leave. Foreign novelty is why I have exiled myself from the homeland.
Actually that’s only 0.0001% of it. The other 99.999% of it is girls and money. I went abroad because I can’t get girls and money at home. At least not as many as I want. In the homeland, I’m just another clone. Overseas, however, I’m a rare import, a limited edition Ken Doll who doesn’t have to compete for the treats. Being an expat is playing life with the cheat codes on. If it were up to me I wouldn’t go home until the sun burned out.
I have put away my phone and returned my attention to my beer. Mmm, it’s frosty. Some nearby American soldiers, who under orders and therefore can’t drink, watch me gulp it down while I’m watching some nearby white girls. Actually, “leering” is the right verb. There is something about Airport Girls. They wear sweatpants and no makeup, so I can extrapolate into the future and see what they will look like as a stressed-out suburban mom. And I like what I see; it’s real. And they project a cloud of hot pheromones because they’re four time zones removed from their last shower. Gah! These pheromones bring out the inner wolf and make me want to charge into battle or something. I wish these girls could know how cool I am, with my 65 reactions.
One of the Airport Girls nearby is a British girl who also lives in Hanoi. She was on my flight here. We have never officially met but have a ton of mutual friends. We have caught eyes already and recognized each other. I get up to find my gate and I have to walk right by her, and if I were a confident, cool man I would say hi. I don’t say hi. I don’t say hi because I’m not drunk. There is no inner wolf, actually. When I was a shy little kid, I assumed I’d be someone different when I grew up. Definitely someone cooler. Instead, I stayed exactly the same. Kids, it doesn’t get better. If you’re shy and weird now, get used to being shy and weird.
The prodigal son is coming home today. I’m 30. When I left I was 26. I went to 10 new countries, I published a real book with a legitimate publisher, got shoulders and biceps, got a motorcycle, banged 100 girls, and dropped acid.***
So much happened, and I can’t believe that none of it changed me.
*If you know me personally, this sentence is not true.
**Neither is this one.
***All at the same time!