After a long night of lovemaking, Hideyoshi was fast asleep, cradling a pillow to his chest.
EEERRR! The alarm goes off.
“Fuck, it’s five already!” He mumbles and rises from his cosy bed. With a couple of hours to catch his train, he finishes his morning chores in a hurry. He then enters the kitchen to heat up some breakfast.
After chomping down his portion, he enters the bedroom with a tray and opens the blinds. He sits beside Niko, his wife, who is still asleep. He puts down her portion of Okayu* and coffee on the nightstand. In the wash of the new light, her face took on the appearance of an old photograph, one of nostalgia, one without skeletons in the closet. He recuperates from his thoughts and nudges her head.
“Good morning, Baby,” he says, “my cab has arrived. The conference gets over by 6 in the evening, and we will step out for dinner. Bye,” He plants a soft kiss on her lips and rushes to the door.
He was halfway to the Kyoto station when his phone buzzes.
“Have a safe trip, baby; All the best for your conference,” reads a text from Niko.
There was no conference. He felt ashamed for lying to her. Yet, he had been hiding his secret for the last four years. How can he tell her that he is barely a man? How can he tell her that he is an Otokonoko*?
For the past year, she has been her most vulnerable self. They were trying for a child with barely any luck; to top it off, unknown to her, he didn’t even want it in the first place. He treasured her. But he didn’t want to raise a child in a broken family, the inevitable future he envisions when he eventually unveils his true self.
He reaches the station and hands over the cash to the driver when his phone buzzes again.
“Hurry up to Platform No. 4. Shinkasen* has arrived. Board compartment number 7,” reads a text from Matsuko, his online friend whom he has never met until then. A friend whom he met on Instagram a year ago. Though he never expected to get so close to a stranger in the first place, after millions of texts and many FaceTime calls, Matsuko knew more about Hide than Hide himself.
He sprints to the platform and sees that the train is about to leave the station. He barely gets to his compartment when he sees Matsuko dressed flamboyantly in women’s traditional clothes, leaning out from the door. Their eyes meet which brings a subtle smile to his face. Matsuko lends a hand to hop on, reminiscent of a scene from an Indian movie he had seen.
“I thought you won’t make it, Hide,” Matsuko tells him, pulling him in just in time before the doors close.
“Um, yeah, oh yeah…uh, thanks,” Hide maffles as they take seats.
“So, did you tell her?”
“No, I couldn’t gather courage.”
“Um…it’s okay. But, why are you still in your “regular” clothes?” Matsuko asks with a poor attempt at air quoting.
“The right question is, how come you are dressed already?”
“Oh, come on, I’m not going to the gala for the first time. And I wear my identity on my sleeves, unlike you.”
There is a visible look of embarrassment on Hide’s face. Matsuko notices it.
“Actually, it gives us a chance to shop. Pick anything you like, it’s on me.”
It’s been two hours, Matsuko is patiently waiting outside the change room. Hide walks out wearing a traditional kimono* and has his wig up in an elaborate braid. The robe has a corseted waistline, which accentuates his figure and makes him look thinner than he is.
“I look like an escapee from a Harajuku fashion show,” he chuckles.
“Nah nah, you look beautiful”
“Oh, stop,” Hide blushes. This is his first public appearance in feminine attire. Until then, it was only in his room when Niko was at her parent’s place.
They finally get to the Shinzoin temple somewhere on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Matsuko grabs Hide by the arm and leads him across the street, where the participants were waiting. Everyone was in good spirits, with many of the guys wearing over-the-top wigs and makeup, posed for photos, and then kanpai* as a group, sharing a huge bottle of sake*. When it’s time, the group-leader sharply blows a whistle, and everyone takes off towards the streets, chanting rhythmically—the matsuri* began.
The procession ends in a few hours. Hide and Matsuko find themselves in a café, sharing a tamagoyaki*.
“This is so freeing, Matsuko. And, you know what?”
“It’s not the makeup, the procession, or the celebration that makes me happy; it’s me.”
“I know. It’s You. It’s the real you, not giving a fuck about what society thinks.”
“To experience this every day without any inhibitions, you got to come clean to her, Hide.”
“I know. I know. But, I am embarrassed of myself.”
“There is nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“You don’t understand.”
“Don’t you dare say that to me. I came out to my father when I was 14, got kicked out of my house, and struggled for years. But I was never ashamed of who I am.”
“She won’t understand.”
“So what? She deserves to know. You got to end this mockery of a marriage,’ he leans forward, ’You can do this,’ he whispers. He pulls Hide closer, and without warning, kisses him.
Hide had a surge of love in his throat, and tears began to flow. He had always desired it but had never felt this intensely. He plunges himself into the kiss while squeezing his tears between their two faces. Pulling away, their gaze meet.
Hide’s phone started ringing. It’s a call from Niko. He picks it up.
“Baby, you are going to be a Oton*,” she shrieks with joy.
- Okayu – Japanese rice pudding
- Otokonoko – Japanese term for men who have a culturally feminine gender expression. This includes amongst others males with feminine appearances, or those cross-dressing.
- Shinkasen – Bullet train
- Kimono – a loose robe with wide sleeves that is traditionally worn with a broad sash as an outer garment by the Japanese. : a loose dressing gown worn chiefly by women.
- Kanpai – Kanpai is the Japanese toast equivalent to “Cheers!”
- Sake – an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran.
- Matsuri – religious ceremonies in Japan; more particularly, the shrine festivals of Shint?.
- Tamagoyaki – Tamagoyaki is the Japanese version of the omelet. But instead of using eggs and a mix of cheese, meats, and veggies, the Japanese incorporate dashi, soy sauce, and mirin.
- Oton – Father