There was an awkward moment when we first saw her, stunned, deer-in-headlights, helpless. She passed by J——- and I. She glanced up at us for a brief moment. And we were hooked. Her face was a dream of beauty. Her mouth was smiling but it was the light of her eyes that held our gaze. The rich mahogany of her irises almost filling the almond shaped whites. That smile, the smile of her eyes was more powerful.
J——-‘s head followed mine as we turned to see where she went. Jim stood next to us pointing his camera as some building or tree across the little canal that ran along the ‘path to enlightenment,’ until he followed our gaze and saw her for himself.
She walked hand-in-hand with a taller man, in front of the three of us, and crossed a little road. They stopped beneath a sakura tree next to a small foot bridge that crossed over the canal leading deeper into the heart of Geon, Kyoto’s night district. She looked from side to side, hands together holding the handle of her handbag in from of her. The pink of the sakura blossoms matched her shirt and contrasted with the black of her skirt.
Her pony tail bobbed up and down as she nodded to whatever he was saying to her. He turned to the side to light a cigarette and brush something from his tacky plaid jacket. He turned back to her said one last thing and walked off brushing his spiked hair into on of the low hanging branches leaving a few petals in his hair until he swept them away.
Jim, J——- and I continued to stare at her as she stood there, smiling, perfect beneath the sakura tree. The picture of beauty, the most beautiful woman we had ever seen.
“Oh my god.”
“She’s a prostitute,” Jim broke the spell with his, now obvious, statement.
We stood there in disbelief for a few minutes, watching her, the way she held herself, the way she turned her head from side to side. Committing every detail of her beauty to our memories: The exact shade of her pink blouse, the thin white sweater she wore to cover her arms from the slight chill in the late March air. The length of her black skirt, the style she wore her hair in, the height of her heels and the silver heart pendent around her neck.
After drinking her beauty in for some time from across the street we decided to cross to the little bridge, to get a closer look at her. We crossed the street, the so called ‘path to enlightenment’—a street lined with hotels that rent their rooms by the hour and shops filled with pictures of those who you can spent your rented hours with. We passed her, only a few inches from her, and she never looked at any of us. She turned her head to look down the street in front of us, then back to look where we had come from as we passed her.
We stopped ten feet away, under the next sakura tree. We stood for some time, maybe half an hour, maybe only ten minutes. We couldn’t take our eyes away from her for more then a few seconds. She never looked at us again, though she smiled and greeted every Japanese man who walked by.
“They won’t talk to Gaijin,” Jim explained, “stereotypes from after World War II. Dirty GI’s”
“I’d give her all my cash just for a picture and a kiss.”
“You live here Jim, we don’t speak Japanese. Talk to her.”
Jim shook his head, “you don’t understand, they won’t talk to us, not unless we are with some Japanese business man. They just don’t talk to Gaijin.”
When we finally decided to move on the three of us took one last, long look at her. The wind blew dawn the street shaking the loose blossoms from the sakura trees. My last view of the most beautiful girl was through that pink snow of sakura blossoms.
“I need a beer-u.”
“I need something stronger than beer,” J——- corrected me, “I need Sake!”
“I can’t believe the most beautiful woman in the world is a hooker on the path to enlightenment in Kyoto.”
“Look at it this way,” Jim offered, “you passed the first test on the path to enlightenment: desire.”
“Only ’cause she won’t talk to Gaijin.”