Nora learns “gaijin” when she hears the teenagers say it. She’s not heard an adult use it, and when it’s said in her proximity the eikaiwa manager turns stern and scolds the student. So while she knows that it means “outsider,” it must mean something else, something a little shameful, the kind of word said only at home.
When Amy whispered in Russ’s ear that what he wanted her to do would cost him fifty bucks, she meant it to be sexy.
With a clogged throat and quivering bowels he’d watched the river of muscle flow beneath his balcony, the white-clad men in their blood-red neckties tumbling through the streets, vaulting over the barriers in their frantic attempts to escape the horns of the onrushing beasts.
Mrs. Marion heard Ronnie’s car turn into the driveway, and then shortly afterward the top of its hood slid into view out the kitchen window, breaking her concentration. A sour rush of annoyance spurted into her face like a grease explosion.
His mind raced over a series of firsts. The first time he used a men’s room; the first time a man took him for another man; the first time a woman did, and the first time one flirted with him; the first time he introduced himself with his new male name.
The world raced by in the opposite direction, a dazzling blur of sun-kissed blues and greens and browns. The sound was an ever-crashing wave. The driver’s eyes darted back and forth between the road and the rearview mirror. “Tell me something,” he said. “You have children?”
Gradually, he grew accustomed to his alternate form, to the point that he could forget about it for hours at a time.
The collection undertakes—with some success—the difficult job of creating stories that delight while carrying unsettling premises and undertones.
I’ve been here for as long as I can remember, but I never thought it was lonely. The shadows of Tall buildings follow me around all day and give me little reminders.
I finish telling my therapist about the assault. She takes the time to write the last part. The silence is oddly comforting.