Disclaimer: I do not own Memoirs of a Geisha, its concept, its ideas, its characters nor its logos. They belong to Arthur Golden. I just express my jealous self through Etsukosama, and wonder if my relatives could have been related to a real-life Sayuri.
It is not every day when you wake up to see that you are no longer in your house. But that is my problem. As I wake, my eyes only opening a slit to see out into the day, I know that I am not home. I expect to see my family waiting for me. But as I open my eyes wider and look out, I know that they are not here. In all of my thirteen years alive (Yes, I am only thirteen) I have never seen such a place. With a long stretch of dirt road, rolling green hills on either side of me. Us. The rickshaw driver is still pulling me along in his cart. I sit up, my arms and legs burning still. I let out a soft cry and pull my right arm to my chest. Where are we?
I turn my eyes out to the fields and concentrate on the horizon. I see nothing. I am frustrated. How could this be? I open my mouth, irritated, "You have taken me in the wrong direction! Turn around now!"
The boy grunts and quickly shifts the poles he carries so I lunge forward, nearly tumbling out of the cart. As I sit up, I narrow my eyes. "Turn around!"
"You do not know your destination, but I do. I was told to go here." He glances back at me and grunts again. "I was paid to take you."
"Take me? Take me where? Where?!"
I can tell he is getting annoyed. But as a driver, he can not say anything disrespectful. He could lose his job. He grips onto the poles tightly, his olive colored knuckles turning white. "Gion," he says, "In Kyoto."
I am astonished. Kyoto? No! This was a mistake! As I leaned forward to say something, he flexes his shoulder muscles and stops to a slow trot before resting completely. Holding onto the cart he looks back at me. "You want to get out? Then get out. But I am still going to Kyoto -- and we are miles from Tokyo. You will be on your own out here for days. Do you wish that?"
I am taken aback by this man's straightforwardness. In a huff, I sit back and cross my arms over my chest. I have heard Western women do this when they are upset. Folding ones arms over each other seems to be a trait to say you are angry or displeased -- and I intend to use it, even if he does not know what it means. With another grunt, the man turns and begins to walk again. I sit in silence, staring forward. As I rock to the motion of the cart, I am lulled to a dreamy state. Soon I fall asleep, feeling my head grown heavy and brush against my chest.
It seems like only seconds that I am asleep before I hear the clacking of shoes on the street. My head snaps up and I look around. It is nighttime and we are entering a town. I am silent as the man passes swiftly through the lightened streets, his bare feet padding along the wet cobblestones. As rain dribbles down in silence, it glistens the paper lanterns hanging outside and the varnished gates. Almost every building is awake and alive, lights burning brightly inside and out. I lean forward and look around to see that there are quite a few people. Other rickshaws with women in face-paint and lavish gowns passing me, their eyes forward. They do not seem to see me, which annoys me. Why ignore me?
I sit back as the rickshaw slows and three women with elaborate hairstyles cross in front of us, two small girls carrying parasols. The girls almost remind me of Kazu, Michi and Koru as their small statures are lost behind the folds of the women's kimonos. As they turn, the women I mean, I see that there is a strip of red cloth showing through their black hair. I look away. How vulgar. Who are these women, dressing like .. like women of the night? Perhaps that is what they are. I have never seen one up close before, and I am almost scared. That would mean that men, desperate and lonely men, would be crawling around these streets. Especially during the night. Where was I supposed to go to? One of these Asian brothel-houses?
The driver pulls me forward and we slowly approach a lovely building which I assume to be a restaurant of some kind. But as he stops and helps me out of the rickshaw, I see that there is a sign on the door, written in black lacquered kanji. "Nitta". The Nitta household? I have never seen such a place ... And as we slowly approach the wooden doors, I am afraid. Would I be sold to one of these places to be in charge of pleasing men? We slowly walk up, the man pushing me forcefully, and soon we come to the doors. I am trying to be graceful and beautiful, as I do not want to go here and perhaps they will realize I am too pretty to go here, but my foot catches on a curb and I fall forward. I land on my burnt and bruise knees, letting out a cry of pain. As rain patters down on me, I realize that I am not graceful. I am here because I am clumsy ...
I feel tears well up my eyes, but I shake them away. I sit up and look towards the doors. I am ready to step up when they slide open and out steps a woman. Her pale face is perfectly oval, her lips painted a deep red. As her charcoal eyes turn down towards me, I feel like I am no match. I have never felt this way before. Her long, flowing red kimono is tied off with a gold sash and white under robe. I am silent as she stares. A young girl is standing next to her, holding an umbrella. Her wet hair is tied in a loose braid, her face dirty and streaked. I see her kimono is a dark navy, and she has cheap, woven zori on. She is just like Kazu.
I believe she is for a moment. As I open my mouth to speak her name, the woman begins to walk off and the girl follows, quickly jumping up to hold the umbrella over her head. I sit there on the wet sidewalk, my gown ruined, my hair soggy. I stare in silence at the two as they whisk off into the rainy night, the gold and red fabric shining in the light spewing forth from lanterns. The jealousness that I have not felt, soon bubbles away. I am in awe of the woman. The way she gracefully moves across the ground, as if gliding. The way she holds herself and looks down without moving her head. She is what I realize I must become, if I am to be beautiful. More beautiful, that is.
I must be like her. That woman. That lady of the night. Though more discreet and modest.
I continue to stare down the street as the rickshaw driver grabs me by my elbow and pulls me up, sliding open the door and pushes me forward. I stumble over my own feet and fall again, this time landing on the sides of my legs, my hands stretched out. I hear an irritated sigh and I look up. A woman stands there, her cold eyes turned down towards me. She turns and walks back into the house, shutting the door. I am in the middle of the eaved space between the street and the house. I quickly get to my feet and bow. Even if I am to be sold here, I must be respectful. If that woman's make-up is here, than I shall find it for my own use.
I stand there, bowing, until I realize that the woman has gone. I stand up and stare at the closed door. I am desperate. I open my mouth to speak when it slides open and out steps a woman. A different woman than last time. She is not as old, but is bent over. She stares at me, reaching forward with one long hand and grabs my face. I try to pull back, but she pulls me forward and squeezes my cheeks. Turning me around, she grabs my shoulders and prods my back and spine with her long fingers. I let out a cry as she pinches my upper arm.
"What is wrong with her?"
"Fire. She was caught in it. Got burns all up and down her arms and legs."
She scoffs a little bit, "Well, I suppose this is good ... How much?"
"I paid eight hundred and fifty."
"Look at her face. She is naturally pretty -- if she is covered by make-up, then you have a wonderful person. She will bring in more customers. Pay off your debt."
The woman turns me around again and stares into my eyes. I am confused about what they are talking about. I know I was sold to the rickshaw driver, but I do not know why.
"She is ... ?"
"They had a doctor check. Yes."
"Hmm .. " The woman sighs and grabs the fold of my kimono collar and pulls me forward, stepping back into the house. "You wait here." As I am pushed inside, she steps out and walks to the driver, paying him for the price of me. As she returns to the house and slides the door closed, she stares at me. Walking past, she pulls me along with her. We walk down the hallway and towards where I assume to be the reception room. But instead of going in the room, we turn right and walk down the hall. There are stairs leading to the second hall. To the left and behind is a hall and more rooms.
She pushes me towards the back of the household, and out towards a room. The large doors are open, letting in the cold breeze. There is a small bucket and a stool, towels and a brush. She sits me down on the stool and hands me a brush, pointing to the bucket. "Clean up."
I dip the brush into the water and begin to scrub my feet, moving up my ankle and shin. The rough bristles are hard against my blistered skin, making me whimper in pain. Soon I remove my kimono and wash the rest of my body, shuddering as the wind blows against me. It is too late to bathe with cold water during rain. The woman then throws a kimono at me, that much similar to the Kazu look-alike's.
"Dress. It is not skin we are selling here -- " as I pull the gown on and tie it with a thin, black sash, she hands me woven zori. "So do not walk around with shoes."
I slip on the shoes despite the fact that my feet are still wet. She then points back into the house. "Inside." I step inside and she follows, sliding the door closed behind us. As I come to the stairs I glance up towards the large wooden doors.
"Who lives up there?"
She shoves me along, "Hatsumomo."
"Yes. You know that woman you saw earlier?" She directs me towards a room.
"Yes." I think of the lady with a painted face.
"She is Hatsumomo."
"What is she?" I figure it might be rude to ask about this, if she was, in fact, one of the women. But she does not seem bothered.
"You," she begins, sliding open a door and pushes me inside, "sleep here." I turn and look at her as she sighs.
"Hatsumomo," her words trail in, even after she slides the door closed, "Is a Geisha."