Edit: I have moved the following introduction from its first place to the beginning of the actual chapter, because I don't want my story to get deleted just because of the introduction chapter. I'll lose two reviews because of this anyway.
I would like to invite you follow me in an experiment ...
This story is based (more or less) on the main characters and
the major story lines of Rurouni Kenshin, but will lead you in a
(rather unorthodox) alternate universe. I call it experiment
because the characters have a different biography, different
family links and other social backgrounds, including the skin
color. Besides, I will introduce additional characters, split
some characters of the original story and mix them to create a
new character. So they are rather reflections of their originals
than the originals themselves.
The story is settled in New York and begins in 1965.
Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki.
This story will contain further more or less important influences (simple citations, parodies, ideas or story lines) from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (created by Richard O'Brien), "Velvet Goldmine" (directed by Todd Haynes), "Gohatto" (directed by Nagisa Oshima), "Batman" (directed by Tim Burton, created by Bob Kane), "Fake" (created by Sanami Matoh), "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (written by Robert Louis Stevenson), "West Side Story" (created by Leonard Bernstein), "Romeo and Juliet" (created by who-was-this-author?), "Huis Clos" (free engl. Transl. "Public excluded", written by Jean-Paul Sartre), James-Bond-movies (the novels have been written by Ian Fleming) and a mix of stories about spies, private eyes, special agents and the Mafia. I don't own any of this creations, but consider this story as a tribute to them.
The title of this story is the title of the English version of a German song "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt.", from the movie "The Blue Angel" (Der blaue Engel, 1930), performed by Marlene Dietrich. In Germany, Marlene Dietrich is one of the icons of gay culture, like Judy Garland had it been in the US in the time I settled this story.
Rating: The story is rated R for language, no graphic sex between two men, adult situations in a heterosexual relation, controversial political opinions and drug abuse.
I beg you not to be offended with the political opinions of my characters. They belong to them and not all of them are mines. Besides that, I would never flame and have never flamed other authors for their political opinions.
Please, be indulgent with the rather poor language of my story, I'm still working on it! English is not my native language.
LAST WARNING BEFORE READ: As I said, this story is settled in the Sixties. This means there is no danger of AIDS. And this is the reason why people - especially the men - have sex without protection. If I had settled the story in the present time, it would be different.
Falling in Love Again
A Rurouni Kenshin Pop-Art Remake
... and crawling on the planet's face
are insects called the human race
lost in time and lost in space
and in meaning.
"Superhero" from "Rocky Horror Picture Show"
Part one: On The Road
Chapter 1: A Hard Day's Night
Tokyo, years 36/37 of Meiji (1904/5)
No pride, no honor.
Your parting words. Now you are gone. How could I not shout at you? I should have done it long times before.
But I failed in my greatest duty. All my life I wanted to preserve you and your sister from pain and sorrow. You never wanted that you had to know what I lived through.
And now, there is no more time to repair my fault.
New York, May 7, 1965
It was a very special FBI department, closely connected with the secret service. His major object was to investigate relations between organized crime and spying activities of foreign secret services. The chief, Henry Shatner, was a tall, but slender man with sharp features and dark hair. The agents he chose for his department were selected in perfect compliance with their abilities. In their work, no failure was permitted. He had failed once in another city, but he had a new chance with this special position in New York, only to find out that he had to hunt phantoms again.
The man from the airport brought them six boxes filled with papers and documents.
"Please, serve yourself, gentlemen!", The chief gestured to the empty chairs in front of his desk.
"We should have one of those new computers to put all this information into. It would be so much easier." – "They always make us do everything the hard way"
"The Civil Intelligence Agency is not responsible for criminal research in this country." The chief stopped the discussion ironically. "Let's start. We only have this man's alias.
For a very long time, there was no other noise than rustling paper.
I'm not very proud of myself today. I reached the limits of my cigarette consumption within two hours. I lost my temper and kicked a guy in his guts with my knee. My courage flew away with the hours while I was sitting in the Central Park. I'm playing with the newspaper, making binoculars and hats with it. Of course, I would rather read it, search in help wanted ads and circle job offers with my pen. Like other days.
I was so happy to have found the announcement of this casting call three days ago. A dance casting for a theatre on Broadway. Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story". My dream. The first time I'd heard the songs from this musical, I wanted to be part of it. Just one time! I had done a lot of interesting projects in the last few years, but this – my heart longed for it.
This morning I though I could make that dream come true. And I had a chance, I know it. The audition started in the morning at 7:30, and I did my very best. I don't mean to be arrogant, but my experiences gave me with the ability to judge other dancers. I knew I was good. It was more important not to be too good because they searched people for the ensemble not for solo dancers. There were three dances for the audition. I passed the first two without problems.
For the third and last dance they taught us the choreography of a dance we would have to perform with the current members of the ensemble. For the men it was the Fight dance, called "Rumble". The two gangs meet and there is no one to stop this turmoil of violence, passion, hatred, betrayal. Every fight is like a dance. Distance and intimacy, tension and concentration, action and reaction. Every step is aimed at the same choreography. To strike first and not to be beaten. Whoever created the choreography understood these things. In the middle of this performance I felt I lost it, I felt I lost the control over my will. The music became all that mattered. And I was transported.
Then, suddenly, the director stopped the dance. They called me to the edge of the stage. It was like some very strange dream. Me, standing there in the light, breathing heavily, covered with sweat. My hands were shaking until I clenched them. The director of the show said without much expression: "Find me in my office after the end of this audition!" Then I was dismissed, and the others had to start again. In the dressing room I collapsed leaning against the wall.
I don't remember how long I was sitting there, head on my knees. I should wait before beginning to hope, but my heart was beating so fast. The dream was so near, I could almost touch it. To calm down I smoked the first cigarette today. Finally I stood up to take a shower. I got changed and was just drying my hair, when I noticed that I wasn't alone anymore.
He was the first dancer of the ensemble. I don't even know his name. A quite attractive guy with dark brown hair and blue eyes, taller than me, younger than me, the star of the show. It was obvious that he thought he was the center of the universe. I saw him watching me as I pushed my hair up and covered it with my beret.
"You can be proud that you've impressed them with your - potential, Sweetie, but don't let it go to your head. There is no need for a new star dancer and someone will be very angry if you took his place." Perhaps the person in concern was him. That would have explained his attitude. Or he just wanted to clarify, right from the start, who the boss of the ensemble was. A cat playing with the mouse, not perceiving that the mouse was just in disguise.
"But if you are a nice guy, I will see to it that the others accept you."
I preferred to ignore him and tried to leave the room, but he took my arm.
"Would you get your hand off me, please!", I said politely but I felt my body getting tense immediately. Be cautious, cat!
"You should not be this arrogant, because you could have a very hard time here, if you don't know your position. To begin with, you could show me a little bit of your potential. I'm sure you know how to do amazing things, especially with this." He brushed my lips with his fingers. "Just show me, and things will be fine."
Fuck off! Just a few words to turn this day into a disaster. I didn't warn him a second time and I didn't hold back. He collapsed, writhing and whimpering, but I didn't care. I took my bag and left. My throat felt raw, and my eyes were burning. I knew I would not come back.
Years ago, I made a vow that I would never, whatever the reason was, let someone abuse me again. Not even a dream is worth feeling like shit. Is it? Perhaps I'm a coward not to fight for respect; not to go back and to say that, of course, I want a place in the ensemble. I'm torturing myself with these thoughts, but, to tell the truth, I'm tired of these stupid games. The insolence of this guy was just the foreplay of a real fight with jealousy and rivalry. Violence, passion, hatred, betrayal. Oh yes, I know too much about these things, and that knowledge makes me sick.
My watch says 5 o'clock in the afternoon and I stand up. Time to go home. Home. The beautiful apartment on the Brooklyn Heights.
When I returned to the States one month ago, I swallowed my pride and asked Kumiko if I could live with her little family for a while. I didn't have enough money to stay in a hotel. She tolerates me in her apartment, no less no more, but I know I cannot abuse her generosity longer than one month. I'm still hesitating. What should I do? Settle down in New York or leave again, to go wherever the wind might blow me. San Francisco, perhaps.
San Francisco is a sort of wonderland for me. Deep in my mind I always carry this sweet memory, one of my first memories, like a precious gift: Kumiko holds my little hand in hers, and we were walking through the streets of this city. A city of lights, colored lights, light chains and decorated trees. We walked through these streets like in a dream. Suddenly a fat man with a white beard who wore strange red clothes gave me chocolate. I shared it with Kumiko, and we continued our walk eating the little present with delight. Warm hands, sweet chocolate and the dreamland of lights. That was Christmas 1940.
The remembrance of that almost magical evening creates a warm sensation in my stomach and makes me smile. Even my frustration is diminishing a bit. But – perhaps, I should not go to San Francisco. Memories are like dreams. They melt or lose their charm when they come in contact with reality.
Reality! Lost in my thought I almost miss my subway train, but I reach it at the last minute, just before the door closes. At this hour, the car is so crowded, that people inside are pressed like sardines in a can. The subway leads us through a world as dark and mysterious as the ocean. A submarine under the surface of the ocean. I glance over the tired faces around me. Looking at other faces, their hidden emotions, dreams, deceptions or hopes, always soothes my feeling of loneliness.
It's a strange thing, how every human being creates a sort of barrier around them sometimes as strong as steel, sometimes as fragile as a soap-bubble. A vital distance. Letting someone break this vital distance makes one vulnerable, but gives the occasion to hurt the other too. In the last years, I fortified this barrier because it was essential to support my restless life. Perhaps this is the real reason why the insolence of that guy irritated me so much. It was a violent attack to break through my barrier.
Stop it! The bitter taste of humiliation calls me back to reality. I become aware that I'm staring into the dim light of the subway tunnel and into my face reflected by the window. It's not really myself I see but the face of a girl next to me, looking at my reflection. She has dark hair, tied in a ponytail, and blue eyes and wears a simple violet costume. A pretty one – the girl. Reminds me of something. Very, very far away in time. Weariness shows on her face, but not too obviously. Her gaze is filled with curiosity and more, but I don't like someone looking at me through mirrors. Not when I'm on the verge of depression. It always wakes up painful memories.
Suddenly, the girl blushes deeply, realizing that I'm gazing at her too. This is the moment I'm realizing that I know her. But not from a far away time. No, I've met her just some hours before. Perhaps my depression caused me to need so much time to remember her. She had been in the girls group until the last dance. The youngest of them, far less professional than the others and very nervous. I told her that she had talent and that had made her blush.
"Did you get the job, miss?", I ask facing her and smiling. A deep breath and a little shake of her head tell me that she didn't. That was great, idiot! I try to keep smiling, but I feel very sorry for her because she had been really good. "I'm sorry for you!"
The girl smiles back at me and shrugs as if she was sorry about showing her frustration.
"It's stupid to be sad. It was my first audition. Nobody gets a role on the first try."
"Yes, that's what logic tells you, but I know how much a rejection can hurt." I know that because I failed to get into some important dance schools in New York. I would like to comfort her better, but, today, I don't feel able to give advice. "The pain will certainly pass because you are talented and courageous." I don't really understand why she is beaming this much just for hearing such a – lame and stupid attempt at comfort.
"What's about you? Did you get it?"
My guts clench in sudden pain. "No." I answer, even managing to smile.
"No, I didn't get it." The mask doesn't hold. My voice sounds sharp, even to my ears.
"I'm sorry." Obviously, I have frightened her with my harsh reply, but then she smirks suddenly.
"Your name is Farrel, isn't it?" She asks, I nod. "I hadn't thought about it earlier, but I wanted to thank you."
Surprised, my eyes are widening. "For what?"
"For the letters you wrote my grand-parents." She explained, and my mouth gapes open. I'm completely stunned now. "Oh, I have to get out at the next stop." The girl interrupts me smiling apologetically and heads for the door. "I used the family name of my grand-mother for the audition. My real name is Karen Kaszowiz. You should visit me sometime."
Her answer to my surprise is bright laughter. The subway stops and the stream of people leads her away, before I can clear my mind. I see her waving at me and answer similarly. Then the tunnel swallows the sardine can again.
This was the little Karen? Good grief, she had been six years old when I saw her last. And now she is a full grown young lady. The grand-daughter of my teacher Madame Kaszowiz, and she looks a lot like her grand-mother when she had been young. Of course - everything comes back now - she reminded me of those photos.
I had thought about visiting the Kaszowiz family one of these days. I had some obligations towards them, but, like the other time, in October 1958, when I was in New York, I was too ashamed to see them. It is one thing to write letters to keep contact, but looking into the eyes of people who did so much for me, is another thing.
In this matter too, I have no reason to be proud of myself.
"You have to ask before you ransack my belongings.", I say angrily opening the door of Maggie's study room. She has displayed the contents of my private box on her desk. I know that I had left it in my suitcase before I left and I always carry the key with me. Obviously, she has managed to break open the box with a wire. I should have known that a future surgeon has very steady hands.
"You weren't here to ask, Shin-chan.", She answers without lifting her head from the desk. I can see that she's looking in a little book. Leaning myself against the doorframe I wait for her questions.
"I thought I would find your journal and discover your darkest secrets.", She continues with her teasing voice, but I don't answer her little provocation. My darkest secret! Rather difficult to say which secret is the darkest. At the very least she must now know a very obvious secret.
"Is it a real sword you're hiding in your suitcase?"
This is the question I've been waiting for. She turns to look at me. A teasing, slight seductive glance in her eyes.
Maria Magdalena Techaco is the daughter of Kumiko's husband Roberto Techaco. In fact, Maggie is the reason why the two finally got together, because Kumiko took care of the girl during her mother's illness and after her death. They were our neighbors. The young assistant doctor, his wife and little Maggie. Now we are family, and she has her own little apartment in the basement. To tell the truth, I'm very fond to her, but Maggie has a rather liberal definition of privacy.
"Yes, it's a real sword," I answer her question. "but I hope you will not tell Kumiko or your father about this. I don't want them to worry.", I say and I'm surprised that I'm so calm. Talking about swords seems like talking about clothes.
"What do you want to do with it?" I don't know. "It would be a shame to sell it. Even when you don't know how to use it."
I know how to use it, not perfectly of course, but good enough. Only Maggie doesn't need to know this.
"No, I wouldn't sell it. I don't think that it's valuable. I mean financially. Its value is rather symbolic, because it is a special sword. The blades are reversed."
"You have gotten the journal too?" Maggie takes the little book. "Is it written in Japanese? And you know to read it?"
"Yes, yes and yes, but not easily." I reply, and she smiles, putting the journal back in the box. "Will you tell me sometime about it and about the photos, Shin-chan?" She hands me the box. Then she brushes her long black hair with a lazy move of her left hand. "Tonight we don't have time for this, Shin-chan. Tonight we're going out."
The determination in Maggie's voice forbids every negative answer whatever the reason might be.
"It's quite necessary because we need to celebrate your return, and we had no occasion to do it until now." That is true, because Maggie hadn't had one free week-end since my arrival. She glances seductively at me. "Will you accompany me?"
It's just a rhetorical question, I know it. However, I could need some distraction after this today. If I should stay alone at home tonight, I would certainly get depressed.
"If it makes you happy."
She brushes my cheek.
"You are as nice as ever, Shin-chan."
I smile back at her.
"Where will we go?"
Her face gets a mysterious expression while she taps my cheek with a gentle hand. "It's a surprise, but I don't want to torture you too much. Yes, I think I can tell you that we will go to a concert club called Velvet and Blue-jean'. And," Her smile grows larger, accentuated by a mischievous glint in her eyes. "you will have fun. Trust me!"
Fun? Good grief! We haven't seen each other for six years, and I really cannot imagine how she would define fun. To tell the truth, I'm a bit scared, but at the same time I feel another sensation coiling in my stomach. Excitement.
"Why do I think that it would be wiser to be careful?"
"Don't be too prudent, Shin-chan. Just trust me!"
Maggie laughs warningly. Then she bats her eyelashes and starts pushing me gently out of her room.
"Be a nice guy now and go in the kitchen to prepare dinner. I have to study."
The door of the little apartment is shut before my face. I find myself smiling. Whatever she is planning for tonight, I'm sure it will be interesting. Besides she is right anyway. Kumiko will return from work a few minutes. She works for a Citizen's Rights Agency and is usually weary when she returns. Roberto would not come back before 11 at night, but then he would be hungry too and had better find something to put in the oven quickly. Time to prepare dinner.
After dinner, we start the preparations for the night. I choose the silk shirt with a stand-up collar and the dark blue, velvet jacket with golden embroidery on the sleeves. It's my favorite, and it has pockets large enough to hide a switch blade in the one, tobacco and leaves in the other. One moment I hesitate to add the silver chain I often wear with my belt. Perhaps I overdo it a little, but my instinct tells me that I should put it on. Last I push my hair up that only the shorter bangs falling over my forehead and to the sides. My black, velvet beret covers the rest. I don't know if Maggie will like this outfit, but I am very satisfied.
Then I wait for Maggie. I'm somewhat nervous. It has been a very long time since I went out with someone just to have fun. I go in the kitchen, Kumiko is reading the "Village Voice". Sometimes, she must be hit by nostalgia. She nods when I ask her permission to smoke. I open the balcony door a little bit and lean myself against the frame. She doesn't pay any attention to me, or perhaps she is searching for something to say, like me. Every time when we are alone in a room, the atmosphere is tense. I find no words to speak to her. Sometimes I wish so badly that I could talk to her about my worries, like I did when I was a child, or that she would talk to me about politics or books like before. But I don't know how to begin and still avoid the things standing between us.
Though, I love her very much. She saved my life after the death of my parents and cared for me like a true mother, or an elder sister. Nobody would believe what a strong mind is hidden behind her delicate appearance. She is even smaller than I am, and her features are finely shaped. At forty-three, some wrinkles are visible and they result from laughing as much as from worrying. Like all our Japanese relatives I know, she has a crimson taint in her brown hair. And then, there are her eyes. Strange violet eyes. Like mine. Sometimes, when she is watching me carefully, thinking I wouldn't notice her gaze, it feels as if I look at myself with my own eyes. To see the greatest deception in her life.
An apparition breaks the tension. A real apparition. However Maggie had tried to provoke me today was nothing compared to her appearance tonight. Despite her seductive looks or mischievous smiles, I hadn't understood until this moment that Maggie wasn't a girl anymore. Even when I was twenty-two, the last time I saw her, the difference of five years, was a whole life. Now, it is nothing. Maggie has become a splendid beautiful young woman. She's wearing a dark red dress, a long black cloak and long gloves. Her hair falls around her like a shimmering silk haze. Her make up is perfect and makes her seductive and distant at the same time. A beauty to incite the jealousy of even a Hollywood actress.
I don't know what to say.
"You're looking so gorgeous, Shin-chan." The mask of the divine beauty melts in a pleasant smile. "Why don't you sweep me up onto your white horse and we'll elope?"
I feel embarrassed, but I just give her my largest smile instead of a real answer.
"You must have a bunch of admirers.", I say to her, later, when we are on the way.
We have taken Maggie's red Chevy, but she doesn't let me drive. And after a while, I understand very well why. She loves being the beautiful woman in an elegant car. I can see how the eyes of the men follow her. Maggie herself shows no sign of attention, but I know she must sense it. I would feel it. Well, they look at me too, though not in the way I would like. They just ask themselves how a guy like me could have a girlfriend like her. If they don't take me for a girl, anyway, but that's not how I like it.
Smiling, Maggie lifts a warning finger.
"This is a very naughty question, Shin-chan. What about you?"
I know my face is turning bright red. Of course, I have perfectly understood her question, but –
"Let's play a little game!" ,Maggie proposes smirking. "I answer your question, then you answer my question and so on, as long as you want to play." I don't know what to say, but a sick feeling is building in my stomach. Maggie laughs teasingly. "Chicken! It was you who started to get naughty."
I'm not a chicken, but - . "Okay!" Taking a deep breath, I join my hands in my lap. "Do you have many admirers?"
"Yes, I have, but most of them are cowards." She still smiles as if it was a joke, but there is a slight sadness in her eyes. "Do you know, Shin-chan, how many guys just want a little housewife at university? I have to choose carefully or I will be trapped later."
She doesn't give me time to think about her words. Sadness passes quickly, and her almost wicked smile promises me embarrassment without end. Since she has proposed this game some minutes before, I knew she had a specific goal in mind. I knew that, in some mysterious way, she found it out without Kumiko, or her father, or me telling her. "My turn, Shin-chan. Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Pretty?" I bite my lips to prevent me from laughing. This is not the question I suspected she would ask. "That is a real understatement."
"You like me? Really?" I just lift an eyebrow. "Shin-chan? Do you want to kiss me?"
"That was four questions." Then the true meaning of her last question touches the depth of my mind. "What?"
"You have no permission to answer with a question, Shin-chan." I lean over and kiss her cheek. She smells sweet, and her skin feels more heated as I thought. A very nice girl, not half as coldhearted as she was thought to be. A lonely girl, because most of men are scared to death by women which are beautiful, intelligent and facetious. "Was that supposed to be a kiss, Shin-chan? Obviously, you have never kissed before?"
"Hey, it is my turn.", Interrupting her questioning, I glance over at her. Maggie is looking like a little kid doing something deliciously forbidden. Even in the night I see her face flushing with a certain excitement, and there is this smile. "Why do you want me to accompany you tonight?"
"Cheater!" Her laughter warns me not to mess with her. "Besides the fact that I want to surprise you, I need you to do a test."
"What kind of a test?"
"My turn, Shin-chan!" I sink lower in my seat, faking a painful sigh. Maggie passes another car with swift elegance, before she asks her question. "So did you kiss before? I mean, a woman?"
I lift my eyebrow at the additional question. Then I lean my head back.
"Yes, I did. I kissed one girl."
I decide to let her think about this a bit. Normally, I don't speak so openly. Out of shame, but for discretion. Love and friendship have limits, more or less strict, but they exist. But, hearing Maggie teasing me like this, is a bit reassuring. My answer makes her speechless for a few moments.
"Don't get me wrong, but that is not your business. Anyway. Generally, I prefer kissing guys."
The truth came out before I could stop myself. Again we sit in silence. My throat is dry, and, suddenly, I feel that familiar emotion emerging. Once more I am afraid of losing the affection of a person I care very deeply about. I don't look at Maggie, and rather absently, I notice that we have passed Houston Avenue now. For a second, the delightful idea that this club might be in the Village distracts me from my sorrow. When my eyes drift back to Maggie's face, I see her chewing her bottom lip. She glances back, just as amused as before.
"Do you feel better now?"
"When did you find it out?"
"In my first year at High School. You still had a reputation there. But, you know, I was a silly girl. I said that you do not play music instruments. They had to explain the details to me, and so they did. After giving them a few weeks of fun to tease me with idiotic innuendo, I found the perfect answer. First, I told one of those jokers, that having a bad reputation was better than having no reputation at all. Second, I said, that I was very sorry for them, because Shin-chan doesn't play piccolo flutes. After this I had a big reputation too. The sharpest tongue in the school. – what?" My mouth is gaping open. Good grief, Maggie! The rumor was not true anyway. In that time, I was by far too shy and too confused to do such things, although nobody believed me. Certainly, I was not as sharp-tongued as Maggie, every suggestion made me furious. And she was only twelve. I have to take a deep breath because I'm feeling suffocated.
"And do you play the woman's part when you do it with someone?"
My tongue is faster than my brain. An almost automatic reaction. "I don't play the woman's part. For the very simple reason that I'm not a woman. I -"
"You love to be top." Maggie is finishing my phrase.
"Not exclusively, but –"
While I speak I realize how ridiculous this situation is. After sneaking around the matter so long, I ended up discussing positions. I burst out laughing before I can finish my explanation. A very violent attack of laughter, cramping my stomach and filling my eyes with tears. It takes me some time to get calm. Finally, I wipe my face.
"Shin-chan, you are just perfect." I notice that Maggie has stopped the car and reaches over to brush my cheek. "First, I thought you might be too soft, but you are just perfect."
"For - what?"
My voice is still unsteady, but I feel really good now.
"To be a surprising target. For my test subjects."
Well, at the time when I had newly discovered the joy of a gay sex life, coming out of my self-made isolation like a butterfly leaving his cocoon, I loved these games. Looking for attention, chasing guys, just for fun, to satisfy my vanity. Now it is different. Too much happened and I had lost my playful innocence. Besides -
"Maggie, I'm not so sure, if this would be a good idea. I –"
Maggie takes my chin and turns my face to her. The light in her eyes and her smile tell me that, strangely, she is very satisfied with my reaction.
"Don't worry. I know how much you loved this man. The photographer who made the picture of you playing with a kite." This photograph is hung over her bed. Blown up to the size of a movie poster. Every time I see it, I tell her to take it down. Not only because I felt embarrassed to see myself in such a picture, but because I want those memories to stay buried. "I understand that you want to stay loyal." That is not the point! "That is why I will never be disgusted with your sexual preferences. Whatever you are, first and last you are Shin-chan. Discrete, generous, loving, charming." My face must be the same color as my hair. "But being lonely and sad all this time is not good for you. Besides that, some of the test subjects are really gorgeous."
Against my will, I feel myself grinning at the thought. Don't be so superficial, idiot!
So what? It doesn't matter. The phantom is gone. That is the only thing what matters.
The "Velvet and Blue-jean" is located on a little street north of the Washington Square, in the Village. It is a combination of a theatre, a bar and a dance club and very charming. Dim light is flashing around us when we enter, passing the two bouncers who greet Maggie familiarly. I think, normally they have two rooms, the bar and the theatre, but now it is just one big hall. The middle is empty. Well, not really empty, because people are filling the theatre. The stage is dark.
First we go to the bar. Maggie knows the barkeeper called Simon O'Sullivan and introduces me. He is a very young guy, extremely polite and cheerful. Maggie tells me that he is responsible for the food and drinks. I order whiskey on the rocks, and Maggie wants a cocktail with an umbrella.
We are still drinking, when a spot light focuses on the drummer, and the audience starts screaming and clapping their hands. What I can see at this distance is a rather slender man with long black hair and fine features. Attractive and somewhat melancholic. He seems to be an American Indian.
"This is Kay, Kay Blackhawk." Maggie is whispering in my ear. So he is an Indian. "He writes most of the lyrics."
And he plays the drums. Heartbeat rhythm with lighter accents. Acceleration. It's a rhythm tugging at my nerves. Run away, run away! The impression of a growing beat and growing tension is intensified when, suddenly, the bass guitar comes along. The second spot light breaks through the darkness, in its center a tall man is standing. His dark hair falls almost over his eyes. Closed eyes. His features are very beautiful, but he shows no emotion. He is playing as if he was alone. Absorbed in the music. In a trance. He is wearing a classic black suit in combination with something tight and shimmering underneath. Perhaps leather. Wow! Last but not least, he has a pretty ass.
"Arthur Sherman," Maggie's explication is accompanying my own observations. "he composes and arranges, he's an amazing musician. He plays piano, guitar and a lot of other instruments. And he owns part of this theatre. Sometimes he writes lyrics too."
"For a band called Rock the cat', these guys are very gloomy."
I just want to tease her, because, in truth, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Handsome guys coming out of the dark. Maggie laughs mockingly.
It takes just few seconds for me to understand why.
If we meet tonight
I won't say no.
If we dance tonight
I won't say no ...
It's the sexiest voice I ever heard. Well modulated, intensive, electrifying. The third man stands backwards to the audience when the light is flashing at him. He is wearing a black leather jacket with three silvery letters forming the word BAD. His hair cut is a somewhat original parody of an ordinary rocker cut. More spiky.
... Please, don't leave me,
don't leave me so unsatisfied
And stay with me tonight!
For the repetition of these last lines he turns around and adds the lead guitar to drums and bass. He wears no shirt at all, revealing caramel tainted skin. All parts of his body which I can see are perfectly formed, firm and graceful. He has the face of a charming, but also naughty boy. Parents could serve him up as an example of a bad company. Unmistakably, he sees himself that way, too.
If we drink tonight
I won't say no
If we kiss tonight
I won't say no ...
"Sam Sherman, he is Arthur's cousin, adopted." That is all what Maggie says. Well, I can see his major job is to drive the girls crazy, and he does it with perfection. If his sex appeal were electricity, it would be over a hundred volts. "We should go nearer to the stage."
... Please, don't let leave me,
don't leave me so unsatisfied
And stay with me tonight!
I would prefer to watch at this distance, but I don't want Maggie to go alone and nod at her suggestion. We make our way through the crowd until we stand just on the left side of the stage with a good view of the band. The nearest man is Arthur who still plays with his eyes closed.
I run through the streets,
I search for you, love.
Where have you gone?
Where have you gone
Leaving me this helpless?
I cannot sleep
Without your touch on my face.
Suddenly, the drummer, Kay Blackhawk, turns his eyes our way, and I see a slight smile accompanied by a nod in our direction, barely visible. But the gaze of his dark eyes has changed, there is warm light now. This look isn't flirty but a declaration of love. I'm not vain enough to think that I might be the reason. Nobody would look like this at a stranger. I glance at Maggie. She has this gaze of the distant diva on her face and smiles knowingly.
You set me on fire,
I'm longing so deeply
I'm longing for you.
Please, help me, my love,
and I'll give to you
all that you want.
While one song is following another, I become heady with delightful excitement. They are playing a good mixture of famous songs and obviously their own compositions.
falling with you
is so intoxicating ...
At least it's this voice which is intoxicating me. In my profession, I'm used reacting to music and rhythm. This can be a major handicap, because, sometimes, like now, the music is transporting me in a strange sort of ecstasy. The mix of a heated atmosphere, a crowd of excited young people, this music and this voice has an embarrassing effect. I'm noticing it when, suddenly I feel pressed against the wood of the stage from behind. My pants grow too tight. Or me too big. How ridiculous! This is supposed to happen to a sixteen-years-old boy, but not to me.
Sam is showing off for the audience, moving his hips like the "King" himself. No, better. Whenever he interrupts his singing for a guitar solo, he uses all the space on the stage to move. I suppose he could do a solo performance, while making believe that the stage is filled with people. Over and over again he picks out selected people – girls – from the crowd to flirt with. And for a few moments, his eyes meet mine, sparkling brown, curious and flirting. Does he know that I'm not a girl? I sense my cheeks really burning now, I'm feeling feverish. This is not happening, this is not reality. This is not me, highly aroused and flirting like this. I haven't done such things for years. Sam Sherman is grinning with wicked satisfaction, before his gaze breaks away from mine.
At the same moment, I notice that Arthur has opened his eyes. They are blue, blue like the sky, and they look at me too. Unveiling such familiar emotions. Loneliness. Desperation. He's watching me as if he is recognizing a long lost person. The intensive gaze makes me shiver. The sensation is a bit more than I could stand it in my present condition. I need to go out for a few minutes, to take a breath. It had happened before, that my senses were enflamed so easily. Giving people a good reason to consider me promiscuous. But I thought I had gotten over this. I thought I would be wiser now.
"I will be back soon!", I whisper in Maggie's ear. She looks at me with a curious gaze, but I give no further explanations.
Fresh air is good for my nerves, good to cool the heat inside me. Finally, I smile, having a sudden idea about Maggie's test. Obviously, that Kay Blackhawk is in love with her. Whatever Maggie is thinking about it, she cannot be clueless. I don't think that she needs me to test him. The others. Well! Arthur knew that I'm not a girl. No doubt. Just thinking about it causes my blood to rush faster through my body. Damned fickle senses. Why? On similar occasions in the last few years, I had no problems in keeping my self-control. Tonight, I'm the helpless prey of my lower body.
Sighing, I return inside searching for the lavatories. I lock myself in one of the stalls, trying to think about something disgusting.
A masculine voice revealing urgent need reaches my ear.
There is a second voice, calm and business-like, and then I hear a rustling noise. A lot of disgusting thoughts cross my mind, provoking a turmoil of nausea, fury and dread. I pull my pants up. Someone is leaving the room in the same moment when I'm coming out of the toilet.
The remaining man is bend over a washtub with a little mirror and a razor. Forming a line of white powder. My first urge is to grip the mirror and throw all the shit in the toilet, before he can take it himself. Though, my body stays frozen. Taking it away from him. That's what I should do. But –
I just stay and watch him, until he lifts his head with a dreamlike smile on his face.
"Hey, this is the men's room." He says stupidly amused when he passes me.
I don't even get angry at this suggestion, I stare at him then at my reflection in the mirror. I know what my eyes tell me about it. Coward! With a furious scream I take my knife and throw it against the glass. Cracking lines are forming a sort of spider net. Coward and pathetic! Now, it's too late. Heavily breathing, I pick up the knife and put it back in my pocket. Then, I wash my hands and my face.
The concert is still on, but I go to the bar instead returning to Maggie. I could not look at her like that. The smiling barkeeper gives me another whiskey on the rocks, and, almost unconsciously, I start to roll a cigarette.
I'll meet you on a dusty road.
You're a stranger in this city,
a stranger in this life.
What do you search,
when the sun is set,
and the streets are filled with shadows?
I'll meet you on a dusty road
And I'll know who you are.
Absorbed as I am, I don't realize immediately that I know this song. Not the song, but the words. I'm less shocked than I would be on an ordinary day. But, everything that happened today and tonight has brought about such an emotional turmoil. Now, I'm just feeling a slightly disturbing confusion.
And I will never forget,
that in your eyes
is so much fire,
a fire of love and compassion.
And I will never forget
how these eyes know
to laugh, to dream, to fight, to love.
They sing it together. How could they? How could they know how it should sound?
I'll meet you on a dusty road.
You are a pretty butterfly
captured in this net.
How does it feel,
the pain of this nail,
pinning you in this box with velvet ornaments?
I'll meet you on a dusty road
And I'll know how you feel.
And I will never forget,
that in your eyes
is so much fire,
a fire of love and compassion.
And I will never forget
how these eyes know
to laugh, to dream, to fight, to love.
As long as the song continues, anger is building inside me. A bitter taste is on my tongue. Where did they find these words? It was supposed to be private. Who could have published the poem? Him? To punish me for leaving him? I did it for his own sake, for fuck's sake.
I'll meet you on a dusty road.
Your are a bird
fallen to earth.
I hope you will
someday fly again
whenever I heal these broken wings.
I'll meet you on a dusty road,
and I'll see how you fly.
Suddenly I forget my anger. Wherever they found the poem, if it was this Arthur Sherman who wrote the music, he has transported the very dear soul of the writer. Too good even. It's not anger I feel, it's distress. The pain is still so fresh, weighting on my chest.
And I will never forget,
that in your eyes
is so much fire,
a fire of love and compassion.
And I will never forget
how these eyes know
to laugh, to dream, to fight, to love.
The sound of the glass shattering in my hand is calling me back to reality, whiskey dripping in tiny cuts provokes fresher pain. I wipe my hand on my thighs, cursing, then apologizing for breaking the glass. The barkeeper looks at me surprised, smiling.
"Don't worry, mister! Glasses break every night." Humming, he is filling up glasses with beer. His voice sounds strange, child-like, as if he is amazed at how strangely human beings behave. "Are you hurt?"
Finally, I decide to go back to Maggie. She is looking a bit worried, when I touch her back to signal my return. But I manage to smile, and she turns back to the stage.
The show goes on in its special way. Sam drives the audience crazy with his voice and his grace, Kay is brilliant at the drums and Arthur is playing just for me. I still like it but I'm too tense now to lose myself in the music.
Then, suddenly, something completely unreal happens. The music is stopping abruptly, and Sam is handing Arthur the guitar. With only guitar and drums, they are starting to play the intro for Rock Around The Clock', while Sam is going to the edge of the stage. Hands of screeching girls try to reach his legs, but he is coming to me, grips my beret and hooks his finger, smiling.
"You have won the beauty contest. You are permitted to dance with me."
I'm not a girl. They will kill me!
Seconds are going by while I'm stuck between anger, fear and – interest. A dance!
The singer is waving my beret, reaching out with the other hand. Eyes like chocolate. I love chocolate, I take his hand and follow him. Sam guides me to the middle of the stage, smiling. Now, I'm very sure, that he knows what he is doing. He knows that he will dance with a guy. I hope he knows how to dance too.
He is quite talented.
After a few difficult moments I start to love it. I forget my unease, my frustration. This is not Bernstein or "West Side Story", but I'm on stage, and I can feel the tension of the people, their stupor and enchantment. And I can sense that my partner gets better with time, and I don't have to struggle anymore against the urge to take the control. His gaze has changed from flirt to something I cannot discern. I smile at him, because, without understanding it, he has saved this day. Dancing is life for me, and this moment is a sweet reward for all the other things.
I want this never to end. But, finally, the music ends and, we stand still. Very, very close. I can feel his bare chest under my fingers, his breathing, his warm skin. The sensation of this feeling is so overwhelming that I close my eyes and relax. Fool, fool! Don't forget it! Keep your distance! I take a deep breath and open my eyes again.
"Thank you!" I say looking up at him, and there is a strange expression on his face. Confusion and slight embarrassment. As if he wanted to say something, to explain this unreal situation. Against my will, I feel a strong tenderness. "Thank you for the dance!" I repeat, my voice sounding damned husky.
He is returning to reality immediately, faster than me, because, suddenly, he gets this expression of a hotly flirting guy looking for easy prey. He uses a professional, seductive voice: "You did like it, didn't you? How would you like if we had a more private dance? Later."
Fuck yourself! I only think it. I'm a professional. Losing my temper on stage is unacceptable for me. I smile as sweetly as I can and pull my beret from his pocket. Then I let him guide me back to the edge of the stage. The audience is raging – in enthusiasm. It's one of those rare moments, I consider my girlish looks very useful.
Maggie's gaze is quite interesting. Mocking smile and lifted eyebrows. I could swear I saw redder taints on the cheeks of this arrogant guy before he turns around. Arthur glances at him with deadly and icy fury when he gives him back the guitar. More interesting. The anger of the one is just provoking a grin from the other. It's a fucking contest. A who-pisses-who-off-first contest.
But it doesn't influence the show. The show goes on, or rather reaches its end.
For the conclusion and the final climax, I suppose, Sam strips his jacket and finishes the audience definitively off with the movement of his hips. Sexy! A fucking macho! Far too self confident for his own good. Someone who always needs to prove his manhood.
Meanwhile I surprise the pair of blue eyes watching me intensively. The man is attracting and repelling at the same time. How could he dare to look at me as if we had something and as if he surprised me cheating on him?
Ice and fire.
In that second, I decide not to depart with my tail between my legs as I wanted just a few moments before. Not a second time on the same day. No, being the prize in this fucking contest will offer me the best distraction I could want. Only they don't really know their target. They will be far more careful when I'm done with them, and I will have a lot of fun tonight. Thinking about sex is better than thinking about drugs.
The band plays the last song, then the audience applauds loudly and they play two additional songs. After this, the light is suddenly dim. Sam reappears a last time, carrying a saxophone. Strange change! Now he is just a nice young man, standing in a somewhat orange light. He improvises a suite of variations of "As Time Goes By".
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss,
a sigh is just a sigh ...
The expression on his face is very different now. Now he doesn't show off for the audience. There's no need, he has the attention of all these young people thanks only to his talent. It's like the dance, this strange, almost magical moment. Perhaps he is more than just a sexy sucker. He should be, because Maggie likes him.
This is a complete rearrangement of the chapters, and apart some changes in the chapters, the author's notes are the most affected part.
1. Let's talk about the story! I don't want to spoil my own story, but I want to give some explications in advance. The major difference between the RK universe and my story is that the question of physical strength has no impact on this story. It is not a story about invincible warriors. Fights will come up, but there is no search for the strongest. The characters will be affected by this decision, but I try my best to keep them IC.
2. Let's talk about the characters! After every chapter will follow a section describing one character and some of my ideas. Even if you should believe that my hero might to be very OOC in this chapter, I think it is too early to explain my perception of Kenshin's character. I limit my explanation to two things: No, he has no scar on his face. I have thought about it, and if or why he could have gotten it. But, in the end, I have decided against it. The inner logic of this story doesn't permit it, because he could not really be a ballet dancer with it. The marks of his past will be other ones. The fact that he smokes is one of them. You don't need to flame me, because I know that smoking is not good for health. Please, don't be offended by my decisions!
3. Let's talk about the characters (II)!: Here's the concordance of the characters who have already appeared in this story besides the hero of course: H. Shatner (Saitou), Karen (Kaoru), Maggie (Megumi), Simon O'Sullivan (Soujiro), Kay (Katsu), Arthur (Aoshi), Sam (Sano).
Kumiko (in the previous versions of the story I didn't use her first name, but I have made a new decision.) is my most important original character. Though, she plays some roles which are normally played by Seijuro Hiko. She is the person who can still make Shin-chan feel like a child.
4. Let's talk about the Journal: Well, I don't really want to explain everything in this chapter, but I have a strong reason to keep the Journal section, because it gives the story a larger meaning. I had already started to post a version without it and realized quickly, that, immediately, something is missing in the story. The Journal creates a additional link between the characters of Rurouni Kenshin and the characters in my story, because it serves as a mirror. The historical background is the war between Russia and Japan in the mentioned year.
5. Let's talk about New York (background information)!: Personally I have never been to the city, but I carefully studied its topography. Sometimes real places and buildings will appear to give some impressions. People living in New York may pardon me major errors. Anyway, the city is just a frame for my purely fictional story like the Japan of the Meiji era serves as a frame for the original story. But advice is always very welcome. Especially if I could find detailed photos of the Village, Chelsea, or SoHo made in the time where the story is set.
"The Village Voice" is a rather famous newspaper of Greenwich Village.