Detective X: Part 3 by Shirley Pesto
After he completed his shift at Flower Mart, Komori had to rush a little, but made it in time for the English class session.
The building where the class was being held was bizarre. The entryway was immediately met with a lobby which guarded further entry into the building. The interior decor mimicked a nightclub. Bass-heavy music was pumping throughout the space that was primarily lit by neon lights. It looked like a place where the rooms could be rented by the hour.
Komori noticed a man sitting on one of the benches in the lobby. His legs were stretched out along the length of the seat and were casually crossed at the ankles. He was wearing a pair of sunglasses. While unnecessary for the light level in the room, they were useful if he wanted to observe others without them particularly noticing. It didn’t seem like he was a patron of the building, but it didn’t seem like he was an employee there either. Despite the oddities, Komori pressed on and walked up to the registration desk.
“Hello, I’m Takeshi Komori. I called yesterday and mentioned that I would be taking Mika Ogawa’s remaining class credits.”
The registration hostess was pretty and had bright eyes. She greeted Komori with a large smile. “Yes, Mr. Komori. Welcome.” She lifted a telephone and pressed an internal extension, which seemed to have been answered right away. Into the phone, she spoke in English, “Your new student has arrived.”
Still with a large smile on her face, she hung up and turned to Komori. “Thank you, Mr. Komori. You may now go to room 301.”
“Thank you,” he said as he nodded slightly. He could feel the eyes of the man with the sunglasses follow him as he walked through the narrow corridor to a hallway of doors. Komori looked at each room number until he reached room 301. Through the door’s frosted glass window, light was shining from inside of the room out into the hallway.
He knocked quietly and heard a bellowing voice welcome him to come in. He slowly opened the door and saw his English instructor who introduced himself as John. John was a tall American man. He had a pleasant look on his face, but in a way that it didn’t seem genuine; almost forced.
Komori said his salutations in Japanese. John put his index finger over his lips and then pointed to a sign that said “English Only”. Komori didn’t speak much English, and it didn’t seem like John spoke much Japanese. So Komori spoke the little amount of English he knew how to speak, “Hello. I am Komori. Takeshi Komori.”
“Hello! Takeshi Komori! Great. Nice to meet you.”
They were in such close quarters together, it surprised Komori that John spoke so loudly. It was just the two of them in the room, and there wasn’t any need to speak over others. John kept saying how this was the way Americans communicate and to loosen up. He pointed to his own face and told Komori he should mimic the bright smile. He hesitated at first, but eventually smiled.
“That’s a great smile!” yelled John, as he patted Komori’s shoulder. “Now choose your English name!”
John forced a tissue box full of name tags in Komori’s lap and encouraged him to choose one. He reached his hand in and pulled one out. Looking down, he saw there was a name written on it. It was Tom.
John’s eyes lit up. He almost shouted, “Tom! Hello, Tom! In this classroom, you’ll be known as Tom. No more Takeshi. You are Tom.” John stood and raised his hand. “What’s up, Tom?”
John towered over Komori and coaxed him to stand. He apprehensively stood. John then got close and did something that caught him off guard. He gave Komori a hug.
After the hug, John took Komori by both shoulders and forced eye contact between the two of them. A grin flashed across his face and he explained, “I’m a hugger. What can I say?”
While keeping one hand on Komori’s shoulder, he turned to his side to fetch something from a large cardboard box. Grabbing the first thing he saw, he turned around to hand him a brunette wig.
“This is when the magic happens,” John said as he pantomimed on himself how to put the wig on.
Komori cautiously complied, which pleased John. John embraced him once more. Komori found this very odd and was thinking about leaving, but there was something about John’s embrace that made him want to stay. The physical closeness imposed upon him was perhaps something that he needed.
The subject matter of the lessons didn’t get much past “hello”, “how are you”, “my name is”, and “what’s up”, however, Komori found himself enjoying the “loosening up” exercises that John forced him to do from his diaphragm. For the first time, Komori felt like he heard his own voice. Overall, he realized he also liked embodying the alternate persona of Tom, if even for a short while.
The next day, Komori told Boss about the silly teaching techniques of the class. He left out the parts about the hugging because it sort of embarrassed him. As Komori was talking, he realized that Boss was trying to politely listen, but he appeared extremely depressed. When Komori asked him what was wrong, he replied that Mika had broken up with him. After knowing that, Komori didn’t talk about the classes anymore with respect that bringing them up might remind Boss of Mika.
As the days went on, Boss’s cheery exterior had noticeably changed into that of a hollow and sad young man. Shunichi occasionally tried to cheer Boss up with his terrible jokes. Boss indulged Shunichi with polite smiles, but it seemed like there was a long road of healing before he could laugh again. Komori hadn’t realized how much of Boss’s laughter was the background soundtrack of the Flower Mart until he didn’t hear it anymore.
Nonetheless, Komori continued the classes. One evening a few months after starting the classes, somebody barged into the room in the middle of a session. Komori was in the midst of a hugging embrace with John and had his back to the door. He collected himself and turned to see a woman that looked like a deer caught in the headlights. It seemed as if she was another one of John’s students. She tried to return one of his wigs and wouldn’t leave until he took it from her. John referred to her as Lucy.
Lucy appeared stuck in between a thought and an action. She also seemed a bit uptight, but Komori was interested in her. She was pretty, but looked exceptionally tired. Not tired from lack of sleep, but more like life had exhausted her. Her quiet beauty had him transfixed.
John took the opportunity to have Lucy and Komori practice English together and invited her to stay for the rest of the session. Komori quickly rose from his seat and practiced his limited English salutations with Lucy. They went back and forth with saying “hey” and “what’s up”, and they gave each other a high-five. John tried to coax Lucy into hugging Komori, but she remained stiff. John approached her and gave her a hug himself. After some time, Komori could see Lucy relax. Her tense body language loosened up and she reciprocated the hug to John.
Komori found himself unequivocally captivated by Lucy. He studied her face and couldn’t take his eyes off her through the rest of the class.
After class was over, Komori and Lucy left the building together. Neither of them rushed, so their pace was more of a stroll. Lucy was the first to break the silence.
“How long have you been taking these classes?”
“I started after my wife died. So it’s been about four months or so.”
“I’m sorry about your wife.”
Komori wondered to himself why he felt the need to mention Noriko. He hadn’t talked about her death with anybody before now, not even with Boss. It seemed out of his own character to be talking to someone he just met about his wife.
“It’s okay. Are you married, Lucy?”
“No, but I’m dating.”
“What’s your real name, Lucy?”
They both systematically fumbled for their business cards to exchange. Lucy handed her card to Komori, “Setsuko Kawashima.”
Komori handed his card to Lucy, whom he now knew as Setsuko. “Komori. Takeshi Komori.”
“Security Consultant…?” Setsuko read Komori’s card aloud.
“Oh, I just started recently, I was a detective before.”
“Detective…?” Setsuko inquired.
Komori hadn’t realized he said “detective” until Setsuko repeated his response back to him. He quizzed himself on why he said that since he had been a construction worker. Dumbfounded, he excused his accidental dishonesty with the reasoning that he wanted to impress Setsuko. Still, from Security Guard to Detective, that’s quite a stretch.
He was about to correct himself when they were interrupted by an announcement they could hear from the nearby train station: “Due to an accident near the Kinshicho station, the Sobu line is significantly delayed.”
Realizing that she would have to maneuver around the delay, Setsuko excused herself for the evening. “I’ll be going now.”
They parted ways and Komori spent his evening commute home thinking of Setsuko. As he was walking, he felt a migraine coming on. He was approaching his apartment complex when he got a sharp pain in the back of his head. It was a sudden and intense feeling and he was unsure if he could continue walking. He grabbed at his head and tried to steady himself. A voice called out from behind him. It was a familiar voice, but one from a distant past.
Komori tried to turn around, but he lost his footing on the edge of a curb and ended up falling backwards. He hit the back of his head and temporarily lost consciousness. The next time he was awake, he was in an ambulance. He was having trouble adjusting to the bright lights within the ambulance cab. Just as his eyes were starting to adjust, a bright flashlight was shone into one of his eyes. One medic was holding his eyelids open with their thumbs while another medic held the flashlight. They did the same to his other eye.
The medic that held the flashlight clicked it off and exited the cab to get into the driver’s seat. The other medic remained with Komori and spoke clearly, “Sir, you are in an ambulance. You collapsed on the street earlier and hit your head. We’re bringing you to the hospital now. Please stay awake with us until we get there.”