Can I Buy You?
Danica Velasquez eyed the colorful sign above her head with trepidation, her hold on her handbag tightening as thousands of men in dark suits and women in skimpy attires walked past her without a second glance. Raucous laughter came from her immediate left, where a cluster of men who looked like they belonged to a Yakuza group lumbered into the street, two scantily clad women draped on the arms of one man with a large scar running down from his right eyebrow to his jaw in the middle of the faction. To her right were a few gaijins who either didn't know that they were about to take pictures of people who were part of a gang, mafia or the elite of the society doing particular things that shouldn't be known to the public, or were brave enough to know that one flash from their camera might ensure them a Shinkansen ticket to death.
Neon lights flashed brightly as the sounds emitted by the crowd drowned underneath the myriad of music and high-pitched female voices from every parlor, love hotel, porn booth and strip club along the street. Cinemas and restaurants tried to compete with the infamous red-light district of Shinjuku, but it was futile.
This was Kabuki-chou.
Danica stumbled slightly to one side when a drunk man passed by, dragging a young Japanese prostitute along with him towards a love hotel called 'Fancy Kiss'. Her eyes widened as she took in the young woman's physique, hoped to God that she wasn't a grade-schooler and just looked really, really young, then promptly shook her head and tightened her hold on her bag even more. Enough, she told herself. You promised, remember?
With that, she inhaled deeply and forced her frozen legs to move forward, and when she began walking, she couldn't stop. Countless faces swam before her eyes, the powerful scent of perfume, cologne, cigarettes, wet garbage, sweat and sex wafted into her nostrils. Her heart following the beat of a particularly loud R&B song that was being played by the host club at the very end of the street, she kept walking. The grip she had on her handbag was so tight that her nails were digging into her skin, possibly drawing blood. Her heart was in her throat, its beating reverberating in her ears strongly. The space between her breasts was moist with cold sweat, her stomach lurching up and down with every step she took. She felt extremely sick, scared, anxious…and free.
She kept walking until she reached the front door of the club at the end of the street. Forcing herself to release her hold on the strap of her handbag, swallowed loudly, closed her eyes for a second, and breathed. The moment she felt her heart beat clearly in her ears, opened her eyes, pulled the front door open quickly, stepped into the genkan area, pinned her gaze on the first host she saw and asked in Japanese, "Can I buy you?"
Ginji Katou was having the worst night in his entire 25 years of living; his younger brother, Kenji, was photographed early that morning by the number one tabloid magazine in Tokyo with his head between the breasts of the Prime Minister's daughter. While that wasn't bad enough, the TV stations latched on to the photo and made the connection between Kenji and Katou Corporations, one of the biggest and known companies in the whole of Tokyo. The title on the TV screen stated it succinctly: Katou Heir, a Host.
"It isn't that big a deal, nii-san," Kenji murmured for the nth time from his slutty position on the big, black silk bed, the buttons of his shirt open, his semi-tanned chest exposed to the airconditioning of the room. If that picture wasn't degrading enough, having two drunk women on either side of him, both of them licking the side of his neck and pawing his crotch, was.
Ginji glared at the two women venomously, shivering internally when one of them drew Kenji's hand underneath her skirt, her flushed face buried in his younger brother's bleach-blond hair. "You are the second in line to the company, Kenji. It is a big deal."
"Not really, no," Kenji sighed languorously, arching his neck back when one woman bit down on his earlobe. "I mean, being a host isn't that big a deal. Hell, you should pick up the latest magazine on the stand outside the club. The number of hosts and hostesses has tripled since–"
"I don't give a damn about how many of you there are," Ginji growled out. "You're ruining the image of Katou Corporations with this. You made a fool of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, Kenji."
His younger brother looked up at him with a sleazy smile as he did something with the hand he had in between the woman's legs that made her gasp and moan long and hard, her eyes glazed with pleasure. "Perhaps…he won't be too mad when his daughter shows him a few new tricks tonight."
Ginji nearly threw himself at his brother, not caring whether Kenji's so-called 'beautiful' face ended up being nothing more than a pile of broken and torn skin. He pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose and breathed in and out, holding his anger in. When he finally managed to calm himself, he muttered, "What will it take for you to stop being a…host?"
"You were gonna say 'whore', weren't you?" Kenji held up a hand when Ginji made a move to answer, slinking his body away from the middle of the bed to sit upright, the two women on his sides whining slightly before molding themselves to him, their breasts pressed against and rubbing along his arms and back. "I have no problem with being called one, nii-san. In fact, I love being one. Whore, host, prostitute… Give me any title that has to do with giving pleasure and happiness to another human being and I'm all set."
Ginji gave his brother a look. "You're serious."
"Absolutely." Taking one of the women's faces in his hand, Kenji pulled her forward until she was only an inch away from him, her heated breath falling on his cold lips. He gazed at her like a man in love while talking to his brother. "People need someone to make them feel special, important, unique, sexy…and loved. This is what I do, nii-san. Does that sound really bad to you?" He turned the woman's face in his grip to face Ginji and asked, "Tell me, nii-san… Tell me if you would deny someone the right to feel any or all of those from me."
Ginji locked eyes with the woman in Kenji's grip and felt something in his chest tighten. She looked as if she was near the edge of sanity, her eyes dull with lust, her hair disheveled, her face red, her lips wet… When her tongue came out to lick at her lower lip and moaned, he felt his stomach sink lower as his legs trembled. Clenching his jaw, he looked away from her to find his brother's gaze on him and only him.
"You see," Kenji whispered softly as he released his hold on the woman's face and wrapped his hand around her wrist, pulling her forward so that she toppled across his lap, her pert buttocks exposed to both his eyes and Ginji's as her dress slid upwards. His eyes still on his older brother, he moved his hand down from the woman's hair towards her buttocks, the woman moaning at the sensation while the other one whimpered for attention.
Ginji shoved his clenched fists inside the pockets of his slacks and looked away from the trio, focusing on the pink and red wall, the suit he had on feeling stuffy all of a sudden. He heard the women moan and gasp at the ministrations of his brother before saying, "But you cannot do this forever, Kenji. Some day, you'd need to find the one for you."
"I know that. But perhaps, nii-san , you'd like to make a deal. I do not like making your life any harder than it already is, despite what you may think. God knows you've had so much to do ever since tou-san passed away." There was a strangeness in the way Kenji said the last sentence.
Ginji looked back at his brother and found him standing up from the bed, shushing the two paying patronesses with tongue-filled kisses and whispers of more pleasure after he finished dealing with his older brother. Fixing his suit, he placed his arm around Ginji's shoulders and dragged him outside the room and into the drinking area, passing a few other hosts and their clients along the way.
When they reached the genkan area, Kenji pulled him to a stop. "I don't wanna stop being a host; not yet, anyway. But, I understand your concerns regarding my…relationship with the Prime Minister's daughter and the position of Katou Corporations, so…I'm offering to switch places with you for a month."
Ginji felt empty for some odd reason. "What?"
"We switch places; I will stop being a host for a month and take my proper place as one of the heirs of Katou Corporations. I will do basically whatever it is you do in handling the company. This would mean that the scandal about me being a host and being involved with the Prime Minister's daughter will die down as I have changed my so-called 'derogatory' ways. Also, this would mean that the company's future will have the two of us to run it and let it grow along with the times… Exactly what tou-san wanted."
Ginji heard a strange ringing in his ears. "Wha–"
"And you," Kenji continued easily, "Ginji, will take my place as a host – wait, hold on – and learn what it means to be one. It isn't a sordid thing, you know, being a host. Rather, it is quite…liberating. You'll understand what it feels like to make someone other than yourself feel special, important, loved–"
"Like hell!" Ginji shouted at last, his shock long gone. "It's depreciating – for both parties! Even if you make the person feel all that, it's not real! They're paying for it and you're just giving them what they expect you to give them! None of it is real–"
"Are you sure?"
That shut Ginji up immediately. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to say something but nothing coming out of his mouth. In the end, he took in his younger brother's eyes, saw what Kenji wanted him to see, and felt something cold run through his veins. "Ken…"
"It's the curse of being a host, nii-san, and the blessing." Kenji shook his head ruefully and looked at the ground. His lips moved back in a small, strained smile as he murmured, "Do you agree to the deal, nii-san? It may be for a month, but I do believe that you'll be getting the better end in the long run."
To be a host? Ginji felt shame and curiosity at the same time at the thought, his heart pitying his younger brother while his mind screamed at him to just walk away from the whole thing. Everything in him and around him was in anarchy, and he was caught in the middle. After a moment, he heard himself ask in a small voice, "…Why?"
Kenji seemed to know what he meant. "Because you need it, nii-san. You may think that it's stupid and degrading, but you need it. And don't worry… No one will know about this but me. I'll just say…you're taking a one-month LOA or something. You haven't taken one in the last…ten years, so I think it's pretty believable."
They were silent for a while, Ginji's dark-brown eyes holding Kenji's silver-gray contact lenses. He meant to tell him that this whole thing was crazy and that he could shove it where the sun didn't shine, that he didn't need it no matter what his younger brother claimed, that he had worked for everything to that moment and time since the day he graduated the top of his class…but he didn't.
Instead, something inside him, something that had wanted out for a long time, won.
Ginji licked his chapped lips once and muttered raggedly, "Fine." He licked his lips one more time before continuing in a more sure tone, "But not one month."
Kenji shrugged. "Three weeks then."
"How about… Never mind. Fine. Three weeks. Also," he said in a louder and more familiar manner whenever dealing with Kenji, "if I find out afterwards that being a host isn't the best thing in the world for you, you're going to stop doing it, agreed? I may not be tou-san, but I am your older brother, and this position still gives me the right to protect you from anything that can harm you."
Kenji gave his older brother a warm smile and shrugged. "Fine. I'm nearing the age when hosts are considered to be 'old' anyway. Can't do much harm."
Ginji raised an eyebrow at that, wondering how people would consider 23 old, when the front door opened and a young woman wearing a dark overcoat came in, her wavy dark-brown hair shining under the light of the club. She wasn't quite Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean in the face. She wasn't an American or European either. She looked like a global citizen – literally. She was so difficult to place that Ginji didn't realize that she had asked him something until he noticed that her gaze on him was turning a bit impatient.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?"
Her face, which was already red, got even redder as she twisted her hands in front of her. She looked hesitant for a moment before repeating hastily, "C-Can I buy you?"
If one could hear a pin drop in the midst of all the chaos inside… Ginji felt his face flush at the question while he turned to look back at his brother. Kenji gave the young woman an assessing look then shrugged. Ginji nearly shouted to ask what the shrug meant. Instead, he looked back at the girl's red face and answered slowly. "Ah…well… I… That is… I…" He swallowed past something that was lodged in his throat suddenly and wracked his brain for something to say, anything at all. "Sorry… I… I… I don't think you can afford me."
Kenji made a sound like he was choking.
Ginji made a move to glare at him and ask him outright what he had to do in this kind of situation when the young woman looked up at him with piercing brown eyes and said confidently, "Name your price, hosto-san. I am very sure I can afford you."
And the clink of a pin falling down in the middle of the club was heard.
gaijin - foreigner
genkan - entrance/receiving area
host/o - male version of a contemporary geisha
nii-san - big bro
tou-san - dad
Ginji Katou (加藤銀地）: Katou basically gives the image of wisteria (a climbing plant with bunches of pale purple or white flowers that hang down) while Ginji literally means "silver land"
Fancy Kiss: is the name of an actual love hotel/motel located in Babayato, Hachioji (still in Tokyo)
Camry: Hello all! Well, yes, this story is not related whatsoever to OBMG but, hey, it's a concept that I often wondered about while I stayed in Japan for a year as an exchange-student. The idea was born when my friend from Italy and I went to Kabuki-chou one afternoon and looked around the place before night fell (it is said to be somewhat risky to go there at night). We even managed to snag a magazine with the list of famous hosts and their clubs from one stand along the way which, I confess, I still have with me. Now, that idea has made itself to the internet as a story. Hope that CIBY will capture your hears as a modern tale of self-finding, life and love.