Friday, September 15, 2006

The Ghost of a Friend

William and his companion, full of sake and sushi, stumbled down the back alleys of old Kyoto. They passed 200 year old wood buildings, still standing, William thought absently, only because the U.S. declared Kyoto an open city during WWII and didn't bomb the shit out of the area. The man at his side he had met only 24 hours before, but he felt an immediate attachment to him since he was a carbon copy of his recently deceased best friend in Japan. Even through the drunk haze, William still felt weirded out by the experience that started only half a day ago.

WM had to visit a few customers in Japan and was told to bring along the new rep his company had hired just a few weeks ago. The Company wanted to bring the guy on full time and wanted a report on whether he would be interested in becoming a permanent employee. William met Kobayashi-san at his hotel in Tokyo, finding him in the crowd through goatee and white hair.

He reminded WM immediately of Tsuruta-san, not only in look and manner, but also in focus and ability. This guy was a relationship manager, and as they reviewed accounts over lunch, it became apparent that this guy was well connected. It was also apparent that this guy liked to party. "When we go to Kyoto this evening, I know a very nice bar we can go to. It is very old and very hard to find."

Eight hours later, WM had a cigarette in one hand, a glass of sake in the other, and was singing Selene Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" over the karaoke machine. Kobayashi-san pitched in during the chorus. He was not as good a singer as Tsuruta-san, but otherwise he was eerily similar to William dead friend: the connections in industry, the love of good food and drink, the smoking, the karaoke, the girlfriends, knowing small, hidden restaurants and bars that only the well connected could find. Throughout the evening, William felt saddened that he couldn't bring the two men together, knowing they would have been quick friends. They were cut from the same cloth, and because of that William bonded with Kobayashi-san immediately.

The sake flowed, the cigarettes were offered. The small 180 year old bar held only eight people, and by 1am all of them were signing in unison, raising their glasses into the air. The middle aged matron, the daughter of a Geisha, smiled cryptically from behind the bar. Above her was a grainy black-and-white picture of her mother in full formal dress. The whole scene made William miss Tsuruta-san a little more, but he knew that Tsuruta-san would have been happy to know that there was now someone else to take care of him on his visits to Japan.

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