I have to say, the first time I saw him, I gasped. I told my friend Jackie, “That is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.” She looked over my shoulder at Daniel and said, “Yes he is one gorgeous piece of humaness….wish he’d dump you for me.” I looked up at her in confusion and realized, we were not looking at the same man. I turned. “Oh. Him. this is our second date and I can say, it will be the last. Total….and I meanTotal Jerk. In fact, this date is ending now. One and a half dates – he’s history.”
Jackie laughed and said, “I love you! Does Daniel know he has been dumped and are you going to point him in my direction to be comforted?”
“No, but when you see him act like the jerk he is, you will know he knows. Get ready to be picked up.”
Daniel was beyond excellent with saber. Seriously into epee’, saber, kendo….if it had any type sword, he was into it. He was average height but blade thin and whip quick with wheat blonde hair he affectedly wore in a braid – the kind that was anchored on top of his head and brushed above his shoulder blades. He hoped it made him look like a Viking badass.
The man with whom I had become transfixed looked like he had stepped out of a time machine: Tall for a Japanese, black hair pulled into a warrior’s knot, katana and wakizashi in his obi, and dressed in a black silk umanori hakama. Later, when I was closer, I saw black on black embroidery of cherry blossoms. I just sighed and shook my head.
I had been on one date with Daniel and when he asked me to accompany him to this competition, I was happy to say yes. I had always been interested in such arts and was looking forward to watching the several hours this would take out of my day. Daniel was the center of an adoring group – those impressed with his prowess, his good looks, – his whole being. To this day I could never figure out why he had asked such a plain, short female to go out with him but in truth, I think it was because I made him look so danged good. He was a Major Planet and I was but a satellite. He gave a disdainful glance to the man sitting beside him in combatants row – he had never seen the Japanese man before and took him for a minor combatant – one to be crushed and tossed aside while his friends and followers cheered. Looking at the man, I had my doubts this would happen. Daniel felt me looking and turned and snapped his fingers. I pointed to myself, “Me?” He motioned me over. I stood there frowning….I’m not a dog. I’m not his lackey…..He snapped again and anticipating ugly, I decided to go. To put an end to the ugly.
“Got to my car and get my bag. I forgot to bring it in.”
“You have 10 minutes, get it yourself. I want to get seated.”
Like a sidewinder, his hand shot out and grabbed the long braid of my hair and pulled me down close. “get my bag.” Another wrap around his fist and a stronger, more painful jerk. “I need it.” Well, what an empasse. He’d continue to pull and if I wanted to continue experiencing pain, I’d try to pull away. I didn’t want to make a scene. I just wanted to be away. I had already decided the date was over before this based on our first date but now, I was determined it be over. Low voiced I said, “please let me go. I’ll get your bag and bring it. Then I am getting a ride with Jackie or James and I am leaving.” Another wind and jerk of my braid. “You don’t end this, I do.” I was finding the ugly side and rumor of Daniel to be uglier than I knew.
The man to his left turned and began to gently unwind my braid. “No, I think I will be ending this.” Soft voice, sure hands, calm demeanor. I looked into his eyes – gentle as his voice but steady and kind – and steely. He smiled slightly. “Fly away tori hanashidesu (little bird).” I stood and I could tell Daniel was enraged although he dared not speak. I bobbed my head at the man in thanks and went back to the bleacher seating. I told Jackie what had happened. She rolled her eyes and said, “You realize of course, this means war?” I sat with my arms folded on my knees. “I hope the Samurai beats the crap out of the Viking.” She shook her head. “For such a little person, you make Big Trouble.” I just shrugged. Being two inches shy of five feet nothing, what could I say? That I lived for trouble? That I enjoyed antagonizing dangerous men? To be honest, I tried to capitalize on being short by trying to have my shields up and to be invisible. Oops. Missed on that one this time.
We watched as men were paired off and the losers went to one bench and the winners to another. It was of course, inevitable that the Viking and the Samurai ended up being last ones standing to spar. A break and then the last match. I stayed put. I had caused enough trouble. I was invisible. I was tori hana-something or other. I had flown – right. In my dreams. Now I had become a target. I told myself how stupid I was to put myself into such a situation. I told myself that the gorgeous man had a gorgeous girlfriend/wife and was simply a rarity – a true gentleman and he didn’t like seeing women treated badly. I kept looking at him and told myself…….in your dreams honey, in your dreams. I was not living in one of those 1930’s romance movies, I was living in the big bad 80’s and fairy tales were no more. At least I could look at him until I left the place….I didn’t hear anything Jackie was saying to me. She nattered and I dreamed and looked.
The two men faced each other. The crowd began that susurration that means: Something Is About To Happen. It appeared they had decided to use live blades, first blood wins. Oh my. Jackie looked at me – “Dumbass, dumb dumb dumbass,” she hissed. Oh my my. I wished myself away in another universe, hopefully being brain sucked by Darth Vader or something.
It was quick. One would have almost missed it had not the crowd seen Daniel’s braid drop to the floor. One pass of the katana, before Daniel barely had a chance to complete his blow. it was over. They stepped away from each other. The Samurai hilted his sword with a soft snik and bowed slightly. The Viking turned and stomped away. I looked at Jackie, “If you want him, you’d better move. The girls are gonna be on him now like white on rice to give him comfort.” She took off running. I was out of a ride but I didn’t care. I’d call my roommate. She had broken up with her girlfriend last week and was at home licking her wounds. I was standing in line for the phone. The gentle voice, “do you need a ride? I seem to have……changed plans for you.”
I turned and looked up. He was a lot taller than I. I smiled. “No, I changed that plan myself. I can call my roommate.” I saw then the black embroidery on black silk. That was when I sighed. “Thanks anyway.” I continued looking up at him. “Oh and by the way, gorgeous hakama” He blinked. I hastened to explain. “that’s all I know, trust me. And, what is….tori hana…..?” “Little bird. You look like a little wren, misosazai.” he cocked his head. “Misosazai, would you like to come and join me for tea and conversation?”
Okay, I knew variants of that line and it showed. “On my honor, tea and talk. After all, I saved your braid.” and then, “Mitsouko.” I blinked. He grinned. “Your perfume, Mitsouko.” “Yes, it is.” and thus began The Story. The story of the Samurai and the plain brown little wren.