Temporary Tattoos in Shibuya


A little story that came to mind after hearing the following lyric from Chanel, by Frank Ocean.

Swimming laps through pool water
Heated like I’m underworld
Hide my tattoos in Shibuya
Police think I’m of the underworld


Temporary Tattoos in Shibuya

The numbness in my leg wakes me up. It’s folded awkwardly under my body. The heavy feeling runs up into my groin. I stretch myself out and bump my head against my thick, gaming laptop. It’s still whirring and spitting out hot air. I reach for it but knock it off the bed. It slams on the floor, still gasping. I try to sit up, but as I lift myself my head swells. It feels like a balloon expanding behind my eyes.

I try a different approach, slide my body-weight around and let my legs flop onto the floor. I wait for the feeling of cramp to subside in stages. Dull heaviness giving way to sharp pain as the feeling returns.

I find my wallet and my phone stuck between the bedside table and the bed. The iPhone that I hate, but I own because I can’t deal with the options, has cracks across the bottom of the screen. I can’t tell if I added more last night. A floating home button roams my screen constantly because the physical one is broken. The phone sits in a case that is in better condition than the phone itself.

I have 43 messages in Snapchat. It seems I have sent something to everyone. Roughly 300 people. About half of them have opened it. Half of those have responded. Whatever I sent has been screenshot about 30 times.

I start opening the messages at random. Some from guys say things like, “WTF” and “You’re insane mate”. Another says, “I want some of whatever you’re taking LOL”. I open a few from girls. The first one is a picture of a vagina that looks raw as if it’s just been roughly shaved. “You can put that in here,” says the caption. Another is just a picture of some improbably massive tits with a nipple piercing that looks familiar. A few simply ask, “Who is that girl?

I delete my Snapchat account before any more of the messages are opened and delete the app from my phone. My battery is at 2%.

Sora pokes her head around the bedroom door, “Oh, you’re in here.”

“Yeah, why?”

“The bathroom door is locked. We thought you were in there.” She looks around the spartan room, “This is the spare bedroom you know? The master bedroom is down there.”

I consider carefully what to ask Sora first. I don’t know why she is here or who invited her or whether we’re currently on good terms or not. A few questions present themselves in my mind. What happened last night? Who is locked in the bathroom? What is she doing here? Who else is in the apartment? But I settle on, “Do you have an iPhone charger?” She waves her Samsung Galaxy Note at me to indicate she doesn’t. My phone makes the death tone and turns itself off. I feel like I am going to cry.

“Who was that girl you were with last night?” asks Sora.

“What girl?” My focus sharpens at another mention of a girl.

“The one with all those temporary tattoos. You kept asking her if she was a japanese Suicide Girl. She couldn’t understand a word you were saying. You kept trying to force an E on her telling her it was a Pokemon.”

“An E? I don’t have any ecstasy. Who was she?” I pat my jean pockets to see if there is anything in them. Just a receipt for a taxi from Roppongi and some coins. The groin of my jeans feels vaguely damp.

“Don’t know. She looked young though.” Sora tilts her head in a judging manner.



“What the fuck are you doing here?” Her demeanor changes, she looks away. Is she crying?

“Your staker has been calling the hotel phone, I was covering for you. He wants to know when you’re playing again. When you’re going to win back his money.” I look down at my dead phone. I would feel bad, but I really need this piece of shit charged right now. “Oh, and we gotta be checked out by 2pm. He won’t pay for another night.”



“What time is it?”

“1pm.” She waits a moment. I know she’s waiting for an apology but I am so hungover and pissed at my phone, not apologising feels like regaining some control in this otherwise marooned morning-cum-afternoon. So I just look down and keep rolling the phone over in my hands.

“You’re a cunt,” she finishes. She slams the door but it doesn’t shut properly. Part of it has detached from the hinge so the body of the door hits against the frame. After a few minutes of glancing around gormlessly for a charger I follow her.

The bedroom sits off a small corridor. At one end of the corridor is the apartment door. The other end reveals an open-plan living room and kitchen combined. Everything is clean lines of white and grey. The kitchen has a central island with a grill and oven embedded. The living room comprises a set of corner-sofas arranged around a low, japanese style coffee table. A large flat-screen TV hangs on a wall. Someone has hooked up their Mac to the screen and one of my poker games is playing. I don’t remember which one it is, but it must be recent because I look like I’m hungover and losing.

A few people are scattered around the kitchen and the living area, preparing snacks or watching the poker. I know some of the faces well, I vaguely recognise the rest. Most of them make eye-contact and nod as I enter the room. Only Sora looks out of place curled up in one corner of the sofa deliberately ignoring me.

Beyond the seating area one wall is made of glass. Outside I can see Shibuya Junction. I look again at the screen. I realise it’s last night’s game. I lost big. Maybe $500,000.

In the kitchen area I speak to someone who I more than vaguely know. Some sort of wannabe artist I think, who’s been hanging with us since we arrived in Japan. “What happened last night, Taishi?”

“Haven’t you watched back your Snapchat story?”

“No, I deleted it,” he starts laughing, which is annoying, but I keep my cool. “Everyone was texting me about some girl.” He suddenly stops laughing. “What?”

“Yeah, that girl was kinda young, man.”

“What happened to her?”

“I don’t know, man.” He avoids my eyes, “You were trying to give her some drugs.”

“I don’t even have any drugs.” He shrugs, “Where did she go?”

“I really don’t know, man. Last thing I saw was that you were dancing together. But we all came back at different times.”

“What the fuck is Sora doing here?”

“You called her here, man. After the game. Don’t you remember? You wouldn’t shut up about her. You were like, crying on the phone to her.”


“Yeah man, she flew over from Taipei last night. I think you paid for it.”

“With what?” I start laughing.

“I know right,” he says.

“We gotta be out by 2pm,” I say.

“I know, man. We’re all packed. We’re waiting for you. “

“Where is everyone going to go? I don’t have any money left.”

“We’ll find somewhere. Just call a few stakers, see what happens.”

I walk out of the kitchen back to the corridor to take a dump, but the bathroom door is locked. I rattle the handle in anger. A short, high-pitched squeal emanates from the other side of the door. Taishi approaches me.

“It’s been locked since last night, I thought you were in there.”

Someone knocks at the main apartment door, further down the corridor, “Hausukīpingu.”

“We don’t check out till 2pm,” I say.

“Right,” Taishi says. He moves to the door and opens it leaving the latch on, “Erm…” the silence carries on for maybe 20 seconds, he pretends he doesn’t speak Japanese, “come back at 2pm.”

“Tasukete!” a girl’s voice screams from the behind the bathroom door. It’s loud enough for everyone in the apartment to hear. Sora shouts something from the living room, then I hear her heels clicking on the wood floor.

Taishi starts closing the door, telling housekeeping, “Nope, no problem. Just a game. Just a game.” The door clicks shut.

“Tasukete!” Louder this time.

“You fucking idiot,” says Sora. She reaches into the pocket of my jeans, pulls out a coin and puts it into the depression on the outer side of the lock, creating a makeshift key. She twists the lock quickly and opens the door. Around Sora’s body I can see the bathroom. It’s compact but well appointed with a tub style, multi-directional shower.

Someone is sitting on the shower floor. A girl. She could be anywhere between 16 and 21. She’s wearing a school uniform. I can’t tell if it’s real or a costume. Her knees are pulled up to her face. Her red, swollen eyes look up through her jet-black fringe, like a funeral veil. On the floor of the shower tub there is some blood. But only a little.

“Are you OK?” says Sora, approaching the girl. She seems slightly reassured by Sora but she won’t avert her gaze from my eyes.

“What did you do, dude?” asks Taishi.

“I don’t know.”

I watch Sora as she tends to the girl. “Where is your underwear?” she asks gently. I don’t think the girl understands her, but she can hear Sora’s soothing soprano. The girl looks at me, her gaze slowly morphing from fear, to disgust, to pity.

Can she see the naked reality of my demons? For a moment I was playing the victim so convincingly I had managed to fool myself. Maybe I am only fooling myself.

I am really sorry. I always am after every attention seeking bender. But now someone has really been hurt. Not insulted or offended, actually hurt. And I can’t remember how.

All of this was to get Sora’s attention. As shameful and destructive as it was, it worked again. Half a million dollars and a distraught young girl, but Sora’s here now – my angel. And I won’t let her go. I won’t get bored of her again.

Then I see something by the sink, “Is that my iPhone charger?”



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