A Date with a Geisha. . .
My writing instructor, Teresa brings out a tray of objects hoping that in one of these randomly-picked items, we will find our inspiration to write.
Among the clutter of 16 crayons, a yellow 'No Crossing Tape,' a plastic Barbie doll with pink highlighted hair, an American flag, a folding umbrella, a soft stitch training baseball, a silver figurine of a hippo, a grey-and-white inhaler, a blue $50 monopoly money bill, my eyes alight and focus on a silk hand fan with ribs that come to long points at one end, and a green silk tassel attached by a braided green cord at the other. It lies unfolded, displaying an arc of heavy rice gold paper, hand-painted with blue irises on leafy green stalks. Memories of the orient are slicing through my brain like a machete, and it reminds me of an embellished fan in the hands of a geisha.
Years ago, my husband and I read the book 'Memoirs of a Geisha' together on a holiday to Maui, a sleepy island in Hawaii, with our kids, then aged 10 and 5. I've harbored a secret fascination with geishas since then. Mysterious women with white make-up painted on their faces, dressed in intricate pleated folds of rich silks in a burst of colors—turquoise, fuschia, yellow, scarlet—a tortoiseshell comb affixed to a top bun in glossy dark hair, fluttering a fan in be-ringed fingers as they flit from the dressing room to the parlor where their male guest impatiently awaits their arrival. A star of the Far East, a geisha knows how to bewitch a man with a heavy-lidded sidelong glance, how to comport herself with languid elegance, how to chat flirtatiously and glide seductively in a kimono. She is skilled at the games that are played at teahouse parties and has memorized the words and melodies of ditties, love songs and ballads of the geisha repertoire. It speaks to me of an era gone by, a decorum of manner, a female etiquette, a refinement I ascribe to the Queen's bedroom in Buckingham Palace.
This summer we travel to Japan, with my two kids, now aged 25 and 20. We will visit Tokyo and Kyoto and Osaka. I'm told Japan is a country of myriad experiences—the past jostling with the present, the modern intruding upon and, unsettling the ancient. I know we will spend hours perusing the digital gadgets in Akihabara—the electronics quarter for which Tokyo has become famous for the past decade, enough to satisfy the curiosity of my computer engineer son with his hi-tech leanings. I've also been told that I have to pay a visit to Harajuku with my daughter to fulfill her teenage fantasies of Pikachu and Hello Kitty. And for my husband, the recent graduate of the San Francisco Culinary Institute, there will be the Tsukiji Fish Market to learn how to cut and cook sushi and sashimi.
But, for me, all I want is a date alone with a geisha. . .