Something very new
In fact, something so new I have only - literally, today - finished the first draft. The first chapter of the sequel to "The Geisha With The Green Eyes" is attached! It will, no doubt, have to go through many edits and changes before it is ready to be published, but at least I can give my keyboard a rest over Christmas. The photograph is unlikely to be the cover, it´s just an illustration I like very much.
And speaking of Christmas, if we don´t talk over the festive season, I hope Santa brings you all you could ever want, and that your holiday is a very happy one.
The Geisha Who Could Feel No Pain
© India Millar 2017
“Living only for the moment, giving all our time to the pleasures of the moon,
the snow, cherry blossoms and maple leaves. Singing songs, drinking
sake, caressing each other, just drifting, drifting. Never giving a care
if we had no money, never sad in our hearts. Only like a plant moving
on the river’s current; this is what is called The Floating World.”
Tales of the Floating World
Asai Ryoi, 1661
I was born in The Floating Wold; the famous place of pleasure in the centre of Edo. I grew up there, spent my childhood learning its secrets. To me, it was home.
When I ran away from my father´s house, I lived and worked in the Kabuki theatre for a while. At the time, I thought that was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me. But it wasn´t until I was betrayed by my father and he sold me to the Hidden House to be trained as a geisha – a special geisha - that I began to understand that my past life was nothing.
Yet still the river of time flows constantly. It was only when my friend Midori No Me, the woman who was more than a sister to me, vanished from the Floating World that I realized how much I had lost. I might be the geisha who could feel no pain, but I felt the pain of losing my dear Midori in the depths of my heart.
And now, when I stand on the threshold of yet another new life, I tremble. But this time not with fear, but wonder.
The moon has eaten
The sun. The light is gone from
My life once again.
We expected things to be bad once Midori No Me suddenly disappeared from the Hidden House, the discreet house of pleasure for the very wealthiest men in Edo´s Floating world. We could do nothing of course; we were powerless. The Hidden House was not just our home, it was our prison.
Midori had been Akira san´s favourite from all the girls, but we knew instinctively that she was more than just favoured and that – as far as Akira was capable of love – he loved her. Not, of course, that the greatest yakuza in Edo would ever admit to having any tender feelings for a mere woman. But we knew, and we trembled as we waited for him to take his revenge on those of us who remained. I shivered with misery as well; Midori had been my elder sister; she had taken care of me for my mizuage – the paid for, ceremonial deflowering that every maiko – every trainee geisha -must undergo before she can become a fully-fledged geisha. And over time, she had truly become my sister. We had shared secrets; I knew all about her lover, Danjuro, the star of the kabuki theatre. I knew she hated Akira with her body and her soul. Knew about the complex cat-and-mouse game she played with him every day she was his captive, the game where she had to stay one step ahead, or face his anger and die at his hand.
When she vanished from the Floating World, I prayed that somehow she had escaped. Everybody else thought Akira had murdered her in a fit of anger, but I was convinced I could still feel her spirit in this world. I hoped I was right, and that she was not only alive, but happy.
All of us girls in the Hidden House belonged to Akira. He was entitled to do what he liked with us. Nobody would either notice or care, whatever he chose to do. We were, after all, just geisha. But very special geisha.
The Hidden House was the jewel of the Floating World, the unique place of pleasure that was available only to the wealthiest patrons. Those who had a taste for something a little different. Although we were all truly geisha – we could sing; dance; play the samisen; amuse our patrons with our wit, perform the tea ceremony with great elegance – all of us girls were flawed, in one way or another. That´s what made us so special, so very sought after. So very expensive.
Unlike other geisha outside the Hidden House, our talents were expected to go far beyond amusing the patrons with our wit and musical skills. We were expected to entrance them with our very bodies, to enthral them with our strangeness. Why not? I can think of a lot worse ways to earn a living. And was it so very different from any respectable married woman in Japan, who was constantly at the command of her husband? Alert to his every whim, and prepared to do anything he asked?
Just like “normal” geisha, we were prisoners of our house. Just the same as any geisha, we were all protected by our Aunty, the woman who ruled the Hidden House with a rod of iron. Until Akira bought both the Hidden House and the nearby Green Tea House from Aunty, truth to tell she had owned all us geisha body and soul. It was Aunty who fed us, bought our beautiful kimonos for us, and made sure we were safe. And in return, we pleased the patrons and paid her back for all she had given us. Not, of course, that we could ever hope to pay her back fully. That would never happen, unless some patron liked us enough to buy us out as a mistress, or – so exceptionally it was almost unheard of – a wife.
That was what happened to our fellow geisha Kiku. She was bought out by Mori san to become his wife (and that was a surprise; Mori san had hung around Midori No Me for months, and had tried to buy her out time and time again, until Akira san whisked her away from under his nose). Kiku had been one of the longest serving girls in the Hidden House. She was beautiful, but she was also monstrously, impossibly fat. So big that she couldn´t rise from the floor without help from a couple of the maids. Couldn´t even reach her own feet to put her tabi on.
But we all had our oddities. That was why we had our place as geisha in the Hidden House. Masaki was tiny. Even in high geta she looked like a walking doll. And Naruko was Chinese, with bound feet that made her able only to take the smallest, most painful of steps. And my dear Midori No Me was half foreign barbarian, and had hair that shone red in the sun and the greenest eyes. Strangest of all of us had been poor Carpi. She had been born with no arms; her hands grew straight out of her shoulders. Midori No Me and I helped Carpi to kill herself when she was close to death with a terrible wasting disease.
And me? Well, if I do say so myself, when Midori left I soon became the star of the Hidden House. I was the Geisha Who Could Feel No Pain, and didn´t the patrons just love to see if that was really true!
You may find it amazing, but none of us geisha was in the least bit shocked by our patrons´ demands. Naturally, we never let them know that. We all knew it was in our best interests to appear awed and a little worried by their requests. The truth was, no matter how bizarre their needs, we had seen it all before.
In my case, I found it was always the same. As soon as we were alone, the man would begin by giving me a quick poke in the ribs. When I did nothing more than smile, they would follow it with a pinch or two. A moment´s thought, and they might give me a slap, or a punch. When that had no effect, they tried the effect of a kick. Very occasionally, one of them – more determined than most to get his money´s worth – would put his hands around my neck and try and strangle me, although a good, loud scream soon put a stop to that.
In any event, when the patrons got bored with trying to cause me pain, at that point most of them gave up and concentrated on shoving whatever they thought suitable into my black moss. Mostly, it was their tree of flesh, but occasionally those who were determined to get their money´s worth used their whole fist, or now and then an entire foot. None of it mattered to me; they couldn´t hurt me, no matter how they tried. When I got bored, I would mew and start to moan, which invariably gave my patron huge satisfaction. I often had to hide laughter as I watched them strutting out like proud samurai, heads held high as they rushed to tell their friends how they had put the Geisha Who Could Feel No Pain well and truly in her place. Begging at their feet.
I felt nothing but contempt for any of them, at the same time as I yearned for the impossible. I wanted to be made to feel. Not that it happened; no matter what the patron was like – and we had everybody who was anything visit us – all rich, of course. Young and old, handsome and ugly; all the same to me. Nice, occasionally, more often extremely nasty. It didn´t matter, to me their antics were like spoilt children, grabbing for attention. I was moved by them as much as the stone of the road felt my feet. I was, I knew, wishing for the moon.
Which just goes to show that sometimes the gods smile on those who beg humbly enough.
But that was all in the future. There is much to tell before then.