Noilly Prattle: IZAKAYA - 居酒屋

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


red "chochin" lantern
       MY friend Hank and I were whiling away an evening in one of the local watering holes recently; the sake flowed and tongues loosened up along with inhibitions. These places are called “izakaya” and are close cousins to pubs and bistros or even the neighborhood bar/cafe where you can buy food and drink. The atmosphere is friendly and warm and relaxed and conducive to “letting it all hang out”--in the right company, of course.

As the evening wore on and the bottomless sake cup began to blur the edges, Hank began to talk about how his relationship with his significant other was going through a rough patch. Communication had broken down over what seemed to him a misunderstanding but, to her, callousness. “So, what happened,” I asked. “It's a long story that started a few month's back. In a nutshell, she felt that I was putting my own interests and those of an old friend before hers,” was the way he put it. “Is that true?” I asked. “Well, in a manner of speaking, you could say that, I guess,” he mused somewhat absently and more than a little boozily.
“In that case, shouldn't you apologize and be done with it?”

“It isn't that simple,” he said, “we both have a history of less than admirable behavior in times of crises.”

“What do you mean?”

“We both tend to be good time Charlies, and don't handle it well when the party suddenly comes to a screeching halt—as it inevitably does sometimes. When the shoe drops it all depends on whose foot it hits that determines who behaves less than nobly. This time it fell on mine,” said Hank as he upended another cup of sake without going into detail.

Hank went on to describe how accusations were met with counter accusations, debates of escalating heat about misunderstandings and/or seeing things through the dark filter of your own circumstances and feelings of hurt and betrayal ad infinitum. In psychobabble terms they were essentially talking at or over each others heads instead of talking to and listening to what the other guy was saying, intent on being 'right' and scoring points.

“So, sounds like your basic he-said-she-said kind of dead end. How does the story end? Sounds like you and your s.o. are at a crossroads,” I pressed.

“You got tha' right, awright,” he slurred at bit. “We did get as far as deciding that we didn't want to throw all those years away lightly. Still, there was an empty place that wasn't going away. Something was missing and neither of us could summon up the courage to state the obvious.”

“Oh, and what was the 'obvious'?” I queried.

“It's hard to put my finger on it. We were too polite and deferential and accommodating while at the same time the warmth and touch were missing,” he mused a little sadly.

“You mean no sex?” I commented, coming right to the point.

“Not exactly. Well, yes, that, but more importantly the easy communication that comes when you feel free to touch another person just matter of factly and that seems impossible to do when the underlying norm is the tension of unresolved and unfinished business brooding in the background,” he clarified.

“You're using quite a bit of past tense,” I noted. “Has the 'unfinished business' gotten resolved or is the relationship kaput?”

Hank brightened up a bit through his now pretty dense alcoholic haze. “I don't know the ending, yet. But I think we made a small breakthrough. Sometimes, a song can say things much better than you can. We had both been listening (although not together) to Dave Mason's We Just Disagree and Elvis singing You've Lost That Loving Feeling--both songs just pregnant with meaning in our impasse. After a couple drinks we got into a 'discussion' about an incident involving some mutual friends in which our own mutual antagonisms resurfaced. The discussion segued into a rehash of our old argument about the most recent letdown and my transgressions. One thing led to another as the heat escalated. Finally, she concluded with, 'This is what I'm hearing from you. What do you have to say about that'?”

He was really primed now, on a roll.

“I guess the booze loosened my tongue.” he said. “Without offering any counterargument this time, I just said that what I'm hearing from you is that you just don't like me anymore. You said before that deep down you still love me. That may be true, but you don't like me anymore and that's more important. You've lost your feel for me and I've lost mine for you.”

“Wow! That must have hit a nerve,” I exclaimed.

“Well, I guess so. It did break the ice. It cleared away a lot of the detritus and left us both metaphorically naked with no place to hide. It was a simple honest statement of true feelings of loss and sadness, some reaching out and a lot of swallowing of pride. She responded in the same spirit coming over and hugging me and saying, 'I do still like you and love you, too, but was afraid and didn't know how to reach out. It seemed more like caving in to me'.”

“Yeah, me too,” I laughed. “Pride is a son-of-a-bitch. It's like an addiction that keeps you hooked even when you know it's no good for you. But, about that 'caving in' thing..... it's not caving in I think, it's more like jumping off a cliff into the abyss. I think we just stepped back from the edge.”

“Sounds like a potentially happy ending,” I said.

“I sure as hell hope so. And I think I've had enough of these, too,” Hank smiled for the first time that night. “Let's get the hell out of here and go home!”


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Love this post! I hope the story has a happy ending. Reminds me how happy I am to be married to my best friend and that we still have that spark that a simple touch or word creates. Our song: Still the One by Orleans - Michelle

Noilly Prattle said...

Glad you liked it. Even with "the One" though, there are bumps in the road. It's a never-ending story really and it keeps life and story making interesting and sometimes fascinating I think.