~~~~((~~~((@ THE ROSE GARDEN @))~~~))~~~~
From the memoirs of Chiba Mamoru, as re-told to Pandora Diane Waldron
"Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose." --Farid ud-din Attar, 12th Century Persian poet.
Chapter 8: Tuxedo Kamen
From: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon episode 28:
"Usagi and Naru went to an art gallery. It had illustrations by an artist called Yumeno Yumemi. Usagi liked the illustrations. There were couples all over. Umino appeared. He said that it was said that if one has her illustrations, a dream would come true. Then Usagi said that she would buy one of the posters.
There was a self illustration of Yumemi. She was a very pretty girl. But Umino said that Yumemi never went out in public."
It was a very dark night, late in October. I was having one of my bad nights, a night when I couldnt sleep. I felt uneasy, as if my nightmares were trying to catch up to me again. So I was in some really dark back street of Tokyo, nothing there but the occasional sound of fallen leaves rustling in the breeze. As I passed around a dismal-looking alley, my eyes fell on a lighted window. I gasped, and stopped dead in my tracks. It was...her! Or at least, it was a painting of her. She was looking over her shoulder, wearing her shimmering white gown, her long golden ponytails swinging in the breeze, her sky-blue eyes looking at me wistfully, in a silent appeal, the way she always looked at me in my dreams. Find it for me, please. Find the. ..nijizuishou (rainbow crystals). Now the thing had acquired a name. But still I was no closer to finding the crystals, or her. But now I had seen her, not in a dream, but in a shop window. As an ornament for a shop selling...tailored formal wear. Tuxedos. Utterly absurd, and fantastic. Why was that painting there?
I think you may have guessed what happened next. The next morning, I was there, trying on tuxedos. And out of the corner of my eye, looking at her painting. I couldnt stop looking at it. I noticed the painting was unsigned. The young salesclerk noticed me looking at it, and remarked, "Thats a really beautiful painting, isnt it? I dont know why she wont sign her name to her stuff. Shes one of my friends, Yumeno Yumemi. Ive told her, she could sell her stuff for lot of money. But she wont listen. She says no ones interested in an artist with a boring name like hers."
I gulped. And then somehow worked up the courage to ask about the painting. "Yes, I meant to ask you. Is that painting for sale?" But she wasnt listening to me. She was studying me, and my reflection in the mirror. "Oh, wow!"she cried. Oh no, I groaned inwardly, shes THAT type. The exuberant type. Oh well, its hard not to get caught up in such genuine enthusiasm. "Oh, wow!" she went again. "Do you know, honey, you are simply gorrrrgeous in a tuxedo? You were made to wear them. It would be a sin and a shame for me to sell this to anyone else. And I can put in a few tucks here and there and then it will fit you," and here her eyes travelled up and down, "...perfectly."
Well, now I was really uncomfortable. But I was determined. "About that painting..." "Oh, you want the painting? You really want this painting? Well, hey honey, Ill throw in for nothing, with the tuxedo." I sighed. It seemed there was no other way. And then I got a look at myself in the mirror. Hey...not bad. Not bad at all. What was that Mikata Suzuki said about climbing lamp posts and things...in disguise? Hmmm. With something to hide my face a bit, maybe a hat or something to cover my hair...hey.... this outfit will look so wild and crazy, no one will ever associate it with oh-so-conservative Mamoru. This could be...fun.
"Whats this thing?" I asked, picking up a tall black hat, a little dusty, from the back shelf. "Oh that? Thats a top hat somebody left here from a costume party last year. You dont want that old thing, do you?" I dusted it off. And replied, "Definitely," putting it on my head while checking in the mirror. "But it really needs something still." The girl was game, still, but she was beginning to eye me doubtfully. She really thinks Im strange now. Good. Then shell stop looking at me as if she was measuring me for I-dont-know-what.
Then, abruptly, she brightened. "Hey, this is like, for a masquerade party, right? I know the kind of thing you want," and she began spinning around the room, swooping around with a scarf trailing behind her. "You want a twirly, swirly black cape, dont you? Lined in loud red, right?"
She was giggling so hard, she couldnt stop. [<SIGH> I cant believe Im standing here, listening to this....God, give me strength.]
"Listen, do you want the sale, or not?" I can be very cutting, when annoyed. "Im sorry," she said, sobering suddenly. "Well, hey, if thats what you want, I can whip something up for you very quickly. You want silk, I suppose? And oh, what the hell, if its for a masquerade, I could find you a mask as well." "So how much is all this going to cost me?" I interrupted. Lets cut to the chase, here. "Well, honey, for you, since you look soooo gorrrgeous in that tuxedo..." [Oh, please, please, not that again!] "I wont charge you for the other stuff. Its only taking up room on the back shelves." And then she named a figure which was ... not bad. "And the painting, can I take it home with me?" "Oh, the painting! Oh, yeah, sure!" And she kind of thrust it at me.
I clutched my prize. Got it. Got it at last. And I only have to listen to Ms. Exuberance another five minutes at the most, at the cash register. So she rang up the sale, and then I asked, "So, arent you going to wrap it up?" "Wrap what up, honey?" [STOP calling me honey..but I didnt say this aloud.] "The tuxedo!" Is she out to lunch, or what? "Oh, honey, I thought you understood. You have to come back for several fittings." "I do?" Well, what did I know? I had never bought a made-to-measure suit before, let alone a tuxedo. But several more fittings, with her? God, give me strength.
Several weeks later, I am enduring yet another pin-tucking session in close quarters with Ms. Exuberance. For a guy like me who really, even now, still does not like people invading his personal space, this is a new version of hell. If I didnt have a sort of unwilling fascination with the transformation that seemed to be going on in the mirror, I think I would have stopped coming back for fittings long ago. But this seamstress seems to have some vision in mind, and I have the strangest feeling that it isnt the money that matters to her now, that it would break her heart if she didnt get to finish this tuxedo for me.
So heres Mamoru, resigned to be uncomfortable, because, all right, Im a marshmallow. I admit it. I just hate hurting peoples feelings. And well, I cant believe how this outfit makes me look, and feel. I feel like I could say, and do things wearing it, that otherwise, I might never find the courage to do. And of course, I remind myself, if I do get the urge to climb a lamp post or a roof top near the school district, it wont be Mamoru who gets into trouble with the school officials. I can keep the scholarship, my reputation as a very serious, hard-working student, and the reckless, other side of me will remain...just a masked man in a tuxedo. Too flamboyant, surely, to be that quiet serious person, Mamoru...yes, the other side of me will just be thought of as a...Tuxedo Kamen.
The tuxedo is nearly finished. This is the last fitting. Thank God. I am really happy with how everything looks on me, even the mask is just perfect, gives me no loss of sight in my peripheral vision, but it still covers my face, just enough. And Ms. Exuberance says she will keep my measurements [she has a funny way of saying the word "measurements", that makes me wish again that a male tailor had done this for me] in a special drawer on file, that all I have to do is place an order by phone, and shell make up a new tuxedo or whatever I need, double-quick.
"That is," she says, looking me up and down again, "unless your measurements change. If they do, youll come back to me for more fittings, wont you? [Not likely.] Youre very active, arent you? Did you say you intended to climb things in this? This must be some wild masquerade party youre going to! I wish I could be there!" [I dont.]
"Oh, I almost forgot!" she exclaims, as shes wrapping up the tuxedo and the other things, including a cane. [Wonder where she found that? She drives me crazy, but she seems to know exactly what I want, before I even know I want it. She is, very good at her job. So all right, Ill try to stop wincing every time she calls me "Honey."] "I have something really special for you, Honey! A new painting by Yumeno Yumemi. Wait till you see it! When I told her about you [and who else have you told about me? The whole city is going to know who Tuxedo Kamen is, at this rate!], she made this new painting, and said I was to give it to you!"
She thrusts it in my face. And I am so angry that she has told this artist friend about me buying the tuxedo, I feel like throttling her. But then I see the painting, and I am...in shock. Its like seeing your innermost fantasies depicted on canvas. It is the Princess in the arms of her Prince, theres no doubt its the same girl as before. And the picture is very...very...well, it starts all sorts of thoughts going. I am not going to describe it any more than that. And what is most disturbing..the Prince in the picture...looks like me. I cant describe my feelings, its as if the artist could read all my thoughts, even the ones Ive shared with no one else, and never will. I feel myself going hot, then cold.
"Please wrap this up," I hear myself saying, in a tight voice that doesnt sound like me at all. "Thank your friend very much for me...and ask her please, please, not to discuss this with anyone else. And I hope you wont discuss our business, with anyone else?" I look her full in the eyes, a measuring look. If you betray me, dont think I wont find out, and youll be sorry.
She certainly wasnt expecting that reaction from me, I can tell from her eyes. Suddenly this is not a joke, not just a masquerade party to her any more. "Im...Im sorry!" she says, "wasnt I supposed to tell anyone? But Yumemi, shes my special friend, we tell each other everything! Thats why she gave me her first paintings. But now she says she feels these ones belong with you. But shell never tell anyone else if I ask her not to. And I will. Im sorry."
I am already out the door. I feel exposed, like Ive got to get out of here. And back to my apartment, fast.
The paintings found a home, in my bedroom. In my closet. And there, inside the closet, with candles on each side, in sconces [oh, and a couple of fresh roses, for effect] they are still mounted. And when Im alone, and feeling discouraged, I open the closet, and light the candles, and go in there, and look at them. And I try to keep myself focussed on her, wherever she is, out there, and on the Ginzuishou, if I can ever find them. I can feel that strange sense of contact between us, whenever I look at the paintings. When the time is right, she will summon me. I will hang on, just a little longer.
After the first few times I would spend time looking at the paintings, weird things would happen. When I would feel happy, or just yearning to see her at last, a rose would just appear in my hand, out of nowhere. So I would just stick it in a vase, in water [lucky I bought all those vases]. I kept watching them, after this began happening. But they seemed like just ordinary roses, in fact, a lot nicer than ordinary roses, very beautiful and fragrant. Mostly, they were red roses, but every now and then, when I was in a special mood, they would be white roses.
There was only one strange thing about these roses. While they lasted much longer than normal cut roses, if I became depressed or sad about something, the petals would start to drop. Just as if they were each of them, somehow still connected to me emotionally. After I realized this was happening, I began studiously avoiding looking at the vases when I was upset about something. Maybe if I don't look, if another person is visiting, they won't notice the roses reacting to me.
Hah! That didn't do a bit of good. The petals just dropped all the faster when I wasn't looking at them. The worse I felt, and the more I was trying to hide my feelings, or control them, the faster those flowers withered. I have turned into a guy who literally has...messy emotions. I understood none of what was happening to me, at the time.
And when I would feel angry about anything, or worried, afraid, a different kind of rose would appear. A long rose, with a steel stem, razor-sharp tip. And I would find my hand shaking, wanting to throw it at something. If I didnt do anything with it, and my anger diminished, it would slowly disappear in my hand.
But if my anger continued, and I followed my impulse to throw, I would find that rose impaled in the strangest places. The steel-tipped roses once impaled in something, would also in time disappear--but not before doing some damage. After making a few holes in the wall I had to fill in, I realized it would be a good idea to buy a few dart boards...for *bad* moods.
I found the whole thing at first frightening. But I soon realized if I could learn to control and then focus my emotions, something I was fairly good at already, then I could decide consciously whether a rose was going to emerge, and what kind. But needless to say, that took a long, long time. And in the meantime, while I was teaching myself this, I kept even more to myself than before. Gradually, as I developed control, I began venturing on the streets, only at night, and only as "Tuxedo Kamen." That way, no one was likely to see me practicing my new skills with the steel-tipped roses, and on deserted back streets at night, no one was likely to get hurt.
As for good, happy thoughts...well, I didnt see it was so essential to control those, given that it took really strong euphoric emotions for a "regular" rose to emerge. And if I surprised myself that way..well, I did what magicians do, if there wasnt a vase to put it in...put it up my sleeve for the time being. Anyway, I soon developed absolute control over that, at least until I was safely at home, and it was OK to let myself feel whatever I was feeling.
After developing enough control for day-to-day situations, I also decided it would be a good idea to learn even more control of my reactions, especially physical reactions, and become more disciplined mentally, to the point I would never cause a steel-tipped rose to emerge without my conscious will, from uncontrolled anger or fear. Thats when I started taking karate lessons.
Its just another evening at the Crown Game Centre. This is my part-time job, to help defray some of my expenses, that just seem to keep increasing [SIGH]. And I dont want to touch that little nest egg my parents left me, unless I have to. Its coffee break time, and a friend at school has dropped by to see me. We chatted for a while, then she left me some reference books I had asked for, for a course Im taking. Now my good friend Furuhata Motoki, is here, raising his eyebrows at me suggestively.
"Well!" Says Motoki, looking after the girl. "SHES a looker!"
"Is she? I really hadnt noticed."
Motoki blinks at me a few times and widens his eyes. "Are you, like, blind, Mamoru? And maybe you havent noticed her, but shes certainly noticed YOU! Are you going to throw away every opportunity that gets tossed into your lap?"
I sigh. How on earth am I going to explain myself to Motoki? That I still have dreams at night, about a princess, whos waiting for me. Hes going to think Ive totally lost it. I cant even believe I ever told Mikata Suzuki about that. Of course, she said she believes Im going to meet my princess one day. But then again, Mikata-chan is a romantic, she admitted it herself. She believes in fairy tales, poetry, and love at first sight. And even after she lost her husband, lost her son, she still believes in these things, she still has hope. I wonder if I could be so strong. Or it that strength? Maybe it is weakness, just fooling yourself.
Me, I just dont know what I believe any more. I am nearly 17, never had a girlfriend. Not really. Lots of friends at school who are girls, thats all. Always, I hold myself back from getting involved. I focus on preparing myself for the day when I will meet...her. When maybe shes only a dream, and always will be. I am so discouraged now. I am so tired. My life is so empty, Im just going through the motions, dragging myself around, trying to lose myself in my schoolwork. Hey, Mamoru is getting such great marks, the other guys at school are envious. And all of it means nothing, nothing. Because I am so empty inside.
"Hey, Earth to Mamoru! Hello in there!" Motoki is waving his hand in front of my face, and I blink.
"Oh, sorry! You were saying?"
"I was saying, why dont you ask that girl out? Whats wrong with her?"
"Nothing...nothing. But were just friends. I help her studying with some of her courses, and in return, since she helps out at the school library, she makes sure I get first crack at the best reference books for the courses Im taking. She keeps her eye out for whatevers relevant, saves me hours of searching, and she brings it right over to me here or at my apartment. Shes great."
"And if shes so great,"Motoki says insistently, "why dont you ask her out?"
I manage a weak smile. Motoki, I cant give you a really good answer. Except to say when the right girl comes along, Ill know. And when I find her..Ill never let her go."
Motoki stares at me a few moments, and then decides Im sincere, and hes just not gonna budge me. He knows me...I am extremely stubborn. "Well, OK," he grins, "but if you have any other little friends you dont want to be bothered with, would you throw them my way? You ought to be reported to the environmental authorities, Mamoru...for monopolizing all the local available female natural resources and just discarding them. Next time you get a looker like that youre just friends with, you could at least introduce me. Then youd be environmentally conscious at least. Ill be happy to take on all your recycled babes!"
I wince. I dont think of my friends like that. Just because I dont want to get involved that way doesnt mean....oh, hell never understand. At least, Motoki didnt understand me, at that time. Later on, he met a girl, and then..his whole attitude changed. But to this day, Motoki is still an incorrigible flirt. But on this day, I wasnt in the mood for this. I stood up, and just said, without even noticing what I was saying any more, "Yeah, sure." And I got up and went to my post, staffing the counter.
It wasnt long after that I got a better paying job as a cameraman, and I even modelled for a while. I had all kinds of different part time jobs. I finally had some things of my own, and I wanted to hang onto them. And dont forget, Im a Leo, and people born under that sign of the Zodiac have a taste for the better things in life. And you know if you do have those champagne tastes [Usagis word for it, not mine], you need a good cash flow.
PLEASE GO TO CHAPTER 9: My Odango Atama, Part 1: And so it begins