Strawberry and I move in together. He finds a job in central Tokyo, and I start my third semester of graduate school. The new apartment is filled to the brim with cockroach nymphs. Over the phone, Strawberry takes pains to warn me about the infestation: “Don’t freak out, okay?” he says, in his gentlest voice. I spend the better part of a day furiously Googling insect life-cycles and laying down glossy black bait traps stuffed with toxic hydramethylnon.
During the first week, we subsist on blackcurrant-and-orange alcohol and prepared meals from the supermarket. I take two daily pills recommended by my parents, both vile-tasting but prescribed out of love. The building is ancient, and the communal rooms on its lower floors–a dark, dusty library, an empty, grey-walled lobby, a three-legged table with a splayed-open and dog-eared copy of Time magazine, circa 2003–re-appear in my dreams, contorted into a set of horrors where my imagination eats itself alive. But the apartments are heavily subsidized by my university, and so in the interest of avoiding financial ruin I learn to cheerfully accept the terrifying aesthetic. How would a director frame me? Born in the Lost Decade, a wild-haired nihilist walking through neon-lit Shibuya with a mind full of rapidly darkening thoughts on the brink of explosion: the heroine of a banal J-horror about human life in all its insipid, boring, sad, loving glory.
I open the silverware drawer and am greeted by a chocolate-colored cockroach that reaches forward to feel the air with twin, twitching antennae, only to draw back rapidly at the first sign of light.