Positively Yours

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story in which the same line recurs three times.... view prompt

6 comments

LGBTQ+ Science Fiction East Asian

“I’m positive.”


I paused and clarified myself. “I mean. . .I’m a positive thinker. An optimist.”


It was the first day of beginner’s Japanese class. To break the ice, Kenji—our teacher—had each of us describe ourselves with one word, and he rendered the word into Japanese for us.


The class fell silent as we waited for Kenji’s translation. The spring gale churned the sounds and scents of urban nightlife from the street below and rammed them through the cracked open window. I longed for one of those alcoholic concoctions humans poured down their throats.


Kenji still contemplated, brow furrowed. He squinted at the ceiling and scratched the back of his head—a mannerism of his that hooked me the first time I saw it. “That’s interesting," he said. "You can actually use the English word positive in Japanese too if you want to say you’re a positive thinker. It’s a loan word. But there are other Japanese words as well.” He turned to the whiteboard and wrote them out, making the markers squeak. His right shoulder blade moved up and down underneath his lime green T-shirt. My eyes were riveted.


The language school was located in Shinjuku, a district in Tokyo astir with foreigners and ideal for an undercover alien like me. I was operating in Japan under the guise of a foreign expat assigned to Tokyo for three years. Passing as a foreigner from another Earth nation was an old trick of ours. It helped prevent blowing your cover—unfamiliarity with the culture wasn’t as conspicuous that way. Back on Fenora Prime, the agency inserted subdermal translator implants in our ear canals, but those aided with rudimentary comprehension only. We still had to learn how to speak the local language, if not several. Languages, our commandants emphasized, gave insight into the depths of a species and its culture.


A fourth-year college student at the time, Kenji taught Japanese part-time in the evenings. We never chatted outside of the classroom during the eight-week course. After it ended, I expected never to meet him again, and kept myself busy with work.


It was Tokyo on the cusp of the nineties. Shinjuku’s nightlife roared. One humid night in summer, about two months after the course ended, I sat at the counter of one of the clubs I frequented. The thud-thud-thud of the music reverberated in my torso and the room was hazy with cigarette smoke. I chatted away at the bartender who nodded in my direction, though I doubt he heard much of what I said.


“Imagine finding you here.” A familiar voice yelled into my ear from behind. I glanced over my shoulder and froze. It was Kenji. He raised his glass in salutation, smiling. With this one look he managed to re-kindle my infatuation with him.


We spent the rest of the evening buying each other drinks and catching up. Having graduated, he now worked at an architect’s office. We recounted the countless blunders I made in class and laughed until our bellies ached.


Arms around our shoulders, we staggered to the station later that night, not sure if we could catch the last train. Gaudy neon lights bled into the night atmosphere.


“Where were you from again, Derek?” Kenji asked.


“Up there.” I pointed to the constellation of Cygnus. “From Fenora Prime.”


Kenji snickered. “Right. And I’m from Neverland.”


He didn’t believe me, of course. But I took pride in being honest about me on our first date.


***



“I’m positive”


Kenji’s white breath dissipated, unlike the weight of his words still lingering in the air between us. His eyes moistened as he forced his pursed lips into a smile. I stepped closer and wrapped him in my arms. He smothered his face on my shoulder.


When he had stepped out of the clinic with a heavy gait, I already knew the result of the test.


I accompanied him to the clinic a week later. The doctor explained the current condition of his immune system—the CD4 count and virus load—and the meds he had to take daily.


Kenji cuddled up against me as we lay on our bed that night.


“Sometimes I wish it were true,” Kenji said.


“If what were true?” I asked.


“You being an alien.” He shifted and wrapped his arm around me. “You could then spirit me far, far away to that imaginary planet of yours.” He pretended to chuckle.


Words failed me. I would have given anything to take Kenji with me to my home world, right there and then. But it was pointless. Even if a transport shuttle were to be passing through this sector now, the medical officers of my world had no knowledge of human anatomy, much less human diseases. We acted as observers, and law forbade agents from transferring individuals from less technologically advanced planets to our world.


“Yeah, that sure would be cool.” I patted Kenji on his head.


Helplessness overwhelmed me.


***



“I’m positive.”


“Whoa, slow down.” Kenji gave me a puzzled look from the side as we sat on the only two chairs in the laundromat, waiting for our clothes to dry. The dryer in our apartment gave up the ghost days ago and we still hadn’t bought a replacement. “I don’t understand. Start over again.”


“I’m saying I’m positive it’ll work out. Why shouldn’t it?” Water gurgled down a drain. A washing machine prepared itself for the rinse cycle. “We’re happy together. Doesn’t it make sense for me to stay here?”


Kenji squinted at the ceiling for a moment. He turned to me again and stared me down, incredulity brimming in his eyes. “Are you sure you know what you’re saying?”


“Yes, absolutely. I may not be fluent in Japanese yet, but I know what I’m saying, thank you very much. I’ve thought it over long and I’ve made my decision. I’m not going home when my contract ends. I’m going to stay and live with you. And if this country ever leaps out of the dark ages and legalizes it, we could get married.”


A fluorescent light flickered. After a few seconds I waved my hand in front of Kenji’s face. “Hello? Earth to Kenji, anybody there? I just proposed to you. Feedback would be nice.”


This wasn’t going as smoothly as I hoped. Then again, this was entirely new territory. I’d never proposed to anyone back home, much less to a member of an alien species. So I expected a few bumps here and there. Still, I had to make sure I didn’t botch this up.


“But that’s crazy.” Kenji finally broke out of his stunned stupor. “What about your career? You can’t just throw everything out the window and quit!”


“Watch me.” I defied his skepticism and stared straight into his eyes. “Besides, I’m perfectly capable of finding another job here. Don’t worry.”


I wagered there were plenty of agents before me who quit and went native on the planets they were assigned to. They just never mentioned those types at the Agency.


The wall of dryers thrummed. A washing machine finished draining water and transitioned to the spin cycle.


“And what about your friends and family back home?” Kenji asked.


I raised my voice to cut through the racket of the spin cycle. “They’re doing perfectly fine without me now, and I don’t see how my staying here will change any of that.”


My family would worry for sure. But they supported my decision to join the agency knowing full well being an agent on an alien planet was dangerous business. So I was confident they would respect my decision to stay. I was always the quirky one in the family anyway.


“Derek, it’s very sweet of you to say that. It really is, but you don’t have to stay here out of a sense of duty towards me. I’ll miss you, but I’ll be fine.”


Our clothes were done. I got up from my chair, pulled out the dried clothes and tossed the entire lump into the basket


“Don’t just throw them in.” Kenji was appalled. “Gimme that!” He pulled the basket towards him, crouched, and started folding the clothes. He was always so finicky.


I crouched opposite him on the other side of the basket and helped with the folding.


“You’re missing the point,” I said.


“Then explain it to me,” he said. He didn’t look up.


“The point is I can’t imagine not being with you. It’s as simple as that.”


His hands stopped folding.


“Look, if you don’t want me to stay, then that’s fine. Or if it doesn’t work out and we break up, then that’ll be okay too. Sad, but okay. I can handle—“


Kenji reached out with his index finger and placed it vertically against my mouth. “Okay, deal.” He removed his finger. “Let’s give it a try then. And don’t ever think of leaving me. Cause if you do, I’ll chase you down all the way to that imaginary planet of yours and drag you back down here.”


He reached over the basket and hugged me.

July 09, 2021 12:40

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6 comments

Babika Goel
10:35 Jul 16, 2021

Hi Jon, liked the concept that love has so much power that an alien wants to be a man forever. From being just an observer in the first incident, he is all emotional in the second and then finally knows it's an inseparable relation.

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Jon R. Miller
13:43 Jul 16, 2021

Thank you for reading and your kind comments. It encourages me. :>

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Jason Ivey
22:29 Jul 11, 2021

You could say this story made me feel “positive” and gave me some welcome escapism!

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Jon R. Miller
23:29 Jul 11, 2021

Thank you for your comments! :> I am happy it made you feel positive. Your encouraging comments also me feel positive. :>

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Tom D
08:23 Jul 11, 2021

This was certainly a sweet and unexpected love story - language teacher-cum-architect and undercover alien! I thought the use of the words ‘I’m Positive’ throughout the story was a clever device to convey different meanings, and I’d love to learn more about the agency and their activities. I wonder how many agents they had here on earth? Do you think things will work out for Derek and Kenji? I hope so…

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Jon R. Miller
11:25 Jul 11, 2021

Thank you for reading! Your thoughtful comments always give me lots of energy to write more. I thought I would try something different with this one. I don't think I got it quite right with how the Sci Fi aspect is incorporated. I'll have to work on that more. I'd like to keep pegging away at this world more in the future, and see where it takes me. Yeah, I do want Derek (or whatever his real name is) and Kenji to stay a couple, and have many adventures together in space. (Yikes, now I realize that, except for them being a couple and havi...

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