“You’ll never know unless you try…”
Corey loved his mother; he kept her words in his head as he stared at the dishes in front of him. The waitress was charming enough when she put the food in front of him, but was there something devious in her look? Was there a bit of a sneer? He had a little tick in his face that would not go away. It was growing from the spicy and steaming mix of items in the biggest and most beautiful bowl in front of him.
Yes, mom, I will never know…
And he was glad that he had made it. Taking a trip overseas when his career was going so well was not a plan. Corey had been told that the work that he was doing in the studio was so in demand that this was “permanent career suicide when the sugar is in your cup”. He still smiled at Ralphie’s line; a good manager, that one – only stole from whatever account Corey did not need to access at the moment. That was a truth that he could accept. But here he was, passport and suitcase in hand, in a stall restaurant in a crowded part of the world he had only read about online and in magazines.
And here was his food.
You’ll never know…
Mom was the one to blame for this; she had to pay for this. Corey had issues with certain types of food as a child, but she really went too far with her diets, potions and demands from doctors. Most of those pills were probably (probably?) placebos that did nothing. But still… Corey would go out of his way to cook his own food whenever he could. This worked with dates and one-night stands (He’s so sensitive! He’s such a good one in the kitchen!). If they knew…
Well, some people knew…
Ralphie was the reason why he decided to take off as he did. From the first set of shows that season, there had been rumours that certain listeners were not very happy with the success of his work. It was all on Spotify and certain die-hard record stores that still found him “edgy and raw” (great review there, Pitchfork). And he would have just taken his regular break without much thought for next year, but for…
Oh, Ralphie. It is all your fault.
A threat was found at the office.
Corey looked at the scene in front of him as he picked up a pair of wrapped chopsticks (he thought ahead on that one). There were parents with their children, staff managing tables with slightly tipsy businessmen (he wanted to knock out one particular man who seemed to not understand the server’s very clear body language; watch it, pal), a few others passing by in the narrow lane leading out to the main road and his hotel.
Could they be here?
“They think that whoever left it was just pissed that you borrowed without paying out yet. Police have to check it out, but I don’t think that they are going to do a damn thing about it. How could they, it was all online.”
Ralphie always looked tense, even with the girls after the show and a drink in his hand, but this was different. He sat behind that crowded desk and did not rotate or shift in his seat as he picked up the printed page.
“We know what you sampled and we know what to do.”
Corey poked at the food in the bowl and smiled at the memory of the note.
“This is what you think is a threat?”
“C., I would ignore it if I could…”
“It’s just some fan pissed off because they paid too much for tickets, or their girlfriend broke up with them, or their mothers want them to finally move out of their basements and stop watching Twitch and porn all day.”
Ralphie did not laugh at Corey’s titter. It had been too cold in the office with the air-conditioning unit on full blast.
“Okay, I will take it seriously. I know that all celebs get this kind of crap, but I will try to…”
And that was why he decided to get away from the schedule, the promoters who wanted his head (maybe they should be checked out?), the fans who probably knew more about this than the police (still a possibility), and even his own family (his current girlfriend barely looked up from her phone; his mother, through real tears, understood).
The noodles and vegetables released a delicious odor as he stirred the mix.
What was he supposed to do first? Drink or eat? He could have asked the staff – a few Japanese lessons from his past were beginning to shake his thoughts – but he could figure this one out.
He twirled the noodles on his chopsticks and let them cool for a bit in the air.
And then he stopped.
“We know what you sampled…”
Corey put the entwined noodles back in the bowl. He felt the heat hit his face and the vapor joined the sweat that was already running down his neck.
Who writes a note like that?
Who would know where I was right now if I decided to drop everything and just take a break from DJing and recording?
Who helped me buy the ticket?
Corey remembered how much time they spent on their contract when they first met. There was the usual stuff about promotions, merchandise, tour schedules…and vacations.
And then there were the indemnities.
“You know that we both have to be protected…”
He put the chopstick down.
“You know that this is for both of our sakes…”
He wiped them down and wrapped them back up in the cotton tube they came in.
“All this sampling can be a sticky issue and we know what to do about it.”
We know what to do.
Was he being paranoid?
Corey looked at all of the dishes in front of him.
Was Ralphie really capable of pulling something like this off?
He raised his hand and called the server over. She asked about the food but was cut off by his request for all of this to go (an interesting phrase in spoken Japanese - doggibaggu).
It would have been a great headline.
It would have made his posthumous career.
And it would have made Ralphie and record company rich (they had the label in both their names).
Corey wondered about what to do during the rest of his stay in Tokyo. Maybe see the Imperial Palace, play some pachinko, and then take another week off to find a different manager.
He had some time.
And at least his mother would be proud, wouldn't she?
He walked back through the crowded twilight with her words in his thoughts.