The Jar

16-year-old Miho searched her coat. She pulled out an old lollipop and shoved it in her mouth. "Your wife is cheating on you?"

The chubby salaryman looked at the ground. "Yes."

"And you only want to take pictures of me in this hotel?"

He nodded.

Miho didn't believe him. Her eyes roved to the left. They never tell the truth.

But she didn't care. "I will buy one kilo of lollipops," she said, sticking out her tongue and wiggling it from side to side.

 

Then she tried to make him blush. "I had a dream last night," she said. "I was in a room. It was a colorful dream. Three young sailors were standing on the top of a slide. They were masturbating in rhythm. Their cadence was crazy. It made me laugh. And the goo flowed painfully down the slope of the slide. I wondered if it was a kind of competition. What do you think?"

The chubby salaryman scratched his head and said nothing.

Miho was already bored.

She spat her lollipop and checked her hair in the reflection of her iPhone.

 

The receptionist, whose face was hidden by a curtain, presented a book. "Open a page at random to choose a room."

Miho smiled and opened the book. Old black and white erotic photos fell to the floor. 

"Room 138." 

She handed the book back to the receptionist and turned to the salaryman. "You'll have to pay upfront."

 

Room 138 looked clean, though Miho suspected a deeper dirtiness. It wasn't necessarily the invisible traces of staphylococcus on the mirrors. It was something else. A speck of dirt found in museum cities or memories made of fragmented desires.

The salaryman sat on the bed.

"I suppose you want me to take off my clothes," Miho said.

"Yes."

"First I will take a shower."

 

When Miho saw the jar in the bathroom she said, "What the fuck?"

Inside the small jar was a white mass of tissue that looked like a brain. A bleached brain.

Pallid roots, worms? sprouted from it, keeping the organ afloat in a solution. Moisture had gotten inside the jar, leaving spots on the glass sides.

The water lily-like mass pulsed and grew, tiny veins attached to it.

Miho shouted to the salaryman in the other room, "Hey, I think I found your brain!"

 

Like every time before going honban with a client, Miho thought about her family. Miho ran away from home. Her father was violent. The sardine she ate one day was infected with parasites. She got very sick. Her father said to her, "You're like a parasite in our life." Miho was an illness for her entire family. "A family is a stomach where pallid children grow." Only clients were nice to Miho, and she always wanted to feel loved.

 

She gazed at the jar for a long time. It was bigger than she had thought. The light danced off the glass, and she could see the thing inside more clearly now. It was beautiful. She reached out to touch it. She felt loved by the strange organ floating in its liquid, and the filaments were dancing at the edges of the jar like waving hands. What was this thing? She knelt in front of the jar. She reached out to touch it again, and again. She wanted to touch it, to feel the strange organ floating in its liquid through her fingertips. She was sure that it would feel warm to her touch, soft, like a bird's feather, and alive. The light danced on the glass jar like underwater plants, and she could hear the faint whispers of the filaments as they conversed in unison.

 

Miho put her hand into the jar and touched the soft, warm thing inside. The filaments caressed her skin. She pulled her hand away and saw that her arm was covered in a fine gel. She put her hand back in. She took out a handful of the liquid and smeared it on her face. Miho was crying. She brushed her fingers in her hair and her hair came off in her hands. She took off her clothes and looked in the mirror. Her skin was covered in a fine gel, and white roots were sprouting from her breast. She heard faint whispers coming from the jar.

 

She looked at the salaryman's reflection in the mirror. He held the camera in one hand and touched his crotch with the other.

 

"What have you done here?" he said.

Dumbly, Miho pointed to the jar.

He reached out to touch the organ. "Beautiful. I'm proud of you. You're a good girl."

The chubby salaryman stroked her hair. It was the first time she had ever had a man do that.

 

He began to take pictures of her. The camera croaked like a frog.

 

The lights went out in her mind.

She could see in the dark.

 

"You're my good girl."

 

The darkness was her mirror.