Temptation

Temptation

A Story by Philip Muls
"

A twist in my sobriety

"

I have been in Asia for the better part of a month now and my flight back to Europe leaves at noon tomorrow. Anxious to go home, I find it impossible to sleep. It is 3 AM and I am strolling down Tokyo’s Shinjuku entertainment district. 


Today, the eleventh of the eleventh month of 2015, is celebrated in Asia as Bachelors’ Day. As the digit 1 resembles a stick, symbolizing someone who is alone, 11/11 is considered to be a lucky day for singles. On Alibaba, Asia’s answer to Amazon, bachelors have bought two hundred and fifty million Anti-Valentine’s gifts to celebrate their singleness. Funnily enough, many find each other on this special day and are henceforth no longer single. The streets are filled with couples, determined to paint the town red tonight.


An expat colleague has given me the address of a skyline bar at the Park Hyatt and I am now standing in front of the majestic high-rise, hesitating to go in. After some deliberation, I cross the imposing lobby and take the elevator up to the 52nd floor, straight into the glorious bar where Bill Murray first saw Scarlett Johansson in Coppola’s indie movie Lost in Translation. I have a soft spot for Scarlett and I imagine myself in the iconic scene right when he offers her a Suntory single malt Japanese whisky - For relaxing times, make it Suntory time -  and she teasingly orders a G and T instead, with that flair of feminine defiance that would become her signature expression.


The bar has a glitzy Gatsby theme going on with the women dressed flapper style with bobbed hair and dazzling short dresses. An elegant blonde in a flamboyant red Roaring Twenties dress is singing Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful, accompanying herself on a white Baby Steinway. People are holding Vintage 1920 Prohibition Cocktails like Highballs and Old Fashions, Daiquiris and Side Cars. The girls wear feathers in their hair and smoke long cigarettes. The view outside over Tokyo’s rooftops is formidable and my head is spinning.


Before I can ask the bartender whether this really is the Lost in Translation cocktail lounge, he nods knowingly and points to a specific bar stool. I ask: “He or she ?” He answers with a tired smile: ”She”. 


I take the seat and order a Kirin Ice beer with a very exact 0.0% alcohol. I have been sober for 30 months and I consider myself sufficiently ruggedized to be trusted alone in a late-night Tokyo bar. Deep down, though, I feel the familiar sting in a place like this. Like an old love lost but not forgotten, it still eats at my core. It is not a coincidence I keep going back to waterholes like this.


Three pretty Japanese girls are entertaining a bunch of German businessmen at the far end of the bar, away from the party. The girls seem too beautiful to be true. I cannot help but wonder at this arrangement. On the surface, the men look like predators, Alpha males, in town to close the deal. The girls seem too young and outnumbered. A $600 Jeroboam of Louis Roederer Cristal  Champagne gets passed around and keeps them going.


On second glance, I realize that the girls are in the lead and the men eagerly take part in this universal game. Willing participants in an age-old ritual. The girls are flirting shamelessly, she-wolfs in their natural habitat.


The scene triggers ambiguity in me. Shame and fascination. Disapproval and attraction. But why should I care? The bartender is minding his own business and I too turn away.


My eyes settle on a cabinet with expensive cigars on display. Each cigar is wrapped individually with an impressive label that reads Caliber & Carat  in an elegant font. My mind connects dots which are not there. Caliber as in lethal weapon, Carat as in flawless diamond.


Or carat as in flawless girls and caliber as in character strength? What type of man would mess around with school girls (or, at least, that is the look the young women are going for) very late on a Thursday night? I wonder for a moment whether that type could be me under different, less sober circumstances.


I cannot help but let my gaze drift back to the scene with the girls and the Germans. One of the women looks straight at me while pulling the tie of one of the men. Her eyes dare me: “So what?”


I suddenly feel totally out of place and exposed as an imposter, as if the entry ticket to this bar is a real drink. An adult drink. Confused and with thoughts spiraling down into a familiar pattern, I pay for the fake beer that I did not touch. It occurs to me I am still a dry drunk, full of resentment and anger. This place eats at my resolve and I need to go. I put on my raincoat and leave in a hurry. The higher pitched broken English of the girls follows me into the corridor and resonates all the way down the elevator ride.


Outside, I walk briskly back to my own hotel feeling deeply sorry for myself.  And God knows that sorry is not a good place to be in, not if I want to make it to three years. It has started raining. I get soaked but do not mind. It feels appropriate, like a ritualistic cleansing.  


Back in my room, I am too agitated to go to bed. For more than an hour, I watch the stock ticker on CNN while my thoughts try to come to some conclusion.


What to make of this? I walked out of a tricky situation. This time. But what about next time? My moral compass may be pointing to the North but what does that buy me? And of course, the big question. In the final analysis, will I drink again?


I take deep breaths and slowly but surely come to stand on solid ground. I feel like I made it back from behind enemy lines. Back in the DMZ here in my room, I start to feel better about this whole thing. Temptation was a clear and  present danger tonight but it did not tip me over. Tomorrow I will feel stronger than ever. But I emotionally know that I came as close as I’ve gotten in a very long time. The realization hurts but feels good at the same time.


I am still and will always be like the moth circling the flame, unable to stay away from the brightest of lights. 


© 2015 Philip Muls



Author's Note

Philip Muls
New version uploaded. Thank you all for your feedback!

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

After the first few sentences I was hooked! This has been quite a fascinating read. Your strength to hold on to your power is astonishing-- simply because most folks could not last even a few minutes in such an environment with promiscuous temptations. Although it was clear before confession how difficult it was to retract from participating, I found it rather heroic that you saved yourself from utmost self-hatred. Finally, at the end when you wrapped your head around your actions and realized that you will become stronger I felt chills run down my spine. That is absolutely incredible. Thank you for sharing.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you Erica

Kind regards Philip



Reviews

This story feels real. I don;t know whether it is or not, it hardly matters, because it shows skill as an author regardless. Many real stories don't feel real on paper or they don't feel like stories.

If it is not a real story, I would dispute the final line. Some other light must be brighter, as out narrator has stopped drinking and shows significant determination and commitment. Whatever spurred that is the brightest. If it is true, then, of course, i will not dispute your experience, as it is yours alone.

Posted 1 Year Ago


Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you for valuable feedback. It is true indeed and I have started a book on recovery. If you hav.. read more
This was a thrilling and compelling read. You should take your travels and journals and publish a diary of your adventures, thoughts and excursions. Please do this: the world needs more thoughtful, self-reflective and introspective material.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you and I will.
After the first few sentences I was hooked! This has been quite a fascinating read. Your strength to hold on to your power is astonishing-- simply because most folks could not last even a few minutes in such an environment with promiscuous temptations. Although it was clear before confession how difficult it was to retract from participating, I found it rather heroic that you saved yourself from utmost self-hatred. Finally, at the end when you wrapped your head around your actions and realized that you will become stronger I felt chills run down my spine. That is absolutely incredible. Thank you for sharing.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you Erica

Kind regards Philip
An authentic glimpse (I believe!) into a world that I glitzy world that I don't know outside of the large screen but the personal fight against temptation will echo much wider. Superbly written!
Regards, Alan

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you Alan!
really great write I love the detail and the meaning of temptation in this is powerful bravo.

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you, glad you enjoyed!

Regards
Philip
Raylene

1 Year Ago

Anytime dear
A skillful and elegant account.
Greatly enjoyed your perceptive, psychologically intricate introspection.
Regards, from a former moth!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thanks Frank. Question is, do we become former moths or we just stay moths forever?
Frank James Davis

1 Year Ago

Modern medical philosophy would have us be lifetime victims.
F**k these lying promoters of "m.. read more
Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Well said!
I almost always read and review poetry, rather than stories, but this drew me in a captured my attention from first line to last. It is very well written and the attention to detail kept me focused throughout.

Overall, you painted a wonderfully realistic picture and really brought the scenario and the characters to life.

Very much enjoyed.

Beccy.


Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you Beccy. Kind regards Philip
Very well written. The descriptions are vividly detailed and presented elegantly - there is no bogging down of the story with clunky information overload. The persistent name-dropping and fixation on seemingly-random elements such as "Caliber & Carat" makes the whole situation seem impressively real. I especially like the descriptions of the Japanese girls, with the play on the cigar brand name and the idea of "wolves". You also do an excellent job of weaving the narrator's observations into his internal struggle and tying everything together. I absolutely love the moth metaphor at the end - perfect for the theme of this piece! This story is impressively well put together and enjoyable to read. Excellent work!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Philip Muls

1 Year Ago

Thank you Alicia. Kind regards Philip
Paul - I'm not very much of a drinker, but I can appreciate the agony of temptation you must have suffered through. To some degree we all have our temptations that we must come to terms with.

I am quite taken by your comprehensive description of the scene of action and the atmosphere found there. You make it almost too easy for me to picture myself there.

Posted 1 Year Ago


Temptation is all around us. You did the right thing, you didn't drink. You left an uncomfortable seen. I could envision the bar, the stools, Girls entertaining the wealthy older men. Very descriptive!
Nice write!

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


First Page first
Previous Page prev
1
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

2112 Views
61 Reviews
Rating
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on November 15, 2015
Last Updated on December 14, 2015
Tags: roaring twenties, Tokyo, cocktails, Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson

Author

Philip Muls
Philip Muls

Grimbergen, Belgium



About
Living in Europe, but travelling frequently in US and Asia. I love to combine what I experience during travel with observations and thoughts about the human condition. more..

Writing

Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..


Mandala Mandala

A Poem by Sami Khalil


Tired Tired

A Poem by ...