"Elvis" by Sue Turner-Cray

A sample of the story from Forty Stories of Japan | see PDF

      The hypnotic buzz of the bullet train would have lulled me to sleep if I hadn’t been so jacked up on diet pills. At high speed I headed out of the throbbing metropolis of Tokyo, rain splattering across the train’s window as I strained my neck for one last glimpse of this electric place I had called home for the past four months.
     Strangely, I longed to be out there, caught in the middle of the swarming pedestrians, rushing across the Shinjuku crosswalk, under their blanket of psychedelic umbrellas, their collective urban sigh awakening to the excitement of another Friday night and the weekend that lay ahead. I imagined running among them, dodging the sharp spikes of the umbrellas, peculiarly level with my gaze. I felt the acid rain kissing my cheeks as I made my way to the nightclub called Tokios, my home away from home, the international models’ playschool. Soon to be feeding on free food, consuming alcoholic beverages, and flirting with exotic handsome men, while gyrating carelessly to the pounding disco thud.
      The tea girl’s cart clattered by, her petite delicate hands protected beneath spotless white gloves, as she slowly served steaming hot green tea. As the train darted and swayed, she stumbled slightly, unable to stop the hot tea from splashing and stinging my arm, which jolted me out of my daydream. She nodded and bowed embarrassed apologies, the neon signs through the window were blurred beyond her deep, sorrowful arch, as we lunged forward into the belly of the Japanese countryside, to another huge Japanese metropolis … the mighty city of Osaka.
      I eyed the tuna fish and cheese sandwiches cut perfectly into finger-length strips as the tea girl passed in her crisp white uniform. Her eyes darted away from mine in her  embarrassment at her tea assault; she masked her shyness with a tight, sweet smile. The chocolate dots, the exotic mochi bean cakes, unusually sweet coffee drinks - all seemed luscious as they tempted my loud growling stomach. Carefully the tea girl placed a steaming teacup on my tray; I lit up a Mild Seven cigarette, slowly eliminating the tea girl’s sweet, rose perfume and my sharp pangs of hunger.
      “Darling, there is no such thing as a fat model!” The voice of my Tokyo modelling agent bellowed in my head as we zoomed through another black tunnel. Slowly chewing on a toffee-covered chocolate amid the phone-ringing chaos of her modeling agency, this agent from hell levelled her fierce brown eyes on mine and licked her sticky fingers as I anxiously awaited the needle coming to land on the almighty scale beneath me. Seventeen and desperate to get out of Industrial England, I had found my Japan niche through a Northern modelling agent who frequently sent leggy, teenage “fresh faces” to Doreen, the rotund British modelling maven in Japan’s booming 1980s’ fashion market.
      Now wearing only underwear, poised nervously centre-stage among the chattering Japanese bookers, I watched the needle on the scales wavering below me as I shifted my weight, trying to ease the outcome.
“One hundred and thirteen pounds” she declared triumphantly! “You’re fat darling, I can’t sell you like that!” 
      The agency hum quickly subsided as the audience took their seats.
“That’s a ten-pound gain!” she pronounced.

(Extract from one of the stories in Sue Turner-Cray's future collection, "Tokyo Daze")