He took me upon a white tatami mat.
His hands were dry and his lips were rough as his teeth bit into my cheek and my neck as if he were trying to devour me. Now that I'm older and Ohashi was just another whore in this house, I was often wrought with unattainable curiosity and wonder if a part of me was engorged in that lowly rōnin that night.
I was born in a filthy village off the coast, but perhaps that was all another life that came to an end the night I was raped three times next to the screaming cries of my mother.
Brothels were of abundance in the city of Kemuri, and upon my first arrival through the cart that trapped my darkening thoughts and me, I was greeted with the sound of laughter and life. I could still remember that cold morning as I leaned against the wood beneath my knees, my legs covered with a thick level of grime as I moved to look out the cart. I could see children playing and mothers at their side, carrying sacks of grain on their backs.
It has been ten years since then, but I still remember the tremor in my nerves as my nails dug into the wood—as if I could escape the confines with brute force.
No, the truth is, there is no escape. This world is built on the blood of orphans and the smell of depravity that runs to the core of human nature.
But moments like now, where I sing my ballad to customers in the same way I had once saw Ohashi sing: I remember the terror of that kiss, I remember pain in my stomach that created tremors down my legs and through my pelvis. Finally, I remember my mother, who died a pointless death to keep me from the world that was outside our front door.
In contrast to her attempts, the irony remains that the front door was where I was first raped.
"Anomie," the voice broke me from my reminiscing, and I noticed the speaker's face was as plain as the rōnin who had showed me that there is no escaping this life. "Can you sing it again?"
"Tell you what," I commented, scooting my koto away from my waist after I strummed the cords one last time. "If you tell me you love me, I'll play it again."
"I do love you," came his drunken rambling. How odd that such a lord wasted all his time and fancy on a heartless woman like me.
"Say it again," I asked, glancing up at him as he took another sip from his sake.
"I love you," he said as I looked into his eyes, staring deep within the milky brown that reminded me of freshly raked dirt. "Do you love me?"
"How can I answer when my throat is so dry?" I stated, gently reaching over to brush my fingers over the back of his hand, bringing the liquid to my lips with my gaze seeping into his like feet slipping through mud.
"I love you," he repeated.
No. He loved the skin and the flesh and the voice. If he knew what wicked thoughts ran through my veins like a gushing flood, he would not be so keen to embrace me and would instead go home to his wife.
So here I am, flirting with scum, getting drunk, and planning a murder.
But most even the darkest of lullabies could be enjoyed if sang in the right tone.