Kadena Air Base’s Rocker NCO Club is my least favorite place to hang out on a Saturday night. I don’t even like clubs anyway, but this club is always especially awful. Every time I’ve gone there, I’ve had to reconsider the decisions that led to the sequence of events that took me to that place. The music is too loud for conversation, and the gender ratio is too skewed for finding a dance partner, and even when I do find a dance partner, most of the women who hang out there are military spouses enjoying ladies’ night out so it feels a little weird to dance with someone else’s wife. Due to the overabundance of testosterone, wannabe pickup artists, and creeps, there is also a lot of macho trash talk, which often comes out of nowhere. Even if I try to start a friendly conversation with the other men at the bar, it usually somehow degenerates into some kind of condescension or a pissing contest over whose job or whose branch of the service is more badass.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was when two of my Japanese friends, Shoko and Soko (they’re a matched pair), asked me to sign them onto base so they could go to the club. I expressed my reluctance, but they were persistent, and since these two women were always really cool about getting me into places out in town that are usually not open to foreigners, I was willing to take one for the team and return the favor. Also, I was expecting that they would have as bad a time as I usually did, so they would never ask me to take them again. (So far they have not.)
The night we went, we began by getting a pitcher of beer and three glasses, and grabbing a few seats around a table, just me and my two Japanese lady friends. One thing the Rocker does have going for it is that the club section, the Reflections Lounge, has comfortable seating and a nice atmosphere when it’s not ruined by crappy music and drunk idiots. By the time we finished the first pitcher, two of my coworkers, Ben and Luu showed up and joined us, so we got a few more glasses and a few more pitchers, and the club began to get more and more crowded. Luu and Soko took to each other, so they spent the rest of the evening hanging out together, so that mostly left Ben, Shoko, and me to hang out until they both wandered off to mingle.
About halfway through the night, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a tall girl with long hair in a short, eye-catching red dress. She was laughing and talking to her friends. I didn’t really think much of it, but I thought she was beautiful. Still, I had learned not to approach women at that particular club anymore. I was basically just trying to wait out the night until my friends were ready to go.
Later on everyone was dancing and the lady in the red dress sat down near me. I don’t remember how it began, but we started having a conversation. She told me her name was Marie and she told me her age. I jokingly told her she looked good for someone so old. In mock indignation, she told me I owed her a drink for that. We continued having as pleasant a conversation as is possible when shouting over loud music into each other’s ears.
After a few minutes, she got up to get in the drink-purchasing queue line that forms at the crowded bar, and when she reached the counter, I stepped up to pay for her drink and put in my order another pitcher. While we were standing at the counter, she looked down at her hands and said regretfully, “I have such big hands.” I noticed that they were rather mannish but the nails were painted a sexy red to match her dress.
When we sat back down, Ben came back to hang out and joined us in shouting conversation over the music. Since he has also studied Chinese, he told me, “Tā shì yī gè nánrén.” I understood the words, but my mind could not grasp his meaning. I thought maybe he was making fun of her for being tall.
The three of us continued shouting over the music for a few minutes, and then I asked Marie to dance. I’m sure we looked ridiculous because my ex wife has given me a bit of a complex about how I dance, so I just always assume that the way I dance is obscenely stupid–even though I’ve had strangers make it a point to compliment me on it. Still, it was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed twirling a pretty woman around on the dance floor.
When we were both finished dancing, we went back to the table that my friends and I had been using for most of the night and she asked “Do you have LINE?” I did, and I gave her my contact info.
After the exchange she gave me an earnest look and said, “Hey. You know I’m a ladyboy, right?”
My surprise was genuine. “No, I didn’t.”
“Does that make a difference to you?”
I thought about it. My curiosity got the better of me. “Not necessarily,” I finally said.
This led to a whole new conversation about surgical procedures, hormones, when such life-altering realizations had been made.
Shortly after, Marie left with some friends, and my friends all came back to make fun of me. I didn’t really think much of it, and it became an entertaining story for me to relate.
Later in the evening and the next morning Marie and I exchanged a few texts over LINE, but I never really kept in touch with her after. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I was reminiscing about that night with Ben and he said, “You’ve gotta admit, that was a fun night.” Then I realized it had been a fun night. Not only that, but it was the only time I can think of that I ever had fun at the Rocker. And I’m kinda disappointed that I didn’t keep in touch with Marie.