It was late summer of 1970.   My wife and I had been married over a year.  We lived on Major Street near Bloor.   One of our friends was a man from Jamaica who had returned to school to do his Masters in English.

While we were in our early twenties, he was in his late thirties and we were completely impressed by his sense of himself, his confidence, his belief that he would become a published poet.  He had an impressive deep voice that went with his larger size and he would later find much work as a radio and ad announcer.

One evening, we were at his house when we met a young woman, newly arrived in Canada from Japan after living there with her parents.  A Canadian woman in her mid-twenties, she was striking in her tall and slender brunette looks but she behaved in the way I had come to expect Japanese women to behave after studying Japanese for a year at the university.

She herself was not a student but worked in one of the university offices.

“How interesting that you studied Japanese,” she said to me when we had met and shook my hand while bowing her head.

“Yes, I studied it last year and was thinking of going there to teach English as a second language.  My wife and I went to CUSO to see if we could be assigned there but they only had openings in Thailand.”

She still held my hand and sympathized, “How unfortunate.   I am sure you would have enjoyed your experience there.  But would it not be exciting to go even to Thailand?”

“Well, we wanted to stay to pursue other options.   I am applying to do my PhD in Linguistics and my wife is still deciding what she will do after her Masters in English.”

“I am sure it is for the best,” she said.  “But you must one day make it to Japan.   Perhaps there is much there that you could learn.”  At this she gave my hand one more squeeze and released it.

Our host, the man from  Jamaica, gave a deep low laugh and showed me to a seat.  “Well we have all evening to talk about our plans.  And what will you do?” he took my wife by the hand and seated her next to me.

“I’m not sure yet.   Maybe look at doing another degree.  I can’t get a good feel for it yet.”

“I know just the thing to give you a better feel for that and for everything else as well.  What kind of wine would you like.   I have some white chilling in the fridge and some red over there on the table.  Which will it be?”

The woman from Japan also served as hostess and offered us cheese and crackers as well as grapes.

We passed the evening sipping wine and munching snacks.  My wife and the man from Jamaica were in the same program and told us stories of their professors and fellow students.

The woman from Japan it turned out, had grown up in Japan because her father had business interests there.  She had gone to Japanese schools and was relearning Canadian culture and customs.

“I love your folk music,” she exclaimed when our host put on Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia and Bob Dylan.

“We always bring over those records to play,” I smiled and she smiled back.

Our host now told us a few stories of his early experiences as an immigrant from Jamaica in a way that was lightly ironic and amusing.   His voice was mesmerizing and overwhelming.

The evening flew by quickly and eventually he said, “Actually, I had a small operation yesterday in the doctor’s office and am still recovering.”

“Why didn’t you tell us.  We would never have put you to so much trouble,” my wife said.

Neither of us asked the obvious question since he had no visible marks and no bandages.

“Oh, it was just a vasectomy,” he laughed and we all giggled.  He was now sitting close to our visitor from Japan.

She looked at him and put her hand on his thigh.  “I love it when men are a little helpless,” she smiled.  “He’s just a poor little boy.”

I stood up with my wife and we moved to the door.  I turned to the woman from Japan and said, “we would be pleased to walk you to your place, if you are leaving now.”

She smiled and put her arm around our friend’s waist.  “No, I think I’ll stay awhile and see what I can do to nurse him.  I love to take care of men when they are sick.  They are such children.  Maybe I can help heal the scar.”

She was now standing in her bare stocking feet, her black leather skirt showing the wrinkles where she had sat.  Her hair, which had been tightly pulled back in a bun, had now lost one strand which hung loosely on her damp forehead.  Our friend also smiled and said in his most soothing voice, “Don’t worry.  I am sure we will be all right.”

We said our good byes and left, feeling somehow excluded from this private healing session.

Over the next two months we saw our friend and the new arrival from Japan a few more times. 

Then I came down with a flu, which laid me low.  I could barely stand up and spent my time in bed.    One day, while my wife was at school and I was lying in bed with a book and box of Kleenex, I was surprised to hear the door bell ring. 

I went to the door in my bathrobe and flannel pyjamas and was even more surprised to see the woman from Japan.

She smiled, bowed and handed me some flowers. “Our mutual friend told me you were sick and I just brought you something to cheer your day.  May I come in?”

I mumbled some thanks and simply got out of the way as she strode determinedly down the hall to the kitchen.  “Do you have any vases for the flowers?” she asked.

I told her where the vase was and she filled it with water and brought it to me in the front hall with the flowers. 

“You still look pale.  Why don’t you get back into bed?  If you wish I can make you some tea.   I saw the kettle and some cups in the kitchen.  All you have to do is tell me where the tea bags and the sugar are.”

I thanked her again and went into the bedroom and climbed into bed.  

She soon returned, without her coat carrying a tray with the tea.  She had taken off her shoes again and was a strange sister of mercy, dressed in black from head to foot, wearing a turtle neck over a short skirt under which she wore fish net stockings.

“I love it when men are helpless,” she said as she approached my bed and placed the tray on the night table. “Why don’t we let this cool here for a bit?”

I sat up and she reached around and fluffed my pillow.

“Where is your wife?” she asked.

 ”At the university.”

“When will she be back?”

“I’m not sure.  I’m a little out of it.  I’ve been in bed all day.”

“Well, I am here to take care of you,” she said and put her hand on my leg.  She giggled, “I find sick men very attractive.”

I noticed now that her eyes were violet and that her lipstick was extremely red.

“I love men in flannel pyjamas.  You look just like a little boy,” she said to me and stroked my arm.  

Her face moved closer to mine, “I know you like things Japanese.  Have you ever had a Japanese massage?  It will do wonders for your cold and your aching muscles.”

“No,” I said nervously, “no, no.”  My record was stuck and I shifted uneasily in the bed.

She now sat on the bed and moved her hand to my chest.  “Why you poor darling, you must be weaker than a kitten.”  With that she moved her hand lower on my body and her violet eyes moved closer to mine.

At that moment I did indeed feel weak as a kitten, although I am not sure it was because of the flu.  I felt paralyzed, glued to the spot.

Through my mind raced a jumble of thoughts almost simultaneously.   “What is she going to do?  Should I push her away?  Will I insult her if I move?  What if my wife walks in now? ”

She reached up under my top and started to massage my chest.  “There, there,” she cooed, “everything will be fine.  My poor little darling, everything will be fine.”

Alarm bells started to go off in my head when… the front door opened and I heard my wife’s voice.

The woman from Japan froze and stood up.  As my wife walked in, she smiled and reached out the hand she had had under my pyjama top.  “So nice to see you,” she said through pearly white teeth.  “I just dropped in to see how your husband was.   He seemed like he was in such a bad way, I made him some tea.”

I looked surreptitiously up at my wife’s face and to my relief, it had the same warm and open expression as usual.

“Why, that was so kind of you.  And oh my, look at those beautiful flowers.   You must have brought them.   Thank you so much for taking care of my husband for me.”

“Think nothing of it,” said the woman from Japan, “It gives me great pleasure to care for the sick.   Well now that you are here, I can cede my place.”

“Are you sure you won’t stay?  Perhaps you could join us both for some tea?”

“No, no, thank you.  I really should go.  I just came over during my lunch break to see if there was something I could do.”

Then looking at me, “I hope you feel much better soon.   Call me again if you need any help.” 

She turned before I could answer and in a flash, she had on her shoes and coat and was talking to my wife at the front door.

When my wife came back into the bedroom, she was smiling.  “Wasn’t that really nice of her?   She seems like a really nice girl.”

I was sitting in the bed, sipping the cooled off tea.  I smiled in return.  “Oh she’s very nice.  You don’t know the half of it.  But it’s really nice to see you.  Glad you could come home early.”

My wife sat on the bed, leaned over and kissed me lightly.  “Nice to see you too,” she said.  “You certainly need some tender loving care.  Men are so helpless

I leaned back in the bed.  “Apparently, it’s what makes us so lovable,”  I said and closed my eyes.