It was up to me to organize the funeral. Besides mother and myself, two officials from the company attended.
The most affordable place I could find for his remains was on the fourth floor of the Takichi Grave Apartments. His locker was three feet long, two feet wide and one foot high. It contained an urn with his ashes, his favourite suit, a pair of shoes, a newspaper and a tin of dessert cigars.
I continued living in our apartment. My mother cooked and cleaned for me, but in a way she now needed me more than I needed her, not only for my income as a computer programmer but for the occasional exchange of words, the semblance of company. Many times I considered being rid of her. My real friends were online, from the games and message boards that sustained me. I say they were real, but in another way they might as well have been phantoms.
In my favourite game I was a powerful dragon who incinerated whole villages.
My mother died seven years after my father. Her service was attended by myself and a neighbour. I threw her ashes into the sea; now my father would be free of her forever.
It was then that I discovered that my parents had been living a fiction. They were not poor at all. In fact, they had been needlessly efficient hoarders of money. I was quite rich.
It was a shock. I took some time off from work, just going for walks and thinking about what to do next.
I was a middle-aged man living alone in a coastal industrial city. Walking for any distance was something new for me, and for the first time I noticed that my home was a place where it seemed to rain every day. The sky was continually dismal. I thought about my life in the same context, how alienated and darkly opaque it had become. Despite my father’s advice, I knew I needed to find some form of companionship.
I quit my job, sold the apartment and moved to Nagoya. My new place was much more contemporary, with an electric fireplace and an impressive view. I filled it with nice things. I took pains to improve my personal appearance as well, learning about fashion and buying myself an appropriate wardrobe.
And then Yuki came into my life. The first time I saw her, through a window downtown, I knew that she had to be mine: hair pinned and topped with an Alice bow, knee-length dress with full sleeves, patterned tights, Mary Jane shoes, all in the deep charcoal grey of the Kuro Lolita style. She was the most elegant thing I had ever known.
Fashion became the centrepiece of our relationship. Shopping for Yuki filled whole weeks at a time. I could spend days hunting down the right accessory, especially the top hats and parasols. Yet her full, buoyant hair seemed perfect with everything, and with the right costume in the right light, she could be anyone from a Japanese Joan Bennett to a powdery white Theda Bera.
She was so photogenic. I was always taking her to the parks or shrines, and her outdoor pictures continually inspired admiring comments on the website I made just for her.
Still, no infatuation can last forever. Yuki’s beauty came from her youth, her newness, and she did not age well. Her hair turned stale and limp, and her sheen fell away. Buying her clothes began to feel like a chore. Where once I saw my love reflected back on me, now I would look into her eyes and see only blankness. What secrets was she hiding? She appeared helpless but then so had my parents. They had suppressed their wealth rather than share it with me. And then I thought about my father, who had warned me about romantic entanglements.
Finally I could stand it no longer. One night I took Yuki to our special place, the rock gardens at Heiwa Park. The drive was difficult. My eyes were ablaze with tears. But I knew what I had to do.
I doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. Her plastic skin shrivelled and shrank. I did not bother with the ashes. I just walked away. The stars in the sky continued to spin. Nothing had changed. The only one this mattered to was me.
Everything would be okay. The dragon emerges, the villages burn once again. Yuki had proved empty and unworthy so she had to be incinerated, because that’s what you do with bad dolls. I would not buy a new one. It was time for me to move on. To evolve. Now I would get a dog.