Shampoo woke up to the moans and groans. As soon as consciousness returned, she felt a jarring headache pound heavily into her brain. She slightly opened her eyes, letting the darkness cave into vision.
She hoped it wasn’t what she thought she would see. But it was. On the couch across from her, Shampoo watched a smiling Jeremy Tan, wearing only a black T-shirt from yesterday, grunting with his muscular legs up in the air. Michael Ming’s fully naked body hovered over Jeremy. Shampoo watched as Michael’s smooth and bare buttocks move rhythmically as he thrust himself again and again into Jeremy.
Shampoo closed her eyes and waited for it to end. The two men were heavily breathing. Fast. Faster. Fastest. Quieter. Then she heard soft kissing noises and then footsteps walking away from the room. She rolled out of the couch and got out of the house as soon as possible.
Shampoo somehow drove herself home, still feeling a little bit woozy. She stumbled into her room and quickly shut the door to her room as soon as she got into it. Shampoo wanted to rub the memories of two naked Asian men out of her head with a nice long shower. She quickly changed out of her now-sticky and sweaty dress clothes and hopped into a bright pink bathrobe with baby sheep on it. She checked if the hallway of the decrepit house was empty. Then she tiptoed towards the bathroom door, which was painted brightly pink.
She was about to reach the handle of the bathroom door when someone’s firm hands grabbed her arm. Shampoo looked up and saw Alexandra Kwan looking right back at her. She was looking extremely butch in her flannel pajamas and loose black T-shirt.
“Look who got fucked up last night,” Alexandra Kwan smirked.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Shampoo said quickly. She pushed Alexandra’s hand off of her own and was about to go into the bathroom. Alexandra then moved quickly to the crevice between the door and the bathroom to prevented Shampoo from walking in.
“Oh,” Alexandra Kwan said, “but I do. I saw Jane took good care of you last night while you getting pretty shit-faced that you didn’t look so pretty anymore.”
“I wouldn’t remember,” Shampoo replied coolly. “I was too shit-faced.”
“Well,” Alexandra Kwan said, “here’s the deal. Jane still has some feelings for you, even though you had that fucked up hetero experience. And I don’t care how gay you are or bisexual or queer or whatever categories you want to make up, but Jane is my best friend. She was there for me when my parents disowned me and I can’t see a slut like you break her heart.”
Shampoo remained quiet.
“Stay away from Jane,” Alexandra jeered at Shampoo. “You stay the fuck away from Jane or I’ll cut you.” Alexandra’s angry look turned pleasant again. “Have a nice shower.”
The water heater broke. Shampoo definitely did not have a good shower. She closed the door quickly. She could still feel Alex’s beer-stained breath all over her body. The drums in her mind were beating a little bit slower but their presence could still be felt. Alexandra probably left for another rugby practice and Shampoo wouldn’t have to put up with Alexandra’s shit for a while. She lay back on her semi-hard mattress and looked up at the ceiling, wondering if there was more in life.
Shampoo then checked the messages on her cell phone. Ben was begging for her back in his life, please baby. She deleted that in five seconds flat. And the one afterwards. And the one following that one. Straight men could be so childish and desperate. Then there was the one from Mike, apologizing about the steaming hot man-sex he had just experienced. He thought that Shampoo was too knocked out that she wouldn’t care or hear and he couldn’t help it because Jeremy looked so damn cute in that shirt. Then he said that he might be falling for Jeremy and they should do lunch so he could talk to her about it.
Delete. Then came the one that she was dreading to hear.
“I still had your cellphone number from the last time we met,” the soothing British accent said. “You were pretty blasted last night and I just wanted to know how you are doing now.” A brief pause. “Call me back when you have the time.”
Shampoo felt her heart race a little bit faster. But she did not want to unleash the wrath of Alexandra Kwan, ever. She was a little bit slow on the delete button this time.
The daunting height of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco overwhelmed Ranma. He looked up towards the heavens at the gothic structure, buttresses, and defined medieval architecture that made this Catholic sanctuary one of the largest sites in San Francisco.
And his sister Ranko was going to get married in it.
“Bret’s parents fell in love with this church on first site,” Ranko said airily. “It’s quite big.” She wrapped her soft brown fur jacket around her body tighter to combat the chills running up her spine.
“I don’t know,” Ranma said sheepishly. “I mean, this is way too much razzle-dazzle even for you, Ranko. Since when did you start doing things to make other people happy?”
Ranko sneered at Ranma. “You’re the one to talk.” She walked far ahead of her brother and sat at the stony steps of the cathedral. Ranma walked up to his older sister. She looked sad. Ever since they were younger, the Saotome siblings felt that they needed to stick together, especially because of their abusive father. Ranma could sense that his sister was not feeling well. He looked at her with his sensitive, calming brown eyes.
Ranko looked down on the ground. “I’ve never met Bret’s parents yet,” she said. “They’re coming to San Francisco next week. And it’s the first time that I meet them.” The red herring hit for Ranma. Ranko Saotome and Bret McNamara were engaged to be married and Ranko hadn’t even met the parents? How selfish could these Americans be!
“But we’re so in love,” Ranko insisted, “and Bret told me that they will love me too for who I am. Because I make him happy.” Ranma wished that what Ranko said was true but something in him knew that it wasn’t true.
Ranko tried to distract herself from her personal problems by transferring the situation to Ranma. “Are you happy with Akane?” she asked.
Ranma lied. “Yes,” he said almost too quickly.
“Then what is it with you and Ryoga?” Ranko looked back at her brother. “I thought you dealt with that. Why this sudden obsession over him?”
Ranma sighed. “The truth is,” he started, “I’ve been quite happy with the way my life turned out.” He faced Ranko. “I’ve never been happier than when I am with Akane.” Too bad it wasn’t vice-versa. “But Ryoga has been on the back of my mind because we have unfinished business.”
“Killing each other?” Ranko smirked “for Akane’s love?”
Poor sweet and innocent Ranko. “You can put it that way,” he smiled. “Ryoga left Japan way too abruptly and I just wanted to let him know that whatever has happened between us should and must remain in the past.” Ranma smiled. “You sent me that e-mail and now I’m here in America to follow-up on it.”
Ranko sighed. If it distracted him from her own problems. She opened her black Louis Vutton purse and fumbled her fingers through a bunch of make-up accessories, two condoms and some tampon wrappers. She pulled out a crumpled menu. From Squat and Gobble in Castro.
“This is where I ran into him,” she handed the menu to her brother.
“It’s a crepe restaurant,” Ranma smiled. He remembered how Ryoga used to work at Ukyou’s okonomiyaki restaurant. It was his one sanctuary from the chaotic world of Ranma ½, the story of Ranma and his many fiancés. A world that revolved around Ranma.
Ranko sat back down. “But what if he doesn’t want to be found?” Ranko asked her brother. “What if, for some cosmic reason, this was meant to be? Clearly, fleeing across an ocean seems like a very obvious sign.”
Ranma sat down with his sister. “I…I…just need to know, okay?” He acted warily.
“Know what?” Ranko replied angrily. “If he still has feelings for you? It’s been one year, Ranma!”
Ranma shook his head. “I need to settle something with him,” he stayed persistent to his intentions. “I need to find a way to let him go. So I can go on with my life. And he can go on with his, whatever it is now.” He personally could not believe what he was just saying.
“You’re finally starting to act grow up, little brother” Ranko said. “It scares me a little.”
Ranma was in a MUNI subway train heading to “Castro Street Station.” He watched the brightly flickering lights of an endless tunnel from inside the glass window. He could see his reflection within the darkness. He exchanged his long pigtail for soft black bangs that crawled to the sides of his hair and lightly covered his large black eyes. Ranma felt that he was gazing into the eyes of a criminal and quickly turned away from the window.
He wondered what Ryoga Hibiki would look like. Did he still have that charming fanged smile? Did he still wear the tiger bandanas that delicately covered a tuff of his soft black hair? Would he still have the warm smell of Tokyo dirt and mud mixed with the warm rain? Or did he change too? Would he even still remember Ranma?
Ranma stepped out of the train at Castro Street Station. He noticed that half the passengers got off at this specific station. Almost ashamed, Ranma ducked behind a tall Caucasian guy wearing leather chaps and tight blue jeans. The sunlight beamed onto Ranma’s serious face as he re-surfaced to Market Street. The man with the leather chaps got off the escalator. He turned around and winked at Ranma before walking away. Ranma felt sick to his stomach and started to quickly walk the opposite direction until a near-collision with a speeding car on Market Street stopped Ranma in his tracks.
Castro was not the paradise that Nakata told him it was. Ranma found the residents of Castro quite rude. People were rushing hither and thither in a flood of chaotic rainbow colors. Several people shoved Ranma aside as they marched towards their destinations. Ranma tried to stammer the words “Squat and Gobble” to any person that he could. After getting slapped by several offended tough-looking women, a cute blonde guy leaving the Diesel retail store pointed Ranma down the right direction.
After walking a few blocks past the morning rush of people, Ranma arrived at the entrance to Squat and Gobble Café and Creperie. The brightly yellow painted walls almost sickened Ranma. But the warm familiar smells of frying batter took Ranma back to Uuchan’s for a second. Ranma found a shiny oak table at the corner of the restaurant and slouched into a polished seat. He yanked one of the menus and noticed that the waiter who was walking towards him looked eerily familiar.
Ranma peered into his menu with his head as low as possible so that he could see the waiter quietly approaching Ranma with a glass of water. The young man’s black hair and slanted eyes gave away his Japanese identity. He wore a black shirt that revealed every single part of his muscular body, from his protruding pectorals to his sleek and angled back. The shirt also faintly revealed small bulges of abdominals waiting to rip off. He wasn’t the young boy that Ranma was looking for. He was a man.
But the man also had a yellow bandana with tiger imprints still delicately covering the tuff of soft black hair.