portion of the artwork for Cathy Ulrich's story

Asleep
Cathy Ulrich

If I were a professional sleeper in Japan, I would have the softest bed. My body would sink down into it, like sinking into sleep. I wouldn’t have a pillow or a blanket, just the comfort of another body next to mine, the soft inhalation of his breath.

Oyasumi nasai, I would whisper before we climbed into my soft bed together. Good night.

It wouldn’t be night, though, really. The shop I’d be sleeping for would be open afternoons and evenings. My mornings would be my own, walking through the stores in Akihabara, taking the train to Kamakura, eating lunch at a Freshness Burger.

If I were a professional sleeper in Japan, my work uniform would be a cute pair of pajamas with ruffles and bows. I’d have one in lavender and one in blue. My makeup would be done perfectly. I’d look like I’d just woken, or was just falling asleep.

The other girls would wear sailor uniforms sometimes, or dress like schoolgirls. They would have perfect high-pitched giggles, and two-inch heels that they would slip off before climbing into bed.

Three thousand yen for a half hour, they’d say, and put their hands out in a charming way.

If I were a professional sleeper in Japan, there would be payment up front and a timer shaped like a tomato. I would take my clients back to my soft bed, rubbing their heads if they’d paid extra.

There, I’d say. There, there.

If I were a professional sleeper in Japan, my mornings would be mine, but my nights would belong to my Japanese boyfriend.

Where to tonight, Japanese boyfriend? I’d say, except, of course, I’d use his name. He would have a nice Japanese name, like Shotaru or Takeshi, and thick eyebrows and a 12-tatami apartment that we would share. He would always have a plan. We would never say: Oh, I don’t know. What do you feel like doing? Or: Anything’s fine with me, I guess.

He’d take me to eat ramen from a stall, or out to a club for dancing, or we’d go to Yoyogi Park and watch some band nobody’d ever heard of. We’d hold hands like someone might try to pull us apart.

Then we’d go home to our 12-tatami apartment and lie down together on the futon. It would be much stiffer than my soft bed at the shop.

He’d say: I know you’re not that tired.

I’d say: No, I am. I’m tired.

I would fake a yawn to convince him, and he’d laugh, except then I’d yawn for real, and we would fall asleep, bodies curving into each other.

If I were a professional sleeper in Japan, my Japanese boyfriend would leave for his job before the sun came up. He’d carry a briefcase and I would kiss him at the door like a sitcom wife.

I would spend my morning alone, peeking into little stores down the block I’d never visited before. I would climb the stairs to my shop at noon. I would put on the lavender pajamas, or the blue ones. My makeup would be done perfectly.

If I were a professional sleeper in Japan, I would let my clients rest their heads in my lap for an extra 1,000 yen. I would stroke their wispy-soft hair.

I would say: It’s all right. I know you’re lonely.

I would say: I used to be lonely, too.


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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 51 | Spring/Summer 2018