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I felt relief at saying out loud what I’d been keeping to myself for over three months, so I told Denny more of my plan. After I’d turned and walked away, the Takarazuka woman would find the envelope I’d taken from my breast pocket and tucked among the flowers. In the envelope she would find a short letter, just a few sentences in English and a translation into respectful Japanese, saying that for some time I have admired her from a distance and would very much like to meet her. Accompanying the letter would be a small cardboard reply card on which she could tick one of three choices: (1) she will meet me; (2) she declines to meet me; or (3) a blank space where she can insert a short message in her own words. The Takarazuka woman would also find a stamped and pre-addressed return envelope.
Denny asked what I’d been doing with the flowers all these Thursdays when I didn’t see her waiting for the train. I explained that I had been giving them, in rotation, to the female support staff where I work. Each had already received two bouquets from me. In fact, they’ve been receiving even more bouquets, not to mention chocolates and candies, from my male co-workers, who came to feel they were obligated to provide weekly gifts. At present, I’m extremely popular among the women at my office — they compete for my attention and several openly make passes. Some of the men, however, hate me.
Before Denny got off to change trains, he said he didn’t know whether my plan was a good one, but offhand he couldn’t think of anything better. He said he’d help, and I should look for him the following Thursday at 8:10 on the platform.
I continued on to Hibiya Station. My workplace, an actuarial consulting company, was, in fact, close by the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre. Often at lunchtime I’d wander over on the chance I might see my own Takarazuka woman, who I presumed attended regularly. Perhaps, I thought, someday the two of us might see a performance together.
The following Thursday I started scanning the station platform at eight o’clock. Once Denny arrived, we each methodically worked our way through the congestion to the opposite ends of the platform and then back. No sighting. During the train ride, Denny suggested I consider deploying an aerial drone equipped with a video camera so I could find out where on the platform the Takarazuka woman waited. I said this might be illegal in light of new regulations concerning drones I’d read about in the newspaper.
That day, I spent lunchtime gazing at the posters in front of the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre. Most likely the story lines and performances were mawkish and melodramatic. But so long as they served a role in satisfying the audience’s yearnings for true love, wasn’t there a kind of nobility to the enterprise?
The next Thursday Denny and I met at eight and re-enacted the previous week’s ritual twice over, again without success. This time Denny offered a more practical suggestion. I should stalk my way through all the Takarazuka fan websites, seeking out traces of my Takarazuka woman. Maybe she’d posted a photo of herself or a comment mentioning our neighbourhood. This could provide clues about other places and times I might find her. I pursued this with diligence once I got home, continuing very late into the night. Every evening afterwards I checked the new postings. All to no avail.
I was glad for Denny’s sympathetic company and practical support. Both helped me stay optimistic, success surely just around the corner. But two further Thursdays passed with no sighting. Needless to say, I spent more and more time lingering outside the Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre, especially when people were entering for evening performances or weekend matinees. I would dream of my future with the Takarazuka woman, ignoring many friendly smiles from the women lining up for the show.
Someday, I thought, she and I might go together to the Takarazuka Grand Theatre, located in a small city near Osaka called, naturally enough, Takarazuka. The Japanese written character for takara means “treasure” or “jewel,” and that for zuka means “hillock” or “mound.” Conceptually, I thought, it would be like ascending a small hill — some effort being required, but definitely do-able — to reach a great treasure.