I find the cinema just minutes from the busy train station. There’s not a soul in sight, but I am nervous, so I fold my umbrella quickly and creep down the narrow stairs. There is an umbrella stand at the top of the stairs but I can’t risk having it stolen. I like the soiled posters lining the walls, wonderful Japanese erotic noir. I go immediately to the window, where I am greeted by a silver-toothed little man whose boyish grin reminds me somehow of Mickey Rooney. No name-tags in this joint. He is middle-aged. His teeth glisten with silver and gold like the Mexican lady serving my favorite burritos in La Puente. He doesn’t look up. He reaches for my five-thousand yen note with two hands extended. He smiles wildly, perhaps idiotically. He pulls out some bills. “Just one? Is that right?” “Yeah,” I say. His furrowed brow suggests deep thought. He looks at the fiver I have handed to him. He strikes a few buttons on his calculator. Suddenly, he hesitates and then reaches into a little drawer beneath the counter. “It’s 2,000 yen at this time, you know.” “Yes, that’ll be fine.” He opens the plastic pouch to his right, pulls out three one-thousand yen notes, folds them and counts them twice before handing them over. We don’t make eye contact. I thank him in my poor Japanese: “Arigato gozaimasu.” He bows slightly, still grinning from ear to ear.
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