The Man Who Wasn’t Here

It’s July 2nd and I’ve been waiting 3 hours inside the food court of a Six Flags in Gurnee, Illinois to meet Sandra Horowitz, a waitress of a particular Cracker Barrel adjacent to a Hot Topic in an outdoor mall in Racine. She goes by Beaulitrix, a vampire. She agreed to the interview as long she was not photographed.

 

I just finish my eighth $12 pretzel, when I see Sandra walking toward the court. I had 8 because my editor is covering the cost of this entire trip for the interview. I also have poor self-control and they have unlimited refills for drinks.

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She’s wrapped in taupe and beige. I did not know they made shirts from khakis. I do now.

 

Me: Comics Pit! Comi-

 

I fall and I am hurt. I hear the snickering. But the job is done, she knows the face of the person she is to meet. Unlike her date with Marvel writer Akira Yoshida as we soon find out.

 

Sandra Horowitz: Are you ok?

Me: You don’t dress like a vampire.

Sandra Horowitz: You’ve met vampires?

Me: No.

 

I get up.

 

Me: Now Sandra, –

Sandra: Beaulitrix. Did you pee your pants?

 

I fell into a puddle.

 

Me: No it was the puddle of Icee.

Buelitrix: Ok, well it looks like pee.

Me: You saw me fall!

Beaulitrix: Ok.

Me: Ok.

Beaulitrix: It’s just that it’s blue up there and y-

Me: So what made you reach out?

 

We hear audible giggling from teenagers.

 

Beaulitrix: …

Me: …

Beaulitrix: I hadn’t heard Akira’s name in years. We only met once but we talked online for years. Then, his entire online persona just ceased. I guess, I always wondered what happened to the Japanese man that swept me off my feet all those years ago.

Me: Why did you specifically address his ethnicity just now?

Beaulitrix: I don’t know. It was so much of his identity. He never went without mentioning his Japanese upbringing.

Me: Hm. Is this racist?*

Beaulitrix: Is this racist?!*

 

*I asked my editor, Tim**

 

**Tim: I’m white.

 

Me: I don’t know. How did you come to first meet Marvel writer Akira Yoshida?

Beaulitrix: Well in 2006, we first met on cyberspace and got comfortable there for a few years before finally meeting in the fleshspace.

Me: Hm. Ok, and where in cyberspace did you meet?

Beaulitrix: VampireFreaks.com It was a very popular site for vampires and vampire enthusiasts.

Me: They called it the Mysp-

Beaulitrix: -pace for vampires, yes. He was very charming in an awkward way. In that he was just awkward, but members were far and few between at the time before the boom.

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Me: Did Akira identify as a vampire or a fetishist?

Beaulitrix: No, he was just an enthusiast of the supernatural. He didn’t partake in our subculture, but he was very honest and respectful that he was just fascinated with how we lived as he grew up next to a neighbor that had a Nine Inch Nails tour bus in the drive way. In his words, as a Japanese man, he grew up by the blade and the disciple-

Me: By the blade?

Beaulitrix: You have to stop. You keep interrupting me with a mouthful of pretzel. Are you done?

 

Me: Yes.

But I was not done. I snuck out and got 3 more pretzels while Beaulitrix was still talking.

 

Beaulitrix: He grew up by the blade and the discipline that comes with training and growing up in Akihabara. I have never been to Japan and so all the stories he’d mention would captivate me. We exchanged emails because he had a Japanese phone number. We texted a lot about life and work. He told me that even though he was Japanese, he worked in comics as a writer. I showed him the poetry I wrote, and he showed me some of the books he wrote so I could find them at my local comic book shop and purchase them to read.

Me: What did you think of his books? Which ones did you read?

Beaulitrix: There was one about Thor as a little boy fighting a Japanese dragon named after a Tokyo turnip. There was also one were Conan the Barbarian goes to an eastern country and fights a demon. Let’s see, there was also the one where an X-men woman goes to Japan wither dragon.

Me: He sure likes to write about the same things, doesn’t he?

Beaulitrix: Yeah, demons and dragons.

Me: Hm.

Beaulitrix: Well, I think that one with Fantastic Four one had them fighting shapeshifters that are pretending to be other people.

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Me: Yeah, those wouldn’t be demons nor dragons. Can you get me some napkins? I’m covered in salt from these pretzels and I really can’t get up.

Beaulitrix: Because you peed your pants when you fell in a puddle?

Me:  Whether I did or did not has nothing do with the interview, I’m not calling anything pee so how can it be? I just need some napkins, please.

Beaulitrix: No.

Me: What did you think of his books?

Beaulitrix: I didn’t get them, I found a lot of it boring and disjointed, but I always thought this was just because I didn’t understand where he was writing from with his Japanese background.

Me: You found them boring, and you think it may be because he is Japanese?

Beaulitrix: I’m saying I may have gotten more out of it if I was.*

 

*Tim?**

 

**Tim: I’m White.

 

Me: How long did this go on before you two finally met?

Beaulitrix: About 2 years. I remember exactly how it happened.

 

She stares down at the bench space next to her and smirks. It occurs to me that she is under direct, theme park sunlight.

 

Beaulitrix:   He was talking about all his sexploits in his formative years/ and all the sex he had in different ways with different women. It was funny, because all the places he brought up did not sound Japanese. I called him out on that and he said he was in America on and off in his youth. I teased him that when is the next time a big Marvel hotshot will be in America again. I told him I hadn’t ever seen his face, nor his voice yet.

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Me: So the entire relationship was exclusively textual?

Beaulitrix: Yes, for those 2 years, that was all that we needed. I mean. He’d constantly badger me for nudes that I would never send, but it was in a joking way so it was ok, not creepy. I’d jokingly mention I would but vampires can’t be photographed nor seen through mirrors, and then he’d ask for them again the next time he hadn’t unsheathe his blade in a while.

Me: Wait, so what was the picture he had on his profile on VampireFreaks?

Beaulitrix: An anime lady.

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Me: Makes Sense.

Beaulitrix: I thought so.

Me: So, then what happened?

Beaulitrix: After I teased him, he responded that he would actually be near Wisconsin tomorrow.

Me: Oh, wow. How Sudden.

Beaulitrix: I know! I was so excited, though. It didn’t even occur to me to ask why he would be near Wisconsin.

Me: You’d think he would mention it before you brought it up.

Beaulitrix: Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right. I never thought about that.  

Me: Anyway.

Beaulitrix: Anyway, that night, I couldn’t sleep so I picked out my clothes. I wore a Nine Inch Nails shirt, my 48 hole converse high boots, and this skirt that was just several chunky leather belts stitched together.

Me: Cool, I see your vampire gear now is tan?

Beaulitrix: Vampires can wear whatever color or style they want. I was just more goth then.

 Me: Sure.

 

I reach into my pocket, but I ran out of pretzels.

 

Me: Where did you meet him?

Beaulitrix: At the Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall in Gurnee, Illinois. It’s right there across the street from here.

Me: Why did we meet here and not there? My editor had to pay for a season ticket for this interview.

Beaulitrix: Why did you get a season pass?

Me: It pays for itself if you go twice. Why didn’t we meet at the mall?

Beaulitrix: It is because I am, well, I am banned from there after that date with Akira.

Me: Ok, Ok. Gimmie one second and we’ll get into what happened.

 

I spent the next one and a half hours in line waiting for napkins and a refill. I was thirsty and not just from the pretzels, but for the truth of what happened on this vampire’s mall date with Marvel writer Akira Yoshida. By the time I got back, Beaulitrix had gone on several rides and also won a giant Batman plushie.

 

Me: So let’s get back into it.

Beaulitrix: Where were we?

Me: Meeting Akira for the first time.

Beaulitrix: The only time. Ok. So we decided to meet at the Wetzel Pretzel in the further food court.

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Me: Nice. Sorry, go on.

Beaulitrix: He wanted to meet at 10:30 in the morning, which was weird but I figured he was on Japanese time. He was 4 hours late, but thankfully at the time, there was a Walden Books so I got to read some comic books.

Me: Do you remember if any of them were Akira’s?

Beaulitrix: God, no. Anyway, I finally make my way back to the Wetzel Pretzel, and I see a Japanese man standing there.

Me: How did you know he was Japanese?

Beaulitrix: I saw an Asian man standing there in line in front of this round man double fisting pretzel sticks. And it was so weird that he wouldn’t leave the line.

Me: That is weird. Those pretzel sticks suck; there never is enough salt and its always stale because no one buys them!

Beaulitrix: Anyway, I see him and I call out “Akira?” and he turns toward me and so does the double fister at the same time. It was so weird, like two gears turning.

Me: Weird. He never agreed he was Akira, did he?

Beaulitrix: No, he didn’t. I guess, I just assumed.

Me: Keep going, keep going.

Beaulitrix: So, I talk to him about how nice it is to finally meet him and how I can’t believe this is happening. And the entire time, he’s just staring at me and he keeps saying “Yeah” and “For Sure.” Eventually, I asked him if he’s nervous because he’s being so weird and quite. Then, he finally says “Let’s go to Too Cool.” which is an anime store. I remember feeling more relieved then as we walk down the corridor of the outlet mall. He mentions random facts about the Japanese folklore like he normally did over emails, and I don’t know, it made me feel more comfortable with him. I figured this was all as awkward to him as it was for me. So I reach for his hand while I ask him how long he’ll be in the area. And I grab onto something grainy and bumpy.

Me: Ha ha, what?

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Beaulitrix: I look down and I am holding a pretzel stick.

Me: Gross.

 

I bite into my pretzel for comedic effect. She isn’t amused.

 

Beaulitrix: I look and the guy from the pretzel line is holding the other end of the pretzel stick.

Me: How big was the stick? They should just call them ‘bites.’

Beaulitrix: A few inches, and I look at him really confused. I let go of the stick and I ask him what the fuck he is doing, and he scuttles over behind a mall fern. Me and Akira just keep walking and get to Too Cool. He keeps pointing at different toys and knickknacks that he saw in Japan where he is from, but I cannot enjoy myself because I keep looking over my shoulder.

Me: Because of that round man?

Beaulitrix: Yes! I didn’t tell Akira but I could see this other guy following us speaking into some sort of device. He just kept hoping from mall fern to mall fern. I think he thought we couldn’t see him. I wish I could hear what he was saying, but every time he’d open his mouth, so would Akira. This man was ruining my date with Akira.

Me: I’m sorry.

Beaulitrix: I requested we just go to sushi to eat. Akira agreed, and I asked him if they had them in Japan. He just whispered ‘sushi’ all breathy like and started making karate moves. I turned and laughed. Akira really knew how to swoon me.

Me: Mhm, with fish.

Beaulitrix: That’s when I see that that other guy is mocking Akira and doing karate moves too. So, I shout and tell him to fuck off, and he just drops and rolls to a different mall fern. After that, the mood was much lighter. I remember talking about Japan a lot and he kept talking about his sword collections. I asked him about his comics and he asked me to ask more about his comics. I reached for his hand, and this time I held it. He didn’t hold it back, but I figure it was a cultural thing, so I bowed. He talked about how he loved Wolverine as his favorite character, because it was a man living and adopting the Japanese culture as his own after living there for so many years. I thought he was so funny.

Me: Sounds like a lovely time.

Beaulitrix: It was, I couldn’t stop staring at him as he spoke about himself and Japan. How everyone there was disciplined in martial arts and eastern magic. After our messy start, I was reminded why I loved talking to him so much while sitting in this booth at The Sushi Shore, scarfing down hamburger sushi rolls and fried potato nigari. Just staring deeply into his eyes, as he talks about pachinko machines.

Beaulitrix get much stiffer and makes eye contact with me.

Beaulitrix: And that’s when I noticed. Right behind Akira, there was that man. The round man, the fern man, the man following Akira Yoshida. He immediately crouched down, as if I wouldn’t notice.

            This part is hard to remember because I was red with fury. But at some point I started screaming and dropkicked him so hard he rolled into a set of mall ferns like a pasty bowling ball getting a strike. The next thing I remember was being interviewed by the police.

Me: Oh wow.

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Beaulitrix: You have to understand. I was scared, creeped out, and mad. I was so mad.

Me: Understandable.

Beaulitrix: I told the police, that Akira was innocent. It was all that one man. I told them all how he was stalking us and making fun of us and just generally being a creepy little fuck.

Me: Mhm, stalking and mocking.

Beaulitrix: The police were very sympathetic and let me go but when I left the precinct, I saw them handcuffing Akira. I stared to ask what was happening, and they say they got the guy. They put him in the paddy wagon and drive off as I shout to call me. But I guess he really couldn’t because he only had my email. It was all just so frantic, I was confused. I saw the creepy guy walk past me. They let him go.

            I remember asking him what the fuck did he do, and he just bowed and gave me a pachinko ball with a wolverine in it. Then, he walked off. I remember being so mad and hurt, I just chucked that pachinko ball at his head so hard, he rolled forward and knocked over a few police officers. Almost like a pas-

Me: -sty bowling ball getting a strike?

Beaulitrix: Yes. That was the last I ever heard of him. He never responded back to my emails. His VampireFreaks account was deleted. He stopped writing comic books. I tried finding out what jail he went to, but I always ended up empty handed.

Me: Unlike the man that double fisted pretzel sticks. Speaking of, did you ever find out who he was?

Beaulitrix: No.

Me: What if I were to tell you that he was Akira Yoshida?

 

I proceed to explain about the man she saw was now the Editor and Chief of Marvel Comics, C.B. Cebulski. I share how he was moonlighting as Japanese man, Akira Yoshida. I share how it was an open secret and how no one cared. How he heavily fetishized Japanese people and culture because he spent a few breaths there over the years. I tell her how the man she was talking to was more than likely his Japanese translator that he was feeding information over an ear piece. I explain that there is a very good chance, she herself, absolved C.B. Cebulski to the police, when he and the Japanese translator let it be known that C.B. was Akira, which meant the man she was calling creepy was the translator, instead. I let her know that the man was only booked and fined, before being picked up by C.B. Cebulski to fly to a Marvel event in New York later that week. I wait for her to speak.

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She was dumbfounded and in disbelief. She said nothing. She did not blink. So I gave her, her space and bought one last pretzel.*

 

*Tim: I’m not paying for these, Ali.

I came back when she waved me over.

 

Beaulitrix: I can’t believe I was duped. I can’t believe he took up so much mental real estate in my head.

Me: Were you waiting for him to come back this entire time?

Beaulitrix: Ha! No, me and my partner have been going steady for a few years now. They don’t care for vampires, but they work across from the Cracker Barrel where I work at the Hot Topic. So it works.

Me: Oh, good.

Beaulitrix: I’m thankful I met you and can have some closure what happened with the man, men I knew as Akira Yoshida. This does explain why people say I make racist stereotypes of the Japanese when I would regurgitate what he, they, would tell me.

Me: I mean, some of at it, for sure.

Beaulitrix: I feel silly.

Me: It’s ok, thank you for your time.

Beaulitrix: But you get it, you’ve been sitting in your pee pants this entire time hiding behind trash cans and carefully placed bundles of pretzels.

Me: Oh god, I wish everyone would just forget I peed my pants and move on. I’m not going to acknowledge this ever happened again. And speaking of, my pants are now dry, as is my shirt, so it is time us to end this interview.

 

I grabbed her giant Batman plushie and carried off with it hugging and running. Because my pants may have finally been dry, as was dry, the pee stain was still there. Much like the Akira Yoshida stain that is on the pants of C.B. Cebulski.

 

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*Satire

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