Have you ever enjoyed sex so much you sing the "Marsellaise" afterward, even though you don't know the language and barely remember the tune?

I'd been making sporadic efforts to learn at least a bit of Akemi's language and became obsessed with a word: "Totsugu." It means getting married, but only from the woman's side. A man marrying doesn't "totsugu." The word also served as a noun with a completely different pronunciation- Japanese is difficult; that's why I pretty much gave up. The same character representing "totsugu" can be read as "yome," which means bride. What's more, I discovered in the dictionary that, paired with another, the character becomes something altogether different: "souka," which is prostitute, though from an earlier period in Japanese history, the Edo era. (It's a really good dictionary; you won't find that word on any translation app).

Live and learn. And obsess, if you happen to be married to a woman from another culture, struggling to understand her because you desperately love and don't want to lose her.

Why caught up with the word? Because of how different Akemi's culture and mine were, how men and women were considered. I had no idea.

As the COVID-19 crisis neared and it was announced classes would move online, I felt shaken. I found a lot about my job onerous but realized now that I got more from it than I'd admitted to myself. I'd miss the community, feeling part of something, working with others.

I was almost scared at the prospect of losing that.

Some of us were offered the choice of projects other than teaching to help justify our salaries as classes were cut back. I took one with a partner. Ironically the subject was the same as, at least very close to that Akemi's friend Sten and his friends meant to examine in the movie they were making. Cultural diversity. My focus would be narrower. I'd look at and writing and write a report on the fortunes of foreign students at our college.

I'd work with a partner. Becky. Spiky Becky we called her because she was tough as nails. I figured I'd have my work cut out keeping pace with her. She had a reputation for getting things done quickly, stayed ahead of others, brooked no nonsense or delay.

But things worked out different than expected. Becky was the slow one. No doubt the special circumstances figure in the change. The pandemic forced all of us to adjust.

I tried to show her what I'd written. In a single weekend I'd come up with five pages, wanted her take so the thing could move forward, both of us working in synch. Becky delayed accepting the pages- I had hard copy to hand over to her and she proved hard to track down, actually seemed evasive. When I did find Becky, on the move as usual, and presented my work in progress, she became annoyed, felt I was pushing her. I lost my temper, shouted at her.

Stress was the order of the day. We all reacted differently, managed as best we could. No doubt there would be apologies later.

Many people lost classes. Student enrollment went down for the next term, needless to say. My friend Joe was not a veteran faculty member and found himself facing less than half his usual work load, with a commensurate salary drop. We talked. He announced he'd come up with the idea of driving a taxi to make ends meet. Cabs would be relatively safe, contrary to what you might expect, he said. There was a plexiglass partition between the front and back seats and masks would be worn.

We went together, Joe and Akemi and me, to get the lay of the land. The taxi company was located by the waterfront, occupied a sprawling complex there. We drove in search of it but got lost. The gently curved cobblestone street fronting the harbor stretched a long way.

A prospect of help came. We had stopped at a traffic light and a prostitute approached the driver side window to proposition Joe. We asked her for directions to the taxi company. The dispatch office hiring center and parking lot were somewhere across the street from that long stretch of harbor. Joe explained he meant to find temporary work as a cab driver.

She didn't know the location- it turned out to be farther away than we'd thought. In answering, the hooker displayed a sense of humor, pretty winning personality intact despite the tough life she led, the hard way she herself earned a living good times and bad. No doubt from her work, no doubt, she was used to dealing, getting along with all kinds of people, not so different from anyone in the leisure industry or a college teacher, come to think of it.

"I can't help you become a taxi driver," she said to Joe and addressing the rest of us. "All I can tell you is how to work these streets." Her own experience, she meant.

She was black and beautiful, her skin like treated leather, seemingly saturated in oil, the kind that's thin and needs lubrication to keep from cracking. In her late thirties, I'd place her age. Not young but in the prime of beauty, weathered by life. With energy, passion to spare. You didn't want her to have to waste it this way. I found myself liking her a lot, my eyes drawn to her, attracted not just to her as a woman (her sense of color stood out; she wore something dark on top with a red scarf around it; she'd kept her style and it reflected pride intact). She had a wonderful, sharp nose and very high pronounced cheekbones reminiscent of Akemi's, a jutting chin that somehow made her look cute, and appealing, likable, intelligent funny- yes, winning- eyes.

A fairly dismal part of town. You couldn't call it desolation row because there was the view of water and beyond it the opposite bank, which lent scale and even a kind of grandeur to the mostly dark grey-blue setting. I won't get trite and talk about flowers growing from cracks in city pavement, but the woman there did bring to the dim setting light and color that was unexpected and welcome.

She was thin yet appealing by virtue of her character. She had a softness, spirit that survived in spite of all. I liked her bony shoulders that lifted her blouse, the points her breasts sloped to against the fabric, half-cloaked by the scarf, the other side almost all the way open, displaying her wares, occupational necessity.

Back home Akemi kissed my balls. It wasn't the first time but very willful. She slowed, tarried there, on her way up to suck my cock, seemed in no hurry, glad to enjoy discoveries made the process. Lips pulling on the skin- amazing how far it could stretch, like a lizard's. Of course I thought of the prostitute, gorgeous sad street walker we'd just talked with, framed outside the car window, part of that wider world. Did Akemi feel competitive with her, want to show she was as good? Or had the exchange excited her some other way. Her skin was also a pelt, of course light color compared to that of the woman at the harbor stop light, tan, like some sort of fine suede suit.

Nude, resplendent, shimmering tan, gold, Akemi looked a rich man's wife or, if you want, an expensive prostitute. My eye followed her surfaces that broke through the dim atmosphere of the bedroom, contours that carved the air, curve of her thighs as she braced on her haunches, the inner tendons stretched taut.

Akemi moved her mouth upward in sneaky, exquisite steps. Even in the dark blue grey light of the bedroom in the evening, far from the harbor but not so different in feeling then, my face must have shown a startled response. Akemi made the place look opulent, star-lit, would have even if we were atop the olive drab blanket from another place and time, military cover a reader mistakenly called a "horse blanket." Startled? I must have looked half-drunk, dazed by bliss, half disbelieving, as if in the presence if a treasure I could never afford if I had to pay for it.

My brother Thomas was due over for a visit that night. Akemi and I had almost forgotten, as we forgot nearly everything then. Akemi ended up on top, taking the active role to the hilt, slid a wet groove on my cock before plunging it in, working her hips, her breasts flopping in my hands. She arched her head back, called out, like a bird saluting the sky.

We didn't even mind having little time to get ready for Thomas, hurrying out of bed to answer the bell, the apartment still redolent with Akemi's orgasms, her smell.

We three watched a movie as planned, war-time intrigue that proved to be a really bad one, the kind so unmemorable you forgot it even as you were watching. It became laughable, so bad it was good, if you follow me.

We enjoyed watching, were in good moods, not only Akemi and me but Thomas too- ours must have been infectious.

Movie over, we had some eats and talked about politics, a theme it had brought up. I had some definite thoughts about the present scene but found I couldn't frame my arguments succinctly and let Thomas take over. He held opinions similar to mine and was glad to usurp the role of explainer. As older brother, he's competitive, likes to overshadow me, and sometimes I let him.

We chatted about a recent broadcast debate between rival politicians that had sparked controversy, then about events overseas, which for some reason I was better able to discuss intelligibly, possibly because I'm married to a woman from a different country than ours.

French elections came up, and maybe to change the subject, above which he knew not so much, Thomas reminded me of an encounter I once had with a French woman.

He and I had attended a lecture together at the college- I'd invited him. There was a panel discussion during which I and other faculty and guests faced the audience.

The topic wasn't France, but there she was, a French woman, with a short haircut, bobbed style, looking like a gamine- that is Fresh-faced, independent, intrepid, a bit of a rebel though a serious academic- you could tell that from her dress.

Directed to look by Thomas, I spotted her as a winner. Alert-eyed, nice as a peach, attentive, amused and amusing, a little back from the crowd, her own person who enjoyed observing the world and drawing her own conclusions. Compelling, serious but fun. Pretty- naturally with little or no makeup, which I liked (despite the fact that I'd gotten together with a woman who did use cosmetics and to beguiling effect).

At a point Thomas had nudged me and said, "She's interested in you. You should go talk to her, introduce yourself. really, she's been looking at you.

"This was before he met you," Thomas assured Akemi.

And half to humor him, I reluctantly moved myself to approach her in the audience as the the official event broke up and people socialized. She looked surprised, even a little alarmed at the presence of a stranger bearing down on her.

She had auburn hair. Akemi's is black, coffee color in direct light.

I said directly- why not?- "I wonder if I can have your phone number. We could talk later." I added something about how she'd looked especially interested throughout the talk, I thought she and I might have things to say to each other, it was worthwhile to carry on the conversation together later.

She paused and thought for the shadow of a moment before shaking her head gently but definitely. "No, I don't think that would be a good idea."

She seemed to see all the consequences of an ill-fated meeting pass before her eyes. At a glance, my offer of adventure didn't strike her as one she wanted much less needed. And no wonder. My face is ordinary, and she was, at a glance, an extraordinary woman, like Akemi.

No, her eyes showed no hint of interest much less flirtation, though her curiosity held me in its focus.

I remember noticing when I got closer that she was wearing a cashmere vest or cardigan with a trim of some very fine fir, soft against her chin.

I scolded Thomas afterward, laughed, but not seriously angry. I hadn't hoped much from the overture and wasn't very disappointed, After all, the idea of sticking my near out had been his not mine (older brothers sometimes like to set up their younger brother).

In our apartment, present tense, Thomas brought up songs of the armed forces, again apparently prompted by the movie we'd seen, half looked, half laughed at. I wanted to sing one from the Marines, World War One, but couldn't remember the words, the tune well enough to pulled it off.

Instead, I launched into the French national anthem, the "Marseillaise."

"You know the words!" Akemi clapped.

"Of course not!"

She doesn't know any French, couldn't tell the difference. I made sounds that vaguely resembled the language.

Akemi and Thomas both enjoyed my high spirits. The rocking rhythm echoed Akemi's just before, and I wanted to plunge into it again just as soon as Thomas left, return to bed and act as her second john of the night. When it came to fucking multiple times, she was a match for the prostitute we'd met and then some since, crucially, she was with me, not a stranger but a man she'd chosen, her husband, whom she loved.