They sat tucked away in the corner of the cafe, as if this was supposed to be some secret.
Japan had one friend, and that was only inconvenient when she needed to complain about that friend. Germany was the only person she could talk to about this; South Korea wouldn’t care, China was too close to the issue and too cold anyway, Russia couldn’t talk about America objectively. Germany was honest, impassive, cool-headed. Germany would have to do.
“Are you going to wear your sunglasses indoors?” He asked her. Being able to read her face, to see anything flashing across her eyes or catch a muscle twitch–it was important to him.
Japan didn’t say anything. With a reluctant hand, she took off her large sunglasses to reveal a pair of smaller sunglasses underneath. Germany let it be.
When it became obvious that Japan was just going to stare into her double espresso, Germany dealt her a mercy and initiated the conversation.
“Alright, how about this? If you could say anything to America, openly and honestly, what would you say?”
Japan hesitated; the thought of speaking candidly repulsed her greatly. After a painful pause, she said, “I would ask him to please stop being a dumb bitch.”
Germany’s eyebrows shot up, those words being the last thing he’d ever imagine to come out of her mouth. Underneath the surprise, a layer of amusement.
“Of course,” Japan added quickly, “I would never really say that to him.”
“No,” Germany said, “I don’t think it would be a good idea.” He used the lull to sip his drink with pursed lips. He hated black coffee but he hated high blood sugar more; the Europeans, it seemed, were all in on some health craze. Japan had suggested he just drink tea instead, but he’d looked at her like she was crazy.
“What exactly are you feeling right now?” he asked. “Is it anger? Is it betrayal?”
She narrowed her eyes in thought, then said, “I feel played. Like he did me dirty.” A phrase America would have used; she was angry at herself for saying it, but it’s not like she could un-say it. “I have been whittling down the remaining bits of respect I have for myself by bowing to him at every turn and paying tribute in the form of compliments and lavish dinners and golf–I hate golf, Germany. I hate it.” He cracked a smile.
“I did all of those things because I thought staying in his favor would be able to hold our relationship together, but I was wrong. He’s a fickle child and I’m not shiny enough to keep his attention. I’m not China, who is big and powerful and rich. I’m not North Korea, who can start a nuclear war. I’m not South Korea, who he needs only because of her brother.”
It was clear that Germany was not just surprised, but astounded that Japan was speaking at such length. He hadn’t touched his coffee since she began, instead staring at her very intently and nodding every now and then to remind her that he, too, knew what it felt like to be done dirty by the USA recently.
“I gave him everything–my trust, my dignity, my heart. What good has that done me?” Japan caught a black figure out of the corner of her eye. Now, of all times? “I spent a year kissing his ass and bending over backwards, only to have him throw it all away almost in an instant.” The more she sunk into the abyss, the harder she found it to shut her mouth. She’d bottled up her emotions for too long, and Germany’s gentle coaxing had been just enough to rip the cork out. Now all those feelings were shooting out like Champagne and he was in the line of fire.
Just then she realized she’d been fidgeting with her hands in her lap, so she curled her fingers into her palms. Nails dug into her skin. She bit down on her tongue just hard enough sober up.
“Our interests are changing. It was bound to happen, wasn’t it? If things continue this way, I will live. I will be okay without the relationship we used to have because we will still trade and we will still hold military exercises and we will still smile when we shake hands. The hard part is not carrying on, it’s accepting that someone who used to cherish me thinks so lowly of me now. Yet, it’s even harder to accept because while he thinks so lowly of me, I fail to think so lowly of him. He is right. Our relationship is unfair, but as much for me as it is for him.”
With a shaking hand–anxieties raging–she grabbed her drink. The lukewarm espresso felt bitter on her tongue.
Germany let the heavy air settle before speaking. “Well,” he blinked, “I was honestly not expecting you to get so deep, especially not after this conversation started with you calling America a dumb bitch, but I appreciate your honesty. It was good for you to get this off your chest.”
“I shouldn’t have said any of that.” The blush came rapidly; all of the sudden she felt so hot underneath her jacket. “It was foolish. I’m sorry.”
“Look, you don’t have to be ashamed of having feelings–”
Japan flew out of her seat and made a run for it. Italy, the barista, watched the scene unfold from behind the counter. He tossed his head to the side, looked at Germany, and said, “She knows it’s the other way, right?”
That is a very fitting song for US-Japan relations right now (and eve US-South Korea relations).
Current events made me want to write something like this for a few days now, but last night I was hit hard with inspiration when I saw that Trump rolled out temporary steel tariff exemptions to our major Pacific allies…. except Japan. (Read about it here.) That’s kind of fucked up, huh? There’s a lot going on with US-Japan relations right now.
Italy owned a coffee shop in another story I wrote, so in the end, I decided to establish continuity. Don’t read too much into the character selection; it’s purely coincidental.