For the Love of Kumiko

 

Goodwin met Kumiko for the first time at a high-tech convention in Tokyo. He was a buyer for an import firm that specialized in the latest technologically advanced gadgets. While he was there, his contact, Binya Nakamura, introduced him to the great artificial intelligence genius, Haruki Takahashi. They met at a restaurant. Takahashi was with an indescribably beautiful woman. The scientist was an intense man who spook little and when he did it was usually in monosyllables. At first he did not introduce the woman. After Nakamura introduced Goodwin, bowing in the usual Japanese manner, Goodwin asked, "And who is this lovely young lady?"

Takahasi gave him a look as though he was wondering why Goodwin would ask about her. "This is Kumiko, my personal assistant. Say hello to the American gentleman, Kumiko."

In a soft pleasant voice, Kumiko said, "Welcome to Japan, Mr. ..."

"My name is Allen, Allen Goodwin." He put his hand out.

As she shook his hand lightly, he noted that hers was small and very soft. "I am pleased to meet you, Mr. Goodwin."

She was so lovely that Goodwin was distracted by her beauty. As a result a lot of what was said went into one ear and out the other. He assumed that it concerned the latest advances in artificial intelligence. Nakamura did most of the talking. At one point Takahashi said, "The future is now. The latest advances in artificial intelligence and robotics make it possible to build a robot that is all but human."

Kumiko sat demurely staring at her hands folded in her lap and did not speak at all until it was time to leave.

"Good bye, Mister Goodwin."

She gazed directly into his eyes as she said it. He felt that there was a definite connection between them.

* * *

For the next six months, Goodwin thought of Kumiko often, those beautiful almond eyes, perfectly oval face, pert nose and shoulder-length jet black hair. He tried to think of an excuse to return to Japan so that he could look her up. He hesitated only because he was not sure what she was to Takahashi. Was she simply his personal assistant? Or was there more to their relationship?

Then a miracle happened. Takahashi came to New York. Takahashi was one of the guest speakers at a big artificial intelligent convention in Madison Square Garden. Because of midtown traffic, however, Goodwin missed his speech. Nonetheless, he caught up with the scientist as he was strolling around the stadium looking at exhibits. To Goodwin's delight, Kumiko was following slightly behind him.

She was the first to notice him. She smiled and said, "Good afternoon, Mister Goodwin. It is good to see you again."

"Hi Kumiko. The pleasure is all mine." He really meant it. Oh, did he mean it.

Takahashi looked up from the exhibit he had been examining. He had an annoyed look on his face. Nonetheless, he bowed. "Ah. Mr. Goodwin. Let me see. You're with Worldwide Tech Imports. We met in Tokyo."

"Yes. That's correct. It's nice to see you again. And your beautiful personal assistant."

He chuckled. "Oh her. Yes, I have her tag along to take notes on items of interest. Did you catch my speech and the demonstration?"

"No. I'm sorry I did not. I just arrived. My flight from Chicago was late."

Goodwin's mind worked furiously trying to figure out a way to get Kumiko alone. It was as though Takahashi read his mind. He said, "Since you missed the demonstration, perhaps you should speak to Kumiko about it. I won't be needing her for a while."

"That would be great."

"When you are done talking, you may drop her off at my hotel, The Hyatt, Room 1006. Let me know whether you are impressed. Kumiko, stay with Mr. Goodwin for the rest of the afternoon."

"Of course," Goodwin replied, although he wasn't exactly sure what Takahashi meant about being impressed. He assumed that he should be amazed that Kumiko was as highly intelligent and educated as she was beautiful.

After Takahashi walked away, Goodwin said, "Well Kumiko, it's kind of noisy in here, and there's nowhere to sit. Shall we take a walk?"

"If you like." She took his arm and let him lead her out onto Broadway. He took her to a Starbucks that was not too crowded on a side street. When he asked her what she wanted, she replied, "Nothing for me. I do not drink coffee."

Goodwin ordered a regular coffee and a Danish. "Now that we're somewhere quiet, you can tell me about Doctor Takahashi's speech and demo."

"The whole thing verbatim?"

He chuckled. "Heavens no. Just summarize."

She said, "Doctor Takahashi's goal is to achieve an artificially intelligent device which could not be told from a human being. To achieve this he has added the equivalent of emotions into his artificial intelligence software." She rattled on about technical details, which Goodwin tuned out since for the most part they were over his head. For being in the marketing division of an electronics firm, he was not all that technical. He usually rely on demos and a knowledge of what the public will buy when considering the best way to market a new product. Besides, he was busy contemplating Kumiko's gorgeous face. He had never seen the like. It was like perfection itself, perfectly symmetrical, high cheekbones, and full lips. It was the sort of face an artist would paint as the face of an angel.

When she finished telling about how the new device worked, to keep her talking he asked her about the demo.

"He had the artificial intelligence answer questions from the audience."

"Impressive. Say, Mr. Takahashi asked me to return you to his hotel room. Is he your boyfriend?"

She thought for a moment. "No. He is a friend and my boss. He is not my boy friend. I don't have a boy friend."

Goodwin's heart leaped for joy. "But you stay in the same room with him."

"Strictly speaking, it is not a room but a suite."

"I see. How long do you expect to be in New York?"

"Doctor Takahashi wants to stay a month. He wishes to confer with several artificial intelligence experts before we return to Japan. He also wishes to do some sightseeing."

A whole month. That was great. Goodwin decided to pop the question. "Uh, since you don't have a boy friend, I wondered whether I could take you out some evening."

She thought that over for a few seconds. "Do you mean like a date where a man and a woman do things together that are romantic. You must ask Mr. Takahashi whether I am allowed."

Goodwin realized that in Japan their customs were different. It seemed rather paternalistic to him though that an employer could control an employee's social life to the point where he could say whether the employee could go out on a date. But, if that was their way, there wasn't much he could do about it. "Very well. I'll ask him."

They spent an hour in the coffee shop. Then he took Kumiko sightseeing in the midtown area, Rockfeller Center, the Empire State Building, Radio City and the Fifth Avenue shops. Although they talked a lot -- she was a wonderful conversationalist, knew a lot about many subjects, literature, the arts, current events, and so forth -- he did not find out much about her personal life. On the other hand, he blabbed on about himself quite a bit. He hoped that he had not been a boor.

He returned Kumiko to the hotel at the appointed time. After briefly chatting with Takahashi about trivialities, he said, "Kumiko tells me that she needs your permission to go out on a date. I'm quite taken with her. Is it all right if I take her out on the town tomorrow night?"

His eyebrows raised. "You want to date Kumiko?"

"Yes. With your permission, of course. I wouldn't want to jepordize her employment."

"Hmm. It would be an interesting experiment. Yes. You may take her out. What time will you pick her up?"

"About seven."

"She will be ready."

Goodwin said good bye and left. All the way back to his apartment, he puzzled on what Takahara meant by saying that it would be an interesting experiment. Finally, he decided that like most geniuses, he was eccentric.

You can purchase For Love of Kumiko from Page Turner Editions and other online e-book sellers.

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