As soon as she sat down he started to worry about Satoko's teeth. They were bright and clean and even, perfectly spaced; and whenever she smiled he worried that something would happen to them.
He'd seen women with beautiful teeth before, of course. But they usually formed one part of a greater beauty, a unity. The crescent of the smile beneath a delicate nose. The glint on the teeth-tips matching the light from the eyes.
There was nothing wrong with Satoko's face, but none of it called attention to itself in the same way as her teeth. They seemed almost sculpted, their tips translucent, her rounded molars pure porcelain. The points of her incisors rested on the corners of her lips like diamonds set in coral. Distracted out of all proportion, he went on staring at them, ignoring everything she said.
Your teeth are very white, he told her.
Satoko smiled. But he felt that something terrible would happen. It occurred to him that she had lived her entire life with the perfection of her teeth undisturbed. Intact for twenty years, how long would it be before one of them chipped on a nut or shifted out of place? The universe had a habit of deleting exceptions.
He felt that he had to warn her somehow, but there was nothing he could say.
In a dream the following night he met Satoko outside Kichijoji Station. She was rummaging through the garbage, reaching her arm into the bins and pulling out empty cans and bottles. What she'd taken had been stacked behind her in neat rows, one on top of the other. He helped her by lifting off the bin tops, and eventually they piled up a small castle of cans.
Several weeks later he heard from a friend that Satoko had tripped on the stairs and broken her front teeth.