Doc Hata didn’t see Sunny anywhere. He wandered through the house and looked into rooms. In one room he saw two people having sex in a bed, and he thought he saw Sunny. He approached the bed, and only once he got close and interrupted the couple did he realize it wasn’t Sunny. Relieved, he retreated from the room and stepped out of the house.
Outside, he suddenly remembered when he was young man stationed in Singapore, awaiting orders for deployment. He recalled a night when he and two friends, Lieutenants Enchi and Fujimori, approached a house of prostitution. Doc Hata had voiced his objections, saying he was not fond of women who were prostitutes, though he’d previously made secret visits to a prostitute named Madame Itsuda.
As they approached the house, they found a group of soldiers crowded around a young woman who had thrown herself out the window and broken her neck. This was the first dead person Doc Hata had ever seen, and he and his fellow medics took her inside the house and prepared her body. Later that night, he ran into another young prostitute who was trying to escape the house. Doc Hata grabbed her, and though she pleaded with him to let her go, he held tight until a towel-clad officer came and took her back to his room.
Doc Hata thought about this girl as he walked around to the front of Jimmy Gizzi’s house. The two young men were still on the sofa, and one indicated that Sunny was in the loft above the garage. Doc Hata climbed the stairs and found Sunny there with two men: Jimmy and a black man named Lincoln Evans. Doc Hata didn’t announce himself but watched in the shadow as Sunny danced without music. Lincoln began to kiss Sunny’s body as Jimmy took cocaine and began to fondle himself. Doc Hata left.
Sunny’s accusation that Doc Hata lives a life composed of gestures offers a clue to the meaning of the novel’s title, A Gesture Life. Sunny understood from a young age that her adoptive father treasures his good reputation, which he has built through acts of goodwill. As an adoptee, she herself benefited from his goodwill, but she also felt that his gestures of kindness came with a burden of expectation that she couldn’t live up to. Thus, when she accused Doc Hata of living a life of gestures, she implied that, though his reputation may appear to derive from kindness, it is actually a product of coercion. The reader can see the legitimacy of Sunny’s evaluation with regard to the way Doc Hata interacted with Sally Como when she confronted Sunny in the street. When he finally interrupted the argument between Sally and Sunny, Doc Hata convinced Sally to drop it by leveraging their friendship, which was established when he helped her get a job on the police force. Just as Sunny said, Doc Hata’s gestures of kindness come with a burden of expectation and hence give him power over others—power that he used here to get Sally to back down.
Doc Hata’s reaction to the black and Puerto Rican partygoers at Jimmy Gizzi’s house reveals a subtle racism. As he explained in Chapter 1, in its early days, Bedley Run boasted a diverse array of citizens. Yet as the town grew into an affluent suburb, the township has increasingly displaced people of color, who now seem to live largely in the poorer neighborhoods on the outskirts of town. Doc Hata’s surprised reaction initially seems celebratory, indicating a sense of gladness that Bedley Run has managed to hold on to some of its previous diversity. But immediately following his affirmative comment on the diversity of the crowd, he wondered whether Sunny, who had been staying there for the past three weeks, was living with only with people of color like those present. Although he doesn’t verbally expand on this thought, his sudden flash to the possibility that Sunny might not be surrounded by wealthy white Americans does incite a new sense of urgency in his search for his daughter, implying an underlying racism that Doc Hata likely absorbed from the rest of the Bedley Run community.