Oh noes, PLOT.
Act 4 - Part 5: Imbalance
I pace up each step, examining the clipboard in my hands as groups of men pass me, some still wearing white lab coats while others have theirs folded over one arm. I’ve come to filter out their speech as their discussions always soar over my head in terms of complexity.
My watch reads out a time of ‘6:02 P.M.,’ indicating the end of a day of important experiments and the beginning of small projects and the scrutiny of the maintenance team.... though ‘team’ isn’t very appropriate since it’s a single worker. Myself.
Every so often I pass a man carrying a folder stuffed to the bursting point with reports, data tables, and other vital information -- no doubt destined to wind up in a mountain of papers on Mr. Setou’s desk.
My work has nothing to do with gathering data or anything of that magnitude, however. The tasks outlined before me consist of ‘[X] sort live specimens,’ among a few other items. The first item on the list already carries a precise checkmark with a small footnote. “Nakai: I took care of the shipment of lab mice upon Mr. Shuugetsu’s request. There are special procedures for testing with living creatures that you’ll be trained for at a later date. –Solus”
I’m surprised that Mr. Solus was the one to do it, seeing as how he’s one of the project leaders here. Maybe he’s just taking it into his own hands so I don’t have a chance to mess it up, since like he said, I don’t have any formal training with cleaning up things that are still alive.
He’s a very helpful person, though. If I remember correctly, he’s a friend of Mutou’s who also took my side when the decision was made to hire me, not that I’ll ever be able to thank him for such a thing.
I trace my finger down to the next task, the usual ‘[ ] gather and clean glassware and other lab equipment.’
As I make my way up to the fourth floor, the only indicators of what I’m meant to be doing there are a few passing scientists telling me that ‘the lab’s a mess after that last one.’ I have a sneaking suspicion of what ‘that last one’ may be considering all the paperwork floating around, but- oh good lord they weren’t kidding.
There aren’t any huge spills or other messes, but none of the equipment has been moved from its workspace as the scientists left. Burettes lay standing, trays have been stacked in random arrays, and dozens upon dozens of test tubes are strewn about in every position possible; lined up on racks, filling entire tubs, and even laying on their sides on the surface of the table. Every so often one can find a plastic sharps container filled with depleted syringes, the amount of trash in each receptacle helping me understand just how major this experiment was.
They were at it for six hours straight; taking samples, retaking them, finding a different approach and then trying again. I never thought it could require this much manpower to test the potency of a new kind of anesthetic, but I guess anyone could be wrong.
And one of the worst parts is that, according to some, the experiment was still a failure -- not due to procedure, but the object they were testing turned out to be a total dud.
Well, good news is that this is all my work for the evening, since this is the only thing that’s been going on today. It finished up about fifteen minutes ago, but I still decide to wear a facemask and a pair of gloves in case there’s a chance of contamination from… something.
All the valuable information has already been taken away; the ‘good’ samples, the live specimens that didn’t make it through the day, and everything else I’d have to worry about sorting out.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about testing on live animals, though. There’s a few different meanings to ‘failure’ when it comes to anesthesia, and I’d rather not spend too much time thinking about it. There might be a reason Mr. Setou hasn’t touched on any of this with me.
At any rate, my only job here is to load everything onto a cart, carry it down for cleaning, and take a ten-fifteen minute break while the autoclave is running. Nothing challenging or ethically ambiguous in the slightest.
Despite that, I’ve still got all my work cut out for me: it takes a while just to get the cart loaded without risk of breaking anything, and even then I’ll still have to make another two or three trips to get everything taken care of. And that’s not accounting for the time it takes to get all the tools and glassware sorted into cabinets, shelves, and other storage areas.
Well, no use griping about it when it’s only the second day. I haven’t been through enough of this to hate my job just yet.
Once I stack as much as I can onto the trolley without chancing a piece of shattered glassware, I wheel it into the elevator and move down to the third floor. From there it’s only a short push to the cleaning room.
First I rinse the weak residue away from the inside of each glass, then I stack it alongside the walls of the metal box beside me, heaving a deep sigh each time I take another look back to the overloaded cart. It takes a short while to fill the chamber of the autoclave and my efforts don’t even appear to have lightened up the trolley.
It’s a time-consuming process, but one so laughably simple that I pay no mind to how long it takes to fill each chamber on the wall. With a few simple inputs, the pre-sterilization cycle begins and grants me a pretty lengthy break.
As I consider what I'll be spending that time on, however, my ears are assaulted with a frustrated complaint rebounding through the hallways. “This machine is always out of canned coffee! Does it all sell before I can get to it? We need to get the company to…”
The complaint fades to unintelligible grumbling, but I still recognize the voice.
I step into the hallway to find none other than Tetsuo Shuugetsu, one hand in his pocket as he stands in front of a drink vending machine, foot tapping as he tries to decide what works best as an alternative to coffee.
He wears half of a pressed business suit, keeping the black slacks but choosing to discard his coat. The white dress shirt underneath covers his torso in an unkempt fashion with his tie hanging loose, the top button undone, and his sleeves rolled up.
Should I go out and talk to him? Would it be appropriate? He is my boss, but on the other hand I feel a little two-faced thinking about going out and giving a friendly greeting to someone whose existence annoys me to no end.
Eventually I decide to peep my head out around the corner and call out to him. “Hey Mr. Shuugetsu.”
He meets my voice with a “hm?” before a small smile emerges on his face. “Hey Nakai. How's your day been?”
“Eh, nothing exciting. I haven't had to focus on anything besides the exams coming up.” I call back, bowing my head as I step up to greet him.
“Treasure it while you still can, kid. Someday you'll be a manager of a big company and you'd give anything for a quiet day.” He says with a stark laugh, his finger still hovering between the inputs for a soda and a can of tea. “I think 'hellacious' is a good way to describe things around here today. I'm about three hours overdue for lunch."
"Or would it be dinner at this point?” He adds with heavy sarcasm, another exaggerated chuckle slipping out of his mouth.
I stand beside him at the machine, taking note of the fact that black coffee is still in stock. “Ah, yeah, that experiment seemed pretty major. Is that why you’re here today, if I may ask?”
“Well, I’m here every Tuesday and on some Thursdays. It’s just part of my job; I’m head of employee relations for the entire company, not just this one building.” He explains, jerking back and yelling at the machine as his finger presses the button for orange soda by accident.
A dull ‘clunk’ results as the can is dropped into the receiving space, causing Tetsuo to fish the container out and leer at the label – a lime green rather than a bright orange.
“You don’t like lemon-lime?” I ask, not too fond of soda in general ever since my days in the hospital, enduring the onslaught of nurses telling me it's like poison in a can each day.
“That's the third time it's...” He stares at the can for a while before glancing up and down the button panel, giving a stern press to each one as if that could fix the problem.
“Ah, forget it.” Tetsuo concludes, letting his arms relax at his sides. “I bet the maintenance guy has it out for me.”
Sounds like that ‘accident’ has happened on more than one occasion. Often enough for him to think that it's broken outright, anyway. I can't say anything against him though, considering that it is pretty clear he pressed the right button.
“I'm the maintenance guy.” I interject, feeling as though I'm being set up for some kind of a joke.
He pretends to act surprised, replying with “oh, right. How's work, by the way?” before bursting into laughter.
I can feel my teeth grinding in my mouth as I try to flash a semi-amused smile.
We begin to walk back to the offices as I offer up a sort of status report. “It’s not clean, but I'm getting there. I’ve got the autoclave running right now, as soon as I've got all the tools and glassware picked up I'm gonna start mopping and getting everything in order.”
I gesture to the supply closet in order to drive the point home, trying to make it look as though the idea hadn't just popped into my head.
“Good man, good man. I knew you'd be great at this the minute I laid eyes on you.” He says before patting me on the shoulder. “Stay busy and no one will ever give you any trouble.”
Glad to know that I make a great custodian. I'm not sure if I should take a compliment like that to heart.
We enter Mr. Setou’s office, currently commandeered by Tetsuo thanks to the other manager’s absence, and take a seat. I’m prompted to take a seat before the first attempt at conversation is made by the other party. “So how are you liking it so far? Handling everything well?”
That is the third time I’ve gotten that question in two days.
The answer at this point has been compressed and committed to my memory. “I can manage this much. Nothing too difficult, and I can’t say I dislike the work even if it’s a little tedious.”
“Someone’s gotta get the tedious job.” Tetsuo advises, popping the lid off of a plastic container of noodles on his desk and pulling a pair of chopsticks out of a desk drawer. “If you ever find yourself doubting your duty, just remember – it’s a paycheck no matter how you look at it.”
At this he bursts into constant laughter, having to take a few small breaths just to regain his composure despite the so-called ‘joke’ not even being that amusing. If anything, it's even less funny than when Mutou uttered the exact same words at me yesterday.
Is it a common thought among the working population that your paycheck is the only thing that matters? Even Mutou, who claims to love his current job, gave me a few jabs about income.
Tetsuo takes a stab at the thick noodles, lifting a small mound of them up to his mouth before stopping in his tracks.
“Yo.” A familiar voice behind me calls out.
Tetsuo sets his food down and leans back in the cushy swivel chair. “Well hello there, miss. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
I turn around to find a head of blonde hair peeking in the doorway, a contented expression on her face as she holds out a white convenience store bag. Black cloth covers her arm with a small margin of white sticking out past the end of the coat sleeve.
“I wasn’t expecting to see me here either. I got off work a few hours early and figured you’d be taking a late lunch as always.” Akira remarks before stepping into the doorway, leaning against the paneling as Tetsuo eyes the bag of goodies in her hand.
“You know me. Busy busy busy.” Tetsuo replies, clasping his hands together and leaning forward. “You could have sent a little bit of advance notice telling me you’d be here, though. We could have arranged something else.”
She raises one eyebrow and gives him a dumbfounded look. “That's actually why I came here in person. I tried to call you twice. And sent you a text message. Check your phone more often, dummy.”
Tetsuo slides his cell phone out of his suit coat pocket, flipping it open before slapping his forehead. “Fair enough. I haven't had a chance to look through my messages today, sorry.”
At this point the woman in the doorway begins to look around the room, grimacing at the mountains of paperwork sitting on Tetsuo’s desk. She also takes notice of my presence, offering a surprised expression and a small wave.
“Well even if you weren’t on break I could’ve just dropped the bag off. You’re always here on Tuesday and I know how you are with packing lunches.” Akira returns with a shrug of her shoulders.
He eyeballs his food, pushing the plastic container of noodles to the side and attempting to hide it behind a towering stack of folders. “Oh c'mon, I'm no worse than any of the other guys here when it comes to cooking.”
Really? You'd think a chemist or a biologist would make for an amazing chef, considering the principles of cooking food.
“Remember that place that sells the prepared lunchboxes? I found it again.” She responds with a triumphant smile as she steps in and sets the bag on the table, revealing two cans of pre-sweetened coffee and a stack of wrapped bento boxes, both rectangular in shape.
A mixture of surprise and excitement take hold of Tetsuo’s face as he picks up one of the boxes and looks it up and down, “really? I thought they closed down months ago.”
“They didn't close down, they moved across town.” Akira replies, taking a seat in the spot beside me. “I only found it because I tried to avoid traffic on the way home.”
It doesn’t take long for my presence to feel a little unneeded, especially since they seem to be holding a conversation without it devolving into an argument after a few words.
“Did you manage to avoid everything?” He asks.
She glances off in the other direction, a detached look on her face as she replies with “nope.”
“Well at least one good thing came of this, although I still prefer your homemade stuff.” He mentions with a joking tone.
He unties the wrapping around the top-most container and pops the lid off, eyes glimmering with delight as he spies the contents. The box consists of two pockets; one half containing rice with plenty of garnishing and the other half housing a cut of roasted salmon on top of what looks like a fresh salad.
“I could’ve tried making something from home if I had anything left. I’m gonna stop by the grocery store when I get done here.” Akira states, unable to keep a small smile from emerging between her cheeks as she watches Tetsuo look the food up and down in joy.
I... I guess they can still act like a couple every now and then. It doesn't alleviate that sinking feeling in my stomach, but it gets harder and harder to have a clear conscience whenever I see that it's possible for them to get along like this.
“You saved me from an afternoon of week-old takeout either way.” Tetsuo confesses, uttering a small 'thank you' as he begins to prod at the food with a pair of chopsticks.
I had a small amount of envy towards Tetsuo for being so close to Akira, but now that's morphed into outright jealousy. If it were me I’d probably be leaping over the desk uttering every form of ‘thank you’ I could muster, but Tetsuo seems to offer a bit of gratitude and brush off the fact that such a wonderful thing can happen to him.
Is this what they're normally like? Are the fights and the disagreements the face they wear in public? Every time I think I've got the nature of their relationship down, I get proven entirely wrong and the two of them act like there's nothing different.
Maybe this is why Akira's upset about the state of things. She hates the arguing because she knows they can sit down and share a nice moment together like this. I've never seen that side of her before -- that cute, girly smile, the way her eyes gleam when Tetsuo approves of the food or gives a compliment, it's just...
I don't know what to feel. I'm truly happy that she's able to experience such a thing, but at the same time I feel as though I've gone green with envy at Tetsuo for the same reason.
The only thing I'm certain of is that I don't belong here right now – this is their moment, and the sight of Akira enjoying it so much is enough to quell any kind of monstrous intent within me. Without saying a word, I decide to excuse myself to the room, content to leave the two of them to their own devices considering the huge workload waiting upstairs.
“Gotta get back to work, huh?” Akira asks as I stand up, scooting her chair to the desk and setting her own meal down.
I shrug and give a half-hearted “yep, I’m sure you know how it is.”
She offers a consoling smile. “Oh yeah, I know how it gets around here. Too bad I don’t get to see you in action.”
“It’s nothing impressive, I assure you.” I respond before slipping out of the room and around the corner, feeling a tiny bit uplifted by her words.
Something holds me back, however. The autoclave will be stopping in a few minutes and there’s too much that needs to be taken care of, in addition to the fact that what I’m thinking of doing is downright wrong.
But still – I hang back around the corner within listening distance of the room, unable to stop myself from eavesdropping on the office.
“So, how are things around here going? It’s been a couple of months since we did something like this.” Akira mentions after a moment’s wait, the quiet ‘snap’ of chopsticks indicating that she’s ready to begin chipping away at her own food.
“Same as usual. Testing a new anesthetic some days, sitting around bored on others. Hisao said it pretty well for someone who’s only been here for two days – ‘you know how it is.’” Tetsuo answers, a short laugh springing out of the doorway afterwards.
The other person in the room gives a disinterested “yeah, I figured as much” before adding on “doesn’t seem like things ever change around here.”
Tetsuo lets out a small sigh, “yeah, our work is pretty well set in stone.”
“Same thing back where I work.” Akira says with a groan. “Hey, you remember when we used to do stuff like this every day?”
They both share a reminiscent laugh before Tetsuo replies with “back when we first got together, yeah. I remember all the crap my boss used to give me about taking breaks at specific times and such.”
“Yeah. I’d have to plan my lunch around only having forty minutes since it took ten minutes to drive between my office and yours.” She remarks, a wistful air to her voice. “It’d be even harder trying to get days off together.”
A quiet whistle follows, “ooooh, yeah. Had to send in my schedule request at least a month in advance, and even then it’d take tons of begging just to get that one day the way I wanted it.”
“It was always worth it, though.” Akira notes, a short giggle following. “I’ve still got my membership card for the movie theater from back when we’d go every week.”
“Oh c’mon, those expired months ago.” Tetsuo replies with a laugh, pausing to take another bite of his delayed lunch. “If I went searching I bet I could find those autographed CDs from that time we went out to a concert together.”
“We stood in line for an hour for those. You’ve still got em?” Akira asks with surprise.
A triumphant ‘hmph’ sounds in response, followed by “of course I’m holding onto those. It was my favorite band. Those are collector’s items. I still need to find a turntable for all those old vinyls my grandfather passed down in his will.”
Silence takes hold of the conversation as their reminiscing dies down, allowing thoughts of guilt for eavesdropping to worm their way into my mind. Shouldn’t I at least leave them to their lunch... dinner?
Maybe I’m getting paranoid with what they may talk about. What would happen if Akira told Tetsuo about the nights I’ve spent at her house? I grimace just imagining such a thing.
It feels like a solid minute has passed before Akira returns with “why don’t we do things like that anymore?”
“What do you mean?” Tetsuo responds.
“Just, things together, you know? We don’t go to the movies, we don’t out with friends, and we only have dinner every once in a blue moon.” Akira states, the dull edge of disappointment taking hold of her tone. “We used to spend hours on the phone just planning things out, and then lately it’s like things have gone dead.”
“Akira, we’ve talked about this before.” Tetsuo remarks with a dry tone. “I’m a lot busier than I was when we got together. I’m trying really hard for that vice chairman spot, and this is the only way I’m going to get it.”
An exasperated groan sounds in response. “Tetsuo, be realistic now. You just got promoted to your current position, what, fourteen months ago? Right around the first time we met. Why are you trying to climb to the top in such a short time?”
“Am I not allowed to be successful?” Tetsuo replies in disbelief.
“You know that’s not what I’m saying.” She argues, the sound of a wooden ‘clack’ making it seem as if she just slammed down her lunchbox. “You’re wearing yourself thin. It feels like no matter how hard I try to help, you just drift further and further away.”
Her words are met only with a short sigh. “This is what I have to do, Akira. You’ve worked in the business world long enough to understand what it takes.”
Akira’s reply is a simple “I know” followed by a long pause. “I just don’t understand why it has to be like this.”
“It’ll get better once I’ve got the job. Until then, we’re just gonna have to grin and bear it.” Tetsuo states with a consoling voice, as if trying to soften the impact.
“Yeah. I guess that’s the only option, huh?” Akira mutters, dropping any arguments that may have been forming in her head.
Another silence follows as they chip away at their meals, a strange tension hanging in the air over their conversation.
I always assumed all the issues stemmed from their arguments, but now it feels like there’s something deeper between them. Lilly mentioned something like this, I think.
Akira and Tetsuo were a genuine couple -- a man and a woman hopelessly in love with one another. They did everything together; went on dates whenever possible, spent meals only in each others’ company, even went to extremes just to get their work schedules in a convenient position.
That’s just not the case anymore, though. It doesn't take a pessimist to see that.
I hate to admit it, but I don’t even know whose side I would pick. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and he isn’t the bad guy for expecting Akira to be supportive of something like that, but he seems to be a little obsessed with the promotion in question. So much so that he’s willing to forego spending time with his companion just to garner favor from the guys in charge.
That’s what rubs me the wrong way. He has a woman who could be considered one in a million, and he’s practically sidelining her because he feels that his current job isn’t good enough and all of his efforts are better focused on getting a position that will no doubt carry more responsibilities and absorb even more of his time.
The silence between them lasts so long that I’m on the verge of getting back to my work before Akira starts on a new subject. “Anyway, I came by to see if you were free after work.”
A short pause follows, probably waiting for Tetsuo to swallow his food before he responds with “tonight? Not gonna be able to do anything until nine at the very earliest.”
“Nine sounds good. Think you’d be up for a jazz concert? There’s a group I’m really into playing tonight and I know you’d fall in love with them if you heard them play.” Akira says.
“Oh really now?” Tetsuo asks, his interest piqued. “Have you already got tickets set up?”
“Well, it’s a free concert at the jazz club. I was thinking we could meet up at-“
“Hey, hey, whoa, whoa, hey.” He interjects, cutting Akira off mid-sentence. “You know how much I can't stand places like that.”
“Yeah, I know.” Akira says as if it were something unimportant. “C’mon, I’m not gonna be drinking. Other people are going to be having a good time, but I don’t see why you can’t just ignore something like that.“
Their voices are like clockwork, as if it were a discussion they’ve had over and over again.
“I just can't get caught up in those kinds of places.” Tetsuo returns in a calm voice.
“Why don’t you just give it a chance? I’ve been asking you to come with me for concerts every month for the past year and you always say no. How do you know you’re going to hate it if you won’t even try?”
“Because I know what happens to other people when they get sucked into it.” He argues, the sound of a stark 'slam' following his words. “All it takes is one slip-up while your boss is there and boom, all your work is down the drain in an instant.”
“Tetsuo, that's...” Akira trails off as she tries to wrap her head around such a concept. “What’s wrong with having a drink after work? I can’t think of anyone that would frown on such a thing besides you.”
He groans at the reply. “It doesn’t matter how ‘accepted’ it is. It looks bad when professionals like us cut loose in public like that. My father lost his job that way.”
Akira pauses for a moment to gather her thoughts before countering with “Tetsuo, things must be different for your side of the business world because I’ve gone drinking with my boss before -- multiple times, in fact. It doesn’t matter as long as you keep ahold of yourself.”
“And that’s the problem. Why give myself the chance to slip up? All it takes is one lapse in self-control and suddenly I’m prancing around like a table dancer trying to quote movies I haven’t seen in ten years.” Tetsuo remarks, an edge to his voice as if he were speaking from experience.
“So… don’t drink, then?” Akira jabs, unable to understand why Tetsuo has such a hard time grasping the concept. “You’re a twenty-seven year old man. You have enough sense to say no.”
“Not even once.” Tetsuo asserts. For some reason I get the image of him crossing his arms and shaking his head in an exaggerated manner. “My father was vice president of public relations for a record label in Kyoto. All it took was one night of drinking for decades of climbing the corporate ladder to come crashing down on him.”
“That’s public relations.” Akira replies with a blunt tone. "Of course they’re going to slam him for letting himself get out of control like…”
Her voice trails off as she cuts her response short and mulls over the thought, ultimately giving up the argument. “Alright, it’s no big deal. I’ll see if I can find some friends to go with.”
They eat in silence for a short while longer before Tetsuo speaks up. “I’m sorry it has to be like this, but I don’t want to wind up like my father, you know? Maybe you could show me a recording of that band you were talking about later.”
“Yeah, I could do that.” Akira replies, trying to sound more upbeat. “At least you liked the food, right?”
He gives a short chuckle at the notion. “The food was amazing, although I have yet to taste something that beats those dumplings you make.”
The sound of papers shuffling and trash being collected in a plastic bag follows as they finish their meal.
“Stop it, I’m not that great of a cook.” Akira counters in a playful tone, the sting of the previous arguments already faded away. “Anyway, I should probably get going. Your break is almost over, right?”
And it would seem that my cue to leave has arrived.
Tetsuo’s response doesn’t catch my ear as I jump away from the door and into the cleaning room to begin unloading the autoclave, which finished about five minutes ago. It isn’t long before I notice that I forgot to put on gloves before beginning work today, so I decide to head back to the storage r-
“Hey Hisao, what’s up?”
I’m met with a greeting as soon as I step out into the open, having to pause for a moment to collect myself after having been caught unawares by the blonde woman across the room.
“Got a ton of work to do. A major experiment happened upstairs and there’s a huge mess I’ve gotta take care of.” I reply, trying not to seem suspicious.
It feels strange talking to her now, knowing that I’ve confessed to a stupid thing that haunts and guilts me the more I see her together with her current partner.
“That sounds pretty heavy.” Akira comments, her arms crossed as she shifts her weight from one leg to the other. “You doing anything after work?”
Well, I’ve got a bit of studying to do, but…
Is she really asking me? This is for that jazz club thing tonight that Tetsuo refuses to go to, right?
My voice shakes a little despite my trying to remain calm. “Not really, no. Why do you ask?”
I can’t say no to this.
“You remember that place we went to back when you got lost in the city?” She begins.
For some reason I’m unable to resist answering with “the arcade?” having to maintain full control of my facial features to keep from laughing.
“Nah, the jazz club.” Akira answers, tilting her head as she tries to remember the few hours at the arcade. “There’s a concert tonight being played by a couple of guys I haven’t seen in a while, and I was hoping you could come. I was thinking of asking Lyra and a few others to come too, but I doubt they’d be willing to make time for it.”
I pause to think of a response that isn’t jumping up and down and yelling ‘yes’ like a schoolgirl, settling on “sure. I might have to leave early to catch the bus before it stops running, though.”
Far too often have I depended on public transportation and been disappointed. I’d love to stay the night at Akira’s place again, but I don’t want to chance anything in case Tetsuo gets second thoughts and decides to surprise us at the club.
More importantly, this is a chance to get an answer out of her. I’m not going to be left in the dust; a refusal is far better than not knowing at all.
And a refusal is all I’m going to get. I’m certain of it. What’s she going to do? Ditch the relationship she’s trying so hard to patch up so she can run around with a guy who’s still in high school? What was I thinking, telling myself that I could do better than Tetsuo? Even if I could, there are too many other factors that stand as equally impossible hurdles.
Akira waves her hand in front of my face. "Hey, you in there? It's cool if you say no, I know you've got some tests to cram for. Finals aren't things to be taking lightly."
“I've been studying enough. It'd be rude to turn down an offer like that anyway.” I reply, crossing my arms.
She's right about the studying, and I have no doubts that the only things awaiting me are pain, regardless of how much I may be expecting it. This is something I have to face, though. I can't take being denied by the girl I've come to love, but not knowing how she feels is something that stings a lot deeper than a simple rejection.
My mind is firm and made up. I've been ready for this since the morning I woke up from that hangover nestled against her. “Should I meet you there?”
“It’s only a few blocks from here.” Akira says, choosing to accept my answer rather and watch out for my academics. “I’ll try to get there at nine. Is that alright?”
“Fine with me.” I answer, trying to keep an excited smile from taking hold of my face.
“Great. I’ll see you there, then.” She affirms, waving goodbye as she continues through the other hallway and down the stairs.
It happened in less than a minute. I know I said she keeps me on my toes, but that was a little ridiculous. Still, I can’t complain, even if there’s a strange guilt clinging to my thoughts now that I’ve seen Akira and Tetsuo in a state that isn’t ‘annoyed with each other’s existence.’
Am I a nuisance here?
I don’t know what to think at this point. Part of me wants to believe that there’s no chance of them being able to stick together for much longer if each of their sweet moments goes sour – but at the same time, can I really continue down this path?
I’m not going to willingly or knowingly sabotage their relationship. There are people in the world who can do things like that without destroying themselves in the process and I am not one of them. I still maintain the thought that I could make Akira happier; but as it stands, I’m in no position to do so.
Thinking about this is something better saved for later, though. I’m not going to be able to get out of here by nine if I don’t get to work. First off, I should go to the supply closet and grab a pair of gloves – maybe stick a few more in my pocket so I don’t have to waste time when the first ones get used beyond their capabilit-
“Hey Nakai, got a moment?” Tetsuo’s voice asks, the sound of which causes me to jump. It’s only now that I notice he’s leaning out of the office doorway.
Why do people keep springing out at me like that? It’s going to kill me one of these days!
“Sure, what do you need, Mr. Shuugetsu?”
“I’m just a little curious; could you hear us over in the break room?” He asks, glancing around the hall as if embarrassed by the thought.
Over in the break room, huh? Yes. Because that’s where I was. Not by the doorway. No sir.
“I heard, well, a little bit.” I state, unsure of how to answer.
He shakes his head as a small sigh escapes from his mouth. “I’m not sure what all you heard, but I’m sorry if we said anything to bother you.”
“What are you apologizing for? I think I heard some arguing, but it was hard to pick out anything specific.” I reply.
That’s not technically incorrect.
“Because I know how uncomfortable everyone gets when we start to bicker like that.” Tetsuo confesses, stepping out into the hall and leaning against the frame of the door. “Things aren’t going too smoothly, I’m afraid.”
What’s this all of a sudden?
“It happens to everyone, I’m sure.” I respond, trying to think of something to say between the waves of confusion in my brain.
Why would he say something like that to me? Is it because he knows I’m one of Akira’s friends?
“It’s just something we’re going through at the moment, and I can’t do anything to help without everything else crashing around me.” Tetsuo replies with another sigh, closing his eyes as he tries put the right words together.
And that’s when my reason for pursuing Akira comes rushing back into my head.
I’m not going to make accusations and I’m not going to decry him for the choices he’s made – but love is something you feel for someone when you’re willing to give up everything for them. I’m young, naïve, and inexperienced, but even someone like me knows that. If Tetsuo isn’t willing to give up everything for her, then doesn’t Akira deserve someone who is?
The terrible feelings won’t go away even if I try to justify it like that, but Akira deserves to be happy. That’s all there is to say about it. Anything else is irrelevant.
I pause to put together an appropriate answer. “There's no way to get everything? You seem like a pretty reasonable guy, sir.”
“Not really, no.” He answers bluntly. “I care about Akira, I really do. There's no woman in the world who can make me smile like she does, but...”
He mulls the thought over, scratching his chin as if to help himself think faster. “I care about my position as well. I come from a very business-oriented family, and I feel that I'll never be able to make my father proud if I can't make it to the top.”
“So you're prioritizing your career, then?” I insinuate, already well aware of his position.
“It's so evil when you phrase it like that.” Tetsuo says with a disappointed look, more for himself than at my statement. “That is one way to put it, though.”
“I'm not trying to ignore or disregard Akira, I just... I dunno, I feel like I'll be a better man for her if I work my way up the ladder.” He adds with a downcast glance. “It's just not something you can just 'do'. You don't go from managing eight guys' paychecks to running an entire corporation in one night. That's just not how it works.”
He wants to be the CEO of a company – the head honcho, the guy who gets paid a nine-figure salary with monthly bonuses, so he can impress his family and Akira?
Isn't that a rather large goal to be taking on when you're only, what, twenty-seven years old? I'm not even going to consider the responsibilities and workload of someone in that position.
“It's not my place to say, but don't you think you should put your love life above your job?” I comment before quickly adding “not that there's anything wrong with having ambition, of course.”
A short 'hah’ precedes his reply. “Yeah, the only thing I've got too much of is ambition” he says with a halfhearted smile. “I just can't stop, though. Akira and I have both worked in this world for plenty of time and I know that deep down, she understands.”
Oh yeah, she understands alright.
She understands that you're a workaholic and a moron who doesn't know that he's going steady with a woman who is annoyed to no end by your choices. At least, that's what I hope she believes because it's easy enough for me to see it.
It's such a one-sided deal. She arranges the dates, brings him food while he’s at work, and now she has to blindly support him while he goes rampaging through business politics because he wants a bigger desk and his parents won't approve of him until he makes it there?
What about Akira? What does she get out of all this?
“If that's what you believe is best then go for it, Mr. Shuugetsu.” Are the only words I'm able to offer that wouldn't consist of passive-aggressive mumbling.
“Thanks for understanding, Nakai.” Tetsuo returns before standing up straight and correcting his tie. “There's still enough work to knock Atlas on his rear waiting upstairs, though, so don't go relaxing just yet.”
“Yes sir.” I respond with a bow before resuming my duties.
I don't know what I'll do. It's unknown whether or not I'll be able to keep my mouth shut in the future either.
At the very least I should try to focus my thoughts on other matters. I'm going to the jazz club with Akira tonight, so I still have a few things to look forward to. Hopefully that'll be a good way to cheer both of us up, since it didn't seem like Akira was having too good of a day either.
Last edited by Thanatos02
on Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:37 pm, edited 6 times in total.