--- Chapter 7, Part 1: Friends
The bus is late.
It’s amazing that the old thing still runs, so I’m not that surprised that it’s late. I’m no stranger to waiting at this bus stop for it. But in the rare occurrence that it does actually get here on time, I make it a habit to always get here early. You only have to miss the bus once or twice to learn that lesson.
Emi and I aren't being very talkative. I mean… we’re just standing here at the bus stop, trying our damned hardest not to look at the other person. And here I was, hoping that the time we spent together last night would at least get us onto some form of even footing. At least as far as getting along for two days. But it’s pretty obvious that Emi’s dead –set on keeping the dead airwaves between us of the last year going. It’s not like I wanted to ask her out again. I mean, I kind of do. Part of me, at least. And that part is currently slamming against the insides of my boxers, begging for a chance to be let out. Hang in there little buddy. I can’t just whip you out at the bus stop.
Emi’s sitting down on the bench behind me, chin in her hand, music blaring into her ears again. I've currently preoccupied myself with staring at the school across the street from us. It’s Saturday afternoon, so there are still a bunch of teenagers milling around the grounds for clubs and stuff. Well, I assume. I never really stuck around for club activities when I was still in school. I didn't even try to join any clubs when I transferred into Yamaku at the start of my second year.
That’s the school I went to before Yamaku. I only went there for a year though. But that is the school where I developed an unhealthy schoolboy crush on Sachi Watanabe, the new girl. Where Nobou Maehara and I argued over death-matches between anime characters and then he punched me until I agreed with his decision. Where I put spent more time drawing potential giant robots than paying attention in class. Where I punched some second year in the crotch for stealing my glasses. And that's also the place where that second year shoved my head into a toilet for punching him in the crotch. The place where I tried to beat up Nobou when he mentioned that he liked Sachi too. There are a lot of memories in that school.
I hate that place.
Okay. I can’t take this silence anymore. And not just because Emi keeps stealing glances at me. Not because she’s stuck her tongue out at me three times. But because that horrible place is just looming there in front of me. I shiver. It’s too cold. Or at least my whole spine feels frozen. And that certainly isn’t from the wind that’s been sticking around since my cloud watching this morning with Rin. That’s just my anxiety creeping up my back again, ready to throttle me in its icy death grip for the rest of the day or at least until I’m left as a sobbing mess on the floor. Or I take my medication. Whatever comes first, I guess.
No more silence. I have to talk to someone now. Anything to keep my mind off the idea of burning that place to the ground. So I turn to the one other person at the bus stop with me. It’s not like I have much of a choice right now. Emi notices that I’m staring at her twenty seconds later.
“Nothing. It’s just weird to see you here,” I shrug. “I planned to take you here after we graduated, you know.”
Emi’s annoyed look is replaced with a small frown. That’s unwanted territory for our conversation it seems. She turns to the school across the street from us, hiding her face from me.
“Is that your old school?”
“Yeah. That’s where I went to school before Yamaku.” Just a little bit under one measly year. I rub the stump of my arm. “For most of the year, at least.”
“I always thought that your school was some old wooden building.” Emi admits.
“Yeah. Like those old schools they always show on the television out in the country.”
“Oh. Well, the other two towns in the area send their kids here, so they sort of gave us a bit of an update.” I take a seat on the bench, making sure to keep a fair amount of space between my ex-girlfriend and me. “It’s still not a very big school. And a lot of the stuff inside is pretty old. I’m pretty sure the desks were made in the early eighteen-hundreds.”
“Oh. That’s cool.” Nothing about Emi’s tone remotely suggests that’s what she’s thinking. Hell, even I think that’s boring.
“So what’ve you been up to since you graduated?” Change of topic.
“Huh?” Emi keeps staring at the school.
“You know. Since I asked Rin last night what she was up to. It’s polite to ask you too, right?”
“I’m uh… staying at home with my Mom.” Emi’s voice wavers as the words come out. Don’t tell me she’s uncomfortable talking about this too.
“Oh. You’re looking for a college or something though right?” I mean, she can’t just be mooching off her mother.
“Not really. I sort of bombed the entrance exams for the one the Nurse picked out for me.”
“The nurse picked a college for you? Why didn't you pick your own?”
“I didn't feel like it.” Her voice is getting edgy again. I’m pushing it. But this is far too interesting to pass up. Emi bombed her entrance exams. Which means… OH. OH MAN.
“You’re a ronin?” I don’t even try to hide the laugh that accompanies that.
“S-Shut your stupid face, Katsuo.” Emi turns to me, fury flashing across her face.
“S-Sorry. I just didn't think you’d bomb an entrance exam.” I scratch the back of my neck. “What’d you write for that career evaluation thing? It's tailored to help pick you pick potential colleges. Didn't you pick any from that list you got back or whatever?”
Emi shrugs. “I didn't get any, really. I wrote pirate.”
“You what?” I cup my hand to my ear. I heard her just fine. I just want to rub in how stupid her answer was.
“I… I put down that I wanted to be a pirate.” Emi crosses her arms over her chest and hunches forward. Is she pouting? Oh my god, she’s pouting. I once again do nothing to stop myself from laughing.
“You put down that you wanted to be a pirate? You’re joking, right?”
“No.” She sounds like she’s bathing in embarrassment. Hell, I would be too, especially since I can’t stop laughing at her. I’m not even trying to stop myself either.
“Emi… That’s stupid! That’s really stupid!”
“You told me you wrote down that you wanted to pilot a giant robot!” She stands up. Oh man. Emi is pissed. She’s beyond pissed. She’s livid. She’s embarrassed and I’m just pushing her buttons by laughing at her. But… this is just priceless. This is totally something I can lord over her for the rest of her life. And hell, it’s making me feel so much better about my shitty choices over the last year.
“Emi! I was joking! I wouldn't actually put that down! That’s stupid! That’s like writing that I want to be a superhero or…” I can’t manage to get the rest out through my choking laughter. Emi shoves me with both hands. She’s pretty strong for being so tiny, but I only stumble back a few feet. I’m still laughing.
“I should have just stayed at your stupid house!”
I hold up a hand and slowly let my chuckling wink out of existence. Okay. Okay. Keep it together, Katsuo. Don’t start laughing again.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry! That’s just… Oh boy.” I wipe a few tears from the corners of my eyes.
“I can’t believe I agreed to come with you. This was a stupid idea.” Emi turns away from me again, arms crossed over her chest. Is she trying to give me the cold shoulder or is she just goading me on again? The hilarity drains from me when I realize that I've been laughing at Emi’s failed attempts at getting into college and doing something with her life.
Shit. That’s pretty mean, I guess. I wouldn't blame her for being just a tad upset with me. She sits down on the bench again and glares at the sidewalk.
“Why’d you agree to come with me anyway?” There. An attempt at changing the conversation. Let’s just forget the last few minutes, alright Emi?
“Well I wasn't going to stay there. Your fat ass was the only choice I had.”
Well I’m glad that you’re taking this opportunity to stab me in the gut there. I sigh and run my hand over my mouth. I’m done with this. Okay. I can’t take another fat-ass comment from her. I’m done with sucker-punching each other at any opening we get.
“Look. Can we just drop this?”
“This.” I wave my hand between the two of us. “This crappy air that’s flowing between us. We said we’d play nicely and we've just been taking cheap shots at each other the whole time.” Well, mostly you, Emi. I’ve been pretty damn nice, considering everything. Well, okay. Except laughing at your complete failure about a minute ago.
“I will be the perfect gentleman if you stop calling me fat. It’s been a year. I think it’s time we stop acting like children and just accept that we hurt each other.”
The girl sitting down just stares at me. Emi’s expression changes rapidly from mild annoyance to, I assume, being shocked at my choice of words and then to just pure, unfiltered outrage. Emi suddenly right there in front of me and shoves her finger into my chest. Okay. I’ve apparently said the wrong thing. I can actually see the steam coming out of her ears.
“Accept that we hurt each other? That we hurt each other?” I didn’t know something that small could be so loud. Emi is actually shaking. I’ve seen her angry like this only once before and I know how that ended. I brace myself for the punch that I should have seen coming.
“What the hell do you think I did to you, Katsuo?”
Huh. No punch. Surprising.
What did you do to me?
Nothing. I guess. Hold on. Let me just… think about that for a second.
Yeah. There are a couple things I can mention, I think.
You shut me out of your life entirely, keeping every single detail about you to yourself. I had to practically interrogate you to find out what day your birthday fell on. And this was after we had started dating. You basically used me and held everything about yourself back. I get that there’s things people don’t want to talk about, but hell… I didn't even know your mom’s name until the day we broke up! How was I supposed to keep going in our relationship if I had nothing but… well, nothing? It’s just as bad as lying about everything! I fell in love with you and you gave me not a single scrap of emotional attachment back, as far as I’m concerned.
I know nothing about you, beyond what is obvious. All I really know about you for sure is that you like running, you lost your father in a car accident, your birthday is March 14th and Rin is your best friend. So yeah. I guess that’s how you hurt me.
You’re to blame for my total lack of courage and willingness to pursue the opposite sex. You’re the reason I locked myself in my room again, spending every waking second talking to other social rejects online and watching old movies, completely cutting myself off from the real world and face to face social interaction. You brought me out into the daylight and then shoved me back into my box when you were done with me.
Oh, and you fucking punched me in the jaw.
So I guess, yeah, we hurt each other.
Jesus. I'm venting to myself in my head. I'm becoming more like my mother every day.
But whatever, Emi. Live in your fantasy world. As long as it keeps you from being a complete bitch this weekend.
I realize that I’m digging my nails deep into my palm so hard that I’m pretty sure I’ll start bleeding if I keep it up. Emi’s just glaring at me. She’s waiting for me to open my mouth and say something else. Probably something stupid. That’s what she’s waiting for, isn’t it? Another chance to yell at me. I close my eyes.
Alright. Just hold your composure. You can totally do this, Katsuo. You’re going to win and you’re going to do it calmly and pleasantly. Well, maybe as pleasantly as one can be when telling his ex-girlfriend that she completely messed you up. Just be nice and calm and pleasant for another day and this can all be shoved into the back of your mind where it can fester as an aneurysm for years and years until you just drop dead in the middle of a shark fight. Just try not to concentrate on how even when Emi is pissed off, you want to rip her clothes off.
“Do you want me to apologize, Emi?” My voice is barely there. I’m not scared. I’m not even nervous. I’m just barely holding back a year of pain and rage behind this thin sheet of calm. Thank god it’s so damn quiet here. I’m not sure Emi would have heard me otherwise.
“You can’t just apologize for going behind my back like that.” Emi digs her finger even deeper into my sternum. It’s good that she thinks that though. Because I’m sure as hell not going to apologize for taking the only option I had left. She didn't want to open up to me. So I had to find everything out on my own. And all I wanted to know was her parents’ names. And maybe something about her past.
Okay. I wanted to know everything about her. I mean, I was totally crazy about Emi. And not knowing was slowly killing me. That’s understandable right?
“Then can you accept that I did it and move on?” I ask. With the look she’s giving me now, you’d think I’d told her that I’d just made out with Rin or something.
“Yeah. I went behind your back to find something out about you.” I gently wrap my fingers around her hand and move away from my heart. Her finger digging into me was starting to hurt. Also, I admit, I’m a bit scared she’ll rip my heart from my chest like a finishing move from Mortal Kombat. Or even better, Temple of Doom style.
KALI-MA! KAAAALLLIII MAAAAA!
“But it’s been a year. Why are you still angry? I’m sure there are a ton of guys interested in you that are just lining up the block for a chance to make you fall for them. So what does it matter what some stupid kid did to you in high school? ” I can’t believe I just said that. Those words actually manage to slip the knife right between my ribs and hit my heart in all the wrong places. Why do I do this to myself?
“So just drop it already. I mean I thought we’d have buried the proverbial hatchet last night, but you keep dropping the fat ass comments left and right.” Emi can’t even look at me anymore. Is she tearing up? I let go of her hand.
It’s hard to tell when I’m trying not to look at her. Seeing her cry would probably break me down into a million pieces since I’m still trying to figure out if I’m still that attracted to her or just lonely and… well, horny? Hey. Every guy is stupid enough to listen to his penis over his heart and his head every so often. And mine is getting pissed off at having its needs being neglected for so long. And I’m going to have to keep neglecting it this weekend. Sadly, for Mr. Penis, Mr. Brain and Mr. Heart have to win right now.
“So, until you leave tomorrow… Let’s try to just be friends. Hell, let’s just be civil with each other. I’m not asking you to go on a date with me. I’m not asking to get back together. You’re stuck here at my house with me for another day. I’m just asking that we tolerate each other or maybe even be genuinely nice, since we’re headed into public and all. Is that alright? Do you think you can do that?”
The bus, like a godsend, appears over the horizon. I stick my hand out to Emi, palm up. Emi looks up. Those are tears forming in the corners of her eyes. My knees want to give out from under me. Emi. I’m sorry that you had to find out that way, but I couldn’t be in the dark anymore. I understand that there had to be some things you didn’t want to talk about. Your accident, for one. And I wasn’t trying to find out about that. I mean, I certainly don’t like talking about mine. No one in my family does. But how can you just not tell anyone anything about yourself?
Emi. You’re still a complete stranger to me. You’re like a series of one night stands. I barely know you and I spent practically every day with you in my third year.
Emi lowers her head. She places her hand in mine.
“O-Okay. I’ll try.” Her voice still has a hint of that anger in it. But I guess that I took the wind out of her sails.
We shake on it.