After some intermittent conversation between Hisao and me, Suzu woke up, finished as much of her food as she could, and then generously gifted me the remainders, which I scarfed down pretty quickly. We walked back to Yamaku together before heading to our separate rooms, at which point, my legs tired and my stomach full, I went straight to bed. And now I’m awake again - unfortunately, it’s the middle of the night, which can only mean one thing.
Sure enough, my absent left hand lets off steady, wrenching pain. On top of that, my legs are aching; of course, after the track meet yesterday, that’s a given. That alone makes the prospect of a late-night run unappealing. Thinking about the meet, however, reminds me of eating with Suzu and Hisao, which reminds me of an alternative.
I reach out with my right hand and fumble around for my phone. Finally touching it, and subsequently grabbing and opening it, I type out a quick message while grinding my stump into the bed beneath me. Luckily, Hisao’s name is still at the top of the “Recent Recipients” list, so sending the message to him takes no time at all.
<Hey, are you up?>
My phone happily lets me know that it has sent my message, and then I sit there and remember the downside to this method. It will take Hisao some time to reply, and in that time, I’m left alone with my thoughts, and more importantly, my pains. What if he doesn’t reply at all? How long should I wait before giving up? Or should I send another message in case he missed the first one? How long should I wait before doing that?
In the time it takes me to start worrying about these things, Hisao has typed his own message, and my phone buzzes excitedly.
<I am now. Phantom pains?>
Another long pause, though this time without worrying about whether Hisao’s awake or not.
<Well, if you want to talk a bit to take your mind off them, you can come over.>
<Thanks, be right there.>
I toss on my sweater and shoes, then start making my way outside.
Hopefully I can talk to Hisao for a bit until my pains die down, then come back and sleep. And if that doesn’t work, I can always run for a bit once I leave.
Doing my best not to make too much noise, I knock on Hisao’s door by slapping my palm against it, instead of my knuckles. It makes a much softer ‘thump’, but shortly afterwards I hear Hisao stirring inside, and then the door is open.
Hisao motions me into his room, where the lights are already on. I walk in and sit down on his bed, and just like last time, he sits down to my right. He looks pretty tired, and I’m wondering if he’s really up for a late-night conversation, but he sighs and starts talking.
“I’m a little worried, you know.”
“I worry about you running in the middle of the night.”
Well, that’s... unexpected, but also not completely surprising. “What about it worries you?”
He looks at me strangely, as if I’ve missed something obvious, but softens up a bit before speaking. “I worry that you’ll get caught. Do you know what the school would do if it caught you?”
Although I’ve thought about it a bit, I don’t really know, partly because there isn’t really a good way of finding out. “No.”
“Oh.” He fidgets a bit. “Well... neither do I. But it can’t be good - if they figure out that you’ve been doing this for so long, they might even expel you!”
“No, they wouldn’t go that far.” After saying that, though, I’m forced to amend it with “... probably.”
“But is it worth the risk? Is it really worth the chance that Suzu and I will never see you again?”
I’ll admit that it sounds pretty bad when he puts it that way. Sigh. “Well, fine, even so, what do you want me to do about it? I can’t just lay awake all night in pain.”
“Well... You can always come here to talk. Hell, if you told Suzu, she’d...” He pauses. “Actually, you probably couldn’t wake her up at this hour, huh.”
I shake my head. “Nope.”
“Okay, so you can’t go to Suzu. But seriously, you can always come here, my room’s completely open to you.”
I chuckle a little, and Hisao raises an eyebrow. “A few weeks ago, I’m pretty sure the idea of your room being ‘open’ was a foreign concept.”
He grimaces, then nods. “Yeah. Sorry again about all that.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s in the past.” This doesn’t seem to comfort Hisao much, but I decide not to dwell on it. “Anyways, if you’re willing to go to the trouble of having me here, then I guess I’m willing to give it a shot.”
I do my best to smile reassuringly. “Yeah - if my late-night running bothers you that much, then I’ll try to stop.”
It takes him a bit, but Hisao finally settles on “Okay.” With that, however, he’s out of things to say, and silence descends upon us.
This reminds me that, despite his invitation and good intentions, Hisao is tired. He was up last night with insomnia, but he said that I woke him up tonight - I actually missed that when I was reading his texts, but realized it on the way over. If that’s the case, though, then it’s easy to see why he might not be talkative. He's clearly pretty fatigued; his eyes are half-closed, his hair is messy, and of course, he’s still quiet.
While I’m preoccupied with Hisao, my phantom pains sneak up on me, and a few stray itches and tingles quickly ramp up into burning pain. I lurch forward, doubling over, then grab onto my stump with my right hand, trying to stifle the sensation. This, combined with a small grunt through gritted teeth, quickly grabs Hisao’s attention.
My eyes are clenched shut, but I can hear Hisao’s voice waver as he asks “Are you okay?”
I just about get a feel for the pain, and decide to take this opportunity to calm Hisao. I reach out my right hand to wave him off, and manage to get out “It’s fine, just give me-”
At this point, the burning seems to feed back on itself, and my whole body clenches. My mouth opens, but my brain retains just enough control to keep me from releasing the scream I can feel bottled in my lungs, scratching at my throat. I focus on driving every muscle I can into exhaustion, the dull aches in my legs now just simple memories of happy times past.
After a few moments like this, things begin to clear. My muscles relax, my lungs start breathing again, and the burning in my left hand drops down to a low buzzing. I slowly come back to my senses, sitting back up and opening my eyes. My right hand, oddly enough, feels strange now.
I look over to see it grabbing Hisao’s shoulder, presumably where it landed after the heavy wave of pain. Stranger still, though, is Hisao’s hand, placed on top of my own. Before I can think too much about it, though, Hisao sees that I’m feeling better, blushes, and removes his hand, leaving mine to slide off of his arm.
I take a deep breath, trying to forget what just happened, and to ignore the thin layer of sweat left on me. I let my torso fall backwards onto Hisao’s bed as I exhale, my head bouncing for a bit before coming to a rest. Hisao looks at me worriedly, but once he sees that I’m doing so out of exhaustion and not pain, his look softens.
“That was... pretty bad, huh.”
I try to nod, but it doesn’t do much in this position. “Yeah.”
“Is it like that every time? It didn’t seem that bad last night.”
I sigh. “It’s not always that bad, it’s just kind of random. After that, though, I don’t think it’ll flare up for the rest of the night.”
“Flare up...” He thinks for a moment. “But it still hurts now?”
Well, I was trying my best to ignore it, but there’s definitely still some light pin pricks and dull buzzing. “Yeah, a bit.”
Hisao is quiet for a bit, presumably taking everything in. I use this time to appreciate his bed. It’s pretty much the same as mine, but right now I care more about location than quality, and Hisao’s bed is right here. I could almost close my eyes and drift off... Probably best that I don’t, though.
“Can I... Can I see it?”
I’m not really sure what he means, so I sit up and give him a questioning look. “‘It’?”
“Your, uh, your...” He makes some strange motions to his left wrist with his right hand as he tries to find the right words, and just as I realize what he means, he settles on “Under your bandages.”
“My stump.” He’s a bit uncomfortable with the word, but nods. Well, it’s a bit of a strange request, I’ll give him that. “It’s really not anything interesting, just an arm without a hand.”
“I know, but... Seeing you in so much pain, and the idea that it’s all connected to one part of you, it made me curious.” He then hurriedly adds “But if you don’t want to, that’s okay too, I’m just wondering.”
“No, it’s fine, I guess. Just gimme a sec.” I shift my seating a bit, then untuck and unravel the bandage around my wrist, giving way to the smooth skin underneath, which seems so far removed from the dull pain it’s currently associated with. I hold it up for Hisao to see, doing my best not to twitch at the occasional twinge of pain. I’m not sure what exactly Hisao expects to see, but I doubt he’ll be surprised.
Sure enough, his face is emotionless as he moves his eyes in small saccades, scanning my left wrist. After looking it over, and evidently seeing all he’s going to see, he reaches out towards my stump, but stops just short of actually making contact.
“Can I touch it?”
I was under the impression that he was going to, and didn’t think too much of it, but it somehow seems stranger now that he’s spoken it aloud. Still, I quickly decide that there’s nothing wrong with it. He’s just curious, after all - this is probably what makes him such a quick learner, or something like that. Besides, maybe it’ll help take my mind off the pain. “Sure.”
He slowly moves his hand just a bit closer, until his fingertips lightly brush against me. It’s an odd, kind of tickling sensation, but it’s not bad, just kind of weird. I close my eyes as he moves his hands a bit, feeling across the rounded end of my arm. He seems to mostly just be tracing out the shape, confirming what his eyes told him - that is, until he gets closer to my wrist.
He stops moving as he reaches the thin, almost invisible scar left by the stitches after the actual amputation. After staying still for what seems like quite a while, he gently yet firmly presses his fingers into it, getting a better feel for the small dent in the skin.
Strangely, it feels like he isn’t just blindly feeling along the scar - he knows where it should
be. He even manages to find the tiny dots nearby where stitches once held purchase, a long time ago. It makes me wonder how he knows so much - does he have a scar of his own, or just general medical knowledge? Maybe someone in his family has something similar? I’ll have to ask him at some point, when he’s done.
After sizing up my stump and feeling around the scar for a bit, he lets go. I keep my eyes closed for just a moment, but in that time, I notice my pains again. They were there the whole time, but I managed to ignore them, for a short while - I guess Hisao really did manage to take my mind off of things.
I open my eyes, return my left arm to its resting position at my side, and stuff my unraveled bandage into my pocket - I’m not going to spend the time putting it back on now.
I look over at Hisao to see him looking at me. “Thanks.”
“No problem - having something to focus on helped block out the pain for a bit.”
His eyes light up for a moment, though that enthusiasm is quickly recaptured by drooping eyelids. “Oh - so it helped?”
“Well, it didn’t stop the pain, but it certainly took my mind off of it. So yeah, I’d say it helped.” The dull throbbing to my left reminds me that any respite was only temporary, but still.
Actually, I’m almost tempted to ask Hisao to try again, just to keep the pain at bay. I also want to ask him how he knows so much about scars. But Hisao is seriously running on empty, and I don’t really want to keep him up any longer. I guess this will have to do.
I get up and zip my sweater back up. “You should get some rest.”
“Will you be able to?”
Good question. There’s still some pain there, but a lot less than before - that horrible wave of pain from before seems to have been the worst of it. “Yeah, I think I’ll be okay.”
“Okay.” I turn around, put up the hood of my sweater, and begin to head for the door when Hisao stops me. “Miki?”
I turn back around to face him. “Hmm?”
“Just... Just to put me at ease, will you promise not to do this whole midnight running stunt again?” I shuffle a bit, uneasily. “You don’t have to come here, but don’t put yourself in danger, okay?” Don’t have to- Wait, no, it’s nice coming here instead, I’m- “You’re not invincible, remember?”
That manages to get a chuckle out of me, and Hisao smiles as well. “Alright, Hisao. I promise.”
“Thank you, Miki.” I nod, then turn to leave, and Hisao calls after me. “Good night.”
“Night!” I say over my shoulder as I open the door. I do Hisao the courtesy of flipping the lightswitch as I leave, then slowly close his door, so that it doesn’t make a sound. The last thing I need is to run into the guy across the hall again.
Lying in bed, I can feel myself on the edge of sleep, but... not quite. Some lingering pins and needles dance around my stump, keeping my brain from shutting down. I know from experience that I can’t do much about it, and at this point, I’m too tired to try. Until, that is, I have an interesting thought.
Back in Hisao’s room, he managed to take my mind off of my pains. If I could do that again, just for a bit, it might let me get to sleep. I slowly move my hand over to my stump, then grab hold of it.
Okay, no, too tight. I let go, then try to be gentler. After only just making contact with my fingertips, I move them slowly, rubbing the skin slightly - now it itches. Scratch that.
Clearly I’m doing something wrong here. I close my eyes and try to remember how Hisao did it. Gently, yes, and slowly; I can distinctly remember these things. He started further back, then kind of worked forward, his fingers around-
Suddenly, my stomach feels a bit uneasy, and I open my eyes. After a few seconds staring at my empty room, I realize that it’s just butterflies, as the feeling moves up and into my chest. Before I can consider the sensation any further, though, my eyelids grow heavy, and I gladly give up being awake.
Previous: Structural Integrity
~ Next: Coelliptic