I’ve had this dream before.
We're dancing. Lilly and I, in the middle of her room, her bags packed, ready to leave for Scotland tomorrow. There's some song playing on her radio, something in English. I can't understand a single lyric, but for some reason it makes me unbelievably sad. We're holding each other close, both of us fighting the urge to break down and cry. But we don't. Hell, maybe it'd be better if we did. But we don't and nothing can change that now. “Lilly, I-”
Before I can say anything, Lilly places a finger over my lips. “Just... Hisao, don’t say anything. Please.” Her voice shakes. “Don’t ruin this moment with words. This... This is how I want to remember us.” I hold her close and keep dancing, a tear forming in my eye.
The walls catch fire, as if some invisible force has lit them aflame, starting from the base and slowly moving upward. Neither of us react to the sudden conflagration. It’s as if nothing has changed. Everything is just fine in our little dream world.
I feel Lilly’s tears on my shirt. I have to tell her. There’s so much I want to say; how badly I want her to stay with me, how much I hate that she’s leaving, that she doesn’t have to go. But I can’t. I just can’t, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I scream at my counterpart, my lips just won’t move.
I’m watching us fall apart and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It’s like a train wreck, only so much more painful.
Two children pretending to be adults, right?
The song ends. We stop dancing and have a seat on her bed. She quickly dries her eyes, probably hoping I didn’t notice. We sit in silence as the room continues to burn around us. All hell is breaking loose and we just sit there, letting the fire consume everything.
“I heard the weather is supposed to be clear tomorrow...” You moron, talking about weather at a time like this. God, I’m stupid. I really am. Tell her, you fool! Tell her everything! Keep her from leaving! No matter how hard I think it, I just can’t get myself to tell her.
Everything starts to crumble. The walls tumble to the ground, her bed goes up in a puff of smoke and we look into each other's eyes. We know the end is coming. I lean in and kiss her on the lips, lightly, betraying every emotion I've had since this whole thing started, so dedicated to keep this charade going that I’d neglect to tell her the one thought I’ve had over the last few weeks, the one thing I’d give everything I have to tell her now:
Please, whatever you do, don’t get on that plane.
Stay with me.
A loud ringing invades my head, growing louder and louder, disrupting the entire scene until-
I bolt up, the ringing quickly shaking me from my sleep. Well, fuck. I know our couch is comfortable, but I didn’t think I’d pass out on it... The phone stops ringing. Shit.
I grab the phone and check the number, hoping it’s Lilly. Of course, it’s not. It’s... I don’t actually recognize the number. Hm. I quickly call them back.
“Hisao Nakai. The fuck is up, man?” A female voice. So familiar, but my sleep-addled brain prevents me from remembering exactly who it is.
“I'm sorry, who is this?” I mumble into the phone. Emi? No, too deep. Kenji? Sounds like something he'd say, but way too high-pitched for him. Shiz-okay, shut up brain.
“Really? I can’t believe you’ve already forgotten me, you gaylord.” Okay, that helps matters.
There’s only one person in this world who still uses that word. “Miki Miura. It’s been ages; what’s up?”
Miki and I became fast friends after Lilly left. She noticed me in class one day and decided her new mission in life was to cheer me up. Her and Hanako... They really helped me out back then. Since we moved, I kind of lost touch with Miki.
“Well, I thought I’d see how things were going. It’s been hell around here without you guys. There is literally NOTHING to do here. Bored outta my freakin’ mind. So what are you and Hanako up to lately?”
I quickly catch her up on the last few months. I grabbed a cheap apartment a while back. Nothing impressive, but it’s at least comfortable. Shortly after, I invited Hanako to stay with me. Turns out her government benefits dried up when she turned 18 and well, there’s no way I could let her stay on the streets.
We've both got steady jobs in retail, at least enough to pay our bills regularly. Life is... well, it's okay. The job has helped her a lot with her shyness and we both pull in more than enough to pay the bills. It’s nice, I guess.
“And what about Lilly? You two doing alright?”
The million dollar question. “I guess it’s okay. I miss her like crazy. She’s been kinda quiet lately, but she seems happy over there. I guess that’s all that matters, really. I keep asking her when she’s gonna come visit, but things are so hectic right now...”
That’s... Well, it’s close to the truth. Something’s been nagging at me for a while now, about the both of us. I figure I’m just being insecure, what with her being thousands of miles away and everything. She’s been quiet lately. I’m usually the one who has to call her, though sometimes I get lucky and she does the calling.
She’s also so cold lately. It’s like she’s an old friend, not my lover. Just someone she talks to to keep up appearances. It sucks, but... She’s busy over there, I guess. Trying to get settled in, working on getting in to a good college. She’s got a lot going on right now. I guess she’s just tired, right? We’re still in love and that’s what matters. Distance or not, I know things will work out.
I hear her sigh. “That’s great. I’d think with the long-distance thing, it’d be a lot tougher. Tell her I said hi, would ya?”
We continue to talk for a while, about life and such. She's doing fine, found a nice job working as a bartender on the weekends to pay for school. Wants to be a mechanic, of all things. I'd think you'd need both hands for it, but if anyone's tough enough to prove me wrong, it's Miki.
We promise to talk again soon, maybe hang out some time. After a few short goodbyes, we hang up.
Time for dinner, I guess. I wash up and get ready to cook as my phone rings. Again. This time, it IS Lilly. I sit down and flip the phone up. “Hey, Lilly! How's it going?”
“Fine, Hisao. How are you?” She sounds... tired, but maybe a bit more... hell, I dunno. Distressed? Exhausted? Confused? I can't pinpoint it. It is pretty early over there right now.
“I'm okay. You sound miserable, though. What's wrong?”
“I-I'm just tired. Don't worry about me. What about you? You sound exhausted. Have you been sleeping okay?”
I sigh. “Yes, Lilly.” Always the mother. “What about you? It's, what, 5 AM up there? Having trouble sleeping?”
She pauses. “No, no. Everything's fine. Just had to get up early, is all.” She's a good liar, but she's not THAT good. “I just wanted to make sure everything was alright. I haven't heard from you in a while, Hisao.”
She’s... She’s worried about me. That’s a good sign, I guess. I sigh. “I'm more concerned about you, honestly. We haven't been talking too much and I'm kinda worried something's been bothering you. You know you can tell me anything, Lilly. Any problem, no matter how small.”
“I love you, Lilly.”
“Lilly, you there?”
“I love you, Lilly.” More forceful, now.
All I can hear from the other side is her breath, heavy and ragged. Oh god -- she’s crying. “Lilly, I...”
No, not now. My hands are shaking, reaching for my head. Not now, not ever. I grip my hair. It all makes sense, I guess. This explains everything. I want to slam my fists into the table, I want to throw my phone across the room. I should’ve known. The unwillingness to call, the lack of contact, the short, empty talks with me --
I should’ve know when she stepped foot on that plane, we were through.
“Lilly,” My breath shakes, “When...?”
“W-Whatever do you mean, Hisao?” You can’t just come out and say it, Lilly? Hell, you never could. Not even in that room, as everything tumbled down around us... You still couldn’t tell me what you really wanted to say. Why you were really crying.
While the world burned down around us, you couldn’t say one simple thing to me, Lilly. And now here we are, paying for your mistake. For our mistakes.
“Don't make me say it, Lilly. You know what I mean.” She sobs hard, but is otherwise silent. “When did you...”
When did you stop loving me, Lilly?
“S-since I left, Hisao.” Her facade finally crumbles. I can hear her sobbing now on the other end. “I care about you. I really, truly do, but...” She pauses, seemingly to compose herself. “I wanted this to work. I tried, I really did, but I just can’t.” Another loud sob. “I just can’t do it, Hisao!”
“Lilly, we can make this work. I know we can. Things are just... It’s just rough right now, yeah! We’re busy people. You’re trying to get into school and I’m working half the time. Maybe if we make more time for each other, we could-”
I ramble on like an idiot. I can’t keep convincing myself that everything’s fine. It’s only now, as things topple over the brink, that I realize what should’ve been painfully true from the beginning.
“I'm sorry, Hisao.” she chokes out between sobs. “I think this is the end. I think we should stop. Stop this... Stop everything between us.”
How long has it been?
I’ve been sitting here for the past... Five minutes, according to my phone, just kind of thinking. It feels like it’s been hours.
Thinking back, it was so obvious that this was coming. “We’re just two children pretending to be adults”. Sounds about right, now that I think about it.
What could I have done?
Where did things go so wrong?
What can I do to salvage this?
Can I salvage this?
Why, after all this time? Why did it end this way?
And the most vexing quesiton of all: Why am I not crying?
That, above everything else, is what troubles me the most. I’m unbearably sad, but I’m not crying. I can’t cry. I have no clue why. It’s just... I don’t know, maybe I knew this was coming, even if I didn’t want to believe it.
We were together for such a short time before she left, but it felt like we’d known each other for years. We seemed perfect for each other. Despite that, despite how much we enjoyed every second of it, everything fell down around us in the end.
No matter how much I think about it, I can’t help but feel like every bit of it was my fault. Maybe if I’d told her how I felt, maybe if I’d asked her to talk to me before she left, things would have ended differently.
Only now does my dream really make sense. It was never about getting her to stay. It was about talking to her, telling her how I felt and addressing that one, huge problem we had, throughout the whole of our relationship: We never actually sat down and talked.
Everything was crumbling around me and I couldn’t just speak up. I couldn’t just talk to her about us, about her, about why things felt so weird between us. I was just so swept up in the romance of the whole thing, that I never considered the possibility: that she wasn’t as invested as I was.
And here I am, still staring at this phone, still completely incapable of letting everything go.
As I continue my introspective, I hear a door opening. Oh. That’s... That’s right. Hanako got off of work a bit ago.
“I’m home!” I hear from the hall. I stand up, unsure of what to do. Do I tell her? Do I just ignore it and go to bed? No, you idiot, that’s how we got here in the first place. Will Lilly tell her? Damn, this is confusing.
Hanako makes up my mind for me. Maybe it’s women’s intuition, or maybe I just look that haggard, but Hanako’s smile turns to a frown the moment she sees me.
“... Hisao? Are you okay?” She moves toward me, slowly at first, eventually ditching the groceries and rushing to my side. Hanako wraps her arms around my waist and looks at me with concern. “H-Hisao, what happened?”, she says again, this time with more vigor.
Oh... Okay, there we go. Now I’m crying.
My arms find their way around her back, clutching her to me. She’s the only thing I have left, now. I guess it’s just me and her, at least for the time being.
My head hits her shoulder and I just let it out. I tell her everything: my suspicions, the call with Miki and the events of the past few minutes. We sit down on the couch and she continues to listen as I pour my guts out to her. I’m... I’m damn lucky to have her.
We sit there like that for a while, just talking, with her listening and trying to get me to stop crying. Dinner is forgotten about. For now, all we have is each other. And I guess that’s all we need.
Hisao didn’t go to work the next day.
Or the next day.
Or today, for that matter.
According to our manager, he’s been absent four days now. In fact, I haven’t seen him leave his room since he went to bed a week ago. If he didn’t have a bathroom in there, I’d be seriously concerned for his welfare. Not that I’m not worried about him, mind you. In fact, I don’t think I’ve thought about much else but him since then.
I still remember that look on his face, the first time I saw him after that night...
I recall knocking on his door. I’d noticed that he hadn’t left for work and probably hadn’t eaten anything since the day before, so I fixed him a sandwich.
Anyway, I rapped on the door a few times and, after only hearing him grunt, I nudged the door in. “Hisao, I m-made you some lunch.” I took a few steps into the room, carrying a tray with a glass of water and a sandwich in with me.
No reply. I try again, thinking maybe he didn’t hear me. “Hey, a-are you hungry? I brought you some food.” That same grunt as before comes Hisao, still covered in a blanket and lying in the fetal position.
Finally, he turns to look at me and I see an empty man. His hair is disheveled, his expression completely blank and this look as if he’d lost the only thing he still cared about in his life; as if he’s completely lost the will to get out of bed, much less turn and look at me.
I left his food on the dresser and walked out, struggling not to start crying myself.
Since then, I’ve been bringing him food and trying to at least talk to him a bit. It’s about all I can do right now.
I’m worried it won’t be enough, though.
I still can’t decide what kills me more about this whole situation; that he’s in so much pain, or that I can’t help the man who’s helped me so much already. There’s no way I can repay him for taking me in after we both graduated, but I’d like to help him get over Lilly, or at least lift his spirits a bit.
Even now, hearing him mumble to himself, I find it hard to not just burst in there and pull him out of bed. Just the thought of him hurting like this tears me up inside. At the very least, Hisao is my best friend and at most, he’s... Well, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.
That night, though... After I got home and after he managed to stop crying, we talked. About everything, really. Mostly Lilly, but about us, too. Work, our lives, pretty much whatever came to mind and it reminded me of why I found him so attractive.
Hisao’s always had this way of helping me come out of my shell. Over the last months, I’ve changed a lot, for the better. Working in a public place has definitely sped things up, but I like to think Hisao’s been pushing me toward getting over my fear of people. I think I’ve made some real progress, too. Sitting there and talking to him, it just feels so... normal. So natural. Something about Hisao just helps me be myself.
If he’s going to be sad, well... They say misery loves company, so I might as well try to be there for him, anyway. And I think I know how I can get him out of there and back to work. But first, I need to go shopping for ingredients.
And wine. Yeah, I’m going to need wine for this.
I finish off the glass of wine next to me, stand up and take a deep breath.
Here goes something.
I make my way over to Hisao’s room, my mind still flooded with anxious thoughts. What if he yells at me? What if he doesn’t want to be friends anymore? What if I can’t help him and he just stays locked up in that room? I shake my head vigorously, take another breath and knock on the door. A few seconds pass before he answers; “Come in, Hanako.”
I open the door to find him actually sitting up this time. An improvement, at least. His eyes still look empty and his hair’s still a mess, but at least he’s moving. “Oh, y-you’re up. Good.” I make my way in, sitting on his bed. “I made some c-curry and I thought I’d see if you wanted any”.
He grunts out his response: “Thanks. Can you bring me a bowl?” I shake my head.
My hand shakes as I work up some courage. “I was h-hoping you could come eat w-with me tonight. You look like you could use some c-company.” He looks at me with those sad eyes of his.
“I’d rather stay in here, if it’s the same to you.”
I can feel my resolve slipping, but I’m not done with him yet. “H-Hisao, you can’t keep missing work. I’m... I’m w-worried about you. Can’t you at least e-eat dinner with me?”
He looks down for a moment, seemingly pondering the idea. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, he looks back up at me. “Hana, I just...” He trails off into silence, then sighs loudly. “Hanako, I don’t think I can get up, to be honest. I just want to lie here, okay? I know you’re worried, but I need to be alone.”
Alright, fine. “H-Hisao,” I ball up my fists. Here we go. I speak slowly, in a measured tone: “I’m not bringing you anything to eat, so if you want food, you’re just going to have to come get it”.
He looks at me in slight surprise, then sighs once more. “Alright, fine. Let me get dressed, please.”
“S-Sorry!” I quickly leave him to his business and go to make our plates.
A few minutes later, he finally emerges from his room, looking at least a bit more lively. Still quite sullen, but not nearly as depressed. Good. Now we’re getting somewhere. He plops down on the couch next to me and flips on the TV, searching for something to fill the silence as we eat.
I offer him a glass of wine and refill my own. I remember Akira saying alcohol was good for a broken heart, or something like that. He takes his glass, thanks me and tries my curry. An almost imperceptible smile forms on his lips as he hungrily consumes his meal. I still don’t get what he sees in my cooking. It’s just a simple curry, but if it makes him happy, I guess that’s all that matters.
We finish our plates almost simultaneously. Hisao hands me his and finishes his third glass of wine. For once, I think he’s actually more inebriated than I am. I can’t say I blame him. Regardless, I carefully stumble my way towards the kitchen and, by sheer luck, manage not to drop a single plate.
I make my way back to the couch, feeling pretty good about my drunk walking skills. Naturally, fate punishes me for my hubris, as my foot connects with the leg of our side table, sending me flying face-first into an unsuspecting Hisao’s lap.
We sit there in total shock for a moment. I can feel my face flush crimson from embarrassment. Finally, I look up to see a most welcome sight: Hisao, trying his best to suppress a laugh. Eventually he fails miserably and lets loose a great belly laugh that would rival that of a certain Miss Mikado. I false-pout at him, but can’t keep a smile from forming on my face.
It’s about time I got him to laugh like that again.
We both sit there, an arm around the other as we idly watch TV, letting our dinner settle. Finally, the day’s events catch up to the both of us and we slip off into slumber.
I wake up, unsure of the time, to find Hisao still slumbering on my shoulder, looking as peaceful as can be. It really makes me happy to see him like that, finally able to sleep soundly after what happened. Maybe we’ve been too melodramatic, but I never thought Lilly would do such a thing, especially not to Hisao.
Hisao... I stare at him for who knows how long. This man, who took me into his home so I wouldn’t have to be alone, who helped me get a job so I’d hopefully break my fear of people... I think I finally know how to repay him.
I just hope it’s the right thing to do.
My head slowly starts to drift towards his as only one thought dominates my addled mind.
I grow closer, only about a foot away.
Even closer now. I’m sure he can feel my shuddering breath on his face.
‘More than anything right now...’
Almost an inch from him now. My heart races, afraid and excited and every other emotion in the spectrum all at the same time.
‘I want... I want to kiss him...’
Finally, after what feels like an eternity, our lips meet, ever so lightly as not to stir him. I can feel tears forming as every bit of doubt I’ve had over the last few months evaporates like so much water on a hot day.
I love this man.
My hand rests on his cheek and I move away from him, looking down at his... open eyes.
Oh. Oh, God.
He stares up at me, his eyes wide and mouth agape. I’ve really done it this time. I open my mouth to apologize when his expression changes, from that of surprise to a slight smile. “Hana.” His hand slides behind my head and pulls me back in for another kiss.
My hand rests on his cheek again and every bit of frustration pours out of me as we kiss. I feel tears pour down my face as I return his kiss, clinging to him tightly. I never want to let go.
After a few minutes, we finally break for air and I feel something wet coming down my face. I’m crying, which must be terrifying to him as he stares at me with this bewildered look on his face. I smile weakly and pull him in to me, hugging him as tight as possible. We lie there like that for a while, simply enjoy each others’ company.
No words. It’d just ruin the moment. I take his hand and pull him with me to my room. I’m not sleeping alone tonight, not after that.
We crawl into my small bed together, both of our inhibtions subdued by the alcohol still running its course through our systems. I flip off the light and join him and we just lie there for a while, enjoying each other’s company. The next few minutes are spent kissing, caressing and whispering to each other.
I feel his hands slide against my sides, up my shirt. I should stop him, but it feels so amazing and what’s really wrong with it? We’re both friends, right? It won’t hurt anything, or change anything between us. Our clothing is quickly discarded and we lie there, taking each other in for a while.
I run my hand across his scar. Not as deep as mine, but still pronounced. He runs his hand across mine. My past, my present and my future. I think maybe, just maybe, with his help, I can forget about everything.
And maybe I can help him forget, too.
We kiss again. I don’t think that will ever get old. I can feel his warmth against me as we hold each other, letting all our fears and apprehension just sort of melt away in the night. I grab him, wrapping my arms under his arms and around his shoulders, pulling him as close as possible to me. I don’t want this to end. I don’t want to lose him.
I never want to lose him.
My head is absolutely killing me.
The pounding in my skull finally rouses me like the worst alarm clock in the world. I stretch and try to sit up, only to find that a very asleep and very much nude Hisao is next to me.
Oh yeah, that’s... That’s right. That happened.
My throbbing head does its best to recount the events of last night: I pulled Hisao from his room, actually managed to make him laugh, got him fairly drunk and I guess... we had sex? A quick glance around the room tells me everything I could want to know; our clothing haphazardly discarded around the room, my blanket cast to the corner and a condom wrapper sitting there on the nightstand.
Yeah, we definitely had sex last night.
Oh good lord, I got Hisao drunk and we had sex last night.
I can feel my breath catch as I tear up a bit. What was I thinking? Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking, was I? But why didn’t I stop him? What if I couldn’t stop him? Why does my head hurt so much! I fall back into the bed, covering my face with my hands, and start to cry.
I feel Hisao stir next to me. Oh, uh... I bolt up and grab the sheet to cover myself, drying my tears as he sits up. His expression closely mimics mine: Surprise, shock and then pain. “Hana, uh... What the hell happened last night?”
“I don’t really know. I remember us d-drinking and you were laughing and then...” I ponder it for a moment. “I think I k-kissed you?” Hisao’s eyes widen as the events of last night’s drunken festivities slowly come back to him.
“So we, uh.” He scratches the back of his head, obviously trying to comprehend all of this. “How the heck did we go from eating curry on the couch to... this?” No more wine for a while. Obviously it’s a very, very bad influence on the both of us.
“I’m n-not sure. I think I remember seeing you sleeping there and you were so peaceful and finally happy and I couldn’t help myself andIthinkIkissedyouohGod...” My head throbs again, as if to remind me of my poor decision making from the night before. I guess it’s nature’s way of telling me I screwed up.
My head hits the pillow and I can feel myself starting to tear up. Not again, Hanako. He’s going to think you hate him and then he’ll hate you and then what? I open my eyes for a moment to barely see him hovering over me. He leans down and wipes my tears off of my eyes. “Hana, whatever happened last night happened. We’ll work it out, one way or the other.” He then plants a short kiss on my forehead and lies back down.
“For now, can we go back to sleep? My head is pounding.” He’s got a point, I guess. What’s happened has happened and no amount of stress is going to change that. I turn around and close my eyes in a feeble attempt to fall back to sleep.
A few minutes later, I can feel him turn around and wrap his arms around my stomach. I ponder pushing him away, but somehow, it just feels right. We’ll worry about all this later, preferably when I don’t have the hangover to end all hangovers. Plus, he’s warm and it’s kinda nice.
We really should do this again sometime. Maybe with less alcohol, I think, as my head throbs once again.
Yeah, definitely less alcohol.