Happy New Year
I was at a loss for a greater emotion than nonchalance. Three hundred and sixty-six days had passed, but it most certainly didn't feel like, even though it should have. Moving from my childhood home into an apartment with Hiyoshi closer to where I worked and his universityhad been like jumping off a cliff. I was in free fall, basking in nothing but ephemeral thoughts. Then there was work, dues and life commitments that got in the way of Hiyoshi, and we considering breaking it off before it had even started. It felt like nothing mattered more than self-preservation.
Somehow, things were resolved. I didn't even know how, but I was glad it happened.
I felt with the way twenty-twelve had been uneven as hills that it deserved a better ending: some way to wrap up the end of the year and conclude that, yes, it had been a struggle, but there had also been the end of the tunnel.
It was three days before New Year, and we spent the last few days at home. Hiyoshi was not enthusiastic about going out; he preferred to steer clear of the crowds. And honestly, I couldn't complain, since I had had enough of this year just as much as he had.
Besides, the balcony was close enough to being outside for me. I'd already bought Hiyoshi a present; hopefully he wasn't aware of that.
Going outside with Hiyoshi wasn't common, so I was used to it. And the only places he really went to were L. Megane, the nearby tennis courts, the bookstore, and rarely, places his friends asked him to accompany them to. So I wasn't too disappointed that he wanted to stay inside, to read a book about the Renaissance and play with the abacus he'd recently dug out of his cupboard.
Despite that, I asked him anyway. "Hey, Wakashi-kun?"
He looked up at me. Even now, I couldn't get used to the fact that he wore glasses.
"Do you want to do anything this year?"
Did he, ah, not notice that it was nearly the end of the year? "For New Year."
"I didn't have anything in mind."
"So... you don't want to go and visit your parents? Or mine?"
"I don't think so."
"We could invite some friends over."
I'd never understood what he meant by that. I think that, when we first met, it had some kind of specific meaning to it, but after he realized that I didn't know what he was talking about, he used it in any situation he could, particularly to end conversations.
He reached forward and flipped up a bead on his abacus so that it read one. After a moment's pause, he flipped up another one and went back to reading his book.
I decided to leave him alone with his abacus and his Renaissance history book, and opted to go outside onto the balcony. It was relatively spacious, so I kept a few plants out here. Recently I discovered a family of beetles living at the base of my mango tree, so I kept myself occupied with them when I had no one else to talk to. It was the middle of winter, so I wanted to make sure they didn't die like my mango tree was about to. Admittedly, it was a strange thing to do, but then again, nothing was strange in this household. The abacus was living proof of that.
Well, not living.
- x -
The good thing about living with Hiyoshi was that he liked reading books, and was a master at finding storage for them, whatever the cost. Since our apartment was still temporary, in case God decided to hit us with any more life issues, we hadn't invested in a large bookshelf. But we make-did.
Whenever his storage was half-filled, I took advantage of the free space to store my vast record and CD collection. He didn't say anything, but half of the time, I caught him critically eyeing any music that didn't strike him as something a person like me should be listening to. I tried to appease him by keeping rows of adult contemporary CDs and traditional pop records everywhere.
I liked to have music playing whenever I could, but adult contemporary and traditional pop weren't the most stimulating things to listen to, unless it was late at night. Hiyoshi accidentally knocked my iPod into a basin full of water a few weeks ago,1 so the only way I could get my music fix was playing it aloud. (I couldn't think about getting a new one until after the New Year crowd rush was over; it would be suicide otherwise.) It was nice to rediscover some of my vinyl records, but I didn't want to overuse the record player. So more times than often, I got stuck listening to things like My Heart Will Go On, by Celine Dion.
It was an interesting experience trying to listen to Celine and read manga at the same time. I was criticallyeyeing a character's leopard print pants, wondering how she could be so absorbed in her reflection, and so unaware of the hitman sneaking up behind her. It was like the hitman answered my prayers when he finally killed her.
But despite the vivid drawings and the bang! with which her death was depicted, it was very hard to feel in the moment with, 'Near... far... wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on...' messing with my head. I was fractions of seconds away from throwing the manga at the stereo, but a disturbing thought crossingmy mind stopped me from doing so. I took another look at the drawings and looked at it in another light. I saw more than feelings of animosity between the hitman and the woman, and felt it was more disturbing than any of the death or killing.
I sighed and turned off the music. The apartment fell back into former lonely silence, since Hiyoshi was still sleeping. So I stepped out onto the balcony, folding my arms over the rails and leaning forward. I looked out over the busy city where cars would likely be driving in and out of the city to spend New Year's elsewhere. How nice. Perhaps some were even as lucky as my brother, who was over the horizons.
I was checking on the family of beetles in the mango pot when I heard something that, for once, wasn't adult contemporary. It took me moments to realize that it was the ringtone I used for a certain friend who called way too often about Wakashi. I hurried inside to retrieve my phone and pressed the answer button. "Hello?"
"Tell me you guys have plans for New Year."
I smiled. "We don't, really. Wakashi-kun didn't want to do anything."
"Tch, how typical." Shishido said. "He's not answering his phone. What's that guy doing?"
"He's asleep. Did you need something?"
"Yeah, try telling him to check his messages or actually be awake the hours I call him." He said. "Give him the message for me, will you? I've got to get back to work."
"Today? Isn't it almost New Year?"
"Yeah, right, tell that to the production company." He scoffed. "Tell Wakashi to check his inbox. And he better have a good excuse if he doesn't."
"Okay. I'll tell him when he wakes up."
Then Shishido hung up.
It was nearing lunch time, so going back to sleep was pointless when I was already wide awake. So I turned on the TV and started rapidly channel surfing. I saw Elmo on Sesame Street; a show hosted by collaborative doctors; some drama that was a modern recreation of Sleeping Beauty; an infomercial about an ear-cleaning product.
When I landed on a food channel, it came to my attention that I should make lunch before Hiyoshi woke up, so he wouldn't have to wait for it. I started by making myself a cup of coffee, to whet my appetite before I proceeded to make a quick, simple lunch.
In the processes of searching through the kitchen cupboards for the toaster, I stumbled across a clean, almost-empty cupboard, with nothing but a few books leaning against the edge of the cupboard. I frowned, reading the spines. American history. Theoretical physics. Aristotle's summarized works. Hiyoshi must have taken everything from this cupboard and moved them elsewhere, so as to convert one of the kitchen cupboards into his newest book storage place.
I recalled to some effect that our last storage place—the cabinet under the TV—had filled up rapidly over the past month. Funny how I'd lost count of Hiyoshi's visits to the bookstore.
Said person walked into the living quarters a few moments later and noticed immediately that I was observing his minute book collection. "Oh."
I gave him a hopeful smile. "Do you, ah, remember where you put the toaster?"
His gaze shifted to the neighboring cupboard. I opened it and subsequently registered the fact that I was about to be assaulted by a falling toaster. The next moment, Hiyoshi was standing next to me, holding a toaster inches from my head.
"Thanks." I said, feeling a bit unnerved as Hiyoshi set the toaster down on the bench. "Maybe we can find a storage place that's less dangerous."
I moved the cupboards original contents back home, and we found a floor-level shelf for Hiyoshi's new book collection. I moved the useless junk we'd accumulated over the years and decided I would sort through it now. I moved the junk to the bench, and Hiyoshi replaced it with his books.
We really needed to invest in a bookshelf.
I made sandwiches, simply because I was unmotivated, and the thought of cooking anything remotely difficult made me cringe. Tonight was my last shift for the year, and also the last day of the year that the shop would be open. I would be cooking on auto-pilot tonight, and I would have preferred to keep the reminder in the very back of my mind until it came time to face it.
I did a quick scour over the junk, and threw out a brochure on tourism on Chiba. Then I remembered something.
"By the way, Shishido-san called." I said. "He said to check your messages."
"I did that." Hiyoshi said.
"Oh." I said. "What was it?"
"It was just an invitation."
It seemed blatantly obvious that it was an invitation to something Hiyoshi didn't want to attend, so I didn't bother him about it. Hiyoshi went to sit in the living room while I finished sorting through the junk. The first thing he did was flip a bead up on his abacus, and then he went back to reading his book. It was a few seconds before he flipped another one up, so that it read four.
I wondered what he was counting. But I knew better than to ask.
I was so bored out of my mind that I cleaned a window covered in grime, cleared the fridge of off products, and fixed the GPS that had been malfunctioning, all before I had to leave for work. I was enthused that I could drive to work with a working GPS, but on the way to the elevator, I ended up dropping it, and it ceased to work on me. "Shit."
It was very depressing, because I'd wasted several hours fixing that. Though, now that I thought about it, there were multiple depressing things about this afternoon. I wouldn't get to spend time with Hiyoshi because I would be too busy cooking for other people. Hiyoshi didn't have classes until after the break was over, so it was discouraging that I couldn't be with him in his spare time. My mind detached from reality, it felt like I had been walking through long, winding hallways before I finally made it to the foot of the staircase. In actuality, it wasn't a far walk.
When I made it to my car, a coworker called—. "Hi, senpai. Are you at work yet?"
"Not yet." I said. "Why?"
She asked to car pool with me because her car wasn't starting for some strange reason. I had no reason to object, other than the fact that I didn't have a GPS to help me to her house this time. And I liked , so it wasn't like I didn't want to give her a ride to work. I said I would be there soon.
I knew she didn't live far away, but she lived some way off course from the restaurant, and it was tedious to maneuver my way through the back streets to avoid traffic—especially without a GPS. I almost got lost, but luckily I found my way. Eventually.
She was already waiting outside.
"Hi. Thanks for taking the trouble to pick me up." She said. She was still a sophomore at university, so she was a few years younger than me.
"That's okay. Any time." I said. Then, I started the car, and we were citybound.
She was the one to initiate the small talk. "Have you got any plans for the New Year?"
"Not really." I said, thinking about Hiyoshi. "My boyfriend is a stay-at-kind kind of guy, so we don't have anything planned."
"Oh." She said, having never been aware that I was in a relationship. "That's unlucky, I guess."
"Yeah. I'll go home tonight and drink jasmine tea to cure the unbelievable headache I will get from tonight's shift." I said. She agreed, guessing how ridiculously busy we were going to be tonight. She would have it difficult trying to shy away from drunk customers, and I would have it difficult trying to resist the temptation of killing myself to keep from cooking so many orders.
"I really don't like working on special holidays." She said, with some animosity. She commented that there was one customer who seemed to have an obsession with her. Most times, he was drunk, and he liked taking the roses from the vaseon the table to give to her.
We arrived during a long slum, like we always did. There were no customers between late afternoon and the start of the evening, so I used the spare time totext Hiyoshi that his dinner was in the microwave, and cook myself some dinner (after asking permission from , the head chef, of course). Since I'd arrived, went on his break, and the other chef there, , went out to the car park to smoke.
While cooking some eggs, Afterlife burst to life in my pocket, so I knew that it was Shishido calling. I tried to juggle talking to him and cooking. "Hi, what can I do for you?"
"Did you tell Wakashi to check his messages?" He sounded a little impatient.
"He said he'd already done it."
"Say what? I still haven't gotten a reply from that guy..."
"He said it was an invitation to something, and I guessed he didn't want to go to it."
"Did he tell you what it was?"
"No, I didn't ask."
Shishido cursed. "There's a New Year's Party at Atobe's Cottage tomorrow night. We have it every year, and he didn't come last year, either. Can you just... convince him to come or something? Now?"
"I'm kind of at work now."
There was a pause. "So he's home alone?"
"And you were surprised that he didn't want to go anywhere this year."
It took me a few moments to realize what he was talking about.
"You think Wakashi-kun doesn't want to go out because I'll be too tired after today's work?"
"Oh, yeah. I think so."
I frowned at Shishido's short-temperedness, but he did kind of have a right to be. I'd never thought about the reason Hiyoshi wanted to say home in that light. I just thought he didn't like going places.
"Can you call him?" Shishido prompted me. "Or just... something, alright? Just do something."
"Okay. Sorry, I didn't really..."
"Idiot. What are you apologizing for?"
I didn't really know either, but Shishido hung up before I could attempt to justify myself. When I hung up, I realized that the eggs had been sitting in the pan for quite a while. I frowned and tipped the overcooked eggs onto a paper towel-lined plate.
Then I called Hiyoshi
Thankfully, he answered. "-san."
"Hi, are you doing anything?"
"No. Shishido-senpai just sent me several text messages."
Ah. "About that..."
"I'm not going."
"He said that you used to go every year."
I could picture him staring blankly at me. "So?"
"He wanted you to go pretty badly."
"That's his problem, not mine." Hiyoshi said. I wasn't sure how to bring up what Shishido told me a moment ago, in case it wasn't true and I ended up making a fool of myself. (Hiyoshi was a very unpredictable person.) So I didn't.
"Well, if you're sure..."
"If it bothers you so much, we'll talk about it later."
He sounded rather firm on not going, but the words he offered were consoling nonetheless. "Okay. I'll see you when I get home."
"But you don't have to wait up for me."
Then we both hung up.
Since there was no one in the VIP section yet, I ate my dinner there and cleaned up after I was done. I clocked on afterwards and got to work.
The customers started trickling in early, but there weren't many of them, so it wasn't so bad. and I were fine to cook on our own, and were even able to have a lively debate about the legal status of minors and juveniles. Then we were taken by storm, and was forced to cut his break short. We were so rushed off our feet that I had to work through my break. It was lucky that I was too stressed to notice my exhaustion.
I rang the bell at the collection counter, and came to collect the order for one of her tables. She looked reasonably disturbed, and even though time was pressing, I had to ask, "Are you alright?"
"The weird guy is here again." She said, and paused. "Do you know what a Mary-Sue is?"
I gave her an odd look.
"What about a Gary-Sue?"
"Exactly what context did he use it in?"
"Something like... 'the world just can't handle Mary-Sues and Gary-Sues like us.'"
I said something mildly encouraging, and she left me to ponder what Mary-Sues and Gary-Sues were; she still had to deliver orders, and I was pitying , who looked quite comfortable with the idea of abruptly killing himself. It was predominantly for this reason that I hated the Eve-Before-New-Year's-Eve shift. I had to remind myself that it was me who continually volunteered to be put on, knowing that I would be paid double time and a half, and I had nothing better to do anyway.
It would be worth it, I told myself.
The last of the customers didn't leave until midnight, laughing and drunk as all hell.
drove my car as far as her house, since she was old enough to drive, and since I might have fallen asleep at the wheel if she hadn't. I didn't want to hit myself with coffee right before I left, since I wanted to go to sleep as soon as I got home and I'd already had enough caffeine on the job. So I had to settle for chewing gum, hoping it would be good enough.
"Happy New Year for the day after tomorrow," I said out the window. She returned the formality and waved, and I made sure that she was inside her house before driving off, this time along the main streets. I prayed that most people would be too occupied at home or at clubs to come outside, but hoped that the streets weren't too dead so that I could be kept awake by glaring headlights.
I thought turning the radio on would help, so I did it. And for some reason, Beautiful Boy by John Lennon was playing. I wanted to check what the radio station was, but I didn't want to take my eyes off the road, especially since my eyes were bleary and my reaction time was dull from my earlier caffeine intake.
The serenading words were an easy trap to fall into. It was to songs like these that I liked closing my eyes and falling asleep. Songs like this on vinyl were like a better version of Crowded House. Sometimes, when Hiyoshi had to stay up late to finish an assignment, he would let me put on Double Fantasy and let it play until it stopped. Most times, I would fall asleep halfway through Beautiful Boy.
For a moment, all I felt was a nostalgic, mind-numbing peace. All the lights before my blurry and distant from my concentration, like balls of flying light across an invisible race track.
I felt... infinite.
I snapped into reality when I heard a sounding horn and a pair of oncoming headlines. I heard a slew of curses as both the other car and I swerved, narrowly missing each other. I was forced to veer onto the sidewalk, but managed to slam onto the brakes before I crash into the side of the building. I was inches from what would have been a painful breakthrough.
My breathing was ragged, and my heart was trying to throw itself out of my chest. After the few seconds—or maybe minutes—that it took me to recover, I let out a long, relieved sigh. I was in the right lane, wasn't I...? Or if I wasn't, then was I even that far outside of the lane...? I cursed the coffee and my exhaustion.
I pulled up back onto the road, sitting my car next to the sidewalk for a solid twenty minutes to make sure I was fully awake and recovered enough to drive normally. Behind my eyes, I kept seeing lights and heard the horn ringing distantly in my ear, ringing over Beautiful Boy. Everything blended together in a way that seemed so strange. I violently rubbed my eyes and worked my fingers across my eyebrows in circular motions. No more falling asleep on the road.
I tried to find something as close to metal as I could. I was in luck; there was a song playing on a modern station that was pure screaming. The song made me distressed and jumpy throughout the drive back to the apartment; but at the very least, I was awake.
When I was inside the apartment, I discovered that Hiyoshi was probably in bed. I spat my gum and all its uselessness into the nearby bin and went to take a short shower. I tried to leave behind the memory of nearly crashing my car... I shivered and tried to push the thought to the back of my mind.
I felt clean after a shower and a change of clothes and slipped into bed beside Hiyoshi. He was a light sleeper, but if he was awake, he made no sign of it. I worked my head under his arm and rested it onto his chest. My bleary eyes managed to make out the time on the bedside table. It was nearly one in the morning.
Almost as soon as I found a comfortable position, I fell asleep.
At four in the morning I decided that I couldn't sleep, so for a short while I just lay like a stuffed animal next to Hiyoshi. He hadn't moved since I fell asleep, which was a good thing. Sleeping next to Hiyoshi was like sleeping next to a cat. The rise and fall of their chest was their only movement, and they were always warm, no matter what the outside temperature.
After my mind convinced me that I needed the bathroom, I felt that it would be pointless to go back to sleep, so I went to the kitchen and peeled some tangerines on instinct. I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and settled myself down on the couch, eating tangerines as I checked my phone.
I found a message from my younger sister.
I stared at the emoticon she used, but I let it slide, since she was still in school. Even though it was a slightly ridiculous hour of the morning, I texted back.
I couldn't bring myself to play any games directly linked to driving or assassination, and especially not Grand Theft Auto, so I selected a nice role-playing game. It ended up being Breath of Fire, partially because the jazzy soundtrack was relaxing, and partially because I needed Rei to say 'don't that just beat all' one more time to cheer me up.
Hiyoshi woke up to find me playing the PSP at five in the morning. Maybe while debating on going to the bathroom or not, he realized that I wasn't sleeping next to him. Since he usually wasn't awake this early.
"It's kind of early, isn't it?" He commented. I looked up at him while I was halfway through the final battle. I was glad I got to, because staring at Myria's real form just gave me the creeps. The same kind of eerie feeling one got after looking at or eating duck sushi.
"I couldn't sleep." I said. I couldn't turn my PSP off because I'd been playing for a while, and I couldn't exactly save in the middle of the battle. But Hiyoshi came down to sit beside me, so I had to put my PSP down on the table. I didn't really know how to tell him that I almost fell asleep behind the wheel and killed some people last night, so I just hugged him, and he hugged back.
"Did something happen?"
"No... but could you drive me to work and back from now on?"
He raised an eyebrow because he didn't believe 'nothing had happened.'
"Something happened." He said.
"Well, I broke the GPS."
"Something important happened." He corrected himself.
"I almost crashed the car and killed someone?"
He stared at me like my face had been replaced with a unicorn's.
"As in, I almost crashed the car and I almost killed someone."
He relaxed to the slightest degree. The slightest, slightest degree.
I noticed he was suddenly sitting closer. As closer as someone could be whilst in the middle of a hug.
"I was tired last night, and I didn't want to load up on coffee because I was going to come home and sleep..." I said, sighing. "And I turned the radio on, but it kind of lulled me into a daze... you know?"
Hiyoshi didn't say anything. It wasn't like he wasn't mad or anything, but his preferred method of consolation was silent consolation. I liked how he would let me talk as much as I wanted without interrupting or commenting or telling me to never do it again. He would just pat my head, and for some reason, that made a really big difference.
"Go back to sleep." He said after patting my head.
"Let me finish this battle." I said. He nodded and, to my surprise, he flipped a bead down on his abacus, so that it read three. I looked at him curiously, but he just went back to the bedroom, making a quick stop by the bathroom on the way.
When I finished the game, I turned the PSP off and headed back to bed. By that time, it was around twenty to six. Hiyoshi was already there, looking like he was asleep. I curled by beside him, and if he was awake, he didn't protest as I wriggled under his arm. He let me put my head on his chest, and then we fell back asleep.
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Princo & Ribbon
December 31, 2012.
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Ribbon: Honestly the amount of effort I have right now. LOL.
Princo: -looks around awkwardly- I feel like since this was messed up I'm allowed to put something here. I want an abacus. LOL. Recoded Janz 24 because 3owl is mean. :(