Room Service

chapter zero

Being happy in life doesn't mean that everything is perfect; it means that you've finally decided to look over the imperfections in life, and piece together the remaining bits. I decided long ago that imperfections consisted of regrets (among other things), and that bothersome, irritable feeling that disallowed you from moving on. I found it came up a lot.

The photos of my yearbook from seven years ago was full of faces I recognized, but whom I hadn't been particularly close with. In fact, most of the faces weren't my friends—rather someone else's. On the other hand, I found that my only appearance was my yearbook photo. It was a striking contrast to my elementary school yearbook, where I had been in nearly every photo, laughing with a bunch of classmates, or linking arms with Kenya—back before he started bleaching his hair; back before he decided that hanging out with other 'men of his caliber' was far more worthwhile than hanging out with me; back before he decided to start calling me in public again; and back before he decided to discard me as a friend.

They were far from welcome memories. But there must have been some reason I pulled out these yearbooks.

When I looked at the Oshitari Kenya from elementary and middle school, I saw no changes in his face or demeanor, save for his hair color: he looked like the same, cheerful person that everyone loved. Maybe I should have learned to accept the fact that people changed a long time ago instead of holding it over my head for so long—something the hospitality industry should have taught me. I guess not all lessons are learned. Not every time.

Were they even from the start? Who knows. I guess it's more than just the imperfections I've been looking over.

My eyes wandered from the yearbook to the letter that lay, opened, on the table. My school life had been a general blur; I'd had friends, but wasn't close enough with them to keep in contact. There was nothing remarkable in the way I went about life, either. There was hardly any point in attending the reunion; I had seen Oshitari Kenya between the time we'd parted and now. I would have rather left our relationship alone.

If anything, the invitation to the reunion was an invitation to trouble. That was the last thing I needed at the moment. And meeting Oshitari Kenya was definitely the last thing on my mind.

It had been a longer day than usual on the bar shift. I'd tried to restrict my breathers to one per night, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to work in the bar without taking constant breaks. The smell of alcohol made me sick for too long-a period at a time, giving me the occasional minor headache. Despite the insistence of my switch-buddy (that was, the co-worker I often swapped duties with), , to take bar shift instead, I declined several times. Room service duty was something I wanted to avoid at all costs, just for a little while. Just until Oshitari Kenya left the hotel.

I hoped it wouldn't be too long. I didn't know how much longer I could restrict myself to the bar shift without taking breaks.

- x -

Coming from the kind of environment I did, I'm not sure where my motivation to enter the hospitality department came from. Maybe it was the fact that I made friends easily, but rarely grew closer to them. It was perfect to be able to say a fleeting hello and goodbye, and possibly never see them again. It was nice having a stranger put a smile on your face rather than relying on one person for that kind of satisfaction. It was that come-and-go element of hotel routine that convinced me to settle on hospitality.

The final touch was where I'd decided to work. It took a substantial amount of consideration before I sat on a tourist-rich area. I wanted to meet new people, learn about where they came from (it was compensation for the fact that I might never travel), and gain new knowledge rather than talk about the same old things with the same old faces.

Still, I suppose I should have rethought stationing myself in Urayasu. I might have been able to override the possibility of re-meeting Oshitari Kenya after thirteen long years with little to no friendship.

- x -

It was my earliest memories that were the happiest. I felt like someone who had received their very first present—a puzzle box, with the box and pieces in pristine condition, and all the pieces there. Those days were the days before my sleeping schedule became demented—the days that I was awake at the same hours as Kenya. We took turns waking each other up by throwing up our bedroom windows and throwing pebbles at the panes of the still-sleeping party. We would talk to each other for a little while, until my mother told me to get ready for school and Yuushi told Kenya to hurry up.

"Meet you out front!" Kenya would yell at me. Then he shut his window, and I shut mine.

He would beat me to the front yard after cleaning up, as usual. I would arrive a few moments later, a piece of toast sticking out of my mouth and a few grains around his. He was speedy even at mealtimes.

I motioned to the area around his mouth. He blinked, brushed all but one grain of rice from his face, and asked, "Gone?"

I brushed the last grain of rice off. "Yep."

He grinned a wide smile.

Yuushi would come out last, fixing up his crooked glasses. He was always the slowest, left dazed in Kenya's speedy wake. "You two never wait for me in anything." He said, frowning behind his spectacles. He looked a little bit dizzy, as he always had since he'd started wearing his glasses.

"No speed, no life!" Kenya exclaimed, making Yuushi sigh and me laugh.

- x -

Back then, I had a huge crush on him. I don't expect he ever found out.

I was always around Kenya, and I enjoyed his company. I would have liked to think he felt the same around me. It was strange to look back on Yuushi, Kenya and me as young children and still be able to smile. Seeing that image and knowing what came next was not something I expected I would have been able to smile at easily.

Ever since the three of us started to break away from each other, I hadn't been able to see anything but the shadow of the puzzle pieces that used to fit together.

I suppose someone had been too violent with the pieces. They'd tried to ram them together and rip them apart. They'd twisted the parts that fit with each other. And after some time, the edges corroded, and were thus rendered useless. They were no longer able to make up the final picture that they were made for.

Then, something happened.

They lost the most important piece of the puzzle.

During the later end of elementary school, Yuushi decided he was going to go to Tokyo for middle school. He never told Kenya or me until the summer of fifth grade. Therefore, it was only in mine and Kenya's best interest to spend as much time with Yuushi as possible, and make the most of the time he was here.

In my eleven-year-old mind, I couldn't begin to think of a world without Yuushi. As a child, every friend that left me was another little chunk being cut out of the little world in my head.

I looked back on it. It was such a silly thought.

It soon came to the point where fifth grade turned into sixth, and Yuushi's departure was becoming a darker storm cloud over my head. The depression caught onto Kenya, who didn't want to think of going to middle school without his cousin, despite how cheerful he tried about the matter.

In the weeks leading up to Yuushi's departure, Kenya spent less and less time with me. It felt daunting. It felt like my two closest friends were leaving me behind, and I wasn't fast enough to catch up to them.

No speed, no life!

When Yuushi left, Kenya stopped saying that. He didn't even say it to Yuushi at the train station. In fact, he didn't say anything—not even words of comfort to me when the train left, and I had started to cry.

That was the end of the world I knew, in my mind.

- x -

That was the point where everything started to turn around. The puzzle piece started to deteriorate from the lack of use. No one bothered to touch the puzzle anymore, knowing that it would be incomplete without the last piece of the puzzle. There wasn't any use trying when they knew that not all the pieces were there.

That was what it was like without Yuushi. Yuushi was like the glue that stuck us together when Kenya and I had our rare fights.

When they happened, Kenya would be the first to break. He would throw a huge fit, and then lock himself in his room until someone called him down for dinner. By that point, he was all better, and willing enough to forgive me. He allowed me to sit next to him at the table, too. If the fight had been bad enough, he would hug me. That made everything better.

When we got home from the train station the day Yuushi left, Kenya locked himself in his room and didn't come down for hours.

He didn't come down, even when it was time for dinner.

He didn't come out at all.

- x -

Yuushi called sometimes. I knew he and Kenya would often talk (I saw Kenya talking on his cell phone constantly when I looked out my bedroom window), but I only got some. I called him little more than four times a year—one time for his birthday, another for New Year, and several times more throughout the summer. He did the same vice-versa. But it wasn't the same.

It was more than obvious that the events leading up to the split in friendship between Kenya and me was a result of Yuushi's disappearance. It was wrong to blame Yuushi, but back then, I couldn't help but continue to think of the times all three of us had been together. I was a simple-minded twelve-year old.

A distance started to yawn between the Kenya and me. For the first time, I began to feel uncomfortable around Kenya. To begin, he stopped waiting for me in the morning. He left without me.

The first time he did it, I tried to catch up. But when I did, I found him with people I didn't recognize. When he heard me running, he turned around, looked at me, and blinked. So did all his other friends.

"Oh." He said. He didn't address me with my name. "Did something happen?"

I was huffing from the sprint. He didn't seem to think that leaving without me in the morning was such a dire thing. But it wasn't like I could reprimand him in front of his friends.

I took a few steps back, shaking my head. "No. Nothing."

He and his friends exchanged a glance, shrugged, and then walked on. He didn't say goodbye to me. I felt like he was laughing at me on the inside.

I dropped ways back behind him. I didn't ever try to catch up to him again.

From then on, my life began to feel less and less significant. I stayed away from Kenya as much as possible, knowing that he would probably be happier that way. I rested easier when he joined the tennis club; the hours made him leave home earlier and return later than me, so I was able to walk without feeling insecure.

Finally, the distance between us grew so large that Kenya finally started addressing me as '' the very few times he saw me.

In unintentional retaliation to the years of built up stress, my next move decided the last moments of history between us.

It was the last straw. The puzzle pieces just weren't worth anything anymore. They were about to be thrown out for good.

- x -

Kenya was sitting on his front doorstep when the moving truck pulled up in front of my house. The tennis ball he had been throwing up and catching bounded onto the pathway and rolled to an eventual halt. He was compelled to investigate the curious vehicle out the front of my house, along with the boxes that were rolling out, one by one. His eyes wandered, but his mouth didn't, as Mom and I took turns in bringing out boxes to the truck. That was strange for someone like him. Nowadays, he didn't stop spouting hot air.

Mom thanked me when I handed her another box. Then she nodded at the front doorstep. "That's the last one. Could you carry it to the truck for me? It won't be too heavy?"

"No. It should be fine." I said, shaking my head. She flashed me a smile and headed back towards the vehicle. As I headed back towards the porch for the last box, I heard Kenya's voice calling me.

"Oi. ."

I paused. Since Mom had first come to me with the prospect of moving, I had lived for the satisfaction of seeing what he would say. It was like a replica of the Yuushi ordeal. But considering I was no longer close with Kenya, I had no idea what his reaction would be.

Now was a good a time as any to find out. I turned to him. "Kenya?"

He looked at the van. "Are you moving or something?"

"Yeah, Mom got a job in Chiba. We all thought it would be easier if we moved up there." I said, giving him a humorless smile. "Haven't you seen the 'For Sale' sign out front?"

"I thought it was a joke." He said.

Silence. He thought I was messing with him—a lasting taunt to the six years we had lived without so much as acknowledging each other.

Kenya ended up changing the subject. "What about school? Your friends?"

"I can go to school in Chiba. I'll make new friends there. I've done it before."

I didn't mean to come across as taunting. But Kenya seemed to think it was that way anyway. With a last flurry of hope, I searched his face, desperate to find a sign that he hated me for moving, or that he was bitter about what had happened between us. It took an effort to stifle my disappointment, and accept the fact that there was no use in waiting to find something old in Kenya.

I thought that he was done talking, so I started to leave to get the last remaining box. Then I heard his voice stop me.

"Why didn't you tell me you were moving?"

By his words, I felt annoyed. After six years of ignoring me, he was asking me why I didn't tell him. "There was a 'For Sale' sign outside the front. Didn't you see that?"

"That's not the point!"

"We were friends once, Kenya." I whirled around to face him. "I don't know if you've noticed, but this is the first time in a long time we've had a legitimate conversation." I used to have a huge crush on you and you didn't notice. You don't remember that, either? "Don't you remember? You walked to school with people that—"

He cut me off. "So I guess that since Yuushi left, I can't hang out with people I want to? I have to wait for you to catch up to me for the rest of my life?"

I was waiting for him to say, 'No speed, no life.' But he didn't.

"You didn't have to act like you didn't know me." I said, failing in an attempt to sound heard. "If you wanted me to tell you I was moving, why didn't you just tell me that you didn't want to be friends anymore?"

He didn't have anything to say in response to that. When he got the courage to open his mouth, I heard my mother's voice yelling from the car.

"!" She was leaning out the open passenger window and beckoning towards me. "Are you ready to go yet? If you don't take the front seat, the cat will take it for you, and I won't have you getting car sick over the back seat."

"Coming!" I spared Kenya one last, brief glance. "I've got to go. I... guess this is goodbye."

He paused. "Yeah."

The both of us were aware of something left unsaid between us. I don't know if he was thinking the same thing as me, but there was still something unfinished that neither of us dared to bring up.

It was something that I didn't think mattered anymore, anyway.

When I walked away from him this time, he didn't stop me.

- x -

I can't imagine Kenya as the kind of person to hold onto the past. Things like that would only slow him down in life, which wasn't something that he appreciated. In his eyes, there was no life without speed.

But then, I never expected him to turn into the kind of person he did, either. I didn't expect that he would discard me so easily; that he would start calling me by my surname; that he would be unaffected when I moved away.

Did he regret what he did?

That was something I didn't expect to find out, nor was it something I thought I deserved to find out. I couldn't blame it entirely on Kenya; I didn't make a huge effort to be friends with him again, either. As it took two to tango, it took two to make an accident.

Was it an accident that he turned up in my life after the history between us? I thought so. It might have been entirely a coincidence.

But was it an accident that we both blamed Yuushi for breaking the perfect picture?

Once, I think it was.

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Princo & Ribbon
July 31, 2012.
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Princo: I felt so lame coding this, LOL. I kept typing "pizzle" instead of "puzzle." Haha, I really love this DN though. I just might like it more than Writers' Block—and Bunta's one of my tops for characters! Or maybe it's just because I'm not tired of coding this story yet, LOL.

Ribbon: I got a slight shock when Princo put this up, since I had no idea she liked it this much. I was honestly planning on sticking with NCB and Timekeeper (Room Service was just a side-drabble thing that I was planning on working on after I finished other projects. I just wanted to get it off my mind), but something compelled me to keep writing. I guess it was a good thing that I decided to...? LOL. Anyway, hope you liked it!
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