You Don't Know What It's Like
He boredly blew a puff of smoke. Legs crossed, tie lose, hair gently messed up, the park was starting to get confused. Many bystanders were wondering if there was a magazine or a television shoot; what with the crazy looking red sports car parked at the side of the road, and a man hiding his annoyed eyes with obviously expensive shades.
"The tow truck got a flat tire on the way here? Bullshit..." he groaned while realizing that this was the second stick he'd had on that spot since his car's engine over heated and died on him. "And now, the second tow truck got in a traffic jam? Fuck."
He sighed again as he wandered his eyes around. The summer afternoon was harsh. He could feel the sweat running down his spine. It made him wonder how all those people were able to laugh while walking. The huge red shrine was just near him. People would flock in and flock out. All sweating and haggard from the summer heat. Their smiles as irritating as the waiting he was enduring.
Breathe in. Breath out. Breathe in. Breath out. He erased them all out in his field of vision. But he could still hear them. Talk about noise pollution.
"I wonder how this noisy place became a tourist destination...?" he thought. He remembered he had written a feature about how this shrine was a place of meditation, prayers and tranquility. It was some years ago when he was just starting in his career as a writer. He gave it a second look now and his irritation meter was about to max out.
Waiting, waiting and waiting were things he hated. He decided he'd leave the car after finishing the smoke, tow truck present or not. Eyes tired from the gray asphalt he'd been staring at for the last ten minutes, the man looked to the other side of the road. The lush, healthy trees were there boasting about its green leaves.
He further looked up to the bright sky. And then he went back further down. At a trash bin.
Tattered looking clothes. Dirty face, dirty hands and dirty hair. They seem to belong to someone young. A young man indeed. A homeless.
Usami continued dragging his smoke as he watched the kid. Silently, he observed how cold Tokyo could be in this blazing heat. Happy people kept on passing by that certain area. Not even noticing the brunette scavenging through the trash bin.
Even from that distance, Usami knew what was in between the scavenger's hands. A half-eaten burger from McDonald's. Usami's cigarette almost fell from his lips. The kid patted the burger a few times as if what he was doing could kill all the germs present. Inhaled the scent and took a bite.
Usami coughed from his own smoke.
"He ate it?"
The dirty face looked happy though as much as Usami was disgusted. Indeed, Tokyo was cold. And indeed, Usami knew he was one in that cold community who can stomach ignoring the homeless as long as they weren't becoming a bother.
"It looks like a feast to him huh?"
There he was, a person who had eaten almost all the exquisite foods in the world. Yet his palette could still not satisfy him. And then there was one eating someone else's left-overs. Cruel? No. To Usami that was just reality. There was a reason why he had the comfortable life and others didn't. Most of all it wasn't the least bit his fault.
"So what's next? Dessert?" Usami mumbled.
Homeless people, unknown to the many were just around Tokyo. As rich a country Japan is, the growing number of homeless couldn't be denied. They occupy shrines and public places at night and disappear at the same areas come the next morning, trying to distance themselves, not getting in the way. This scene had become a routine. To Usami it was the first time he had seen it with his own eyes.
"He's done and full..."
The man looked to his left and right then as if the show he was watching finally ended. The tow truck wasn't there still. And as what he had planned, he left his car for the tow service to pick up. That scavenging kid nothing more than a memory of that afternoon. Something that was easily forgotten come the next morning.
June was just about to end. Everyone was busy with their summer vacation plans. Some were just planning to stay at home. Some didn't have the priviledge to even plan anything at all. And some were in a VIP vehicle going to a classy restaurant for a meeting, but still couldn't find anything to be happy about.
"Why must I freaking ride in this shuttle with all these people?"
Usami was again boredly staring at the sky, ignoring the sky scrapers along the way. The woman beside him, classy and prim pretended to lift a pamphlet and used it to cover her mouth.
"Also...that woman, Hanagida something, she does know I have no interest in women right? She gives me creepy glances I could hurl."
"Sensei...you're too loud."
"Of course. Otherwise how'd they hear me?"
"Sensei! This is a big project with the best actress Hanagida Shuue. Just meet her today and go with the flow..."
The people in the front were only smiling. They were Marukawa Publishing Higher ups who of course had gotten used to Usami Akihiko's personality. Rather, it was becoming an amusing thing for them being the old understanding folks they were. Gifted people they know like Usami just didn't have the same perspective about things like they do.
"You better stick to the agreement Aikawa. I smile for an hour and I'd get a week off."
Usami could care less about Hanagida Shuue. Honestly he wasn't even aware that she exists until a week ago. When his recent novel had been decided to be turned into a movie, he had been dragged around to meet the director. To meet the leading actor. To meet the other key heads. Truthfully, the budget was extreme. A major film come Spring of next year. Usami could just not understand why they can't just all meet up, as in A-L-L, at once.
Traffic was building up. It was light to moderate with the occasional stopping from the pedestrian crossings. When they halted to give way to a familiar shrine goers, Usami's eyes went straight at the familiar trash bin.
Who on Earth ignores the cheery teenagers, their mini skirts and cool youngters and the shrine and instead look for a trash bin?
"So there's three of them now."
He wasn't looking for anyone in particular. Rather, he was searching for that kind of thing most tourist shows tried so hard to edit out. True enough, a few were under the trees. A few were trying to mingle with the shrine goers. But again, one stood out amongst the homeless. A brunette. Unpresentable. Skin and bones. Licking his lips slightly as if his throat was so dry.
When the shuttle began moving again, that's when Usami realized a little kid eating icecream just close by. The shuttle continued moving and gaining speed though until it made a left-turn. Right after Usami had set foot out the shuttle, what he saw earlier near the shrine was already gone in his head. He really had such short memory for things that wasn't really connected to him.
After an hour, around seven thirty in the evening, Usami Akihiko excused himself even though the huge actress Hanagida was hinting for a few more drinks at a bar nearby.
Usami was quick to disappear but when he stood in the middle of the underground parking lot, he nearly kicked the wall.
"I came here by shuttle..." he ruffled his hair exasperatedly and opened a few of his shirt buttons, his black coat thrown over one of his shoulders. "One after another...seriously..."
He walked out the restaurant's vicinity and observed the area. It was getting pretty tedious as he was just standing waiting for a taxi. And to add to his growing annoyance, every single one seemed to be occupied.
The man started dragging his feet to nowhere particular. He just needed to do something than just stand there. Further more, one of the old geezers's words at the meet-up earlier was plaguing him.
"Usami-san...I heard you have made a statement before about your sexuality...?"
"Yes," he good-naturedly answered. "I just figured that in this industry, I needed to make myself clear as I do not want false rumors about me. Besides...I do not intend to hide it in the first place. I write the way I write because of who I am."
If Aikawa that time was holding an acting trophy, she would have given it to the man and not to the actress by profession just sitting beside her.
"Ah...Well said I must say," the old man said with a smile. "So then...are you happy?"
Hanagida Shuue giggled sweetly. She patted her mouth first with the napkin before turning to the men talking. "Usami-sensei here is very successful and has achieved a lot in such a young age. I think that's plenty enough reason to be happy."
The old man rubbed his chin and just nodded. He said something else though that given the sitting arrangement, it was only Usami who heard it.
"Indeed you have so much excess Usami-sensei. But you seem quite discontent..."
Usami who was about to take a sip of his wine halted.
"Have you ever thought why you have so much?"
"What is that old man trying to say? That I join him with his charity works?" he laughed wryly. "Too much trouble."
He walked the crowded streets. And he hated every second of it. Too much noise. Too much people. It was a headache.
Usami looked ahead. His interest was becoming piqued. In front of him, well-dressed ladies who seem to be having a bar-hopping spree were there, a ragged looking form, so out of place from the well-groomed people were following behind.
His lavender eyes saw something that fell from one of the women's bag. The guy following behind picked it up hurriedly. And Usami then was struck by a feeling of recognition. The homeless kid back at the shrine.
"Uh..." dirty hands, holding a red Prada wallet was half-raised. "You dropped this..."
It was too soft. The street noise drowned it even further. And Usami ended up raising a brow.
"Wait! My wallet!" one of the ladies shrieked as she rummaged her shoulder bag. "Where-"
"My wallet's missing!"
She hastily turned behind her and saw the dirty kid holding her expensive treasure. Her eyes widened with anger. She grabbed the red wallet and pushed the kid to the ground. The boy was that weak to land that hard with just a single woman's swing.
"Bastard! You dare take something from me! I'll bring you to the police!"
The kid just bowed his head, not saying or doing anything.
"Aww...come on Masa-chan, if we bring that brat to the police, it'd take too much time! Just let it go, you got it back anyway!"
The woman who owns the wallet thought for a while and sighed. But she still had the strenght to hit the boy on the head with the wallet once.
"Why don't you just disappeare here? You're an eyesore!"
A few minutes after the commotion disappeared, everyone started moving back like nothing happened. The kid on the ground, well he remained on the ground. He didn't even seem to have any plan on moving from that spot at all.
"Hey, you're blocking the way," one young man said.
The boy just looked down, ignoring the voice.
Usami narrowed his eyes. He took a few more steps until he was just standing so close behind the boys's back. The thing before him was indeed dirty. A little odd smelling too.
"Kiddo, if you don't move there, police will really come for you."
The boy looked up. Two pairs of eyes met. Usami stared. Likewise, the kid looked at the lavender eyes. It was an unrelenting gaze with no sense of recognition whatsoever.
"I twisted my ankle..."
Usami stepped back. You don't expect him to carry a smelly, scavanger to the nearest bench and attend to him right?
The boy perhaps knew this too. He didn't ask for help from anyone. Instead, he motioned to crawl.
Lavender eyes looked away. Instead he looked at the fast-paced life, the people hurrying to their own summer partying lives at bars and secret places. The cars continued moving. The people continued walking. When he looked back at the crawling kid, he saw beads of sweat to that already distressed and dirty face.
Usami himself thought he must have been possessed by the deity of the nearest shrine. His hands he never even used for washing his own dishes reached out to the sticky arms. He helped the boy to get up. The slimy feel of the boy's skin bothered him greatly. He helped the boy towards some place where they could take a seat while not trying to breathe through his nose.
Finally being able to get into an open-area for smokers, Usami assisted the boy on the farthest empty bench. Usami was huffing. The boy was rubbing his eyes.
"Stop rubbing your eyes with those hands," Usami sternly said, discreetly searching for his hanky in his pocket. "I'll go buy us some drinks. Stay put."
The man hurriedly walked away. He kept on rubbing his hands against his hanky. The odd scent too must have stuck on his shirt, he already wanted to take it off. The prestine whitenes of his polo was now stained with dirt. He wasn't that very ozy with everything but he really needed a bath this time.
When he got back at the spot where he left the kid, the kid was staring at him strangely.
"What?" Usami asked, throwing the canned milk to the boy's lap. "Drink that."
Green eyes followed every movement of the man. From the man's classy motions in opening his canned tea to the way he roughly sat on the bench with his legs stretched out. The boy then inched farther from Usami. Usami noticed this too.
"What are you doing that for?"
"Don't worry, it already is stuck on my shirt so no matter how much you make a space it's all the same."
Usami began drinking his tea. His profile would sometime lighten up from a passing car.
"...Thank you Sir...I thought...you weren't coming back."
"Huh?" the man glanced at the kid beside him and looked away again. "Well to be honest I thought of really just going away. But well I'm here."
They drank their canned drinks in silence. The boy savoring every drop of his milk. Usami wondering the last time he ever sat on a public place for this long not for work purposes.
"Say, if you can't handle a decent life here in Tokyo, why not go back to the country side where you came from?" Usami asked out of the blue. "There must still be jobs available there for you. You're young after all."
The kid smiled wryly. "I wanted to. But Sir, I am undocumented."
That was the time Usami looked again at the kid after a long while. "Undocumented?"
"My mom told me my father is a Japanese, she's Asian but she never mentioned where she came from. They aren't married. Plus mom's stay in here was illegal too. A son of an illegal worker always running away from the deportation authorities, I am not recognized as a Japanese citizen."
Usami didn't ask anything after that. But the kid continued telling his tale. As if all this time he had been waiting for someone to ask him. He started having this very far away look in his eyes. A look that Usami was unfamiliar with.
"You see...my mom died when I was eight. I was lucky enough to be put in a shelter for kids like me..." the boy whispered. "Sons and daughters of illegal workers in Japan...born from encounters without marriage...Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian...Filipinos...some Korean...we're all there...so many of us undocumented kids."
When Usami brought his canned tea to his lips, he realized it was already empty.
"The people in that shelter were really kind. They looked for foster parents who'd adopt me...fix my papers to become a legitimate citizen. I've had a few foster families too you know, it was fun...at least in the beginning..."
Usami cocked his head to the side while looking at the evening sky. "So why are you here then?"
The kid gripped his canned-milk tightly and sighed. "They all returned me back to the shelter. So many times it happened...I couldn't count it anymore."
"The last family was really scary though so I ran away and before I knew it, I was already this old, living like a rat."
Usami crushed the empty can of tea in his hand and glanced at the dirty kid. "Why did they return you?"
"Ahaha..." the boy forced a laugh, ignoring the question. "Sir thank you for listening to my ramblings. I cannot repay you but I'm sure God will for your kindness."
The silver-haired man couldn't believe what he was hearing that he gaped at the kid. He didn't know how to answer to that. God? Kindness? They were things that were at the last page of his dictionary after all.
"Well then...this is where we part I guess," Usami said, standing and straightening his shirt. "Well, pray to your God that someone kind then takes you in."
"I've been...every night."
The boy watched the man with every bit of gratefulness. This elite man's actions was a first after a long while.
"Sir...thank you very much for helping me and listening to me," the boy said, almost wanting to stand up too but when he did, he was again reminded of his ankle. "Uh...May I know your name?"
The man looked at the kid briefly. Should he tell this kid or not? There were a number of modus operandi in the news too about kids being used by syndicates. He looked more deeply. The kid just waited for an answer.
"Usami. Usami Akihiko."
"Usami...Usami-san. Thank you very much."
"What, you asked me, I am asking you."
"Is that your real name?"
The boy scratched his messy head. "I've used up a lot of names when I was younger...this is the last one...so I settled for this. Sorry."
"You don't have to say sorry about that thing," Usami said as he started walking away. "Well, good luck."
When Usami finally got into a taxi, he noticed something.
"Ah shit...my coat..."
It had been a month. Actually it felt so long ago that Usami was even wondering if that encounter with a homeless kid was even real. After all, all his actions that time, touching someone else who looked dirty and smelled kinda off, talking to him, listening to him, encouraging him somehow, were things he would only do in a dream.
Usami stepped out of his shower and grabbed the remote to turn the TV on. Still dripping wet, he moved from channel to channel. Just as when he was about to dry his hair, his home phone started ringing.
"Yes?" he lazily answered as he kept on switching channel with the other free hand.
"Good afternoon Usami-san," said the gentle voice of a woman. "This is the mansion's reception area. There's a young man looking for you. He had no ID though and he is not in the list you provided who can be allowed to go up."
"Young man?" Usami repeated. "What's the name?"
"He said he's Takahashi Misaki."
"Takahashi Misaki?" Usami finally saw something interesting at the TV that he started watching it already. "I don't know any Takahashi Misaki. Tell him to leave."
"Alright then Sir, thank you."
Usami placed the phone down, took the lighter beside the phone and placed a cigarette into his lips.
"Takahashi...who could that-"
As if struck by the sudden realization, Usami turned back at the phone and called the reception.
"Hello? Please tell the kid to wait for me at the lounge."
"Eh? Ah, okay sir."
Usami hurriedly dried himself up and fixed himself. He went out of his room with a slight smile. He felt that he somehow wanted to know what the kid's been up to after all.
The lounge was full of executive and business people. Some students from rich families in the same building were having study sessions at a far corner. There was an old couple all so sweet while sharing their frap. There were those who were just sitting and listening to their earphones.
"What the hell...am I looking for..."
Usami Akihiko almost smiled. He didn't really know and could not remember the kid's face. With the dirt and the dark, there was no way he had seen properly the kid's face that night. Besides, now that he had thought about it, how in the world was the kid able to get in? The guards wouldn't let him in looking and smelling like that after all.
"Usami-san, Usami-san!" a voice called. "Over here!"
When Usami turned to the direction of the voice, he realized it was coming from the seat occupying the one next to the old people. Bright green eyes beaming with joy, a hand waiving excitedly, a smile wide and genuine.
Usami walked towards the cheery kid. "Takahashi?"
"Hai!" the kid stood and bowed slightly. "It's nice to see you again!"
The silverhaired man nodded and took the seat in front of the kid. He kept on looking and finding out where was the homeless kid he saw before.
"Usami-san, here," the boy bent down and pulled something. He then placed a paper bag on top of the table. "You left this that time. Actually, there was a business card so I asked around for the address to look for you."
Usami just kept on staring. Speechless. Intrigued. The kid looked so well groomed. He was even wearing a tasteful coat fit for the starting Autumn season. His hands were all clean, his hair soft and silky looking, pleasant smell, and most of all, the boy seem to be extremely happy about something.
"Are you surprised Usami-san?" Misaki asked. He sounded like he was really comfortable.
"Huh? Surprised I am really speechless. Look at you. Were you just pretending to be the homeless brat back then?"
The boy laughed, but tried to be not too much loud. "Right? Even I was surprised that I could look like a human if I just take a bath."
Usami enjoyed the kid's animated face. "So? Why are you looking for me?"
Misaki scratched the side of his neck looking embarrassed.
"Err...I just wanted to return your coat and tell you that my prayer has been answered."
"It's like after meeting you, all good things started happening to me."
"Really?" Usami silently watched the boy. Those kind of words can be easily mistaken. But he knew the boy wasn't buttering it up for favor or anything. It just felt genuine, everything of it.
"Yes," Misaki nodded. "You see, after a few days, a woman came to me and talked to me about my condition. She said she's working for a private charity institution which aims to give people like me second chance."
"Hai! She said they'd send me to a place where I can have a job while continuing my studies. I've only reached fourth grade and it's always been my dream to continue..."
Usami kept on listening, absorbing everything.
"We'll be going tomorrow so I figured I'd say my thanks and farewell before that. It's going to be my first time riding a huge ship!"
The man moved his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his clasped hands. "Where are you staying now?"
"In that woman's place. I help around the household chores while waiting for the other kids from different areas," Misaki excitedly explained. "This coat, she gave it to me."
Usami's eyes were starting to get suspicious. That kind of deal was too good to be true. But Misaki, seemed to be too much clueless.
"Hey, do you have a business card of that charity or something?"
Misaki paused for a while at the sound of Usami's unhappy voice. "They didn't give any...but I think she said it's Tatsuhi Institution. A group of rich people giving out scholarships and jobs for undocumented people like me..."
"Are you sure about the name?"
"Uhm...yes..." Misaki replied, his smile slowly fading. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing," Usami said with a forced smile. "Since you're here already, let's eat. Aside from their main courses, the coffee and donuts here are quite well-known."
Misaki shook his head. "No it's okay. I just really wanted to share you that news."
"I haven't eaten lunch. Might as well join me."
"Select anything from the menu list there on the table. I'll be back."
Usami left the happy brunette alone and went just outside the rest room areas. He didn't mean to pry. It wasn't him to do that. But he seriously just couldn't put down the ugly feeling the way Takahashi Misaki had described that heaven-sent opportunity. So there he was, calling the old man he talked to the last time he had to meet with the huge named actress Hanagida Shuue.
It took a number of rings before the other line picked up.
"Hello? So strange for a man like you to be calling this old man."
Usami closed his eyes and sighed. "Hi Ueda-san. I remember you work with charitable institutions right?"
"Uh...yes...why? Did you decide already then to share your blessings?"
"Could you please check if there's a certain Tatsuhi Institution for undocumented children and young people?"
The old man in the other line suddenly sounded serious. "Usami...where did you-?"
"I happen to hear about the name. Anyway, could you look it up soon? It sounds like a huge piece of shit to me."
Laughing, the old man said he would use his connections to sniff around.
After that call, Usami came back, seeing the brunette almost glaring at the menu.
"Uh, have you selected what you want?"
Misaki looked up and gave a defeated smile. "Usami-san, remember I told you I was transferred from foster home to foster home...I wasn't able to finish my fourth grade...I can't read Kanjis..."
The boy sighed. "That's why I am very excited for tomorrow. I may be way too old for fourth grade...but if I could start learning reading and writing soon...that would be great."
The lavender eyes almost watched the kid with irritation. Common sense would dictate that the deal was too good to be real. Was this brat too thick not to realize that? But then, it could also be that the kid was being blinded by his own dreams.
"Were you an angel or saint in your previous life or something?"
"Nah...you seem to be too trusting. Shouldn't you be more careful from those people?"
"What are you saying Usami-san? You supported me and almost carried me back then even though I was dirty, smelly and totally suspicious looking too. I really do believe that there are people who are just willing to help like you did."
Usami sighed. He was feeling tired of explaining things to the brat. How could he pound a sense of warning to that kid when the kid was like that?
"You make me sound like a hero..."
"You are! At least to me that time..."
Usami ended up just shaking his head while choosing food for the two of them.
The silverhaired man, who usually couldn't be bothered about anything else spent most of his afternoon listening to Takahashi Misaki's plans. His long-term plans like studying, being able to get his own place, the places he'd like to visit, the things he want to try out. There were so many that even Misaki gets confused at times with what he was saying.
Usami would nod every now and then. He started thinking if what he underwent to become so much this cold and reclusive could be justified. Compared to the brunette before him, the latter had more right to be un-trusting, cold and angry to the world than he was. Yet the kid was the opposite. It was admirable as it was a mystery.
"Sorry Usami-san, you even had to drive me..."
"No it's okay. You'll be leaving tomorrow right? Good luck."
The boy grinned as he unbuckled the seat-belt. "Thank you very much! You can just stop he-"
Misaki's unfinished words led the man driving press on the break. He followed the kid's line of vision. Police cars. Television news cars. People. A mess.
Without a word, Misaki hurriedly went out the car. He staggeringly moved forward the people who had made a circle. His hands shaking, he forced his way into the circle. There were so many police coming in and out of the rundown house. The familiar faces he had spent the night with at a single room were all being escorted to a social-service van. Misaki couldn't understand what was going on. He couldn't until the last group of police officers came out with a woman in handcuffs. The press showering her with blinding camera shutters and questions.
That was when the young man felt that something great had just been destroyed.
"No...I didn't do anything."
Usami Akihiko called the old man right away when he saw the commotion. He was out of his car, his eyes at the crowd where the just-a-while-ago-enthusiastic brunette was standing. The strange thing was Misaki showed no reaction at all. The kid just stared blankly at the entire event before him.
"No I didn't do anything. When I called one of my friends to ask, she told me that the police has already been eyeing a certain house for some time," the old man explained. "Their bogus is to sell the undocumented kids they were able to lure to internet pornography, sex slavers and illegal laborers around the world...it's hideous..."
"What happens to those kids who were saved then by this entrapment operation?"
"Uh...some would be put back to shelters...however, since they're already old enough to think on their own, most of them just end up going back in the streets. Undocumented kids literally are nonexistent. Legalizing them takes time and foster families mostly do not take older kids anymore...it's sad...but our system when it comes to this situation is still lacking."
"Thank you, Ueda-san."
The setting sun seemed like a representation of dreams hiding again from the brunette's hands. He merely stood there, watching the capture of the woman he thought was kind and very motherly. He watched the van of his fellow undocumented young people go away and slowly disappeare. The only ones left were the ones from the media and gossipers.
Usami slowly approached the silent brunette and stood three feet away. The breeze was chilly and somehow depressing. The sound of the gossipers a buzzing noise adding to the hurt, deepening the injury. The red signal lights of the police cars were making the area filled of tension.
"They're gone...Usami-san," Misaki mumbled. "Am I cursed or something? I happen to not know if I have some strange birthmarks..."
The boy tried to joke. But his voice was very unsteady. "I'd rather not have been given this false hope...coz...now I am really starting to feel that I am so unfortunate...I'm such an idiot to believe her wasn't I?"
"You are probably thinking that I am acting like I was just born yesterday. Stupid, knows nothing."
Misaki mockingly laughed at himself.
Usami had never been annoyed this much too. Because he saw everything. He saw the beams of light from that kid extinguished in an instant.
For a long while, the apathetic man he was, felt a sudden, surging pity at that very moment.
"Takahashi," Usami started. "Most people say I have personality problems..."
The boy just continued gritting his teeth, gazing at the rundown house that temporarily housed his dreams.
"Some even say I am bipolar..."
"I tend to be selfish and I have more enemies than friends."
The kid slowly darted his gaze to the man near him.
"Lastly, I am gay."
"Go to a shelter, stay in the streets, or take a space in my house. You choose."
The boy beside Usami never uttered anything in response to that. The man only felt a squeezing feeling deep in him the moment he realized trembling fingers holding out to his sleeve.
Two days, two nights. The door across Usami's room that has never been opened was now being occupied by someone unrelated by blood, someone he just saw a few times in the streets, someone he knew nothing except that the kid was a nonexistent citizen in the Japan government.
Usami Akihiko stood by the door frame. The kid did nothing but to just stay under the sheet covers, probably depressed and feeling stupid.
"Oi...I've got not much free time to babysit you, you know?" the man said straightforwardly. "How many days are you planning on getting depressed by that? Be glad that the fake institution got found out before you were even sold to work off your back or ass somewhere."
The small form under the sheets just got into a much tighter ball.
"Usami-san...I've got no experience with anything at all...I'm scared."
Usami frowned. "Scared of what?"
Usami's crossed arms fell on his sides. He stared thoroughly on the trembling ball on the bed and suddenly started laughing.
"What-you think I brought you here in exchange for that?"
Green eyes peaked a little from the blanket. "B-but...you said you're g-gay...and...there's really nothing I could give in exchange for this...expensive place..."
Usami started walking towards the bed with a sudden pissed expression. "Is that why you're all shaking up a like a leaf there thinking I'd just start jumping all over you? Are you stupid? You aren't even my type. I'm gay alright but my standards are pretty high you snotty brat."
Usami sat on the bed still looking stern. "Do you know what you just said? You just totally placed me on the same level as those lowlifes."
The boy suddenly sat on the bed, throwing off the sheets down the floor. "I-I didn't mean that..."
"Because...I've seen this happen a lot in the streets...some young women I knew...they went to those who offered a roof over their heads..."
The man gave a sigh, making the look on the boy's face more troubled.
"I'm sorry..." Misaki mumbled. "Please don't throw me out just yet..."
Usami watched Misaki's bowed head for a long while. The boy had such brown hair which reminded him of birds in the park. The kid looked like an injured bird. A bird with a broken wing.
"I know. You went through a lot and I must say I am not the most saintly person either..." Usami said, patting the young man on the head. "Let's do it this way. Since you're so bothered by not being able to give something in return, let's keep a tab. Pay me when you can."
"Ah..." Misaki's eyes widened. It was obvious in that instant he liked that idea. Like a benefactor. Like a guardian. "I...see...we can...do that..."
"But sorry, I hate counting trivial things up so you better learn to read and write fast."
"I am going to teach you basics. As soon as you can, we'll enroll you to a special course."
Usami slightly leaned closer, trying to see what has happened to the boy he was talking to. Misaki just all suddenly became quiet, only staring at Usami.
"Someone kind..." Misaki started. "Someone kind...finally took me in..."
"Don't get too dramatic there, hurry up, go down and eat."
Misaki smiled despite of his snotty appearance. "I will do my best...I promise..."
Usami stood from the bed, glanced back and unexpectedly gave the brunette his rarest real smiles. "I look forward to the day when you can already fly."
A woman with red hair and a couple of folders came in without so much as an announcement. It seemed like this was the most normal thing for her to do. And she was intending on screaming her way from the genkan all the way to the author's room to wake the author who must still be sleeping.
"Mou...Usami-sensei...that guy...I told him there's a meeting tonight at Teito...he wouldn't reply, it's been three days is he still alive!"
She started taking off her scarf and coat on the way to the spacious living room. What she saw in the middle made her rub her eyes. That would never happen. Of all places in the world, there was no way that could happen.
"You remember there is Hiragana and Katakana right?" Usami asked.
The award winning author was seated on the carpeted floor? He was on the floor in that way, pointing a pencil on flashcards little kids only used. What was more, he was sounding so patient. The world probably was about to end.
"Write down all the characters you can remember, then we'll study those you have forgotten."
"H-hai..." said the somewhat excited and eager voice.
The woman's wide eyes stared at the silverhair down to the brown-head beside the man. She couldn't hold it in any further.
Both males on the floor looked behind them.
"The fuck are you screaming about?"
"W-what's this? Have you finally turned into a rabid beast? You started laying a hand on teenagers too?" Aikawa shrieked. "What happened to the classy, eye-glasses wearing men you said are your type?!"
"Huh?" Usami glared.
"Pipe down will you?"
Aikawa was seated on one of the dining table's chairs. Usami was across her. The guest was still in the living room, left to watch some dvd about Japanese characters. Aikawa continued looking at the young brunette the entire time Usami was telling her the young man's situation.
"That's harsh," the woman whispered. She only saw things like that with light novels. To think there was one who suffered that much at that young age. "Harsh..."
Usami crossed his arms.
"Anyway sensei, this is quite unusual for you too. You totally allowed someone to live here? When I, your editor must be thrown out even if I am already dead tired?"
The woman gave a sigh. "How long will this continue sensei?"
"No particular date," Usami replied, focusing his eyes to the kid in the living room. "Aikawa, help me find a lawyer about Misaki's case."
"Eh?" the woman shot a surprised look at the man. "Don't you have a degree?"
"It isn't my specialty. It's better for someone specialized in the area to look into the matter. That kid, he's here in Japan but he cannot call himself a Japanese. If he isn't a Japanese, what is he? He's deprived of the normal human citizen privileges ever since he's born. That's the best thing we can do for him."
Aikawa searched her editor's eyes. They were the same somewhat cold, somewhat bored look in them. But she could feel a little warmness in those eyes too. She couldn't help but be glad that finally, even a little, her author was showing signs of being a human being.
The next week that Aikawa came into Usami Akihiko's flat, she was met by an empty house. Only a note was left on the table.
She picked it up and read it silently. Her lips started twitching into a wide smile. She was smiling yet teary.
"I feel like crying..." she mumbled softly. "It's good...that Misaki-chan came..."
Aikawa gathered the folder beside the note and headed out of the flat.
"Aikawa, I've finished the manuscript. Just help yourself with it. I'm out with Misaki. It's getting colder and he's got no proper clothes for Autumn and the coming winter. -Usami"
"He's always giving me a hard time with the manuscript but he finished it on the dot this time...so he could help the kid shop?" she smiled. "You who hate public places sensei?"
The woman hopped in her car and hummed to herself. She would never say anything. She would never pry into it. She would not encourage. She would not say no either. She'd seen it all. The times when that stone-cold man would just stare out the window all day long. He was such a hard man, childish and unreasonable. But unlike those who find him annoying, she felt pity. Usami Akihiko was always alone, suspicious of every body. If the man could find someone to totally trust and dote to, whether with only just being friends or to something more, Aikawa would be very happy.
The stagnant air that was always present in that large flat, she could feel was being stirred slowly, gently, and she was kind of a bit excited at where it would end.
Red. Brown. Gold. They make such a good view. A post-card perfect scenery, always just a few walks away. How on Earth did he ever spent Autum after all these years, Usami thought. If not for the restless kid with so much energy to walk around, he wouldn't even set foot out.
"Usami-san!" the young man called. "Look, it's like a red carpet!"
Usami's tucked in hand in his coat moved to reach out to the boy's head. He took something off the brown strands and showed it to the boy. A leaf.
"You've had this for a long time already. Lame."
The green eyes narrowed and Misaki's cheeks puffed, grinning cheekily. To the older man's surprised, Misaki stood on tiptoes and reached out to the man's hair as well. When Misaki moved back, he waived a red leaf back at Usami's face.
"We're even now."
Usami sighed. To think he'd only been playing outside, a first after so many many years at this age? Even so, when he was watching Misaki hop around like that, among the other people sight seeing, he could not help but feel happy himself. These things were new to himself too.
"Usami-san, thank you."
The taller man looked down. Both were now walking at same speed, their footsteps sending out a bit of crunching sounds from the leaves under their shoes.
"For what? The clothes the other day?"
"Hmm...for this view."
Usami looked ahead. Rows of trees. Burning red, a classical and warming Autumn that one would just want to etch into their hearts.
"Huh? Those trees would become like that without me."
"Before I started living with Usami-san, I was never able to appreciate this. So..."
"Also this!" the boy took a piece of paper out of his pocket and extended it to Usami. "Look at it when I am not looking. I don't want to hear your sarcastic comment!"
They went home, ate together and talked a bit about Misaki's special Japanese language course at Usami's request from a friend. They watched a bit of TV and Usami then sent the younger one to sleep. They looked like every bit of a family now. Close friends too. However, there were things that Usami still didn't want to let Misaki know. He's a man after all. He's got other needs. And most times, he meet people in a special place and gets that need from them.
Alluring scents. Hypnotizing dim lightings. A sexy instrumental for a background. Classy yet wild. Excellent ambiance indeed. A glass of cold bourboun before him. Usami by now usually had already someone clinging by his arms. But tonight, he was alone. He only sat at the high stool, staring at a piece of paper.
"Ne, Usami-san...did something good happen?"
Usami Akihiko glanced up at the owner of the bar who was busy mixing in drinks. In the dark, Usami raised the paper in front of the handsome yet rough faced-owner.
"Is that from that little guy you took in?" the owner asked softly. "What unique style...I must say."
The silverhaired man slightly laughed. "No need to sound polite Rihito, you and I both know it's one hell of an ugly writing," Usami sighed. "...So that's why he didn't want me to look at it while he was still around?"
Smiling, the owner placed a new drink before Usami. An experiment. "You seem very satisfied with that 'ugly writing' though..."
It was the paper that Misaki gave him that afternoon. A writing exercise from Misaki's writing course earlier. It appeared that Misaki was already being introduced slowly to the more complicated kanjis. Of all the things to write, that airhead for some reason used Usami's name and wrote it all over the paper. It was crooked. It had many unrefined strokes. It was written like how a 1st grade would. But just by that Usami could already imagine how hard Misaki tried in writing the Kanji's of his name.
"Rihito...this must be how it feels like for a parent when their brats first started talking."
The whole flat was quiet. Only the lamps at the corners were left turned on, illuminating the tranquil place.
A pair of bare feet could be seen walking around from under the space of the low table. The sounds drowned by the soft carpet.
"Usami-san?" Misaki called. He looked up the wall-clock. It said 2 in the morning. "Did he go out...again?"
The boy moved about the place, careful and vigilant. Once he reached his destination, he stood before a huge cabinet. It was painted in a sparkly gray color contrasting the dim whiteness of the room.
A sound of breathing that was starting to quicken became more and more audible. He had his hands clasped behind his back. Those hands slowly made their way from the boy's back to his side. From his side to the front. From the front towards the intricately designed handle of the cabinet.
He stood on tiptoes and opened it.
The owner stared at Usami. "What...are you talking about? Are you sure you're Usami? Or are you already drunk? You didn't drink that much though..."
Usami shook his head with a small smile. "No. It's just that...I have received so much gifts from so many people...but this one..."
"It's just a piece of paper..."
"My name looks so ugly the way he wrote it...but I feel...unexpectedly proud and happy."
Misaki had ran back to his room with what he had taken out from that cabinet. He carefully hid it under his bed. Right after that he released a sigh. That was the time he felt like he could sleep already. The shaking he was feeling before finally subsided. Relief washed over him. He could sleep. Yes, he could finally sleep.
But he shot his eyes wide open.
For a long while he stared first at the ceiling.
"I did it again...why can't stop...it's going to happen again..."
This was the reason why the families who took him in before returned him back to the shelter. He couldn't resist stealing.
Because of that, he was viewed as nothing but an ingrate.