Your Hand in Mine
Part 3: Past Perfect
He didn't know exactly when he started to think of Sai in the past tense or the symbolism inherent in that slow sea change.
After all, he wasn't really one to contemplate the conjugations of verbs (present, past, future, or otherwise), or the symbolism inherent in anything.
So it came as a sudden shock, when he noticed, months and months later, that his thoughts had slipped from "I wonder what Sai thinks about this" to "I wonder what Sai would have thought."
It was even more of a shock to realize that the hurt had dulled, somewhat. In the beginning, the pain had been constant ... and would increase when he had to correct himself mid-thought. Now he corrected himself automatically, without notice.
He had gotten used to Sai not being there.
His hand automatically dropped to his pocket. The hard slats of the fan should have reassured him; most of the time, it was enough. Sai had been real, once.
But on some days, he remembered that the fan was just something he purchased; a physical reminder of something he had seen in a dream. On some days, the fan was merely a flimsy construct of paper and wood.
In those moments, he could understand the need of the living for the graves of the dead.
Anyway, it had been quite awhile since he had seen his grandfather, and he had promised the old geezer a game.
In the late afternoon sunlight, the goban seemed to glow with a warm honey hue. Running his fingers over the lines and stars, Hikaru could almost imagine he felt a certain sort of warmth emanating from the wood. His fingers danced lightly over the area where there should have been several stains.
There. And there. His fingers dipped and swayed. A scattering of reddish brown drops should have dotted the space to the right of his index finger. And just below his thumb, a lighter mark should have glittered, semi-transparent like salt grains, the residue of tears. They had been visible, once.
"I thought of you again, today," he said to the empty air. "I still think of you often. But you know that, right?"
As soon as he spoke, something loosened within him, and it felt much like releasing the last bit of stale air from a breath held too long. His lungs still ached, of course, but at least he could breathe freely again.
"I played Touya yesterday. We began in the upper left corner, komoku, just like your first game with him. But it turned out differently; you were right when you said that no game can ever be truly played again. I'm still looking though."
Hikaru picked up the dusting cloth. Slowly, he passed it along the surface, carefully sweeping along the lines. He curved the soft fabric around the legs of the board, making sure to catch the bottom half of the board as well. The entire time, his touch remained half gentle, half reverent. And as he cleaned, he talked of games and of life and of nothing much at all, until his voice faded out.
After that, he merely sat, silent and still, dust rag clutched in one hand.
Time passed. The shadows moved across the window, and the sunlight tilted and faded. He wasn't aware of just how many minutes or hours had gone by, however, until he heard the soft chuffle of someone clearing their throat.
"Hikaru, are you going to play me or what?" his grandfather's voice asked.
"Yeah, coming!" He stumbled upwards awkwardly, stamping his legs until the blood rushed back.
"Are you looking at that goban again? I told you to take that blasted thing home. Wouldn't it be easier than making a trip all the way over here?"
"It's fine where it is. I like having a place to come back to." For a moment, he stared back into the quiet shadows. "Anyways, don't you want me to come over to visit you? Or are you scared of me whipping your butt?"
"You impudent brat! I wouldn't talk so loud about beating me until the moku have been counted!" his grandfather retorted. "But really, keep your voice down. Your grandmother's taking a nap."
"Sure you don't need one before our game? And if you're so certain of the win, d'ya wanna bet again?" he grinned. But as he followed his grandfather back to the tatami room, he paused. His hand slipped down to his fan, fingers tracing the solid edges of the slats.
A place to come back to, always, he thought again, though he didn't say it aloud.
"C'mon, grandpa, let's play."
Well. That was ... rather ... weird.
For the record, the piece was named after the song "Your Hand In Mine," by Explosions in the Sky. It's actually an instrumental piece, and I was trying to capture the mood. Thing is, just how a rather mellow instrumental piece inspired me to burn down Hikaru's grandparent's house (and Sai's goban by proxy) still remains a mystery, even to me.
I also stole the second title from an Oasis song, "Be Here Now" even though the section in question really doesn't have much to do with that song at all. Um.
What it comes down to, in the end, is that I wrote a songfic. And errr ... about the switching tenses thing, all I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
To make things worse, I've also stolen cobbled a line from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. (It's Akira's "You are not the only one who contains multitudes. I have my silent contradictions as well," line, in case you're curious).
Then there's the random Japanese Igo terms thrown in for fun. Um. Yeah.
Still, despite the various shortcomings of the piece, the best thing about the writing process, though, is that I have a lot of help, which does make the weirdness worthwhile. If you've ever reviewed any of my stories in the past, thank you. If you're a part of my f-list, a double thank you. And if you reply now... well, I think I might have to do my squeeing dance of gratitude in your honor.
Still, whether you reply or not, I thank you the most for reading to the very end.
'til next time,