Part 3: Caught
This is the time when he feels most like himself.
He is in his car, sitting at the red light that marks the midpoint between the apartment and the house. His hands shift slightly on the steering wheel as the engine idles. He wonders if it is strange that he loves this intersection. He loves it more than the disorganized warmth of Kaoru's studio apartment and more than the refined elegance of Tomoe's perfectly ordered house.
The intersection asks no questions. Instead, it is Kenshin who finds himself asking. Through the frosted windshield, he watches as nearly a dozen people amble past the row of cars. They seem unaware of their seated audience, laughing or quarrelling as if no one were watching. His eyes follow a trio of jostling school girls as they skip ahead of each other to reach the mall on the other side of the intersection. Looking at their carefree giggles, he asks them if they know what had to be done to keep the crosswalks safe for children such as themselves; if they know how different their world might have been if he had not carved out the law in blood and death.
The intersection does not look into his soul and know him. Rather, he knows the intersection. He knows that in a moment the little white man illuminated by tiny bulbs will disappear and the foreboding red hand will appear. His eyes slide to the elderly woman who has just stepped off the curb. He knows that by the time she reaches the median the blinking hand will stop and the lights will change. He wonders, as she hobbles in front of the car, if she realizes that he could press his foot to the gas pedal and obliterate her. He wonders if any of the pedestrians know that at any moment the vehicles could bring death or injury – if not for the flimsy and insubstantial control of the red light.
Peripherally, he notices that the traffic light for the cars rushing past has flickered to amber.
Amber, he thinks, a color he would rather forget.
Before reaching this particular intersection – where the two major arteries of the city crossed - he had felt guilty. Now that he anticipates leaving, he feels a familiar melancholy fill him. The lights change.
Green means go.
And he is never one to disobey the law. So he pushes the car forward, and passes through the intersection. He slows to let another car merge into his lane and then speeds up so that the vehicle behind does not have to brake. He has never been one to neglect his duty – not to the rules of the road, not to the demands of the state and not to the warring demands of the hearts that are precious to him. Tomoe saves him; Kaoru rejuvenates him. They are both precious to him.
And so, he loves them both. And he loves neither.