The Golden Son, Light
Warnings: Some dark themes: depression and depression-related disorders are discussed (anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, suicide)
Disclaimer: I don't own DN. I just like to analyze its characters.
She has always thought that she had rightly chosen the name for him when he was a baby. It came from the English word, things bright and knowing. It correctly illustrated everything that she felt around him - the sun, the optimism, the beauty, the hope. The light. Even as a young child, he was the type to radiate, a luminous beacon in unclouded skies. He was filled with a warm, determined intensity, and eyes that were ablaze with a passion for life reflected this. It was only her quirky irony that decided that this name should be spelled with the kanji for 'moon' instead. With a name like that, he would stand on the pedestal as a tribute to both the day and the night. Of this, she was certain, and no one would call her faith blind.
Never was a mother more lucky than Sachiko Yagami. He was her greatest accomplishment. Even if it truly did feel like she had acquired such a treasure on dumb luck alone. Every woman prays to have the perfect son, but they don't dare dream in reality. Every son has some flaw, they say. He will be ugly or stupid or weak, or he will be arrogant and disobedient.
Light wasn't any of that.
He has always been a perfect boy. He is frighteningly clever, something that his mother has never been. She supposes that he got that from his quick-witted father, but even that doesn't begin to explain his intelligence. There was no explanation as to why he was able to learn as quickly and resourcefully as he did. He's also handsome - he was always a very beautiful boy. A slender body and when he was young, the face of a cherub with large eyes and round cheeks. As he grew older the baby fat left him more and more, and now he has become a perfect young man. He is the star of the tennis team in his junior high school, quick and athletic. Best of all, he is nothing but courteous and kind-hearted, good-natured and caring, offering a golden smile to everyone he meets.
Sachiko is always proud of him.
He is fourteen now, and something is different. She can't place her finger on it immediately as she sees him out the window trudging down the sidewalk until he finally arrives at the front door. Even so, she does not pay much attention. Light isn't a problem kid. He's a perfect child, he hardly needs to be monitored.
But that night Light doesn't eat his dinner. Young Sayu is gossiping to them cheerfully, and Sachiko didn't notice Light right away. But now that she has, she sees that her son rests his chin on his hand. His almond-wide child's eyes stare downward at the fried chicken and rice that lay on his plate, and there is something... something in his gaze. Or maybe there is something that isn't in his gaze, and that's what makes Sachiko frown.
"Is something wrong, Light?" she asks, forehead creased with mild concern. "Are you feeling ill?"
"No," he answers immediately, as if by habit and without thought. When he sees that she is still watching him, he squirms a little and says something else: "When is Dad getting home?"
"Aha, is that what's bothering you?" Sachiko is triumphant. She may not be as smart as her straight-A son but she can figure out a thing or two. "Probably not until late. He's stuck with the task force on a wretched murder case. I guess things are getting pretty heated!"
"Oh." Light is only half listening to her, she can just tell, and Sachiko wonders if there is something else wrong, too. He stands up. "May I excuse myself, Mom? I have a Trigonometry test tomorrow."
Even though she wishes that he had eaten more of his dinner, she still beams in delight. I have such a dedicated son. I know he can do anything he sets his mind to! So she lets the peculiar behavior slide.
The next day he seems his normal, cheerful self again. He talks about his friends, about the birthday party that he wants to attend this weekend, and how he would like to go to the arcade after school tomorrow. He also mentioned that he was very confident in the results of his Trigonometry test, because it was easier than he thought it would be. This brightens Sachiko, and she doesn't think anything more of that day.
But a few weeks later, Light again seems a little off, a little melancholy. This time he goes straight into his room after mumbling something about wanting to study. Sachiko gives it a few minutes, remembering that unusual day before, and then knocks on his door. There isn't an answer, so she lets herself in. Light is laying on his bed, and if he wasn't staring out the window with spiritless eyes, Sachiko might think that he is been asleep.
"Honey, are you tired? Maybe you're coming down with the flu."
The boy doesn't even turn his head. "It's not that."
Sachiko pinches her lips together and walks over to him, seating herself on the mattress. She is by his head and she notices that his hair is getting long and shaggy, like all the boys seemed to like their hair these days. She runs her fingers through that red-brown silk that she is so proud of. Even if it is tousled and uncombed, it is clean and smells like soap. "Do you want to tell me what it is?"
Light still doesn't look at her but he hasn't moved away from her probing fingers that massage his head, either. His voice sounds very soft and defeated. "It's just..."
"Yes, honey?" She is holding her breath.
"It all feels so useless sometimes." He pauses, because he is embarrassed now for confiding in his mother like most teen-aged boys are. But there is something that he really wants to say that he's obviously been bottling up all day. "I-"
CRASH. The noise comes from downstairs, and is quickly followed by Sayu's wailing. "Mommy, Mommy!" she shrieks from down the stairs. "I broke the lamp, Mommy! Just an accident! I got a cut!"
And Sachiko has to leave Light to investigate her daughter's mess, but she says that she'll be right back upstairs to talk. But after she's cleaned the damage and put bandages on Sayu's cuts, Light is studying and just says that he feels better now, he just had a headache.
Light isn't the type to complain much. He puts on a front of humble, friendly indifference. They all know how ambitious he is on the inside, because not many other students are as dedicated as he is. Sachiko and her husband Soichiro always considered that to be a blessing. He is modest outwardly, but inside he was passionate.
But it was something else on the inside that Light didn't talk about. Sachiko knows it is there. Certainly it slipped her mind time and time again, because her son was leading such a perfect life. He was the ideal boy that every parent prayed for but none bothered to voice these hopes out loud because no one ever got that boy. But she did get that boy. For no reason in the world, either. She wasn't smart, or pretty, or ambitious. How did this angel come out of her womb? But lately, she is beginning to wonder if her angel really is without flaws.
"Mom, you don't have to pick me up at six anymore," Light declares, but rather quietly so one evening. "So I can just take the bus home after school."
"What?" Sachiko asks, looking up from the frying pan which is sizzling with tofu and green vegetables. "Is tennis practice at a different time now that you're in high school?"
"No..." Light hesitates meekly as he sets down his backpack, heavy with textbooks. "I don't want to be on the team anymore."
"What?" she asks redundantly and dumbfounded, turning to face her son, wondering if she misheard. "You don't want to... be on the team anymore?"
Tentatively, he confirms. "Not really."
"But... but, honey! You love tennis, you can't quit the team." Her mind races through possible explanations. "Were the other kids making fun of you?"
It sounds stupid, she knows that it does, because she knows perfectly well that Light was popular and made friends, not enemies. Light makes a face. "Nothing like that. I just don't feel like being in it anymore." And then he runs off to his bedroom, dismissing the topic from any more discussion.
Sachiko just doesn't understand.
Light is sixteen now. Sachiko pretends in her heart that nothing has changed, that the fact that Light was smiling now meant something. But something had changed. Light was even more intelligent now, soaking up knowledge with frightening speed. And he learned how to something awful: he learned to act. Maybe not in the school theatrical productions, but he evaded all of his mother's worries and inquiries, offered her no evidence to base her hypothesis on. He would smile a handsome smile and say that there was nothing wrong.
It took a mother to see how sad his eyes were.
"Light! How was school today?"
"Fine," the boy mumbles, strangely distant.
"Light?" Sachiko questions. Has she caught him now? Could she finally confront his masked disconsolation?
Light turns around, clearly catching his slip, and he is all smiles. All those damned fake smiles. "Yes, it was good. I got a hundred and four percent on the biology exam. I was the only one who could work out the extra credit questions."
"Ah! My son is so smart!" His mother radiates with warmth. She can't tell if she is more disappointed that he is acting again, or more proud of another achievement. "What do you want for dinner, honey? I'll make you whatever you want."
"Err.. that's okay, Mom," he says, turning away. "I like all of your cooking. Make whatever you feel like."
So Sachiko makes a beautiful meal. She fries fish and rice, and cooks the beans in the way that she knows her son likes. She mixes up sweet pink lemonade, plopping ice cubes in the nice glasses that she usually only uses when they have company. She cuts up a watermelon into juicy cubes. She even bakes chocolate chip cookies for dessert. But Light is only picking at his food, occasionally inserting tiny bites into his mouth. He gazes in some daydream out the window.
"Now, now, Light, you study so hard!" she comments affectionately. "You'll have to eat more than that if you want to keep your energy and stay at the top of the class."
Again, Light is smiling an empty doll's smile that should be right but isn't. "Right, Mom. I'm sorry." And he begins to pick at his food again... with a little more vigor.
Sachiko is getting anxious.
One night when she is flipping through television channels, she sees a commercial for a special that would be on concerning teen depression later that night. So she makes Sayu go to bed and she watches it.
The special talks about bulimia and anorexia and drugs and self-cutting. It says that teenagers suffering from depression don't always talk about their problems. If a teenager isn't talking about what is bothering them, that is more serious than if they are. It says that they prefer to keep it to themselves, and they might even hide it if they are hurting themselves. And this frightens Sachiko. She turns off the television.
Maybe it took a mother to see it.
Maybe a father could, too?
"Soichiro," Sachiko says one night when the children were in bed. Her husband had just got home a few minutes ago after another late night at the police station. "I'm worried about Light."
"Light?" Soichiro is looking over paper work on the kitchen table, but he glances up at his wife. "Have his grades dropped?"
"No, of course not. His grades are exceptional, like always. But don't you think he's been awfully... reclusive lately? He tries to hide it, but I think there's something wrong. I think he's unhappy. I think he's suffering from clinical depression."
"Sachi," he says gently, like a voice of wisdom. "I think you're forgetting that he's a sixteen year old boy. There's probably some girl that he likes. You know how we all used to be. A handsome adolescent like him doesn't want his parents touching his social life with a ten foot stick."
"Maybe..." She doesn't know what else to say, because there is just no evidence at all. No proof of any sort besides those sad, pensive eyes, and the occasional times when he forgets to smile.
The next morning, before Light leaves for school, stops him. "Wait a moment, Light."
"Mm?" He turns toward her, his almond eyes, that were like silent amber, blinking.
Sachiko knows that she isn't very secretive and doesn't hide things well, but she approaches him and takes one of his hands. She's going to try anyway. She's going to check. She holds it tightly, thinking back on the television special. "Do you have lunch money?" she asks.
"Yeah. You gave me some just last week," he says, clearly confused, trying to yank back his limb so that he can go to school.
The mother still holds her son's hand firmly, and awkwardly her fingers move up the jacket of the uniform. She pulls it up to expose a thin wrist.
"What are you doing?" he asks, perhaps a little annoyed.
She doesn't see any cuts on his lower arm. No scars, no dried blood, thank God. Of course, maybe that didn't mean anything. Light could hide the darkest of secrets if he wanted to, he was certainly smart enough. He could hide.. anything, she knew he could. In fact, perhaps the fact that she didn't see it in the obvious place meant something even worse. And the wrist was so thin, was he not eating like the teenagers on the television special? Was she just paranoid? No. She wasn't just paranoid. Light was just too smart. "Oh, I thought I saw a hole in the fabric," she remarks casually. "I thought I'd need to sew it up."
Light shakes his head, and he is gone, gone out the door.
Over the days, Sachiko observes him meticulously. She is reminded of a marble statue of an angel, the ones that had a smile carved onto their perfect features but their eyes were filled with fog. She is studying him, and the thing is, she thinks that he knows. She thinks that he is on edge, too.
"Light, you're always daydreaming!" she remarks cheerfully one afternoon. She is sitting on the coach, and Light is at the coffee table, pretending to be reading through notes when his gaze was actually at the sky out the window. "I wonder if there's a girl that my handsome son fancies?"
"Huh?" His eyes blink back into reality as he turned to his mother. "Oh, no, Mom. Nothing like that."
"Well then... is there a boy that my handsome son fancies?" She grins as she teases him.
Light flushes at his mother's joking, his lips tighten a little in a way that reminds her of Soichiro. "No, not that either. I don't care for relationships right now."
"Ah, honey, don't mind your mother. I was just wondering if there really was anything on your mind. I'm just worried that maybe you're unhappy."
Light doesn't exactly answer, he just smiles a small angel-perfect smile. It is his facade that is supposed to dispel any concern of hers, like it did for the rest of the world. He stands up. "I should go to the library. I'm writing an extra credit paper in history class about the Chinese revolution. I'll be back before late."
"But you don't need any extra credit," she states, letting out a mild frown. "Why not stay here? I'll make you some hot chocolate and we can watch a movie, how does that sound? I'll make popcorn, too. You know that you already have the best marks in that class."
He pauses, and there they were. Those sad, foggy eyes, trapped in endless white mist. "But I'd like to do even better... if I can."
But I'd like to do even better... if I can. For some reason, these words are haunting to Sachiko. For some reason, she envisions her son working every waking moment to improve something or other, doing the things no one even thought to ask of him. Taking the burden of the world on his shoulders, and never coming home to relax, until there is nothing left of him.
No mother wants to think of her son wasting away. No mother wants to think of her son dying.
"Soichiro, I want to find a therapist for Light," she declares decisively another evening. "He does everything so perfect all of the time, he never learned how to let the imperfect things go. And I think it's hurting him, and if we don't do something, he'll be hurting himself next."
"What, Sachi? This again?" Soichiro incredulously looks up from his endless pile of paperwork. "Light is fine. I know that he's taking all the advanced classes and it might be stressful, but what doesn't kill him makes him stronger. And if he's doing all the right things and enduring, then why are you worrying?"
"What if it does kill him? What he isn't enduring?" she demands fiercely. "I want to find someone for him. And I want to put him on anti-depressants."
Soichiro scoffs. "My son does not need anti-depressants."
"And how would you know, Soichiro?" she hisses. "You're working all the time. You're hardly ever here to relax and have a family dinner. That's probably where he got this obsessive attitude from!"
"How have I ever not set a good example for our son?!" he beseeches with frustrated sincerity. "I'm a police officer, Sachi! I've committed myself, heart and soul, to fighting crime and keeping order in the world! If I've taught Light anything, then I'm a proud father!"
Angrily, Sachiko lowers her voice. "Stop yelling, you'll wake up the kids. Listen, I've heard about teenagers hurting themselves and even committing suicide on television. I never want to be one of those mothers. Even if I'm just being paranoid... I'm not going to let my son get sucked up in some dark void."
Soichiro sighs, taking a sip of his coffee. But he knows better than to keep arguing, so he admits defeat. "Alright, Sachi. You're right. I don't want anything to happen to Light either. Please remember, though, this is the end of the school semester for him. He's seventeen now, and he's going to be taking the mock college exams, and then the real ones. This is a valid reason for his stress. But if after all of that is over, you still think that he's acting unusual, I myself will find him a therapist and the appropriate medication."
This sounds reasonable enough to Sachiko, so she nods. "Just a few more weeks. Unless I find reason to believe that that's too long!"
So Sachiko continues to watch Light like a hawk. She makes sure to encourage his every accomplishment, every good grade that she might have previously not paid attention to because she had dismissed it as norm. The days go by, but Light's smile is still so forced. He would shut himself off in his room, studying hard for college-entrance exams.
Then it seems to go all downhill. She is worried that it has finally come to that point. For a few days in a row, something has definitely been up. He is jumpy and anxious. He is definitely nervous. Not even Soichiro could dismiss this behavior as normal college exam stress. After she sees Light off to school, she decides that tonight she is going to tell Soichiro that they are finding anti-depressants. She does realize, of course, that Light is getting back his score for the mock exams today. So to be fair, she will talk to her son after school and analyze his behavior one last time before making her final decision.
At work that day, all she can think about is tonight. She isn't even very intrigued when she hears some interesting news.
"Sachiko!" Her coworker Chizu exclaims. "Have you heard about the criminals?"
"The criminals?" Sachiko does not often watch the news. She prefers romantic comedies, like the ones with the pop-idol Ryuuga Hideki. And ever since the special about teen depression, she has avoided television all together.
"Yeah! It's so peculiar. This past week, a bunch of criminals have just suddenly died of heart attacks. Just like that! Over a hundred of them, too. Not just in Japan, either, everywhere! Do you think it's a government conspiracy?"
She agrees that it could be a government conspiracy, but she isn't really listening nor paying much attention. All she can think about is the mock exams and her son. She thinks that she just might be more nervous than he is. The feelings don't leave when she gets back home. He isn't back yet, so she busies herself cleaning. Sweeping the kitchen floor, dusting the living room, shaking out the rugs outside - nothing works to ease her mind.
Light arrives at home later in the afternoon. Something is different about him - he still seems weary and tired, but there's something else, too. Her heart freezes up, because she can't decide what it is.
Sachiko takes a breath, and eagerly approaches her son. "Hello, Light!"
"Hi, Mom." The tone is a little indifferent and a little detached. But is there something else? Is it urgency? He looks as if he wants to go upstairs. Why would that be? Was he unsatisfied with his score? Was he going to do something terrible now, hiding away in his room?
"Well?" With a large smile, she holds out her hand expectantly. This was the moment of truth - for more reasons than one.
"Oh, yeah." Light fishes in his pocket for the envelope that held the answers. He casually hands it to her.
She opens it, and conceals a whoop of joy upon reading. Her heart feels like it is going to explode. Her son is perfect, her son is the best. "The top score, Light! Congratulations! I'm just so proud of you. You really studied hard, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Thanks."
The boy starts up to his room, weaving around his mother's body. Sachiko is surprised, and she bites her lip - was he still depressed after all? Even after he aced such a hard test? So she calls to him, certain that indeed she will be talking to Soichiro, and they will find him professional help. "Light, honey? Is there anything that you need?"
Light pauses, turning his head and looking back down at her. He meets her eyes. "No, not really," he answers.
And then he smiles.
A real smile.
It was genuine. Somehow, Sachiko just knew it. It was golden and beautiful, and what was more was that his eyes were also golden and beautiful, creating a sincere image of glorious aspiration. They were no longer foggy, no rainy mist, no uncertainty. Instead they were like fierce, melted gold. They carried radiant intensity. They were passion. They were alive. A brilliant sunrise, where the rest of the world is hushed because there is a masterpiece for the looking. In his gentle, musical tenor voice, he says, "I've got everything I need."
He shut the door behind him, but that was okay. Sachiko's mother heart was fluttering, and she couldn't stop beaming. Her son was the smartest in the nation, he was handsome, he was popular... and more than that, and most importantly... he was happy.
"But I'd like to do even better... if I can..."
And if he was happy, as his loving mother, she could be happy and content, too. She finds herself looking out the window, like he always did in his daydreams, and she wonders what he saw. The sky is a vast blue, and even the scattered white clouds could not hinder its devotion. Sachiko gazed into that endless unknown, and all she saw was the golden sunlight.
1. I have to say, a lot of what I've written has been bittersweet at best, depressing at worst. But I do believe that out of everything I've written to date, I've felt the most emotional writing this. I was re-watching the first episode of Death Note, and Light is looking out the window in class. He's thinking things along the lines of "Day after day... the world is rotting". We know much about his life prior to the Death Note, but as I thought about it, I think the theory that he suffered depression as a teen is extremely believable. He does show signs, and there is some evidence:
2. For example, it's a fact that Light quit the tennis team that he was the star of. Often, teens suffering depression are reclusive and quit activities that they previously enjoyed.
3. It's also a fact that this Light doesn't seem to talk about his concerns to anyone, he voices them alone in his inner-monologue. Though he seems consumed with the idea that the world is rotten, he keeps it all inside. Another symptom of depression.
4. Though this is inconclusive, it isn't unfounded in Light's case - depression can arouse from not being able to connect with family. Though Light's family loves him dearly, his father does seem to work all of the time, and his mother seems more interested in his grades than his self esteem. His little sister Sayu also doesn't seem to share his intelligence - no one is on the same level as Light, possibly leading to feelings of alienation. Another interesting thing to think about with his father - we can guess that Light gets his strict ethics about justice from Soichiro, but if we follow the theory that he is an idol to Light but works all the time, it's possible that he has built up some resentment toward criminals for taking his father away.
5. Fact: Light becomes happier when he finds a 'purpose' (he flat-out says this). A symptom of depression is feeling useless, and feeling that the world is passing them by. Though Light clearly has a lot of potential, he isn't given an appropriate outlet for that until he finds the Death Note. Now that he has a purpose, he feels like his life matters. Also, when Light gives up his memories later and works with L, he still has a purpose - now it's 'capture Kira', but he can still apply his intellect and passion in a way that suits him.
Thanks for reading, everyone! It was very interesting for me to write, so I hope that it was enjoyable. -Serria