008. Part of my 100 Songs Challenge.
Inspired By: Lies, Glen Hansard
A/N: I wish I knew what was going through my head when I started writing this. Here's a little warning to anyone that might be reading: You will be confused. Heck, I'm confused, and I'm the author. But it's not all bad. I am now obsessed with angsty!Occhi thanks to this fic. (:
I hated him at first. It sounds cliché, but it's true. I hated him at first because he embodied every single character trait that I disliked in a human being. He was loud, boisterous, and outspoken. He would tell the truth without considering the consequences beforehand. His anger was as violent and sudden as a summer thunderstorm, and yet the next minute his mask of indifference would be back in place as if nothing had happened at all. He held no consideration for the feelings of others, and worked only to better himself. His ego was so overpowering that at any given moment I expected his head to swell like an inflated balloon.
So I hated him. Or rather, I hated what he appeared to be, because in those days I was not yet aware of the façades that he and many others put on for the world.
But somehow, despite my hatred, he still managed to get under my skin. The things he said were often cruel and unnecessary, and yet they were true. I hated him more for telling the truth, and yet it was exactly what I needed to hear above all else. There had been nothing but praise my entire life; people telling me that I was the model student, the perfect child, the exemplary son. But I wasn't. Not always, at least. Sometimes, you just have to hear the honest truth from someone, and he wasn't afraid to say what needed to be said.
And through my hatred I started to see something else to him. Something deeper. Somewhere far in his heart, there was a part of him that wanted to hear the truth as well; a part of him that was like me in every way.
It's easier to lie to yourself than to others, after all. I should know. Lies are my trade, my currency, my daily routine. Lies are my life.
But I realized none of this back in those days. All I knew was that Shogo Narumi wasn't quite as bad as I'd thought him to be, and my hatred gradually faded into grudging acceptance, which faded into camaraderie, which in turn was replaced by wary friendship. After all, when you dug down deep enough we were both the same…
I had no one. I was the aloof intellectual, shunned by my classmates for "trying too hard" and "being too good." People like me were always better left alone, surrounded by textbooks instead of friends. It was easier that way, for me and for them.
But Narumi was alone too. He was constantly surrounded by admirers, fawning over his good looks and adorably short fuse. His father was rich and powerful, and Narumi was given the chance to meet hundreds of daddy's rich and famous clientele every day. There were always people in his life, and yet… he was painfully alone.
Even back then, I saw what no one else could: his hatred of all things phony. None of those people were real to him. They were fakes. They were shams. They were parasites, clinging to him because he was just that type of person.
Narumi sparkled. Not literally, of course. But there was such honesty and determination and strength to him that he almost seemed to shine with it. Normal people were drawn to this glow like moths to a lantern. They tried to bathe themselves in his light, even if only for a second, because they wanted what he had – the looks, the riches, the connections.
If he could have thrown it all away, he would have. If he could have tossed aside all that made him shine, he would have done it in an instant. If there was one thing he hated, it was too much attention. He loved winning, but the spotlight repulsed him to no end.
But some people are just meant to be seen, and Narumi was one of them. Other people, like myself, are meant to watch from the shadows. Listening. Observing. Taking note of all the details that others tend to miss. Those are my fields of expertise.
And so I watched Narumi carefully as we traversed the triumphs and pitfalls of our school years. I watched him become steadily angrier at the world – at the rotten people that inhabited it. I watched his light become steadily stronger, and I watched in disgust as even more parasites found their way to him, their eyes wide and glittering with the dust of false love. I watched him turn inwards and hide himself from their grasp… But not from mine.
We had realized at some point along the line that we were all we had. I had him. He had me. And that was all we needed. We grew progressively closer as the years passed by; our lives grew intertwined. If we had been one person, we would have been whole and happy, but as it was we were not. I was incomplete, missing the spark and the emotions that make life worth living. He was incomplete, missing the trust and the convictions that he would need to ever make something out of himself.
Together we would have indeed made the perfect specimen, but as it was we could only move closer to one another and try our hardest to not allow any tempest to tear us apart. We were friends, the best, and yet in a way we were something so much greater. Together we could soar high above the dirt and grime of the foul world we inhabited. Together we were a force to be reckoned with – he, the light, and I, the shadow, working towards one common goal.
We were unstoppable.
And yet we were still children. Children do not understand the complexities of the relationships they hold dear. To them, a friend is just a friend… until they become something more.
I think back to that day under the red maple tree, when the branches above our heads were aflame with hues of red. I think back to that moment when I handed him my heart.
I wanted him to see. I wanted him to peer deep into the blackest realms of my soul, and to see what lay in waiting there… All the lies and falsehoods, all the fantasies and desires that were far too twisted for my young age… At that moment I lay my soul bare before him, daring him to look inside. And more than anything, I wanted him to tell me, "It's alright. There's nothing wrong with you. See? I'm the same."
But he never looked. Perhaps he was afraid of what he might have seen had he taken the plunge. Perhaps he knew that once he saw what was waiting inside my heart, everything we had built around us would shatter like fragile glass. Instead, he gave me back my heart and sealed it away with his lips.
The world changed in that moment under the red maple tree as he pressed his lips to mine. My eyes were closed, and yet I had never seen so clearly. Because in my mind's eye I saw not the world as it was, ugly and barren and devoid of hope, but instead I saw it as he saw it when he was alone with his thoughts: a realm for him and I alone. A separate plane where light and shadow coexisted and entwined together until one was indistinguishable from the other, combining to create something bigger than life itself.
And when he drew back, horrified at what he had done, the vision disappeared back into his thoughts once more. I realized something at that moment. He felt nothing for me like I felt for him. I was his world. That's all it was. He knew nothing and no one but I, and so to him I was his other half – the other part of his being that was just now rising up to the surface.
This poisonous black flower that was blooming in my soul, causing the strange pain in my chest any time he was near… He did not feel that. Because to him, I was simply the piece of the puzzle that had been missing all along.
"What does this make us?" he had whispered to me fearfully, his unguarded eyes wide and frightened.
I had simply gazed back into those eyes and felt my heart fall from chest and shatter on the ground, splintering into a thousand insignificant shards. I would have gathered them and given each one to him, if only he wished it.
"This makes us lonely," I whispered back, and the flaming red leaves murmured quietly among themselves as a soft breeze danced past.
Then she came, and it was the beginning of the end. He didn't know that she was that girl, the one who had stolen his young heart so cruelly, but I did. From the first moment I saw her working her magic, there was no doubt in my mind.
Because she sparkled too. Her light was less noticeable, less bright. To notice it one had to close their eyes and truly see what could not be seen. Her light paled in comparison to his, because instead of brutal honesty and ambition, it shone with hidden compassion and justice, and in a world like ours there is no place for such things. But… It was just as lovely, her light, if not more so.
In a way, I always knew that they were meant to be. He and her. Her and him. Kindred souls, connected and converging down the path to happiness. Fate had been conspiring to bring them together from the start.
I saw this, and yet I refused to believe it. What about us? What about that single, god-like entity, greater than the sum of its parts, that had existed in a world all its own, uninhibited by human limitations? What was light without shadow, and vice versa? Could one ever truly exist without the other?
Had he so quickly forgotten the secret whispers of the flame leaves; the shattering of my bitter heart on the ground at his feet? I had not. I could not. I could never forget, even as much as I wished to. Had it really just been the sudden whim of a lonely boy? Had his lips, sweet and soft against my own, meant nothing at all?
I was afraid. She asked for none of his attention, and yet she claimed it all. His eyes no longer held mine in those rare, quiet moments – instead they desperately sought hers, always wishing for her to be there. He sought her approval. He sought her respect. He sought her love, despite how much he tried to deny it.
I had made him whole, but she… she made him happy. I had tried for so many years to do just that. 'How?' I wondered as I watched them from afar. 'How could she succeed where I failed, without even trying?'
And to this day I still don't know the answer. Happiness, true love… What do I know of such things? All I have are lies, sickly sweet like poisoned wine. Lies are like a drug. Some people toss them casually about, never noticing the damage the do until it's far too late. Others lie only on occasion, when the desire to escape from the truth becomes a burning need. But then there are those like myself, who crave the exhilaration of the lie before sinking into the calm darkness that follows it. I always feel relieved, you see. Like any drug, withdrawal can lead to… painful symptoms.
… I've built myself a tower of glass. A house of cards. Whatever you call it, the implications are the same. With every untruth the passes through my tainted lips, the cracks in the glass grow a little more numerous. With every lie that creeps into existence out of my deepest darkness, the house of cards threatens to topple itself.
Someday I know that the ruins of my once-proud life will come tumbling down upon me, crushing me with the weight of my many deceptions.
I lied to him first; told him nothing had changed after that day under the red maple tree. He looked at me, with uncertainty in his wide, innocent eyes, and he asked me if things would be different. My stoic masquerade faltered for a moment, but I kept my head. The lie came to me in a sudden vision, illuminating the path I had to take. It beckoned me with open arms; it sung promises of a better future. There was nothing I could do but give in and allow the lie to envelop me, carrying me away to blissful heights. I had taken my first taste… and from that moment onwards my glass tower began to rise.
"No," I said to him, smiling like I always did. "Nothing's changed, Shogo. It's still the same as ever – just you and I, and nothing more."
His heartwarming smile at that moment was almost enough to make me feel like it was all worth it.
I lied again. I lied to myself when I said I loved her, because of course I didn't. For her I felt nothing but respect, but somehow it seemed right to say I loved her. It made sense, far more sense than what I felt for him. Her picture became the background on my cell phone; her smile became the one I watched for. Because with this lie I had really truly outdone myself – I honestly believed it to be true.
I loved her…
Or not. At some point along the line it became impossible to convince myself. Not when I knew deep down in my soul that it was him I'd always been fixated on. My lies hadn't been quite enough, but I still couldn't resist them. My habit had already become an addiction.
I lied again. I lied to myself when he saw me with her. At that point I had realized that my love for her was a ruse. Our meeting that night had been nothing more than coincidence, but perhaps fate thought otherwise, for just as I reached over to pull something from her hair he chanced upon us, and his eyes grew stormy with barely-suppressed jealousy. I lied to myself then; pretended that his jealous rage was directed at her instead of me. Pretended that he wanted me, not her.
And for a moment I really believed it. She had tempted me, that foul seductress! Her shining smile had drawn me from his side and spirited me away… Yes, that's how it was. She had stolen me from him with her charms and graceless beauty, and he should have been jealous of her, because she had captured me in her devilish grasp.
… Or not.
After all, I've always liked to pretend.
I lied to him again soon after that. I lied to him when he confronted me about what he thought he had seen.
"You… You kissed her!" he exclaimed, his face flushed with lovely anger. I had not done any such things, and yet… I could always pretend. I could pretend that he was angry with himself for letting me slip away. I could pretend that he wanted me back. I could even pretend that we were the ones who were "meant to be". Yes… That fury in his eyes was simply a cover for the terrible sadness that lurked beneath the surface. That's what it was.
He wanted to go back. Back to the days when it was just him and I together, when she was not yet part of the picture. Back to the times when I was all that mattered to his naïve little mind. Of course he wanted to go back, just as much as I did…
"Yes, I kissed her," I said to him. "You should know by now that I'm not going to give up."
And it was the truth.
Now I sit across the table from him and her as they enjoy their happy life together.
I've tried so hard to be a part of it. Their children call me "father." Their home is more of a home than my own is. I have my own key to the front door. I always know what needs fixing, whether it be the door hinge or the leaky faucet. When the days become too lonely I stay the night, in the guest room which has little by little become my own.
I've tried so hard to bathe myself in their light, just like those parasitic creatures that so long ago clung to him and forced their counterfeit adoration upon his gentle soul. There is no longer any difference between me and them, except… Except that despite my lies, I have always clung to a single fragment of truth.
Him. He is my truth.
I saw into his mind once, on that fateful day under the red maple tree. His thoughts were so clear. His mind was so free. He was honesty embodied into a human form, without a single treachery hidden away in the darkest corners of his heart. For he has never dealt with darkness – the demons that sell contracts with the shadows have never been able to make a deal with him. His glow has always been far too strong. The demons cannot touch him…
And neither can I. For I am one of them now. My glass tower has ever so slowly become coated with dirt and grime, the filth in which evil demons dwell, breathing dishonesty out of their charred, black lungs. I can no longer see through the windows of my glass tower. All I see is darkness.
Within that gloom are things I dare not name. They whisper words of hatred to me in my darkest hours. They lash out with their bloody claws, tearing through my weak defenses and slashing at my soul, leaving gaping wounds that no one can see. These wounds bleed, but no one notices. These wounds kill me a little more, day by day, and yet they are so cruelly invisible to the eyes of those around me.
I know that it's all my fault. A life made of lies can only end one way, after all. Oh, but the sweet promises I heard… The demons of darkness are conniving and tricky. They knew what my shattered heart wished to hear above all else, and with that they lured me farther and farther until I was so lost in the shadows that there was no return.
In the end, perhaps I was never meant to live at all.
"Daddy! Daddy!" The children run to me, embrace me, their faces bright and simple. Lying to myself has become so easy, and I do it again at that moment. I lie to myself again, and I pretend that the beautiful children before me are not theirs, but ours. I pretend that the children do not resemble him and her. Instead, they resemble us – a perfect mix of light and shadow. What angelic children they are.
I would teach them so much.
Never trust the darkness, I would say to them. For it will swallow you up and never let you go. Do not let it sway you with pretty words, for it will soon make you into a monster.
"Stop teaching my kids to call you that," he grumbles amiably, shattering my fantasy just like he did my heart.
We are at home – his home, but my home all the same. The beautiful children, so like their parents, scamper off to play under the red maple tree, and we are alone together staring out at the world. We are silent, but I know that he is gathering his thoughts and preparing himself for what he must say.
"Kazuhiko…" he murmurs finally, and the sound of my name from his lips makes me cringe inwardly. My name is impure. My name is dirtied by lies. It is unfit for one such as him to say. "Kazuhiko, Kiri and I have been talking. We love having you around, you know that, and yet… You have to… You have to get on with your life at some point. I know you said you wouldn't give up, and I respect that, but… You need to move on, Kazuhiko. Get out there and meet someone new. Find a nice girlfriend, start a family. Or something like that. There's no point making yourself miserable any longer than you have to."
He is smiling at me, encouraging me. 'Go,' his eyes plead. 'Leave. Be happy.'
Little does he know how impossible this is. Be happy? I can't remember what 'happy' is. I can't remember a time before the lies and deceptions and demons. I can't even remember a time before him. Had I ever truly been happy?
"I can't leave," I say, studying him with quiet intensity. "Because nothing's changed, Shogo. It's still the same as ever – just you and I, and nothing more."
He looks at me in confusion at first, but slowly, ever so slowly, a look of realization dawns over his face as he remembers when I first spoke those words. For the first time in years, Shogo Narumi remembers those fateful events of our youth that began my single-minded journey to oblivion.
In a single second he sees my lies. He sees all of them.
His light falters. My darkness spreads to him in an instant like a fatal disease, contaminating his perfect world, marring his beauty with mendacity. He begins to look sick, and perhaps he is. He's never been touched by the shadows before.
My tower is finally beginning to shatter; the glass around me is cracking and splintering into nothingness and I'm falling down, down, down into my own void. The house of cards is tumbling, its ruins crushing me and burying me under years' worth of pain. Demons are cackling gleefully in my ear, raking at me with their claws, puncturing the fragile space where my heart used to be, and I'm bleeding more and more from my invisible wounds… But it's all worth it, because now he knows.
Now he sees what I've become, and it's all because of him.
His anxious eyes travel to the red maple tree under which his lovely children play. He had planted it himself back when they were first married. He had both loved and hated that tree with leaves of flame in all the hues of red.
"Oh God," he whispers, but God can't save us now. Because I'm falling; falling into the yawning chasm of cold nothingness beneath me, in the place where my glass tower used to stand. I feel so empty. A hollowed-out shell of a human being, devoured from the inside out by an unseen evil. A puppet, controlled by the vile darkness of my heart until everything came crashing down upon me.
I'm falling, and I'm taking him with me.
Him and I, just like it used to be in the good old days. We're falling together, as we should, for together we are one. And though there is some cold emotion in his eyes that I cannot place, somehow I find the wickedness within myself to conjure up one last lie.
The lie is thus: He loves me.
I smile, and for just a moment our descent into the abyss is slowed. What a beautiful lie. It would have warmed my heart, had I had one.
The look in his eyes is no longer cold. I see many emotions within them: compassion and sympathy and concern and so much love that it seems to overflow and brighten the darkness around us. In his eyes I see endless possibilities, because he loves me more than the world itself. With love such as that, what can we not do? He will rescue me from this oblivion. He will heal away all the years of falsehoods and hidden pain.
He loves me.
But my tower is gone. I am tired of this deceitful game; tired of trying to live when in truth I died along with my heart. I blink, and his eyes no longer hold any love. They are like cold, hard diamonds. They are like distant stars, remote and unreachable in the depths of space. They are as cruel and biting as the edge of a sword, and instead of love there is remains only icy scorn for a creature of darkness like myself.
Now he puts all of his scorn and hateful accusations into a single word, two syllables that pierce my last remaining scrap of humanity with a thousand rusty knives.
And it is the truth.