I heard the door open and close. "I'm home," someone called from the threshold, and I heard the dull thud of shoes being thrown on the floor.
"Welcome home," I said, and I laid down the newspaper I was reading. "How'd it go?"
"Great; I think I nailed it. I'll have a job by this time tomorrow; I guarantee it."
"Let's hope so."
Kouji came into the kitchen and went straight to the fridge. He pulled out a carton of orange juice, and from a cabinet he produced a small glass. He shook, poured, and drank the juice all in one fluid movement, and as he lifted his chin, I noticed something that made me shake my head.
"Of course, managers definitely hire young men who forget to shave under their chins."
Kouji didn't reply until he finished downing the glass of orange juice and poured himself more. He felt under his chin. "I promise I didn't forget; it just grew back too quickly."
"Right, like you didn't forget to close the refrigerator door." Kouji realized his error, and he grinned sheepishly. "Oops."
Kouji often had issues remembering simple things, a direct result of a drug addled brain. It didn't affect his daily life in any significant way, but it was a rather annoying reminder of that life.
"Listen, Takuya and I were planning on going out tonight. Maybe catch a movie and then some food or something. Is that okay?"
"Tell Takuya to drive." Kouji chuckled.
"He always does."
"I'd prefer you home by midnight."
"Sure, sure. I've got to go to class early tomorrow anyway."
"Then have a blast."
"Although I recommend you stick around until…oh, six-thirty. I heard a rumor that Satomi is planning on Sukiyaki for dinner tonight." Kouji looked a little pained. This was clearly interrupting his plans. He could have dinner with his boyfriend or Sukiyaki, which he absolutely loved, with his family.
"Is Takuya invited?"
"I'm sure she wouldn't mind."
"Then we'll be there."
"Alright; I'll tell her to prepare an extra place. Go on up and call Kouichi, alright? He called a little while ago; wanted to know something important about a date for a music hotel in Tokyo."
Kouji looked a little confused for a moment, and he chewed on that information. His deduction ability was also a little twisted, but it didn't take him very long to grin at me and sigh patiently, as though dealing with a rather slow person.
"You mean 'Tokio Hotel.' The German band."
"Oh, that might've been it." Of course, I knew that; I just still liked testing Kouji with broken information, hoping to keep him on his toes and capable of simple comprehension problems even though his brain had been a little messed with.
"That is important…" Kouji frowned, and promptly did an about face. "Thanks; I'll talk to you again in a bit!" And he was off, still forgetting to close the fridge door, still forgetting he'd left his orange juice cup just sitting on the counter.
I was still smiling at the empty space where he'd been just seconds before, still smiling at his back as he went up the stairs.
It was all so difficult to absorb sometimes, even two years later.
It feels like such a terrible dream that happened a long long time ago, but it happened. I wish I could just say here, "And then I woke up and it was all a horrible dream and I learned that I should always be accepting of people," but it wasn't. That night still feels like a terrible nightmare. I mean, my son was dead, and I was dead, and I was hearing his voice calling to me from heaven…
It turns out Kouji wasn't dead. He'd come close, but no closer than I had been after suffering a major Myocardial Infarction; a heart attack.
Kouji had been on the verge of dying for two days, constantly almost overdosing, constantly coming back down without going too far. Apparently his exact science had been less exact than he'd thought. We'd just had the rotten luck of catching him in the middle of a serious attempted overdose. I think it was cocaine and methamphetamine. The brilliant paramedics were familiar enough with the address and had thought to bring a few "antidotes" for cocaine overdose, one of which was, ironically, Valium.
Kouji regained a shred or two of sanity in the ambulance, which we were apparently crammed in together when it was obvious I was suffering a heart attack.
I know it sounds odd, but I feel so old saying I've had a heart attack. I'm not even fifty yet, not for another few weeks anyway.
Silly, to worry about that kind of thing.
Kouji comforted me all the way to the hospital in the same hectic, desperate way I'd tried to comfort him. We were both sobbing messes.
Both of us nearly died that night. I think we could have both gladly died.
And I think…honestly, I think we're both glad we didn't.
I recovered sooner than he did. At least, I felt like I was recovered quicker than everyone else thought I was. I think I gave some of my doctors heart attacks themselves with me walking to Kouji's room at any god-awful hour of the night.
I almost thought Kouji and I would eventually have an arguing match that would be the final straw to give me the second finishing heart attack, but we never said a mean thing to each other. I think almost dying was enough of a slap in the face for both of us. I begged him to tell me everything that had ever bothered him or depressed him in his life, and I understood every bit of it. I accepted every ounce of it.
It involved dozens of sappy conversations with each other, more than I'm really comfortable with repeating, more than you would care to read. When he started getting upset and worrying that I hated him, I just assured him that I loved him and would always love and accept him, and when I got upset about failing him and being a horrible father, he would actually go so far as calling himself an immature and ungrateful little brat, which started me up again taking the blame off of him, putting it on me, and etc. All that mattered was that he forgave me like I forgave him for all the messed up years.
Even about the whole "gay" thing. I'd sort of moved passed that, especially when I could really sit back and appreciate everything that Takuya had done for my son all these years. He'd helped him more than I'd realized.
That's about the part I'd get to when I stopped and recanted if I'd just let them go along, then they might've had a nice, normal relationship and Kouji never would've ended up this way…
…and that's when Kouji would intercept me and start going off about how he really was being so melodramatic and he overreacted to everything I said and did. We couldn't stop blaming ourselves, but at least we stopped blaming each other for our problems. We'd learned to forgive each other, and more forgiveness would come in time.
By the way, even though me and Kouji were still working things out, Takuya rather suddenly became a common factor in my life. Not only was he frequently visiting Kouji during our brief stint in the hospital, he also visited me every day. He even brought me the paper, sometimes coffee.
"Why do you keep doing this?" I'd keep asking him. "Is Kouji asking you to?"
"No, I haven't really told him I've been talking to you at all. I think he's still under the impression that we haven't really met yet."
"Then why? You barely even know me, and based on what you know of me, you should hate me."
He'd just sort of shrug, like he hadn't actually come up with an adequate reason yet and it didn't really matter. "You're Kouji's father. And I've been with Kouji forever, so I guess I feel I should respect you like my own father. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable or something."
It did, honestly. Kind of a lot. But who was I to judge him? Furthermore, who was I to tell him off simply for being kind?
After the hospital he was allowed to visit our home, and he was usually always there as a constant support post for Kouji. Sometimes he stayed the night. The first time he slept on the couch, probably out of courtesy. When I informed him I didn't mind them sleeping together, (much to their surprise) I kept dreading that I'd hear them going at it in the middle of the night, but I never did. Either they're very quiet, or they just weren't having sex at the time.
In the end, I think Takuya kept his promise to Kouji and swept in and charmed me. As much as Kouji was a train wreck for introducing me to the life of a homosexual, Takuya was a thankfully normal ambassador. I got to know everything about him in a relatively short period of time, and I liked what I learned. He was riding two small scholarships from baseball and soccer, and attending school full time, picking up odd jobs and paying off the rest as he went along. He could be kind of silly and immature at times, contrasting drastically with the seriousness I saw from him at other times, but he was an easy person to get along with. He wasn't some horrible, terrible person just because he was gay, and he not only treated Kouji well, he treated him like a man; not like my son was some submissive little bitch. I was ashamed at myself for even considering that he might be anything but a regular person.
I think this of all things made Kouji forgive me on the spot for everything I'd done that was wrong; I didn't just accept him, I accepted his boyfriend, and this made everything okay.
And as long as he forgave me for being a rotten father, I forgave him for being gay. Hey, a gay son was much better than having no son at all. It really wasn't such a bad thing when you got used to the idea; he was still my son and he was still normal, and for the most part he outwardly seemed to be your average, every day man. His flaming gay attitude and slutty drag queen appearance just disappeared all of a sudden, and you could pass him on the street, and not think twice about him.
Things were all of a sudden blessedly normal.
It seemed pretty contrite, I think. Near-death experience, we cry and kiss and make up, and suddenly everything is all better.
Then came the full-blown issues of having a very drug-addicted son.
Which, I'll still add, was still better than no son at all.
And then Kouji remembered that he hated me and that he couldn't stand how horribly I treated him.
See, problems don't just disappear like magic.
Kouji's usual hits involved Coke, usually snorted, unless it was mixed with Heroine and it was injected, and Crystal Meth, usually smoked. All three highly addictive, all three sent Kouji spiraling into rampant withdrawal after no more than a day or two without them. Even Takuya couldn't help him when he was freaking out from withdrawal. Maybe it was nice that me and Kouji loved each other again and we were father and son and he'd call me "Dad" again, but the drugs were something serious, something that would take a long time to get over.
Even two years later…
Not two minutes after Kouji ran up to his room, I abruptly stood and followed. I could already hear him on the phone. When I reached his room I gently pushed open the door, which hadn't been quite closed, but wasn't really enough open for my liking. He was lying on his stomach, on the bed, holding his phone on his shoulder while he filed his nails on an Emry board; he really didn't have any nails to speak of, as he chewed them incessantly, but nails neatly filed down did look better than nails chewed off to the skin.
He didn't seem at all annoyed by the intrusion; in fact, he waved, and mouthed his universal excuse for all mistakes: "Oops."
He knew the drill; he'd just forgotten to keep his door open again.
It wasn't that I didn't trust my son, you see. It's just that junkies don't really ever go completely clean. It was hard to put complete faith into a person to always stay away from drugs when they hardly had the faith in themselves. They fell back sometimes…
At least Kouji understood now. He got that I wasn't being mean or hard on him, just insanely over-protective. I was starting to think that he actually rather liked that.
Surprisingly, Kouji weaned himself off of most of the shit he was on, as Takuya accurately summed it up, in a few weeks. He still had the self control to ignore those things because he no longer had any reason to destroy himself. He even found the willpower to keep off of Heroine, after a few months. His big issues were still old faithful Coke and old trusty Meth.
Cute little meetings and support groups weren't very helpful. Kouji simply developed his own program: he still did the drugs, just less often.
This I did not like.
This we actually argued about. Habit, you can call it; I'm right and you're wrong and that's that. I'd moved past the "I will not have a gay son under my roof" to "I will not have a using junkie under my roof."
He'd moved on from "I can't believe you can't accept who I am" to "I can't believe you can't accept how hard it is to be addicted to something."
And we started arguing again.
I guess near death experiences hadn't really taught us anything…so we had to have another one.
Kouji overdosed again, on purpose. Unluckily for him, I still had plenty of Valium left over for my nerves, which counteracted cocaine overdose once again, enough to where I didn't want to take him back to the hospital. I was already facing enough legality questions from the last time; the next time Kouji went into the hospital on a drug overdose, he'd be getting jail time after treatment, and now that he was no longer a minor, there was shit I could do about it.
He left me a little suicide note that simply read "Fuck you," which I actually did not find until after settling him down and crying with him some more.
"Dad?" he called after me as I walked away from his room. I hurried back.
"Nothing's wrong," he sighed, exasperated. I think he thought that we had no problems at all and I really was just overreacting at the occasional drug thing. "Kouichi says Tokio Hotel will be touring Tokyo some time next summer. Do you mind if we went to one of their concerts for our birthday?"
"Kouichi is treating you?"
"Well, no, you know he can't, but he would if he could." I did know very well that neither my first son nor his mother could afford concert tickets; they weren't as well off as we were. "But you also know that I know that you know how I would probably get into mischief if I went with anyone other than my level-headed brother."
"You're very right."
"And you'd get me out of the house for a few days." He grinned. I guess he thought it was strange for me to not be desperate to get him out of the house, even though he was nineteen and still a druggie. Really, I wanted to keep an eye on him at all times; I was still the ultimate over-protective parent, after all. Hell, if it came to him being thirty and still living under my roof, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but I had a suspicion that he was planning on moving out with Takuya when he gets his bachelor's. This didn't bother me either; as long as someone was looking out for him. Whether or not Kouji was an adult, I still saw him as a child that needed looking after.
"Do you know the exact date you'd be gone?"
"Nah, and I won't bother learning." Because he'd forget it, most likely. "I'll just trust Kouichi to keep up with that."
"Do you plan on bringing Takuya?"
"Takuya doesn't like Tokio Hotel. He says that Bill looks like a shemale and he doesn't understand the appeal of foreign music anyway." This kind of bothered me. Takuya had years of experience dealing with Kouji's eccentricities; Kouichi didn't. I worried he wouldn't be able to control him.
"What does Tomoko have to say about it?"
"What did Mom say?" he said into the phone, which I realized he was still holding.
I still couldn't believe it had taken him seven years to call Satomi Mom and when it came to Tomoko, it had taken him no more than seven minutes.
"Kouichi says: 'Mom says that she thinks we should be more interested in a less "punk" band because they're a fad and someday we'll realize it was a waste of money going to see them, and why couldn't we be interested in someone who's at least cute like Kimutaku, but we can go anyway.' I don't think she cares for Tokio Hotel." So I was the only one kind of against this. Great. Time to be the bad guy.
"Can I have the phone?" Kouji frowned. I think maybe Kouichi had heard me too.
"Nii-san, can he talk to you?" I didn't hear a response for a few seconds.
"Here." He started to hand the phone to me, and then said, loud enough to where Kouichi could also hear: "I don't want either of you saying anything mean to each other, or I might get so upset I'll have to go out and calm myself down in various ways."
He would. He'd done it before.
I had the phone to my ear, and waited for someone to greet me. When no one did, I greeted first. "Hello?"
"How are you, Kouichi? Haven't spoken to you in a while."
"Fine." Kouichi was never very happy to talk to me; his responses were always stiff and robotic, and when he did have to talk to me I think he tried fairly hard to ignore who I was. As much as Kouji opened up to his birthmother, Kouichi remained aloof and distant to me. In that case, I decided not to spent any more time talking to a wall.
"What date is the tour?"
"The concert we want to go to in particular is on July 25th, a few days after our…Kouji's birthday."
"How will you be getting there?"
"Where will you be staying?"
"I have a friend in Tokyo who'll let us stay with him. He'll help me keep an eye on Kouji." Good for him; answering my next question before I asked. Still, I didn't know this friend, and sometimes I don't think Kouichi realizes how much of a handful his brother can be sometimes.
I guess he sensed my hesitation about this, because he added, sounding kind of annoyed that I needed further convincing, "He's a reputable guy. Won't even let Kouji smoke a cigarette."
"What will you do if he breaks down?"
"Valium. No hospital."
"If that doesn't work?"
"Hospital. Call you." Kouji was grinning again. He thought it was sort of funny that we always planned for the event of a breakdown, like it was a practically unheard of scenario and we were just being overly cautious by preparing for the extremely unlikely scenario of a drug addict accidentally going off and getting high.
I still wasn't sure about this. People used at concerts…
"I give Kouichi my official permission to keep me handcuffed to his wrist throughout the whole excursion," Kouji announced, almost reading my mind. "Of course, it'll look really weird…"
"You can call me, right?" I could just feel Kouichi bristling over the phone.
"I have a cell phone." Not the answer I was looking for, but good enough. Someone would call me, even if Kouichi made someone else do it.
"Then it's fine with me." Kouji beamed. I think Kouichi was just relieved to get off the phone with me.
"Just be careful," I warned as I handed the phone back, so that both of my sons could hear me.
"Relax Dad, it's next summer. By then I probably won't even be using."
Sure. That was what he said last summer.
They picked up their previous conversation, whatever it had been. I walked out again.
I was worrying, as usual.
Then again, I decided, this was just what Kouji needed: something normal and independent he could look forward to on his twentieth birthday. It was definitely something he needed to announce his turnover from teendom into real adulthood.
And also, I decided, I was proud of my son.
He finished high school with above average grades, at least for his senior year. His over all school record was appalling compared to everyone else, which would have meant certain doom for anyone else, but I twisted a few arms and called a few friends, which resulted in Kouji being accepted to an admittedly third rate community college.
He attended school there three days a week. He was very responsible about it all; he's never missed a class and I think he's doing perfect in all of them.
We had a little issue with tuition money…Kouji insisted that he pay for it himself, which I allowed, although I was curious exactly where he was getting this money from. It didn't take much effort to find out he'd switched from doing drugs to dealing them, which I put a stop to immediately. I think he thought it was a little silly that I'd be upset about him doing drugs and then upset about him getting rid of them, (when I thought about it, I also appreciated the irony) but at least he stopped before we really got into each other.
He was doing his best to find a job and was willing to work hard to earn money; he'd sold his car for drugs when he ran away, and he wants a new one, which he will not let me buy for him.
He has friends now. Acquaintances of Takuya and Kouichi mostly, but at least he talks to people and gets out with a good crowd.
He's stopped cutting himself and forcing Takuya to do terrible S&M things to him. Takuya says he's less demanding and self-deprecating when it comes to sex; he finally acknowledged that sex was supposed to be pleasurable, not painful, which I think Takuya appreciates. I did, however, ask him not to share anymore when he moved on to saying that Kouji was a lot more lively during sex and that it was now simply mind-blowing. Sorry; I don't mind that my son is gay now, but I just don't think that any father wants to envision that.
I was planning on buying him another puppy; he'd acknowledged that his old dog had become very situated at my brother's, and that it would be mean to take him away from that. I'd have to talk to him about that though; Kouji hates surprises.
Long story short: Kouji completely loves his brother and vice versa, who doesn't care much for me and doesn't really want to.
It worked out somehow like this. Kouji had been thrilled to meet the mother that had never been in his life; Kouichi had been equally disinterested to meet his father. Kouji wanted his real mother in his life as often as possible, and Kouichi preferred to pretend I still didn't exactly exist in his world. Kouichi still openly claimed he did not have a father, while Kouji had no problem admitting he had two mothers.
The differences between the twins were still going strong, nineteen years later.
Admittedly, it didn't bother me as much as I first thought it would. Kouji was my son, Kouichi was Tomoko's. That's how it'll always be.
Speaking of Tomoko, she also still avoids me while at the same time completely welcoming Kouji into her home. She and Kouichi are their own little family, with the occasional involvement of Kouji, and I'm not included. I don't mind, although sometimes I think it bothers Kouji more than he lets on. Either way, they seem to be doing well, and Kouichi seems to have turned out okay. If Tomoko did as terrible a job at raising her son as I did, I haven't noticed yet.
I don't think she'll ever forgive me for letting her second baby practically go off the deep end though. I got a thorough thrashing for letting Kouji get so fucked up, especially with drugs. Not that she blames him, of course.
I'm fairly sure that she's the one who turned Kouichi against me. She assures me she's never said a mean word about me (that was unjustified, she says; cute little disclaimer, right?) and that Kouichi's feelings about me are Kouichi's feelings. Kouji's now acting as my ambassador to try and win them over, and I think his diligence is paying off; Tomoko will at least be civil and polite to me, and while Kouichi used to utterly ignore my existence, now he'll at least speak to me. Like I said, it doesn't bother me as much as it probably should; not only is Kouichi not as close to me as a son should be, I've already gone through the trouble of having a son hate my guts. So this is nothing new.
Thankfully, Satomi called off the divorce. We're still together. Kouji and I are both grateful. To this day I'm not sure if she ever would have really gone through with it; now that I stopped to look at it, I realized how close she and Kouji had gotten over the years.
Satomi only just hit her forties and she jokingly suggested that we hurry up and have a baby together now that Kouji's all grown up. At least, I'm hoping she was joking. One was enough for me, and I'm too old to go through all that again.
My son was, over all, rather normal, and we were living a sort of normal life, although it seems a little later than it ordinarily should be. I think that despite it all, we were both pretty happy. Life wasn't so bad once you figured everything out and got over the confusion of all the difficult paths and choices. So we'd taken a few wrong turns here and there before eventually figuring out the right one; I think everyone has to go through a few bad roads at some point. It's what makes life worth living.
And I, for one, was glad to be living, and Kouji was too.
I was sure that even though the future roads would continue to be bumpy and even a little treacherous, (after all, I had Kouji for a son and he had me for a father, and that alone was obviously a recipe for turmoil) we would be able to get through them from now on, side by side, like father and son should. And one day Kouji will finally mature and go out on his own and make something of himself, and I can only hope and pray that he'll look back and think something along the lines of, you know, I'm glad my dad raised me like he did. Sure, I'd made a few mistakes, but it did all work out in the end, right? Hopefully, Kouji won't make the same mistakes I did when he becomes a father…
…On second thought, no, I'd rather not think about that. Maybe it's a good thing he's gay and incapable of having children. You can just imagine that disaster gone wrong in a million ways. I'll beg Kouichi for the grandkids.
So that's it. It seems the end was a little contrite after all, huh? I guess I don't really care in the end what anyone else thinks anymore; whether I was the bad guy or Kouji was a bad kid or whether I made the wrong choices or Kouji made the wrong choices. What matters is we both know what path we're on now, and to be sure of where you're going without all the stupid, confusing things to interrupt you, well, that in itself was worth the hardship it took to get to that path.
Well, almost all of it. Like I said, I had Kouji for a son and he had me for a father, so I was pretty sure there'd still be plenty more to come. We'd just have to remember now and then to stop and pick up the pieces so we could complete the jigsaw puzzle later on, and maybe it won't exactly be a perfect picture in the end, but I think that it'll still be a beautiful one.