Missing Persons (New Year's Day)
(part 2 of 2)
When I go there, I go there with you.
It's all I can do. - U2; "Where The Streets Have No Name"
ONE MAN DETERRED
He was three towns away and it had been three days.
Yuki had taken to living in his rental car and had $400 to his name, not willing to risk any of his funds or credit cards on hotel rooms or other expenditures. He didn't want anyone tracking him down.
He knew it was better this way.
He'd turned off his phone — not had it shut off permanently, but just simply pressed down on the END CALL button until the screen had blinked to black, and then he'd tucked it out of sight. Yuki didn't want to see any text messages or missed calls or voicemail notifications. It would have caused him more pain.
True, it wasn't helping matters now that he knew that there were all sorts of angry messages and missed calls and heaps of voicemail just waiting for him.
Maybe he ought to turn it on now? Just to see if there was anything for him.
Yuki reached into the glove compartment and took out his phone, pressing down on the END CALL button until a bright white screen glared into his eyes. He waited a few minutes.
He barely flinched when he saw that he had thirty texts—all from Shuichi. Yuki decided to open the last five, just to satisfy his curiosity.
Where are you??!?!
Yuki, stop it! Answer me, please! Where are you?!
WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!?!?!?!!
Yuki, stop it. Stop not answering my texts. This isn't funny. You asshole! Come home already!
I swear to fucking God, I'm gonna throw out every single pair of shoes you own and set your closet on fire if you don't get your ass home right the fuck now!!!!!
The last, uppermost message on the list, was from today. Yuki swallowed and opened it.
Yuki, please just come home. Whatever I did, I'm sorry, okay? I'm really fucking sorry. Please. I love you. Come home already. Please.
Yuki immediately snapped his phone shut and buried his face in his hands.
"So he just...left? And that's it?" Hiro asked, puzzled.
"Looks that way. Shuichi, please, you're dripping snot onto my carpet..." Seguchi admonished, holding out a wad of Kleenex.
Shuichi sniffled and reached out for the tissue that Seguchi had offered him. Perched on Shuichi's other side was Hiro, who had his arm around Shuichi's shoulder. He looked exasperated, as did Seguchi. Shuichi was simply miserable.
"Why would he leave, though?"
"I-I d-don't kn-know!" Shuichi wailed. "H-he never s-said anything to m-me! He n-never said he was —" he hiccuped, "— unhappy or an-any-anything! YUKIIIII!" he suddenly yelled, his voice high-pitched and strained and muffled by his snot and tears.
"Shuichi!" Seguchi snapped, jumping. "Please. I understand you're upset, but yelling like that won't bring Eiri back to you. Please, just...sit there, just sit there, and I'll think of something."
Seguchi silently motioned for Hiro to follow him out into the hallway. Hiro looked at Shuichi, then patted his back, leaving him to lay on the couch in the fetal position, his anguished moans quiet and throaty.
Hiro closed the door behind him. "So what do we do?" he asked as soon as he had turned to Seguchi, who was biting his thumbnail. Hiro was taken aback at the sight of his face; normally, Seguchi was calm and collected, his expression usually glowing. Even in the dim light of the hallway, Hiro noticed that he was as white as a sheet.
"I have no idea," Seguchi whispered. "I've never known Eiri to run away like this — like this, I mean, he's disappeared before, but he'd usually call me after a day or two. But he's broken his bathroom mirror, he hasn't been eating properly — well, he never eats properly, but he usually has sweets and apparently he hasn't been eating anything at all —"
"You think he's suicidal?"
Seguchi stared. Hiro rolled his eyes. "I know he's been suicidal, but I mean — recently. You think he's...?"
"I don't know," Seguchi muttered. "I simply don't — know."
Silence permeated the hallway as Hiro looked at the carpeting and Seguchi stared at the ceiling, listening to Shuichi's muffled sobs through the wall.
"It's all too possible, though."
Hiro looked up and his heart skipped several beats, his fingernails digging into his arms.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
I don't want to look at the stars with you
until you can look at strangers with me,
and smile. - 1905; "Fall"
Yuki cursed out loud when he saw the first poster on the telephone pole, his stupid face plastered nice and big, his name underneath. He was sure the papers and the nine o'clock news had caught wind of his disappearance, no doubt from Seguchi.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, FUCK.
He hadn't meant for all of this shit to happen!
He lowered himself in the driver's seat of his car, wary that he could be recognized now. Stubble was starting to grow along his jaw, and he felt it, the hairs bristling underneath his fingers. It was a strange texture, soft yet rough. He grunted and folded his arms like a child, annoyed out of his mind at this turn of events. He looked outside of the fogged windows to see blurred shapes of people putting up New Year's decorations, the banners bobbing in the wind and swerving in and out of focus. Yuki turned away and started his car, driving it away from where he'd parked. He was thoroughly surprised he hadn't gotten a ticket.
The missing posters were clear in his mind, as though someone had tacked it right on his brain. A panic slowly set in as he realized that the posters had been on a telephone pole right near his car, meaning that someone — Shuichi, Seguchi, or someone else that knew him — had been mere feet away from him last night.
Or maybe it was a false alarm. Maybe the poster had been posted somewhere on the Internet last night, and some of his fans had taken it upon themselves to download, print, and distribute them, determined to find their favorite author in the whole wide world.
Either way, I'm fucked.
Yuki kept driving until he saw that there was a beach in the distance, the boardwalk not too far from the intersection. He hit the gas and sped alongside other cars, ignoring the honking and yelling. He did not stop until he reached a building that was on a street that led to the boardwalk.
He parked, turned off the damned car, and got out, gun in his jacket. He limped along the street, hoping to God no one saw him. He walked up the stone steps, the smell of the sea snaking its way into his nostrils. He felt the salt sting his eyes, the sand whisking in the blustering wind and hitting his face and tongue. He spat and closed his mouth, fighting the heaving urge to vomit.
He walked to the middle of the boardwalk, his hands on the wooden railing, and stared out into the ocean, the waves brisk and cold and icy-gray and the waves crashing and bobbing violently. Below him was sand and rock. He slid one shaking hand into his pocket and carefully pulled out his gun, the metal warm and welcoming in his hand.
Die by a beach. How beautifully stupid.
He trembled, his shoes shaking. He wanted to do this—didn't want to do this—he hadn't really planned his death, he just thought he'd do it.
Yuki ignored the voice and held the gun dangerously close to his neck.
"Hey man. Don't do that, man."
Yuki looked down. A disheveled homeless man with ripped pants and a dirty jacket was standing beneath him, looking up, his beard and crinkled eyes glinting even in the gray of the sky.
"Don't do it. It's not worth it."
"And who the fuck are you?" Yuki asked after a moment, gripping the gun even tighter. He pushed it against the side of his head and dug it deep, his finger swiveling around the trigger.
"Alright," the man said, shrugging. He turned his gaze to the ocean. "Alright, man. Do it. But it won't be pretty. And you won't like what happens afterward."
Yuki's grip slackened. He stared out at the distance, which looked as though it was coming ever closer to him. He thought, maybe, if he just did it now, did it right now, didn't look back or hesitate —
Fuck him, he couldn't fucking do it now.
Yuki breathed raggedly and removed the gun from his jaw. He turned and looked down to see that the homeless man was gone. Swallowing, he placed the gun back into his jacket and walked back to his car.
You should have thrown it into the ocean.
Yeah. No. I'm not that brave.
Shuichi was a mess, to say the very least. He had been sleeping in the same clothes for two days and he hadn't been eating. Depression had fully set in, and Hiro had been to see him every single day, bringing him food and comforting him. Seguchi accompanied him every now and again, but Shuichi preferred it when it was just Hiro. If he couldn't have Yuki, he could at least have his best friend.
"What's today?" Shuichi asked quietly, sniffling.
Shuichi looked at his hands, which were shaking horribly. He clenched them into fists and buried them into his eyes, his mouth stretching and frowning and squeezing. Hiro sighed and placed his hand on Shuichi's back, rubbing it gently.
"He's not coming back, he's not coming back, why, Hiro, why did he leave me —"
"I don't know, man," Hiro said. "I don't know, but if he ever shows up again —"
Hiro bit back his words. The last thing Shuichi needed to hear right now was a physical threat against his boyfriend.
"If he ever shows up again, what?" Shuichi hiccuped.
They sat in silence for a few more moments until Shuichi's phone went off. He darted off of the couch, scrambling into his bag and digging for it until it came up in his hand, small and silver.
"Oh...oh my God," Shuichi said, "Oh my God, Hiro, it's him, it's —"
"Yuki?! Well, pick it up, don't just let it ring!"
Shuichi flipped his phone open and pressed it to his ear, quiet for a moment.
Shuichi gasped. "YUKI! Yuki, oh my God, Yuki where are you, why aren't you home I've been so fucking sick and depressed and my entire body hurts and oh my God, where are you?! Why did you leave, why the fuck did you leave me here, all alone?!"
"YUKI! YUKI, ANSWER ME, oh God..."
"Shuichi, I can't tell you where I am."
Shuichi gasped silently. Yuki had actually used his name, for once. "Yuki, please!"
"Shuichi, I'm sorry, okay?" Yuki's voice was shaking, and Shuichi felt him losing control. "Shuichi, I'm so sorry, I'm sorry for everything, I'm sorry you're in pain and you're depressed and miserable — but I can't help it, Shuichi, I can't help it — fuck me, fuck this, I fucking can't — Shuichi, I have to end it, I can't do this, I can't do this to you anymore —"
"Yuki? Yuki, what the hell are you—what are you saying to me, Yuki?! Look, please, please come home, come home to me Yuki, and we can talk about this, we can talk about anything you want. Or if you don't want to talk, it's fine, we can be quiet, just please—please—I miss you so—so much..."
Shuichi broke down, sobbing. Hiro bit his lower lip and crept forward.
"Shuichi, give me the phone."
Shuichi handed it to him, his chest heaving. Hiro took the phone and walked away into the confines of the bathroom. He looked up and saw that there was a large portion of glass that had been punched away.
"Yuki, where are you. Please, just come home. Come home, and just...stop this. Shuichi is..."
"I know what he is," Yuki said, his voice cracking. "I know what I've done—what I'm doing."
"Then why don't you — why aren't — I don't get you!" Hiro exploded. "You know what kind of shit you're pulling and yet you continue to pull it anyway? You go ahead and let people down and hurt your boyfriend and your friends? Why don't you just...can't you..."
"I wanted to kill myself."
Hiro stopped short.
"I still want to," Yuki continued, his voice cracking and ragged, muffled over the receiver. "I came so fucking close yesterday. I almost did it. But something's — something's —"
Hiro swallowed. "Why...why are you telling me this, Yuki?"
Yuki was silent for a moment. "I don't know," he finally answered. "Because you're here. Because you're Shuichi's best friend. Because I know you'll want to tell him but you won't because it'll hurt him even more."
"You don't want him to know?"
"I can't hurt him anymore than I already have."
"Yuki, you fucking idiot!" Hiro snapped. "Don't you get it? If you die, that'll put Shuichi in an even worse place than he's in now! Fuck, he just might fucking throw himself in the grave with you! Don't you get it? Don't you..." he swallowed again. "Don't you understand how infinitely precious you are to him?"
There was nothing but the sound of wind and silence over the phone, and Hiro fidgeted.
"Yuki, answer me! Please."
"He's better off without me."
Hiro trembled with anger. "Why the fuck did you even call?" he hissed lowly.
"To make sure he was still around."
The line went dead. Hiro stared at the phone in his hand, using all the restraint he had to not break the damn thing in half. He pocketed the phone and leaned against the wall, staring at the large wound in the glass. He could see glinting miniscule shards littered on the counter, just a few of them.
He had to tell someone. He just didn't know how to.
"Why now, of all times?" Seguchi said, his fingers massaging his temple. "Why would he break down now? Could Shindou-san have possibly done something to set him off?"
"Don't you dare blame this on Shuichi!" Hiro snapped.
"That isn't what I meant, Hiro-san." Seguchi crossed his legs and tapped the desk. Again, dead silence.
"...So what do we do," Hiro said, shuffling his feet.
"I'm trying to think, although I feel as though there is nothing to be done," Seguchi said quietly. "That is to say, we can talk to him all we'd like, and maybe he'll answer, but in the end, it's up to him as to whether or not he'd like to actually come home again."
"But we can't just let him do this!" Hiro said. "We can't just stand by — while Shuichi knows nothing — and let Yuki kill himself! We can't do that, it's — it's unfair, and it's cruel. To Shuichi, to Yuki, to his family."
"This is true. But don't you see? It's well out of our reach, in the end of it all." Seguchi pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. Hiro sat down, frustrated completely.
"Yuki was probably going to attempt something like this one of these days," Seguchi said quietly. "He has always been troubled, as you full well know. He's always been...frightened, deep inside. Frightened of hurting someone like his mentor had hurt him, frightened of losing a loved one. I believe his logic is that he should just simply beat Death to the punch, rather than stand by and watch a piece of his heart get torn away from him."
Hiro chewed on his lip, listening intently.
"What we can hope for is that he somehow hears the distress through the television and the newspapers, the radio. Let the sound of Shuichi's anguish resonate inside his head, hope for something to drive him back. It'll drive him insane — he will either come home, or..."
Hiro looked up.
"...Or, well," Seguchi said. "Let's not think about that right now."
THE ONCOMING STORM
Yuki was very fucking cold, and he knew he deserved to be so.
Or maybe he didn't. Maybe he was blowing everything out of proportion, maybe Shuichi had overreacted. He hadn't seemed like his usual self over the phone, but then again, he'd been in a horrible state for...probably as long as Yuki'd been gone.
Six days now. It was twelve hours to midnight, and then it'd be January 1st. Cheers would be heard from every home, hugs and kisses would be exchanged all over the world, people in New York's Times Square would propose to each other. Everyone would be ready and willing to embrace the new year.
Yuki would probably be dead.
Hiro's words would not stop haunting him, slicing at his memory. Don't you understand how infinitely precious you are to him? Yes, yes, Yuki understood completely, and yet he did not understand at all — why would Shuichi treasure him so much? Shuichi couldn't possibly understand how much he meant to Yuki, and Yuki knew that it was because Yuki rarely let the amount with which he cared actually shine through at any given moment.
Don't you understand how infinitely precious you are to him?
Don't you understand?
Why can't you don't you understand?
Yuki had to end this. Now.
He reached out and opened the glove compartment. Inside were road maps, the gun, gleaming in the light of the car, and receipts. An envelope.
Yuki blinked. He hadn't noticed that before. He reached out and tugged it away from the maps and weapon and looked at it, the face and back completely blank. He held it up to the light and saw scrawled words. Swallowing, he pulled up the unsealed flap and, with shaking hands, carefully lifted the letter from place and unfolded it, beginning to read.
You hurt me so much. You are the only one who can make me cry as much as I do. I hate starting a letter off like that, but it's true.
I don't ever want to give this to you. I never plan to. But if you find this, know that I was writing it because I was mad and I wanted to get it out on paper. I wanted to write a song, but I couldn't. You know how that goes. So I thought I'd actually write this out, like a letter, and stick it somewhere where I know you'd probably never find it. (Hiro suggested the glove compartment. I know you never open that, so I thought it'd be a good place.) I could have just kept this to myself, but maybe a little part of me is hoping you'll find this.
A little part of me is hoping you'll understand.
Do you remember when we did the print club pictures? And how happy I was? I was so happy, and I could feel that maybe you were happy too, even if you didn't show it. I didn't expect you to. But you know, that hurts — that hurts that you don't ever want to appear happy around me. You only make an effort to save me when it looks like you'll lose me.
I know you love me. I know you care. I hate it that you won't ever tell me. Maybe knowledge is enough, I don't know.
I just want you to know something, though: while you hurt and hurt and hurt me, I still love you. I still want you, and I still really need you. We need each other, I think, and sometimes you might feel bad for what you do — maybe you don't, but sometimes I think you do. But don't you get it, it's natural to feel. It's natural to be sad, and it's natural to be happy, whenever you want to! It's all...a part of what and who you are. You deserve to be happy, and you deserve me!
I'm gonna end this with a quote I found somewhere:
I'm not okay, you're not okay,
and that is okay.
I love you, Eiri Yuki.
P.S. I actually wrote this all on my own. Isn't that something? Haha!
Yuki read and reread the letter several more times, letting each and every word sink into his mind. He thought he might explode from the amount of emotion that was welling up inside of him, and he felt sick just thinking of how stupid and cliché he felt.
But it was how he felt, and he couldn't help that.
He lay across the driver and passenger seats, ignoring the compartment in between that was digging into his hip. His scarf hung over the edge of the seat and he looked at the letter, his eyes stinging.
He brought it to his face and smelled it lightly, and found a trace of Shuichi's scent on the paper, something light and clean.
It hit him then, full in the face like the waves of an ocean, like a slap from a higher power; it hit him in the chest and in the heart, that this — whole — thing — was not worth putting Shuichi through so much pain. Putting himself through so much pain.
It wasn't worth it, period.
Like the old man said.
Yuki lay there and let the tears come. They burned and they stung, and he relished in the ability to still feel. He would cry for ten minutes, feeling pathetic, feeling human, before sitting up and clearing his eyes and starting the car. He looked and saw that he had just enough gas to get back home.
All is quiet on New Year's Day.
A world in white gets underway.
I want to be with you, be with you, night and day.
Nothing changes on New Year's Day. - U2; "New Year's Day"
He listened to the crisp sound of snow crackling underneath his shoes as he let his fingers trail along the concrete wall, his hand still elevated as the wall ended and he made it to the crosswalk in his small, tidy neighborhood, where everyone was inside, perhaps hosting parties or small get-togethers that didn't involve suicidal men that wore ragged coats and scruffy clothes and an unshaven face. His car was parked a block away, in the only free space available.
Yuki felt his chin. The stubble scratched against his skin, but he could barely feel it in the cold. His watch read a little past three in the morning.
You all should shut the fuck up and go to sleep already, he thought irritably.
He felt the side of his head. The gun had made its mark there, well against his skull. A circular shape was embedded firmly, Yuki's fingers tracing the shape.
He had dug the gun in his head so fucking far. He could have pulled the trigger. He should have done it.
And he just...hadn't.
And he couldn't, for the life of him, figure out why.
But he knew it was Shuichi. He couldn't leave him alone. It made his heart hurt and his eyes sting to even begin thinking of leaving him alone now. In the beginning, he was so prepared, so willing to do this, to just die and leave everything behind. He was a selfish asshole and he didn't care.
He was still a selfish asshole, but...well...it wouldn't actually hurt to care, would it? No, he supposed it wouldn't, and it hurt less than the betrayal he would have left Shuichi with. Betrayal, unfinished sentences, things he meant to say —
God, the pain would have been absolutely unbearable, even in the afterlife. The letter, had no doubt, changed pretty much everything.
Yuki shuffled along the sidewalk and felt his legs tremble in the cold. He scanned the doors and turned the corner, his back aching. He breathed heavily, his eyes wide open.
He finally found his apartment.
It was hard to move. It was harder still to think. He forced himself to put one foot forward, one foot ahead. His hands were clenched, gloveless, at his sides. He caught a glimpse of himself in a melted puddle of snow and saw that he looked like utter hell.
But at least he wasn't dead.
Yuki climbed the steps, his knees creaking slightly. He landed on the front step, and his fingers shook as he lifted his hand to punch in the doorbell.
Nothing. Then footsteps. Then a loud gasp, along with clicking locks that punctured the quiet air.
Shuichi stood there and gazed at Yuki, who did not smile, but extended an arm after five minutes. Shuichi stared at him, then attacked him in a bone-crushing hug, his mouth wrenching open in a loud sob that soon gave way to a broken dam of pent-up outrage and pain, almost certainly akin to the emotions that Yuki had been feeling for the past two days. He felt the sobs break into his skin, felt Shuichi's voice crackle in his neck —
"You asshole, you stupid motherfucking pig of a jerk, how dare you leave me like this, how dare you, how dare you, oh my God I love you, I missed you, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN —" Shuichi went on, planting haphazard kisses along Yuki's face and arms, and Yuki merely accepted them, feeling little bubbles of warmth erupt underneath his face. Yuki trembled, then tightened his arms around his lover.
He was so incredibly grateful, thankful, that he had not been turned away. He was thankful that he had not decided to bypass the apartment in first place, kill himself like he wanted to. He was thankful that Shuichi was still here, still willing to be with him.
All of these things put together, and he felt something like life burst into him. He smiled in the crook of Shuichi's neck, knowing that he had almost given up.