WORDS WITHOUT A FACE
A shot for Izaya Orihara and Rio Kamichika
Rio never sought him out. She never notified the police. She never looked him up in the phone book. Her own pink cell was cold metal in her hands. She simply opened her contacts list the next day, scrolled down to 'N.'
And the miniature dumpster appeared and that teeny tiny ball of paper flew into it, a gentle arc. Then, the whole image disappeared, melding into her wallpaper, pink as her device. Pink as the red splotched pavement. Once, they were Siamese twins of suffering. Everything he said:
She was good.
She was in the right.
Her parents were fucked up as hell.
Ending it all. That made sense.
Behind that LED screen, he drew eloquent little circles, pulling her closer, and that night, her cold pink face tilted downward.
He said, she had come. He said, she was here to die. But, well, it was his face she wanted to see. The one behind the emails, the one behind the computer screen. The one just like hers. She saw him every lunch in her pretty pink cell phone. The shine of her father's glasses. Text messages. Sweet, sweet words.
I'm a guy who wants to disappear without a trace.
Words without a face.
Words without a face.
Insert coins here.
Rio opened the washing machine and transferred her towels and sheets to the side-loading dryer below. The laundromat was quiet, but then again, it was always quiet. The bumbling machines, minding their own business, vibrated on the floor. She finally rested on one of the chairs and pulled out her cell phone, a luscious model, to shoot a text to her fiancé.
I'll be late.
An animated envelope grew cute little wings and flew away.
He would be aggravated that she took so long, but today, Rio had forgotten her coins at the apartment and had to take two trips. The world was unpredictable like that. So when the door tinkled open and a fur trimmed coat sat down next to her, crossing his legs toward her saying, "Miss Magenta, Hi—" her head didn't turn a stiff ninety degrees in surprise. She didn't wheel around or flop backwards, a victim to the dragon of fate. Big city. Small world.
Rio lifted her eyes to him, protectively flipping her cell phone shut. "—You are wondering what I have." He leaned in, smiling with secrets, his hair tickling her cheek. It had, indeed, been a while.
"Uhh," she breathed at the closeness. Long ago, she had erased Nakura from her contacts list. This Izaya replaced him. He was a cat fond of leaving headless mice next to her pillow, sitting patiently beside her til she opened her eyes, and then scooting back into the wild backyard that was Ikebukuro's piss-filled streets. Today, Izaya was at the laundromat to dig up an old carcass and taste the fresh rot.
The informant met Rio's eyes, licking his lips and snaking an arm around the back of her chair. The woman, grown into her late twenties, held her ground. She was a different woman from those years past, when she met him on the rooftop. She had hardened in some places, softened in others. Mostly hardened. Because the world isn't as cruel as you take it to be. It wasn't cruel. Just indifferent. The black-coated man before her, whether cruel or indifferent, never made her feel good. He snatched her wrist and pulled it up to their line of vision. "I see your ring," he paused, letting the words hang dry in the air,"is nice. He got a good deal?" Rio pulled her hand away, almost slapping him across the face.
And an empty seat quickly found its way between them.
"Can you forgive him?"
She almost, almost ignored him.
"Everyone has secrets," she blurted and they were silent for a while. She twisted her engagement ring, making a promise to it. He watched, transfixed the way a person determines if his coin hit the bottom of the wishing well or if it was still falling. He grinned, remembering falling things, remembering the crunching sound against red splotched pavement. Then he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a singular white envelope.
"Miss Magenta," laughter, edging on maniac.
"You are thinking this information will change nothing. You are thinking," he was all coquettish, know-it-all smiles, "you're sweet enough and good enough to forget it all." He traced the envelope in the air like a music conductor's baton. "You think you can keep laughing and eating those delicious dinners after this. And you know, that would be unlike you."
"You don't know me." But Izaya just stopped his little musical composing, froze the song, finished the spell. Smug as a potted plant.
"Then take it, and make your own conclusions." Rio didn't take the envelope. She had no intention of touching it. It would be cruel to touch it. And he was laughing as she shoved her hands between her knees, reduced to a little girl.
"You're so pathetic. You can't face the truth," and she remembered how quickly she had opened the first envelope.
He was egging her on. Just egging her on.
She stiffened, and then, those little lines appeared under her eyes and around her mouth, the kind that appear when her smile is forced. This time, she didn't even have to smile for them to appear. Rio took a side-ways glance and scanned him up and down, every inch of his lax posture, his sharp, obtrusive nose, reminding her of something she wished she could forget, but the whirlpool of her mind spun too fast. Everything hung in her tired, tired eyes. Ideas, suspicions, little rats hidden behind the walls, made their noises, their squeaking and their scratching. For the white envelope. Rio reached for it, nothing quick, but a hand lifting up. He pulled it away, and she looked even more tired at him, while he grinned. Only he could hold something horrible away as if it were a dog treat.
"That expression, hold it," and she blushed, but was still motivated.
"What is it?" She reached across the seat for her envelope, but he grabbed her wrist again and tugged her thin frame over the chair that separated them. One of her hands steadied itself on his shirt and one of his came to control her shoulder.
"Are you sure, now?" He was still derisive as ever, still full of snotty pride. Full of some sort of inside joke.
"Yes." And his hands fell off. There was no velcro between them, after all, just enough craziness to hold her above the edge of a building and just enough sanity to pull her back. He was a man of 'show and tell.' Izaya handed it over for real this time. She took it and tore open the end like a drunk swigging from his last bottle, alone with nothing but a streetlamp and those dancing moths. The pictures slid onto her hand and she sat down next to him. Izaya leaned over, hands on his knees, ready to watch a good show.
Good, it was.
Her fiancé wasn't just holding the woman's hand, guiding her into a restaurant. Or a motel. She understood his joke now.
"He sets up, oh, you've heard of them."
Izaya delicately swayed left and right, left and right, soaking in the way her eyes shifted across the photographs. She wanted to rub her thumb over that captured face, clean off the dirt to make sure it was him, but there was no dirt, no dirt at all. She couldn't hide the pain from the man twirling his hair this whole time, devouring the sight of her. This information, this truth, was supposed to hurt. But she wanted nothing more than to refuse him payment. Refuse the tears.
"Yes, I have," she confessed as it cut a straight line from her eye to her chin.
"It took you a while this time."
Like biting back vomit already in her mouth. The dryer beeped, finished, but she didn't get up. His cool index finger pressed onto her cheek and Rio batted it away. Nakura—Izaya—rubbed his forefinger and thumb together, feeling the moisture, a man biting a coin. That jester's smile.
"Yeah, it's nice to see your face again."
Rio only stared into the photograph, making up her mind, making up her mind, making up her mind in so many different ways, a bed changed 365 times a year. Because the world isn't as cruel as you take it to be, never uttered, never spread, stuck like a flock of butterflies in a glass jar. And thus, it started all over again.
"Nakura-san," and the name felt right in her mouth like something familiar and old, something to go back to, an old home. Because as much as Nakura was fake, Izaya was real and tangible, and a cousin of a memory.