Disclaimer: I know nothing besides what Google has told me about anything related to the medical aspects of this fic and I apologize henceforth for any inaccuracies.
This is what I do instead of work on my multichaptered or otherwise more involved fics. Oh well.
"You hasn't comes to sees me in a while."
"No, I has not.."
Toki fiddled with the sheets in his bed and stared down at his chest. He could not bring himself to meet the other man's eyes and a blush was beginning to crawl across his cheeks. He could not explain why he was embarrassed, but he had narrowed it down to the fact that the other man might notice that Toki had noticed his absence.
The other man—he had a beautiful face but no name to speak of—took a drag on a long cigarette. The cigarette looked as if it'd been clumsily rolled by the man's own hands and had a strong smell to it, one that stuck to the walls and would linger when he eventually left. Toki got the feeling that smoking in his room was prohibited but the man smoked away, taking long drags with the hollow, dead look in his eyes that Toki had become well acquainted with. The man held the smoke in his chest for an impossible amount of time before breathing it back out, tilting his chin and parting his lips just the slightest bit. Toki always watched for the exhale; it was vaguely comforting. Well, he always watched when he could stand to look at the other man.
"Why has you not comes to sees me?" Toki asked. He still could not meet the other man's eyes and instead listened for the fluttery sigh of an expelled lungful of cigarette smoke. When it came Toki curled his fingers around the sheet on his bed.
"I has…other things to bes doingks," the man said. There was a shuffling noise and Toki could see the movement of a body outside the corner of the eyes. It sounded like the man had walked over to the window. There was the small sound of shoving a curtain aside followed by the small sound of a breathy sigh.
"Oh," Toki said. He wanted to articulate how inconsequential this made him feel, but instead he just breathed out a second pathetic "oh".
The man made a humming noise, low in his throat. The lack of sounds of movement indicated that he hadn't left the window.
Toki felt cold. They gave him nothing to wear but a papery gown in a pale lilac color and his sheets were thin, the room kept at a low temperature. It did not help that the room was decorated in an artic whiteness that reminded Toki of childhood, though he could not place why. The feeling gave him a sense of frustrated nostalgia, but the memories were unclear and impossible to pinpoint. He would think that he would grasp why the whiteness sparked memories he couldn't remember, but it would slip away before it would form, and he came to the conclusion that he would never know. Still, it bugged him in the back of his mind, and he felt permanently uneasy in addition to constantly cold. Even now he was tremulous beneath the blankets. He wanted to be held by something warm, encased in human contact, but the other man had never touched him before. He had asked, but when he did the man would turn so Toki could not see his face and flee. The same happened when Toki asked for his name. Toki was not quite sure that the man was real, but he loved him anyway.
The man took a long drag on his cigarette. Toki mustered enough courage to look up, still gripping the blankets, to look at him. He was a beauteous figure, outright elegant and superb, a glorious example of what humanity could be. He was slender with a small waist and lengthy limbs; he was lanky yet lithe with just a hint of muscle beneath his pale skin. He was tall, taller than Toki and taller than most people Toki saw, with long blond hair falling over his shoulders, immaculate in texture, shine and shape. The man tended to wear drab clothes that clung to him, which depressed Toki—the man could be so much more, so fantastic, if he would only put effort into himself and wore more than his standard outfit. The man appeared to occupy a lot of space, draping himself over mundane objects such as the doorway or an armchair and glorifying them with his presence. Toki liked looking at the man, perhaps because he was a comforting constant, or perhaps because he was an aesthetic spectacle; Toki didn't know. For whatever the reason, the man stirred feelings inside of Toki: a mixture of pleasantness amongst the old frustration of not being able to know why the man's existence was so pleasing to be a part of.
The man exhaled, parting his lips to let the gray smoke roll out. "How ams you today?"
"I's good," Toki replied. His grip on the blanket relaxed as well as his muscles; he hadn't realized how tense he'd been. When the man didn't visit for a while, he tended to get like this, wound up and insecure. When the man returned, he was at ease, even happy. "How's you?"
The man sighed. He bought the cigarette away from his lips, holding it loosely between the two front fingers of his right hand. He moved from the window and sat down on the armchair opposite Toki's bed with his knees close together, hands on them. He did not respond to Toki's question and instead alternated between smoking and rubbing his hands on his knees. This action caused his jeans to ripple in a funny way and so Toki stared at the other man's knees, occasionally getting an eyeful of the man's hands as we ll. The man had gorgeous hands with wide palms and well-kept nails in addition to long, strong fingers. He didn't know why the man wouldn't answer his question, but he thought it was best to not press the issue.
Eventually a woman came into the room. The man rubbed the cigarette on his jeans to extinguish it, ash falling to the floor. The man then stood up and straightened out his jeans before extending a hand to shake the woman's. They shook hands; the woman placed another over the man's, frowning as they made eye contact. She glanced at Toki before stepping back outside of the room, motioning for the man to follow. He nodded once and did so, the door shutting behind them with a soft thudding noise.
Toki, now bored, groped for the television remote on his bed. He found it by his thigh and turned on the television that hung in the corner of his room. The news channel came on, displaying footage of a gruesome car wreck. Pictures of the damage flashed from every angle as a solemn woman gave the report. Toki yelped and hurried to change the channel to something else, preferably without such gore. He found a children's cartoon with pleasant shapes, warm colors, and soothing noise. Toki smiled and let the television ease him into a sleepy state of contentment.
Toki had been watching television for about ten minutes before the door opened again. The man entered this time, alone, though Toki could see the woman hovering outside by the doorway. The look on the man's face triggered a sinking feeling low in Toki's stomach.
"I's gots to be goingks now," the man said. Toki was looking at him but he would not meet Toki's eyes, head down and turned to the side. Toki could not make out the features of the other man's face from behind his hair.
"Okays," Toki said. The other man turned to leave, but before he did, Toki reached out and said, "Wait! I forgots to asks you—what ams yous name?"
The man slumped. His back was towards Toki but Toki could see that the man appeared to have been deflated, all of his air and will let out of him at once. He did not answer Toki's question and walked out the door, letting it close behind him. This was why Toki did not think the other man was real, not in the slightest bit—he did not answer his calls, did not give him anything as Toki gave him his all. His comings and goings pulled at the waves of Toki's emotions, bringing him forward and upward with his arrival, pushing him backward and downward with his leaving. Sometimes Toki wished the man wouldn't return and sometimes Toki wished the man would never leave, both so Toki didn't have to feel so drained and waterlogged when things had to change.
After the man left the woman entered; they exchanged a look when they passed each other. She readjusted Toki's bed for him and gave him a plate of food—chicken, potatoes, pudding. Toki ate while he watched television and then took an afternoon nap. When he woke up the tray of food was gone, the television off, and the world outside the window dark. Toki got up, swinging his legs over the bed and pulling the blanket down with quiet finesse. He padded over to the window where he pulled the curtain to the side and looked out. Toki didn't know why the man liked to look out the window—through the grimy glass all he could see was an empty parking lot, the vacant stalls illuminated by streetlights with weak, yellow light. Toki could not see beyond the shrubs lining the edge of the parking lot. He let go of the curtain and let it flutter back in place before walking around in his room some more. The people in the building told him that he needed to walk more to prevent blood clotting and to regain his health; they said he couldn't lie in bed and watch television all day. Toki obliged and walked, but walking made him feel lonely and cold without the extra layer of a blanket. Inspired, he moved over to his bedside table, where there was a pencil and a pad of paper. He scribbled ask to wear my own clothes and then folded himself back under the blankets for some more sleep.
The next time the man came to visit was the following day, which was not unusual. Toki had noticed that the man tended to come frequently for a short period of time which would followed by an elongated absence. The absences always felt too long, the visits too short, but Toki was happy to see the man anyway. Today the man sat down on the bed near Toki's calf and held Toki's hand in both of his. This was something new, something that sparked things Toki couldn't identify in his chest.
"How ams you?" The man asked. Apart from the hand-holding, his posture was rigid, face composed. Toki could not read him.
"I's okay," Toki said. He thought for a moment and then added, "I's bored. All I does is watches de television all days. I wishes you comes more and stays longer." He wished he never left; he wished he could crawl inside the other man and live in the cradle of his ribs beside the beat of his heart forever, warm, coddled, safe.
The man looked at him, eyebrows furrowing lightly. "Meg også," he said with an air of hesitance. He squeezed Toki's hands once and then held onto them tighter than he had been before.
Toki crinkled his nose. "Huh?"
The man let dropped Toki's hands like they had burned him, but did manage to rise from the bed gently. At this point, the woman came in. She was carrying a lunch tray for Toki and humming to herself.
The man walked up to the woman and hissed, "It didn't work." He towered above her; she had to crane her neck to look at his face.
She stopped humming and sighed for a long time. The man left. He did not come back that day and Toki spent the rest of it chiding himself for not remembering to ask his name. He also forgot to ask the woman to let him wear his own clothes, not even looking at the bedside table as he sat in confused contemplation about his encounter with the man.
With the next day came the next visit from the man. He walked into the room with a pained expression and a guitar, cradling it in his hands. He placed it in Toki's lap and helped Toki come to a sitting position, guiding him with his own hands. The man's hands were callused but gentle; Toki liked the touch very much. He appreciated the recent development of touching because the man felt solid, almost real, but Toki still had his doubts. Though the man was evidently made of flesh, muscle and bone, though the man radiated heat, and though the man felt like skin and existence beneath his fingers, he could not be sure.
"Cans you plays?" The man asked. His expression was peculiar, too many emotions—eagerness, resistance, frustration, depression—caught up in the folds of his face. Toki felt it would be too exhausting to unfold and decode them all.
"Plays?" Toki stared down at the guitar in his lap. He picked it up and put the strap around the back of his neck. He fingered the instrument, getting a feel for it. Something about it felt familiar; he plucked a few strings experimentally.
The man reached into his pocket and handed him a pick. "Uses this," he said.
"I knows!" Toki replied. He did not usually feel irritated with the man, but being told what to do when playing the guitar lit a fire in his belly that he couldn't explain. He furrowed his eyebrows and stuck out his tongue, wagging it back and forth.
Somehow, yelling at the man made him smile. His whole face lit up, actually. He motioned with his hands for Toki to keep playing, his grin growing larger as Toki began to strum the strings with skill.
"Dil—good," the man said. Toki was confused at this response to his playing and thus did not comment on it.
Toki played the guitar for a substantial amount of time and the man remained by his side for the entirety. He remembered the music and liked the way it felt, snug like a piece of clothing he'd worn forever and learned to love. He didn't know the origin of the songs he was playing, not exactly, but he knew them well. The songs he played made the man smile at first—smile so wide and unnatural it seemed as if it would break his face—but after a while, the man lost his smile. The corners of his mouth rotated until he was wearing an almost comical frown; his eyes began to grow misty. Toki tried not to notice and instead focused on his playing. It was making his fingers ache, but it was a good ache, a pain he remembered feeling many times. He wanted to live inside of the music, because in the music he felt warm, coddled, safe felt like his old self again. The music and the man stirred the same feelings in him, and he wondered if there was a way to combine them both, to entwine what he felt to be the two most important things in his life together.
He was beginning to play another song with a name he could not remember when the man reached out and stopped him with a hand on the wrist. "Please," the man said. Toki looked at him; there were tearstains on his cheeks, his face laden with pain. The sight made Toki's heart ache and he averted his eyes back to the guitar in his lap and his left wrist, where the man's hand was placed.
"No mores?" Toki asked. He was saddened by the prospect of not being able to play the guitar again, but even more by the way the man looked while he did. He didn't want to lose the man, knowing the pain would trump both of these causes combined, and so he obliged to the man's request.
"No mores," the man said. He paused, and then: "Ams you wantingks to—keeps it?"
"Yes! Wowee, yes," Toki said. He looked at the guitar again. He remembered it, he truly did, though he had not the slightest clue of what it was connected to.
The man smirked and patted Toki's wrist before withdrawing his hand. "Does you remembers it?"
Toki nodded emphatically. "I remembers it," he said. "But justs it. Were I a guitarists?"
"A rhythm guitarists," the man said. "A dil—a good ones." The man reclined back in the bed, still wearing a fond and triumphant smirk.
Toki smiled and began playing again, just scales, hoping that this would not upset the man as much as the songs had. The man seemed the most at ease that he had in the entire time Toki had known him and he did not want to disrupt that, because Toki was beginning to feel at ease, too. "What which ams you does? Whats jobs, I means?"
The man's face fell, all signs of positive emotions and recent progress disappearing in a fraction of a second. He rose without another word and walked out the door. Toki sighed; he did not appreciate the habit of leaving his questions unanswered that the man had. Satisfied with his guitar he played it all night and vowed not to think about the man, which he saw as for the best. The man was too much for Toki, too much of everything, and Toki did not want to overwhelm himself.
The man returned the next day; Toki began to feel spoiled. The feeling did not last.
The man sat on Toki's bed again, near his waist this time, and once again took his hand in both of his. The man was dressed in his usual garb, wearing his usual expression. His hair had the slightly damp and slightly dark quality of having taken a shower before leaving the house and he smelled fantastic and familiar, like expensive cologne and honeysuckle soap with the undertone of cigarette smoke. Toki wanted to squirm with delight, but the look on the man's face was stopping him from doing so.
"You ams smiling," Toki said, "but yous eyes—they ams sad."
The man said nothing, just kept Toki's gaze. He squeezed Toki's hand in both of his. Their hands were both callused for reasons Toki wasn't aware of and this made their touch feel distant, definitely not enough. What Toki really, really wanted to do was bolt up and throw his arms around the man's neck, hold him tight and never, ever let him go. Toki feared, however, that if he did this, the man would disappear inside of his arms. Toki still wasn't quite sure that man was real, and he was afraid that if he initiated anything, his imagination would let loose and he would lose the one (now second, he guessed, with the addition of the guitar—but Toki knew from experience that the guitar wouldn't evaporate in his arms) good thing in his fragile shell of a life.
"Sometimes, you knows, I thinks that you ams not real," Toki said, biting his lip. "I thinks dat I thoughts you up."
The man's smile twitched. "Whys?" He choked out. His voice sounded like broken eggshells epitomized, deep and rough and scratchy with nicotine abuse, utterly heartbroken and heartbreaking.
"For ones, you never tells me yous name," Toki said. "Also, you ams too beautiful, I thinks. All the other people I see, de doctors and de nurses—" it was a good day, and Toki could remember that he was in the hospital with a thousand different kinds of memory loss after the accident and that these people were treating him—"they don't compares. Also, you ams talks likes me but nobody else ams talks likes me. You ams amazing I's afraid that if I's touches you—and I's really wantings to touches you—you will goes away. I ams not likings it when you goes. So I cans nots bes touchings yous, and I can nots bes knowings if yous ams real."
The man's smile disappeared, though his eyes remained sad. He did not say anything. Toki hated that—hated the way the man would fall silent at the most inopportune times—but he swallowed back his anger and soldiered on. Tears were beginning to swell in the corner of his eyes and he could not keep them from spilling over.
"What ams yous name?" Toki was practically whispering. "Ams you real?" Toki did not think that the man was, not at all. The man was ghostly, an apparition of his imagination, something too good for this earth. He simply had to have imagined him—such an astonishing effigy could never exist, not in the wreck that was Toki's half-forgotten life. Perhaps Toki could have had something this good before the accident, but afterwards it was an impossibility that another human being would stick with him when he could not tell you what he had for breakfast that morning or where he grew up. The man was Toki's only visitor, the only regular person he saw besides the hospital staff, and thus Toki knew he was unfit for human contact. No, the man couldn't be real, the man wasn't real, and Toki was sure. Toki was sure, and Toki was devastated.
The man said nothing, but he did not leave. Instead, he leaned down to tuck a piece of hair behind Toki's ear. The closeness of his face highlighted his expression and Toki once again had to look away, it was far too much to handle. It was always far too much. The man pulled back and then asked, with his voice barely above a whisper yet still managing to hold all the qualities Toki wished desperately that it didn't, "Does I feels real?"
Toki thought for a second. And then, "No."
That was the point that the man left. He slammed the door shut but Toki did not sense the man was mad at him, not at all. That was also the point that whatever was holding Toki's fractured mind snapped. He spent the rest of the day moping, complaining at various doctors that he hated them and just wanted to remember, just wanted to be able to hold onto new memories, just wanted to know what the fuck was going on, because he never did. He threw the television remote at the wall with such force that it cracked; he broke the pencil on his bedside table in half; he ripped all the papers from the pad and scattered them around his room. The staff never grew angry with him, just cleaned up his messes, leaving Toki alone in his room to sob to himself in his bed. He could not even bring himself to get his guitar, which rested on a stand in the corner of the room. The fact that he remembered playing that very guitar before the accident made its existence worse, not better.
That night the man returned, but not to talk to him. Toki had been asleep but awoke to the sound of footsteps—the nurse tidying up, he thought, as before he fell asleep he'd thrown his dinner tray off his bed. But then a second set joined her, heavier, more accustomed to the man's booted footfall. Toki's breath hitched in his throat, tears threatening to spill form his eyes. He regained his composure, though, wanting to hear their conversation.
His suspicions were confirmed when the man began to talk in hurried whispers, evidently under the impression that Toki was asleep. "Nothingks is working." The man sounded exactly how Toki felt, which was not helping Toki feel any better.
"Give it time, Mr. Skwigelf," the nurse replied. It sounded as if she was straightening the curtains, her voice clipped and professional.
"I's given it time," the man replied. He was pacing. Toki imagined him with his hands clasped behind his back, a cigarette between his plush lips, his eyebrows furrowed in frustration.
"I'm sorry, but brain damage is unpredictable, you know that. We've told you that several times, Mr. Skwigelf." The nurse scuffled around.
The man's voice was closer and Toki could physically feel his proximity. He had stopped pacing. "I knows. But—"
"But what? He's made progress. The guitar, for instance." The nurse had stopped moving and it seemed as if she was standing in the middle of the room. She sounded tired, like she wanted to go home and forget about the patient she'd dealt with all day.
"He knows he was a guitarist. He ams not knowingks dat I ams one also."
"Give it time," the nurse said again. She seemed bored; Toki got the impression that this was an oft-held conversation. He imagined them having it late at night in his room while he slept, one of them on either side of his bed. He imagined them having it in the lobby, the man in a hurry and infuriated with the nurse for not progressing things. He imagined them having it in the middle of a hallway with the nurse switching her weight from foot to foot, telling him that she had another patient to see, the man insisting that Toki was the most important patient of them all.
"I ams Skwisgaar Skwieglf, lead guitarist of Dethklok. He was—he ams—also a member of Dethklok, you knows dat! We ams de biggest band in de worlds. We ams de richest men in de world. But de others, dey has forgottens about hims. Dey says to me, I should be forgettingks about hims. We has another rhythm, he ams not going to get better, moves on, dey says. I cans not bes movingks on! There has to be somethingks, I ams not caringks what, tells me what to does, I does it." The man was frenzied, pacing back and forth again.
"We are already providing him the best care possible," the nurse said. She began to sound irate, as if she was speaking through clenched teeth.
"There has to be somethingks better. I does what you says, what de doctors says I should does, I does it and it ams not helpingks him!" The man's voice was rising, sounding desperate. He was still pacing but was slowing down.
"There has been progress," the nurse repeated. She lost the mechanical aspect of her voice. Toki imagined her features falling with sad fondness; he knew she had grown attached to the both of them, the tragic guitarists with the fuddled memories and the strained, tentative relationship. "But—look, Skwisgaar, I'm sorry, but there is not a lot we can do. Barely anybody knows anything about memory and the processes that make it up. Brain injuries are sporadic and impossible to study. He may wake up tomorrow and remember everything. He may wake up tomorrow and forget who you are again. We don't know."
The man began to cry, loud and childlike, more of a sorrowful wolfish howl than anything else. It was not a sound that Toki would associate with the man and he pressed his face hard into the pillow, willing himself not to choke up and give himself away.
The nurse moved and there was the noise of scrubs against cotton, empty, caring measurements, skin on skin; there was the noise of a hug. The man's sobbing rocked Toki into a fitful sleep as the man's sobbing kept waking Toki up from his sleep. He slipped in an out, tossing and turning in his bed. He wasn't sure if his dreams were racked with the sobbing or if the man stood sobbing in his room for hours, and Toki didn't think it made that much of a difference. That night he had convinced himself that the man was real, based on the simple fact that he would not create this type of torture for himself. By morning he had lost that thought and had forgotten the conversation between the man and his nurse had ever occurred. He asked the man for his name again the next day and the man may or may not have given it to him; he would never be able to tell you.