Yoichi awoke. His neck felt twisted and his cheek pressed against some wet and cold softness. As he opened his eyes he was reassured by the sight of the low floor and the futon mattress cushioning his heedless sleeping posture; the cold dampness, it seemed, to be nothing more than dribble.
He felt detached from this world, his mood low and his body almost completely numb: He was thirsty. Yoichi sat up, his head rushed to catch up and his eyesight disappeared momentarily to make room for a splitting headache. Vision restored to its blurry reality Yoichi took in the refuse sight he called a home. Empty whiskey bottles and highball cans were strewn around the edges of the futon. On a high table to his right lay three emptied sake bottles, one of which he recalled spilling across his new laptop last night, but had passed off cleaning it up in exchange for a bottle of awamori he had picked up earlier that evening. He stood shakily to his feet; wading through Asahi and draft one cans from last week and a small tower of imported Guinness bottles he suddenly slipped on a bottle of iichiko shochu which splintered under his bare foot. As the glass pierced his naked skin he collapsed dejectedly forward into the entrance hall, hardly bothering to lift his arms in attempt to protect his face from the mountain of beer cans that lay heaped before him. Crashing into the cans like a child leaping into a coloured ball pit; the memories of last night's dream rapidly coursed through his head like a torrent of snapshots and voices. Yoichi reached a shaking hand up from where he lay and grasped hold of a mantle, feebly forcing his body to his feet once more. He glanced around, then he waded through bin bags and noodle boxes into the kitchen where - as though Santa had squeezed through his chimney (if only he had one) in the night – sat upon his table a mouth watering 21 year old Taketsuru blended whisky: Easily demanding of the title 'liquid gold' if not finer. He had splurged out the ¥8700 for it while drunkenly stumbling through EbisuGarden place a few weeks previous and had been saving it for a time of desperate need, fortunately this was such a time and he unscrewed the lid with the precision of a brain surgeon.
Yoichi pulled the bottle to his dry lips, already sucking in the fruits of the Whiskey's long savoured scent, but as memories of the night previous still drifted through his subconscious, Yoichi began to lower the bottle. He glanced out the window, a shard of brilliant sunlight pierced a cloud of black and he heard children laughing in a nearby playground, the light passed through his window where it drifted steadily across, spotlighting a photograph atop a cabinet. Yoichi's attention now captured he was forced to confront the photograph, and it was one he was not keen to face: Of the two pairs of eyes staring back at him, one were his own, though considerably less tired and creased at the corners from the smile swept across his face. The other eyes, they were…they were her eyes: Hitomi, and he still could not look at them. Why? He thought, what was this surge of painful emotion that rose from inside when he thought about her? Why was it that for so long he had ignored this feeling, what was it, and what was it trying to tell him?
He sighed heavily and in a moment of frustrated defeat, he tossed the bottle to the wall wherein it shattered in a glistening explosion of gold and glass.
He grimaced and still dressed in the clothes he had passed out in, he grabbed a set of keys from the side and dashed from the house, slamming the door shut behind him.
Jerking the car hurriedly into a well used car park and probably breaking several parking violations Yoichi practically fell from the car, throwing his seatbelt and the car door behind him as he dashed into the looming hospital building. He ran past the disconcerted receptionist in a stumbling flurry and rounded a corner into a staircase which he disjointedly assailed, slipping on nearly every flight until he reached the thirteenth floor.
Bursting into a corridor, it was a miracle that the poor male nurse narrowly escaped Yoichi's berserk rampage which, much to his own relief let alone the staff's, ended when he had only passed two or three of the hospital wards' doors.
He opened the room to find her alone and slipping in, Yoichi approached the bed.
She just lay there; her skin as pale and creased as the sheets upon which she lay, her wide, opal eyes were closed and her once flowing, ink black hair now short and patchy. At least, Yoichi realised, it had grown back somewhat. He remembered when the chemo had begun the hair loss had hit her hard and looking back; he wished he done more to comfort her, but he hadn't done more, in fact, he hadn't done anything. Just sat alone at home, loosing the battle against drink, while she sat alone in hospital, loosing her own battle against ovarian cancer.
How long had it been since he'd been here? What was it? Forty nine…fifty days? He couldn't remember, but he was here now; she looked so peaceful sleeping, and fear of confrontation led Yoichi to simply sit at her side. He reached across to he bed and gently gripped her cold fingers. Then he saw something: A letter, it seemed to have been carefully crafted and lay with a pen on a table beside the bed. Frowning, Yoichi took it in-between his shaky fingers and read.
You're not here, but you said you always would be.
I know why, and you know why.
I told you to stop, I don't know how many times I told you,
if you carry on this way, you will die.
I just hope that before I close my eyes I'll see you again,
I don't want to leave yet.
It's so strange.
In the blurring lines between sleep and reality,
I've been having these dreams.
Even though I can't remember what they are about, I do know one thing for sure.
You were there.
You were fighting for me.
I remember calling out to you in the darkness and
you called back.
Being awake hurts, I think that's why I've been sleeping so much. I've been speaking with a nurse who works here, we're quite alike so she's been keeping me company.
She talks about a boy she is fond of and I don't know why but, from the way she describes him,
He reminds me of you.
I'm feeling so tired now so I must make this short, but Yoichi I want to say this and its difficult so in this state of mind please don't think I am being ungrateful.
Remember you once said: ink is clearer than blood on paper?
I know now what you meant.
Having never had a real family I can't say what a family is supposed to be like.
But if it's supposed to be like the movies, then it hasn't really been a picture.
You took me in, gave me a name and cared for me.
You know, perhaps it is best that you aren't here,
Because I know saying this to your face would only make it harder.
I know I may never have said it before now, but
I love you,
just as any daughter should her father.
Even though you weren't there for me, in the end
I know that you wanted to be.
So when you read this don't cry, and please don't drink,
don't give up.
You can do it,
And if you miss me, or I miss you, just sleep,
we can always meet in dreams.
Oh, the nurse's name is Reika, please tell her I said thanks.
I hope this isn't, but if it is, then
Yoichi reached out once more and gripped her cold hand, but he was already too late, she was gone. Then there, in that cold moment Yoichi realised all too late the frailty of life: Like a crisp leaf drifting down a gentle river he had drifted through the great river of life never seeing the flowers and the trees and the insects and the birds and the bee's in all their pretty colours, and now, as one fresh leaf before him slipped down the fast approaching waterfall, never to return, Yoichi saw that his own time may not be so long. Could it be called irony if the greatest lesson he had learnt in life was a lesson learned only through death?
Yoichi stood to his wobbling feet, he leant and kissed her soft forehead, then collapsing at her side, he broke down into a torrent of tears.
But when he at last left, he didn't leave that hospital without making one last enquiry: apparently, there was no such nurse named Reika; but he did thank her nonetheless.