"Shindou, we have to come out."
"Out? You mean out out, as in out? Out?"
"What I mean is, we need to tell everyone about us. About our relationship. Unless we tell people ourselves, we can't control who finds out or how. Eventually, somebody is going to figure out that we didn't move in together to save money on rent."
"Yeah, I guess. If we were characters in a TV show, somebody would figure it out in no time. Like by seeing us kissing in the elevator or something."
"We only did that once! And it was your idea!"
"I'm just saying, if we were fictional characters, we would have got caught right away. If it was a comedy show, by somebody so it would be maximally embarrassing. Oh no."
"I was just thinking of Kawai-san. You don t know him, but trust me, that would be totally embarrassing if he was the one. Or if we were characters in a drama instead of a comedy, somebody evil and ruthless would find out and blackmail us. Maybe Ochi, or Zama sensei."
"They aren't evil, just not likeable. But still, don't you see my point now? I don't want my parents to find out about us because someone like Zama sensei tells my father. It's not going to be easy for us to tell them, but we have to. I have to. And you have the same problem."
"Not really. I mean, nobody in the Go world knows my parents. Everybody could know and they'd never find out."
"Your grandfather plays Go. What if he walks into a Go salon, starts bragging about you getting into the Honinbou league, and one of the other customers in the salon tells him that his grandson is a deviant?"
"Oh, why do you have to go around being right about things like that, Touya? It's so - depressing."
"Are you nervous, Touya?"
"Of course I am. Apart from you, my parents are the most important people in my life. I owe everything to them. And I don't want to disappoint them."
"Do you think they'll be mad? They're so traditional. What if they order you to commit suicide?"
"They're traditional, not crazy! They live in the modern world. They know that relationships like ours are a lot more common nowadays, so I don't think they ll be shocked."
"But disappointed, maybe?"
"Maybe." Touya sighed. "I've never heard my parents say anything bad about same-sex relationships, but-"
"But they might say something bad if they find out that their son is in one?"
"Uh huh. They can't force me to leave you, but...the worst thing I can imagine happening is if they tell me I have to choose between them and you. That would be - awful."
"Even if you gave me up, that probably wouldn't be enough. They'd want you to marry a girl."
"All the more so, once they find out I have, you know, tendencies. Traditionally minded people might not actually care that much if I had an extramarital relationship with a man provided I was married to a woman. But I couldn't do that. It wouldn't be fair to anyone involved."
"It sounds weird, that anyone would think that that was OK."
"Well, it would have made more sense back when people were told who to marry by their families. The wife wouldn't have necessarily expected her husband to love her, or even like her. But that was then. My parents aren't going to order me to marry anyone. The thing is, Shindou, I know, I mean, there are some things I know they won't do. But I have no idea what they will do. Or say."
"That must be scary." Touya silently nodded acknowledgment. "Do you want me to be there when you tell them?"
"It's probably best if you aren't. I don't think they'd be comfortable speaking frankly with you present, and I really need to know what they think. Even if it's bad. Especially if it is."
Shindou understood Touya's reasons for speaking to his parents alone, but that didn't mean he liked the idea. He especially didn't like standing at the gate of the Touya home while his lover was inside facing such a potentially difficult situation. Each minute seemed like an hour. For once he wished that he smoked, so that he could at least have something to do with his hands, a routine to go through that would take his mind off of things, if only for a moment.
Akira came hurtling out of the house. He half walked, half ran towards the street where Shindou waited. His face was pale, and he was staring blankly. Shindou expected him to stop at the gate, but he just kept going on down the street.
"Akira!" Calling out had no effect; Touya just kept going. What had happened inside? Shindou, overcome with anger, rushed towards the house. He would punch whoever...but then he stopped. Just who would he punch, anyway? Touya's tiny mother? Or his father, who had a bad heart? He stood there for a moment, then turned and went to find Akira.
He caught up with Touya in the next block.
"What happened? Did they order you to give me up?" Shindou's mind raced. What if they had? He knew how close Touya was with his parents. Especially with his father.
"No." Touya seemed to start to add more, but it seemed to much for him and he simply half stepped, half collapsed into Shindou's waiting arms. "It wasn't what they said," he whispered in Shindou's ear, "it was how they said it."
Shindou fought off the desire to go back to the Touya house and punch someone regardless of gender, size or heart condition. It wasn't easy.
"Let's go home, Akira," he said.
Touya lay in bed, watching as it gradually grew light. He was a morning person, which Shindou certainly was not. Usually he would have gotten up and studied while waiting for Shindou to wake up, but this morning he didn't feel like Go. He lay in bed listening to Shindou's breathing. Shindou could be a bit dense-even very dense sometimes-but yesterday he'd somehow known without asking that Touya didn't want to talk about the meeting with his parents. They'd come home, had dinner, played some Go and gone to bed without talking much at all. But that had only put off matters.
"Touya, you're still in bed."
"Yes. It's not good, but probably not as bad as I was thinking. It's funny, it was sort of the opposite of what I expected. I thought that my father would be angry but my mother would calm him down, try to keep the peace in the family."
"That's not what happened?"
"No. I said what I'd rehearsed. How I loved you and you loved me and that we wanted to stay together forever. I think that went OK. I said it mostly right, I mean. Then I looked up. My mother's face-I've never seen her so angry. She started to say, I forget exactly what. That I needed to think carefully about what I was doing. My father interrupted her. He said something like 'Akira is a Go player, he's thought about all the possible consequences for his actions. He wouldn't ask us for permission to do something he'd done already, or forgiveness for something he intended to continue doing.' I've been thinking about it. My father is always sure he's right. If he'd said that I was wrong to do as I did, I could never expect to be able to change his mind. But he didn't say that. When I think about it, his words amounted to: 'you did what you did'. Maybe he just doesn't want to get involved in something he finds distasteful. But it could be he's telling me that it's my life. And that he has some confidence that I'll be able to make good decisions. He said that I was a Go player. I don't think he would have said that if he was angry."
Shindou's father was out of town again. Touya and Shindou talked it over and decided that the two of them would both go and talk to Shindou's mother.
The three of them were sitting in the kitchen drinking tea. After some harmless remarks were exchanged, a lull settled in. Shindou and Touya exchanged looks that said "well, here goes."
Shindou bit his lip, look a deep breath and plunged in.
"Mom, I have, I mean, Touya and I have something to we need to tell you. We, um, I mean, the two of us..." Shindou paused and took another deep breath.
"All men are the same, aren't they Touya-kun?" Shindou-san interrupted. "They just can't seem to say the word 'love'."
Hikaru's jaw dropped. "You knew, mom?"
"I know now. Before I just suspected. If you're wondering what gave you away, it's that you've seemed unusually happy lately. Touya-kun, sometimes I think that my son was taken away and exchanged for a stranger. One day, Hikaru started playing Go, and since then I've hardly understood a thing about his life. I doubt I'll ever really understand anything about Go. Love, though-I can recognize that when I see it. I have to warn you, though, Touya-kun, Hikaru can be just impossible sometimes. Remind him twenty times to call you and he'll still forget. Now, I can see you know what you've gotten yourself into. But if you ever want to call someone and shout into the telephone for a while about what a thoughtless lout this boy can be sometimes, let me give you my number."
"Shh, Hikaru. You're so lucky to have found someone like Touya-kun. Don't screw this up."
"Why do you make it sound like I'm such an impossible-well, at least you're not mad," Hikaru thought about Touya's parents and how they'd reacted. No, things could be a lot worse.
"Touya-kun, I don't know everything about relationships, but I do have two pieces of advice for you. Don't be afraid to have a fight. It's much better to get something off your chest than let it keep bothering you. The other thing is, find something you enjoy doing together. Something other than Go."
Touya felt his ears turn red. Shindou-san put her hand to her mouth to cover her smile, but he could see the amusement in her eyes, which just made him blush harder.
"Well, that is something other than Go," she said.
Telling Heihachi was easier. Maybe it was practice, or maybe just that he had always had a soft spot for Hikaru.
"Well, don't the two of you expect me to understand these modern relationships. I can't say if it's a good thing or a bad thing, you'll have to work that out for yourselves. But don't worry, Hikaru, you're still my favorite grandson."
"I'm your only grandson, ogii-chan!"
"Well, that means you're also my least favorite. Or can I count Touya-kun as a grandson too? You know, I never expected to have this problem. Hikaru, you might end up being my least favorite grandson, but out of the two of you."
"You know, I may seem pretty clueless about all this, Touya-kun, and I suppose mostly I am. But don't imagine that you re the first boys who ever fell in love with each other."
"We never supposed that, Shindou-san."
"You re not even the first I've known. It was back when I was about your age. I haven't thought about this in a long time. After the war a lot of people from other parts of the country moved to Tokyo. Everything was very unstable back then. Things were changing, but nobody knew if it was for the better or not. Now there was this new boy in our high school class. I forget what his name was, but anyway he fell in love with one of my classmates. A friend of mine. His name, of course I remember but it doesn't really matter, does it? All I'm trying to say is, it did happen back in those times too. Nobody talked about it, but their friends knew. We did. And maybe things could have stayed like that. But those two didn't keep it quiet enough. I don't know if they told their folks, hoping for the best, or they simply got caught. Their families-well, in those days accepting something like that, simply wouldn't have happened. No way. So the new boy's whole family went away, back to wherever it was they had come from. I'm thinking it was Kagoshima, or maybe it was Kagawa. Someplace far away. I never heard anything about him after that. So far as I know, none of us did."
"What happened to your friend who stayed in Tokyo?"
"He lived the rest of his life. Got married, had kids. Worked as a chemist. Died a couple of years ago, of cancer. I always figured it was those chemicals he had to work with. They're always finding that one of them turns out to have been dangerous all along." He paused a moment. "So he lived his life like anybody else. But you know, now when I think of it, I don't remember him being as happy afterward as he was before his boy friend got sent away."
"We're sort of out now, right?"
"What do you mean, sort of out?"
"Our families know, but that's it. And I don't think they re going to tell anybody. Well, my mom might tell her friends, but I doubt it. My grandfather didn't seem mad at us, but I don t think he'll be bragging to his friends at the Go salon that his grandson is having sex with Touya Akira. And I certainly don't see your folks telling anybody."
"Hardly. My parents are probably hoping that if they ignore our relationship it will go away."
"So that means that the problem you brought up, we still have it."
"I mean, somebody will figure it out, and tell everybody. Unless we do it first. So who do you want everybody to learn about us from? Waya? Ochi? Ogata-san? Mashiba? Zama sensei? Really Touya, I think we should do something, but I m not sure what would work best. If you've got any ideas, I'd be OK with whatever made sense for you."
"Well, I suppose we could do some sort of announcement ourselves. To keep it under our own control."
"What, you mean like a wedding announcement, but in Weekly Go?" They both giggled.
"I don't think they would go for that, Shindou. Go players tend to be older men with traditional ideas. Probably the stodgiest people in Japan."
"That's exactly why Weekly Go should adopt a same-sex couple as spokesmen! They're always talking about how to draw in young people. If we came out, we'd be guaranteed to get more young female fans interested in Go. It would make Go seem cool! Sexy! Pitch it to Amano-san like that, and he might just go for it. He'd probably give us a reality show on GoTV."
"You have got to be joking, Shindou."
"I can see it now. Cameras follow us around at home. I'd have my shirt off most of the time. To attract that female demographic. Now don't sulk, you'd be popular too. Always trying on new outfits, each one more outrageous than the last!"
"I don't wear outrageous outfits!"
"Hey, you can't expect a reality show to be a perfectly accurate picture of our lives. It would be scripted to bring in maximum ratings. There'd be focus groups. If they liked my tattoos in episode 3 I'd have tattoos all over by episode 4. How about one down here?"
"I don t think they'd let you show that on TV, Shindou. Well, I suppose the Go channel is on cable."
After that the conversation became even less sensible and Shindou's original point was forgotten for the time being.
A few days later Shindou had the day off. He slept very late because he'd stayed up half the night studying all the kifu he could find for his next league opponent. Looking at the clock by the bed, he could see that Touya should be home from his match in a couple of hours.
He slouched around the apartment for a bit, trying to decide what to do. He looked in the freezer and saw a couple of steaks. They hadn't eaten beef lately; maybe he should defrost them. There's no law that says you can only have steak when you're celebrating something, he thought. But hadn't they been planning to go out to dinner with Saeki-san tonight? Or was that tomorrow? He'd better text Touya and ask. Touya would remember. If Touya's match was still going on his phone would be off, but he always remembered to turn it on again after. Touya always remembered everything.
Shindou couldn't find his phone.
This was annoying but, he had to admit, not all that unusual. Probably it was lying around the apartment. If Touya were only at home, he could ask him to call his number. Then the phone would ring and he'd track it down, typically in the pocket of something he'd been wearing lately and discarded on the floor or draped over a chair or something. But Touya wasn't here, so he decided he'd better find it himself.
Twenty minutes later he gave up. It hadn't been in the pocket of any clothes he could see, or anywhere near the bed. He had even looked inside the gokes (his keys had turned up in there once - he still had no idea how that had happened). Exasperated and unable to think what else to do, he settled down to study Go and wait for Touya.
Finally Touya returned home from the Institute.
"Touya, could you call my number? My phone has gone missing again. It must be around here somewhere but I just can't find it."
"Actually, I had it with me." Touya held out the missing phone.
"You had it? Well, whatever, just give it here." He turned the phone on and it rang instantly.
"Don't answer that!"
"What s going on, Touya?" The screen of his phone indicated that the caller was Waya. "You didn't have a fight with Waya, did you? I don't see why the two of you can't get along-"
"I haven t had a fight with anyone, Shindou. I'll explain once the phone stops ringing."
The ring tone stopped. A different tone then indicated that he had a new voice mail. This was soon followed by the chime that announced a new text message. Seconds later, this chime was repeated. Shindou called up his inbox. It calmly informed him that he had 36 missed calls, 23 voicemail messages and 68 unread text messages.
"Touya! What's happening?"
"Well, I had an idea this morning, and I thought that if I, um, borrowed your phone then nobody would disturb you. Maybe I should have asked you first, but you were asleep, and so-"
"And, and? Why do I suddenly have 68 unread text messages?"
"Well, you said the other day, if I had an idea of how we could, um, make some sort of announcement, that you'd be OK with it. So I-"
"You told Amano-san? I was just kidding about that reality show, Touya! I'm not going to have to get tattooed now, am I?"
"I didn't tell Amano-san. Anyway, Weekly Go doesn't come out until Thursday."
"And we came out today, apparently."
"Yes. Shindou? You did say you'd be OK with it, remember? If I had an idea of how to tell people?"
"Just tell me what you did before I go completely insane. Did you post photos of us on the internet? You're going to give me a seizure!"
"I told Ashiwara-san, and asked him to keep it in the strictest confidence."
Shindou had never laughed so hard.