When one's so plain, there are many things that scares a person. Knowing there are so many people better, insecurity and being unsure couldn't be called as 'paranoid'.
The Reflection You See
Standing before a full-sized mirror, naked and feeling the splatter of the cold shower over his skin, he slowly reached the side of his face just a little below his left eyebrow. A thin, band of silver in his ring finger glimmered under the lights.
He smiled bitterly.
"No matter how many times they say that physical appearances don't matter...in the end..." he lowered his hand and with the other, he took off the ring. His silent tears mixed with the running water, no one could tell he was hurting. He placed the ring on the side of the bathroom wall where there was a little space. Looking into the space, he counted in his mind. Four. Four rings. Four promises that had been broken. Four times of being rejected. Fourth time he's broken hearted.
"...physical appearances and status...they make the world go round..."
Who said that after being able to get over past one's sexuality, the never ending road to happiness and bliss would come right after?
For Takahashi Misaki, now a worker in a quiet library as a part-time keeper, the huge problems started appearing one by one. Slowly as if being slapped into his face, every single one of the people he tried to go out with had told him, even though indirectly that there wasn't anything special about him. He wasn't special. He was just plain Misaki.
Over time, since the boy didn't want to have sex until they were sure that they're really the one, they grew tired. Because they felt like the brunet was boring and plain. And sex rigid, and there was nothing that can be boasted about him. So just as fast as they appeared was as fast as they vanished. The promises of forever never came to light.
"Ne, Miyagi-san..." the boy turned to the raven sitting across him. He looked trim for his age and gave a serious vibe around him though he could be pretty childish. At Misagi's back was another library goer who was too absorbed with whatever he was reading that Misaki didn't bother to look more.
He had helped the professor at the University he was attending, look for books in relation to 'Basho'. And sometimes he found talking to the man relaxing. Maybe because he had a lot of experience in life than he did. "Do you think I'm boring? Am I really unattractive?"
The man looked up from the book he was reading with a crease on his forehead. "What is this? Did you got dumped again?"
The teen scowled. "I'd appreciate it if you don't add 'again' in your question sensei..."
Miyagi Yo snickered, obviously not buying the boy's fake irritation on his face. "Girls are really picky you know...and fickle."
Misaki flipped through the pages of the clippings he was browsing. "Girls...I'm not talking about girls though..."
Suddenly Misaki noticed Miyagi's expression going a little weird. Like he was experiencing constipation. "Ah...you know as your senior in life...girl or boy, man or a woman...nothing will really work out if the two of you weren't meant to be! So if you got dumped...that just means you're one person closer to your destiny!"
The boy watched the professor through some of his bangs falling on his face. Misaki knew this man was actually having a relationship with a younger person. Way too younger that they could be mistaken as parent and child. That was as far as he knew. And truthfully, the boy envied this professor before him who seemed to have found this 'destiny'.
"Sensei...do you realize how many people are here in Japan, let alone in the Kanto region?"
"So what? The reason why it's destiny is because you don't go looking for it. It presents itself right in front of you and you can't do anything about it."
Misaki shook his head, nodding without thinking.
"Listen to me Takahashi-kun, you're a nice kid, and even though it takes time for you to absorb lessons, you work hard," Misaki bared his teeth at the comment but kept on listening. "You're a little cheeky sometimes but you manage to cheer-up people without even trying...and you're still young. You don't have to rush anything."
Misaki knew what the professor was saying held truth in them. But he already made up his mind. If he were able to find himself in a relationship again, he'd be more entertaining. He'd do everything so he wouldn't be boring. He'd work hard so that the next person wouldn't look at others and would finally stay.
Misaki knew that was plain stupid, but if that was the only way to keep someone at his side, being the plain person he was, then pretending he would do. Even if it meant losing himself in the process.
The moment he entered that hole, or whatever everyone was calling it, Misaki felt like the beat of the sound system was trying to rob him off his own heartbeat. It thumped strongly across the huge hall, reaching his very core and the only way he could maintain standing was reaching for the cold walls.
"Misaki! Come on! Party is starting!"
The brunette looked around having a confused look. When he finally accepted a friend's invitation to some really popular bar and dance place around Kabuki-chou, this very friend of his took the initiative to give him a make over.
Standing there like a lost kid, he had some glitters sprinkled on his neck and chest, a little of some eyeliner and his hair was all in soft curls and the very cologne he was wearing made him want to gag.
"Wait...I think...I think...I'm going home!" Misaki shouted among the people talking, shouting, singing and laughing at the same time. This wasn't the kind of place he'd normally go. And Misaki never liked the smell of alcohol floating over his head.
"What are you saying?" the friend shouted back, tugging Misaki along the arm deeper into the dance floor. "You said you wanted a change...now here's the change!" the other male, a little taller than Misaki announced exageratedly before waiving his own hips left and right.
"I did say I want to change!" Misaki ran his eyes once more on the dance floor, at the sickening lights beating in tune with the loud song and at the people dancing. "...But I didn't say I wanted to be a part of a cult!"
"Stupid!" the guy hollered. "Didn't your past flings left you because you're too much of an angel? Misaki dear, we gay people are meant to be free and wild! That's why being with us is fun!"
Misaki drooped his shoulders as he watched his friend mingle with the other people dancing on the floor. He knew his friend was just trying to help. But Misaki didn't want a 'fling'. He wanted a 'real' one.
"I guess my head is full of stupidity."
Everyone in that place looked so happy. But deep down Misaki felt like he was just seeing a facade. A pretentious enjoyment to mask deeper sorts of emotions. That person on the chair with one glass of something red looked like he was about to cry. The girl not far from him was dancing crazily, but her face looked angry. The guy who passed him by, tall and expressionless seemed to be not at all interested, like a passer-by who went to see what was going on and then brushed it off like nothing. Misaki wanted to see more, but the guy already disappeared in between the sea of the people.
"Everyone is faking it...because they're looking for something just like me..."
Misaki tapped his one foot, trying to find his rythm.
"I'm already here...so why not give it a try?"
Because Misaki was too much of an innocent teen, his interpretations of the world was a little on the pure side of the world. He just didn't know that many liked to take advantage of the people like him. Unknown to the world, like a baby bird trying to fly, they looked the tastiest for the predators who have their jaws wide open below.
"Hey kid...you're new here aren't you?"
The boy who finally managed to find his own dancing steps turned around to face the voice who called him. However, he ended up hitting another guy on the face with his raised hand.
"What the?" the guy raised his hand over his face, running his fingers over the area above his eyebrow. He had the color of hair that absorbed the lights, blue, red or black, it was hard to say. In that dim area the only sure things was the man had the aura of 'prestige'.
"Ah? I'm sorry Mister! I didn't...uwah...you're bleeding!?"
Misaki stood on tiptoes, trying to see the man's cut caused by his fingernail. He realized he was the same expressionless guy earlier but now his face was in annoyance.
"It's okay...your guy there is waiting for you," the man nodded at Misaki before turning around.
The teen cocked his head dumbfounded. "My 'guy'?"
"Hey little one...aren't you a feisty cutie...trying to show me how you flirt with another one when I already set my eyes on you?"
The older man to which his blonde hair looked like a mop of red because of the lightings smiled and grabbed Misaki's waist closer to his.
"The next song is for lovers...why don't we take the tune?" the man whispered into Misaki's ears.
His head was going muddy. This straightforwardness...was this the kind his other failed relationships was looking for? It felt uncomfortable and suffocating for some reason. However...
"I said I'm going to give it a try...!"
Misaki didn't know how it would appear, but he twisted his lips into the most seductive one he could muster. Batting his eyelashes sprinkled with eye glitters and circling his thin arms around the older man's neck.
"S-sure...let's dance..." Misaki tried to say with much more confidence but he ended up sounding like purring.
The calm song started filling the previously rowdy floor. Men and women, women and women, men and men, they all sprouted on the floor, arms locked together sensually as if nobody else existed.
Misaki uncomfortably looked at the space between him and the man before him. Goosebumps running over his arms while he could feel the man rubbing his groin over his stomach. Honestly he was starting to get scared.
"Ne...what's your name...?" the man uttered, rolling the words like poison into Misaki's ears.
"Uhm...eh..." Misaki tried to move away a little. His hands on the man's chest trying to put force. "Mi-ki..." that was the remaining sensible part of Misaki telling him not to reveal his real name.
"Heh..." the voice in Misaki's ears was getting way out the world by the second. "Want to go somewhere more private? I bet we'll click very fine..."
Misaki grinned. The disgusted grin that he no longer tried to hide showed itself on his face. "Sorry, but I have a stomach ache right now...you know I ate badly...and uhm...oh my god...it's coming!"
The man stared at Misaki, sure it was just jesting.
"I take laxatives...so I have to go to the bathroom most of the time...Oww..." Misaki looked up, knitting his brows as if he was ready to relieve nature where he was standing. "Hurts..."
"Do you still want to do it with me?" Misaki added, batting his eyes innocently while pretending to massage his flat stomach.
"What? Are you for real? You're...you're disgusting!"
In no less than five seconds did Misaki found himself alone in the dancefloor, gazing blankly at the other people having 'fun'.
"I don't want to have fun...I want to have happiness..."
With the deepest sigh he could do, Misaki looked up at the summer sky full of the glittering and flickering lights. He found them pretty but as soon as he lowered his gaze at the old looking car before him, he started cursing his stupidity and his pathetic state.
"What am I gonna do?" Misaki asked aloud, kicking the tire of his friend's car. "I have my phone and bag inside this car, and that guy cannot be found!" he tugged at the handle, but obviously it was locked.
The boy gave one last kick, a little stronger and he ended up hurting his own toe despite the leather boots he was wearing.
"Tsk...this is too hot...this shoes, this shirt, this pants...and this makeup is so heavy!" Misaki annoyedly ruffled his waivy locks in frustration and turned around, ready to kick the next car to him.
But he found his breath stuck in his throat.
"Don't go kicking other cars with that shoes...after inflicting a cut on them," the man leaning on the side of his car muttered. The shadows hiding his face.
"...!" Misaki stared at the face of the man, finding a little cut above the man's eyebrow. "You..uhm...I wasn't going to..." Misaki replied, not in the mood for any pleasantries anymore. He hated that he tried to change who he was and hated every second of pretending to be 'wild' and someone he wasn't.
The boy started removing the leather boots off and barefooted he stood beside the old car, looking defeated. That was it, no one probably would really want to be with such a boring and plain person like him for a long time. He wanted a fairytale like-love and fairytales didn't even exist.
For a long time, the two just listened to the cicadas from the nearby park hum violently. Misaki bended his toes, feeling the rough pavement, while the other one still leaned on his car with a cigarette in his hand.
"So...how's your stomach? It doesn't hurt anymore?"
Misaki raised his chin to turn to the man with an embarrassed look. "You heard that?"
"I happen to pass by that direction and heard about you having to go to the bathroom and all to relieve yourself."
Misaki crumpled his face, wanting to sink to the pavement. But didn't say anything.
The man chuckled suddenly. At the same time that the summer breeze which was a little humid brushed into their faces. "That's some fresh way on how to reject advances...pretty witty."
"Don't take me for an idiot..."
Misaki was looking at his barefeet when he heard the sound of shoes clicking slightly against the cement. It came nearer, sounded nearer and before Misaki realized it, a pair of shining, expensive shoes were in front of him.
Confused, Misaki looked up.
"You probably don't remember me but well..." the man had his lavender eyes narrowed in such a way that one would find themselves speechless for a moment. A smile so catching, a smile so pulling. "Don't you just hate that crowded place? My friend is having a party on the VIP lounge on the second floor and honestly, it's suffocating."
The man placed his cigarette in between his thin lips and turned towards the brick-red building where they came from. "But I guess it's worth it...anyway..." the man glanced back at the teen, hand extended. "I'm Usami Akihiko and you are?"
Even before Misaki could finish his name, a loud voice came. The two turned their heads towards the voice's direction and from afar, the green eyed boy thought the park changed into a cat-walk. Ladies in daring yet sophisticated clothes came parading on the lot. Youthful men on the side with the air of models or business tycoon sons trotting along side them.
The boy wasn't sure if there was an imaginary spotlight that appeared for the serene and calm parking lot felt that it transformed into a show of glimmering people from a magazine.
"What are you doing here, Usami-san? And we've been so excited coming here because they said you'll be partying with us!"
A guy around 23 looked around the lot and paid Misaki a sweeping glance from head to foot.
"Usami-san...someone you know?"
Misaki tensed. With just one look he could tell, and even him wasn't stupid enough not to feel the 'prestige' these people before him were giving off. They were in a level Misaki wouldn't be able to reach. Misaki wondered why his confidence was really too low that time. Any other time he wouldn't be so much bothered. But these lot of people as if carved from a painting, their smell of money and superiority was intimidating.
Misaki could just look at Usami's burning cigarette in the man's lips.
"Yeah...I met him in the dance floor on the first floor. He's a very interesting kid."
"Interesting?" another chimed in. He was about six foot tall and wore his black polo with his buttons undone all the way to his chest exposing too much beautiful skin in the night.
The women and the other guys stood before the cowering boy and extended their business cards. Smiling, their scents filling the air, Misaki stared as one by one, they handed him cold and crisp cards.
"Hi, I'm Minami Akira, I ran a botique in Uru-Hara ...please come anytime cutie?"
"Ah...thanks..." Misaki replied.
"Here...I'm Sahada Aida, I don't look like it but I recently took my father's position as the president of our small law firm , so if you need any legal assistance, please come by..."
Misaki took them on his hands one by one with a smiling face. They all looked so young. Yet they were all so accomplished.
"Oh...give us your card too so we can hang out together next time?"
The boy gripped the few cards on his hand tighter and blinked a couple of times, thanking that he was standing behind a lamp post so his face would be hidden a bit from their eyes.
"I don't...I don't have a business card..." Misaki replied meekly. Feeling so low and suddenly useless.
The Akira guy placed his hands in his pockets. "You don't? Well...what do you do? Still a student?"
"Yes...and working as Library keeper in the City library..."
The people didn't snicker or said any hurtful comments. But that silence was more hurtful than hearing them say it outrightly to his face.
"Hey..." the silverhaired man cut in, grabbing the boy's hand. He placed another card on the boy's hand. "That's how you can contact me."
Misaki read the gold, shining card that stood out among the rest of what he was holding. "Usami Akihiko, novelist, Marukawa Publishing..." the kid flipped the card unconsiously and saw a number written on pen. He looked up questioningly but then Usami just gave a condescending smile.
"Come on now Usami-san, the birthday boy is already crying his head out because you just disappeared!"
"Wanna come with us?" a woman asked, just being polite.
Misaki shook his head slightly. Because Misaki knew if he moved too much, his tears would fall from his eyes and he didn't want to show them how much they affected him.
Usami took a step forward and suddenly rested his cool hand on Misaki's sticking out hair. "The next time we meet, I'll show you something awesome...take care."
The bunch of the glittering and sparkling people started making their way back to the building. As they grew farther, the parking lot grew dimmer until it went back to its normal state. He stared at the bunch until he could no longer see them. And exhaling, Misaki stared at the golden card he was holding.
"Usami...Akihiko..." Misaki read a little softer and gentler. The sound and the roll of each syllables so fluidly escaping his mouth. "I bet he's just being polite. Why would someone like them...would want to do anything with me...?"
It's been a week since his stupid, failed attempt at being 'wild' and never once Misaki did dial that Usami AKihiko's number. He busied himself checking for the books that just arrived and busied himself studying though nothing really went in his head.
He looked around the shelves of books surrounding him. And it felt like they were moving closer, trying to squeeze him in between.
"I wanted to contact him...it felt so relaxing talking to him..."Misaki whispered, closing the book after putting a faint mark that he just checked it and didn't have any defect. He laughed mockingly and very softly. "But I don't want to embarass myself..."
Every once in a while, Misaki would hear the pages of the the books being turned by the readers, their soft voices and their muffled laughter. The boy on the other hand kept on looking at the books he was checking at the farthest corner of the library. His green eyes rested on the book that fell out from his hands. Picking it up, it went to a page that caught his eyes.
"Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them is me."*
"I don't like hiding.
I don't like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings-
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
And just like that Misaki felt hot tears in the corners of his eyes, threatening to land on the yellowish paper. How can a poem, mirror himself so perfectly? It was as if he was the one who wrote it.
He stared at it long and hard, behind blurry eyes. And then he found the book leaving his hands.
The teen looked up to who grabbed the book from him. It was Usami Akihiko. In broad daylight, his stunning appearance was too hard to bear at some point.
"Why...why are you here? How did-"
The man who was wearing just a black cotton shirt narrowed his eyes at the passage where marks of tears were. "I told you call me, but you never did."
"You want wings...? Then...I'll give you wings..." the man commented.
Pulling himself back together, Misaki lowered his head even more to hide his face and started piling the books he had scattered one after another. "Why would I...anyway...do you need help with a book...give me a second..."
Usami closed the book and sighed. Him kneeling like that before Misaki was something the boy never have imagined. As if the man came for him and nothing else.
"I told you you might not remember me...but I've always been the one sitting behind your Miyagi-sensei...and I often listen to you...rant."
Misaki was near shouting but remembered he was in a library. So with the most disbelieving face, he gritted his teeth. "You what? You're eavesdropping?"
Usami smiled faintly. "Call it however you want...but I've always thought why people kept in leaving you...when you're so...special."
"Don't make it sound like I have some mental illness..." Misaki scowled yet he was as clear as the day flustered. "Anyway...forget it. I have work if you can see...unlike some, I don't hold the time in my hands..."
The boy meant it to be an insult. He didn't want to be involved with a person so out of reach. If he was already intimidated by normal people, how much more...when the guy was like that? He'd feel miserable and feel useless and would end up in self pity.
Misaki grimaced. Funny when a person tries to break away even though the other seemed interested. Such were the complications of living in different dimensions. And Takahashi Misaki didn't want to raise his expectations. After all, this guy, maybe interested today...and tired of him tomorrow.
"I'll wait for you then."
"Are you crazy?"
"I would be crazy if I let go of this opportunity. Don't rush...I'll be there on my spot reading."
With the look of shock and disbelief, Misaki watched the man who can turn all heads towards his direction seat on the spot behind the usual seat of his Miyagi-sensei.
"Isn't he so full of himself!?"
Not wasting anymore time, Misaki half-walked, half-jogged away from the library. His bag before him, Misaki almost jumped out of his skin when a series of car horn blasted in all direction.
Having a bad feeling, the brunette looked behind his back and realized a red sports car running ever so slowly with the boy's pace, still buzzing the annoying sound.
The boy flicked his tongue and ran towards the car window.
"What are you doing?! You're being a nuissance to the neighborhood!" the teen shouted.
"Then hop in."
"Ha? I won't!"
Usami kept on pressing the car button which produced a shrill sound resounding in the streets. "Then I'll be like this until you get in."
The boy, ready to cry in annoyance, grabbed the handle of the car and slumped himself on the passenger seat.
"Now what?" Misaki grumbled, giving up.
"I told you I will show you something awesome...so I want to have a talk with you...that's all."
For some reason, finding himself so tired all of a sudden, Misaki started pulling on the seatbelt. If itwas just talk, what harm would it do? So off the car sped off under the summer afternoon sun, towards a very common place.
The boy just followed the man silently as they walked along the trail of Rikugien. The maple trees would look awesome in autumn, but that time it was just summer and Misaki was in no mood for nature appreciating.
"We're here..." Usami announced, exhaling as they both stopped under a maple tree, resting just beside a pond. Its reflection still as if the pond was a mirror itself.
"What is it now?" Misaki asked quietly. The calm feeling of the park slowly getting into him.
"Hmm...let's say...I'm intrigued by you..."
The boy frowned inspite of his heart working too much in his chest to supply him blood. "It's because I live differently from you Usami-san...that's it."
"Didn't you feel the connection? The first time I heard you telling your problems to that professor, I thought how childish...so I looked behind. And I don't know...it just happened."
Misaki stared at the leaf that fell from the tree, sending the water below create little, calm waves.
"If you want a past time...please go somewhere else..."
Usami didn't move but his eyes darted to the figure standing beside him. "Why are you running away now? When you didn't know who I was back then...you seem more comfortable..."
The boy ran his hand over his face and frowned. But he didn't look angry...more like he was conflicted himself.
"You are surrounded by so many gorgeous people Usami-san..." Misaki started softly. "They all have picture perfect smiles...picture perfect skin..." the teen scratched the tip of his nose. "On top of that...they're all rich...when I look at them...I couldn't possibly imagine...being able to infiltrate the kind of world you move in..."
"Why do you problem such things? I like to know more about this worry wart here beside me, why bother about those stuff?"
Misaki smiled. "I don't have a car...let alone a business card...I'm boring...and plain...what's there to know about me? I look like an animal that stirred your interest but that's just about it..."
"Normally...I would have forced myself on you already...but here I am...having this conversation with you because...I'm serious. Why the hell do you lack so much confidence in you?"
The boy bit his bottom lip. Deciding to be honest.
"You're so perfect Usami-san. And I'm so afraid that once I get to know more about you and got too much into you...you'll just get tired of me like everyone else. A perfect man like you is suited for someone as perfect as well...I am not like that."
The two fell silent as children having a trip in the park passed behind them. They all had bright smiles on their faces, the opposite of Misaki's.
Usami sighed and stepped closer beside Misaki. It caught the boy by surprise when the man forced him to sit down. Inching closer to the pond below.
"Do I really look like a perfect man to you?" Usami asked, his face on the once again pond smiling faintly. "I used to think that way...but now...I realized am not."
Misaki averted his eyes from his own reflection. Wanting to go home.
"You know...it was only after I started hearing your stories in the library that there's no perfect lovers. I write novels about love and all of that...but I was wrong all along."
"Misaki...why don't you go out with me?"
The boy abruptly raised his eyes to meet the lavender ones peering at him so closely. He in truth wanted to run away but his feet were nailed on the ground.
"Why me? I will never be perfect in a million years..."
Usami pursed his lips and gently held the boy's face in his hands. Slowly, he led the boy look into the waters once more, where their reflections were crystal clear.
"Misaki...I am not looking for someone who's perfect..." the man's voice was hinted with a smiling face. "I am looking for someone who will complete the imperfections in me, and that person is that reflection you see."
The boy didn't notice it at all, he did when the man beside him brushed his lips on Misaki's eyes.
"Don't cry...let's give it a try...okay?"
Misaki could not remember whether he nodded or what he did. He just started sniffing there while looking at his blurry reflections. A million thorns leaving his chest. Worries, insecurities...everything. The man's words went into him like magic and he could only trust.
Usami threw a rock at the waters and patted Misaki on the back. "You're dead meat if you go to somebody else... one of my faults...is I am really possesive."
It hurt, but Misaki found himself laughing. The laughter he never had for such a long time.
"Finally...you laughed..." Usami whispered much softly.
No one could tell what the future held for these two people. It was just that, as days went by and both of them learned something new about each other, they started realizing one important thing;
That was, there weren't any lovers that could be called perfect. There was just two person's born with many faults in them. But together, they create the perfect love. Like the saying that goes negative times negative will always be positive.
chapter end notes;
hi everyone! i tried writing something light this time. i hope it is! and i really enjoyed writing this that instead of sleeping i ended up doing this...now i need to get a wink of sleep..as it is 2;20 in the morning already..muahah
please share your thoughts... and i'll reply in the weekend..hohoho..ain't i thick-skinned? hahaha
i hope you like it!^^ i went into the theme of 'insecurity' this time because i remember going into a classy place for school stuff and with their buffet and i think i wasn't dressed properly or i was just paranoid because i wasn't used to such places...i felt so awkward why i even bothered to go there...but i forgot all of my insecurities when i started filling my plate with lots of food...LoL...
Uru-Hara-=is a section of Harajuku where the establishments aim mostly to male consumers...those punk style and skater boy look (^^_)
Rikugien-=one of the many awesome parks in Tokyo
Please Listen to what I am not Saying===i used some parts of this poem in the oneshot. it is an all time favorite poem of mine written by Charles C. Finn