"How exactly do you feel about me?"
It was a question thrown at the most unexpected place. Waiting for the blue light so they could cross the street, the man just felt like asking.
"...what's that all of a sudden! Figure it out on your own!"
The man with a smiling lips of bliss sighed. "Words are powerful...it could make one assured, at ease...makes me know where I stand..."
The other looked away, obviously annoyed that the silverhaired man just gave another sigh.
"Okay...okay...take your sweet time..."
"Are you really that bothered?" Still looking away, the smaller form bowed his head. "Be honest."
A huge hand patted the other's head once. "Sometimes...but you don't have to rush yourself..."
The man wearing a black coat walked ahead, leading the way. He was so surprised that when he looked behind him after reaching the other side of the street, the kid was still there.
"What are you doing?" looking at the traffic light, it already went to stop, turning a worried look at his companion, the man warned, "There's no car but don't go running here!"
"I'm not a child mou!" the other shouted from the other side.
Both looked at the upcoming car speeding fast. And just as the car passed in between them, it wasn't car engine the man heard. It was something he didn't expect. It was something that sapped his energy.
"SUKI DA YO!" was the shout that echoed in the neighborhood.
Four-syllables. So short. Too short. But it was the biggest thing that conveyed everything. And because it was rarely said, the impact was far too greater. Usami didn't even know how to react.
Even from that distance, the flush on those cheeks were so visible that those who wouldn't know would think the thin form has a fever. The brunette was even obviously gathering the composure lost from the effort of doing that rare confession.
They just looked at each other for a whole while, with that distance, in that paused time.. The traffic lights had gone already a lot of its cycles. The one on the other side was obviously getting embarassed and impatient.
Out of all the teasing the man had thought of if ever this day would come, surprisingly, he was left with no words. Just that funny feeling in his chest that made him want to cry and smile at the same time. He could only smile and look at the small figure, stomping those feet irritably.
"Wipe that look off your face, you idiot!" was the retort after the sweet confession.
With a warmth spreading all over the man's body, he crossed the streets once more and this time, boldly took the other's hand and together crossed the silent witnesses; the pedestrian, parallel lines.
It was a memory buried deep within the farthest recesses of his consciousness. The images were even so foggy he couldn't make anything out of them. The sensation too was so fleeting that its reality could even be lesser than a dream. Sometimes he would see it when napping. Or sometimes when he would be dazing at a far distance.
He just turned thirty. Two years had since passed after he survived a car crash. Yet he still couldn't remember what happened with the last twenty-eight years of his life.
It didn't make any sense at all. Just that, there would be times when inside of him would hurt, as if telling him he was forgetting something important.
Looking mindlessly at the passing view outside, Usami Akihiko released a deep sigh. Being a novelist based in the United States, it would be his first time setting foot in Japan. Well, first time after getting his memories erased. Two years had already passed.
He could only remember waking up and being told that it would be better to go to America and have some theraphy for his legs. Memories vanished, legs immobile because of a collision of five cars that autumn night two years ago didn't sound so surprising. He was just one of the countless idiots who got into accidents. No big deal.
Deciding to come back to his homeland was just a decision he didn't even think of. He just felt like going back.
"Excuse me Sir," the taxi driver called respectively as he glanced at the rearview mirror. "Would it be alright if I take an alternate route? There is an event at the nearby establishment ahead and the traffic could get bad."
Usami darted his eyes at the clock on the dashboar. The blinking of the digital clock said five thirty in the afternoon. When he looked at the window, there were girls in their pretty pleated skirts together with their cute coats walking at the sidewalk. Some office workers walking expressionless too.
"Sure," the silverhaired man at the back seat replied, wondering why despite being a Japanese man himself, he couldn't connect to anything.
"Hehe...Sir...been out the country for too long?" the taxi driver suddenly chirped, having a cheery expression which Usami could see from the rearview mirror.
"Yeah, somehow," Usami replied though he wasn't in the mood for a chitchat.
"Yah...even my daughter seems to talk a different language! Kids these days..." the driver mumbled still, he looked happy. "There's nothing better than being in your own homeland though..."
Ignoring the driver because of jetlag, Usami made himself comfortable on his seat. Coming to Japan without arranging for his own car and a place to stay was plain stupid. But it was better than to have his father fuss over him that he didn't even tell anyone that he would be coming back. Not even Aikawa, his editor.
The cab slowed down as they neared an intersection. The traffic light was on red and a neat flood of pedestrian crossers appeared in view.
As Usami watched the flow of human before him, he could imagine a swarm of bees or a colony of ants neatly following their queen. Bored suddenly, lavender eyes darted on the traffic lights itself, from the colors down to its base. He looked away, and yet had to look back again. Back at where the traffic light post was.
His attention landed on a figure who just stood beside the thick body of the traffic light post. Everyone was crossing, so the immobile figure in the sea of that moving creatures grabbed hold of Usami's curiosity.
When the figure lifted his head from a slight bow, Usami realized it was a male. A male in a stark black gakuran that gave off a mourning aura. The fiery reds and golds of the trees around the area just made the black of the boy's uniform stand out.
The kid looked to his right and left. It was kind of a mystery that despite the distance of the cab and the boy, not to mention the people crossing, Usami was able to make out how the kid looked like. Overall, he was thin. Overall he was plain looking. One thing worth looking was probably his eyes that seemed to be out of season, emerald orbs contrasting the colors of fall. One that could absorb someone without even trying.
When the traffic lights turned to 'blue', the cab where Usami was started coming back to life. Slowly moving out of their spot, nearing where the high schooler was. There was no one else anymore after everyone had crossed the pedestrian lanes. But the kid just stood there like a post himself.
Usami, didn't realize that he was still staring at the boy at the sideview mirror. Staring hard until he could no longer even see the brunette with green eyes due to the distance the cab already made. The driver even noticed it.
"Sir? Seen anything familiar?"
"Ah, no..." Usami replied, clearing his throat.
The driver himself looked at the sideview mirror, looking at the traffic lights they passed just a while. He knitted his brows and then turned into a curve.
The sky was already dark when Usami reached the hotel he would be staying at. Looking for a place to stay for good could be postponed for a long while. He would ask his editor Aikawa about it later. For now, he had to rest his body and head. Absorbing too many new scenes, feelings and new culture all in just a day was overwhelming.
And that nostalgic feeling lingering in his chest everytime he remembers the lonesome view of the brunette earlier. How would one explain that? He had seen so many new places during the day yet that specific scene was taking over. Such force. It wasn't normal.
The next day, thinking it would be better for him to know the surrounding area by foot than just renting a car or being on a taxi, he grabbed his coat, hid his hands inside its pocket and roamed around.
"Sunday today huh?" he mumbled as he passed streets nearing the Meiji Shrine. What was more a little weird was the teenagers dressed in costumes from weird to outrageous. He had heard a lot about this in America. Where young people gather in Yoyogi park and showoff their cosplays. Having to see it with his own eyes, it wasn't that special. Specially that he wasn't into that kind of stuff in the first place. "This kind of crowd makes my head hurt..."
He continued walking, inhaling the scent of autumn. The merit was at least, somehow it felt like it was cleaning his lungs, though he was in the capital. Maybe he should go somewhere north or somewhere south. Tokyo, though offers a lot of quite place, still, it was a bad place for people who wanted tranquility.
"You used to live in Tokyo. Wanting to be on your own..." his father once said when the man visited him in America.
"I wonder how I managed..." Usami whispered with sarcasm. How could he, a man who didn't want crowded places, loud places and too bright views live in the bustling city of Tokyo? It was either he was rebelling, being stubborn or he was with someone too important he didn't care where he was.
Usami found himself frozen near a teashop. "...with someone?" The thought got him. He never really asked about it and thought about it seriously. But he was twenty-five when he got in an accident. Surely, for any normal, healthy man, he would have been with someone.
He looked at the couple holding hand in hand across the street. If he was really with someone, where was she when he woke up from that accident? Save from his cold looking brother, and overly acting father and a few house keepers, there was no one.
"Ah..." Usami smiled. He knew of all people that he could be a jerk. Maybe he was just the player type who went around but never really settled. Somehow, satisfied yet unconvinced with his own reasoning, he continued his walk.
He walked and didn't mind the loud sound of footsteps nearing. Usami went on gazing at the shops that probably would come handy in the future. Until someone tapped him on the shoulder.
Expressionless, Usami turned to look behind him. He was met by a man with eyeglasses, a 'free' air around him and a sneaky smile. The kind Usami found suspicious.
"Hey! I never would have expected to see you here. It's been a while, Usami-san."
Curling the side of his lips a little, Usami nodded. He didn't know the man, but this man knew him. Weighing how reclusive of a man he was, even when he was still in America, he had just figured as much that he didn't have a lot of friends.
The man smiled and pointed at the teashop near them. "Let's go have some tea. I have a lot of things to ask you."
Usami just followed, maintaining a neutral aura. Once the two of them were seated and had ordered tea and sweets together with it, the man started talking as if they were close and yet they weren't.
"I'm sorry I couldn't visit you when you had an accident. We were having some serious problems at home back then too..."
"That's alright..." Usami replied, sipping a cup of coffee he ordered instead of tea.
Usami grew silent for a moment when the stranger narrowed his eyes.
Usami grew silent for a moment.
The man acting so friendly with Usami motioned to remove his glasses and started wiping it clean with a tissue. "But really...I never expected something like that would happen two years ago. I'm glad you seem to have recovered fairly well..."
Lavender eyes observed the man across him.
"Anyway...did you come see Misaki? Ah~what the hell am I saying? Of course you'd meet your precious one..."
"Misaki?" Usami couldn't help it that he just cut the man off. He didn't want to sound so unknowing yet he did when he heard the name.
It was the other's turn to grow silent. He just fixed his eyes at Usami's unfocused ones and placed his glasses back on his face. The man nodded slightly for behind his smiles could really be an observant man too underneath.
"I see...sorry I said too much."
"I get it..." Sumi sighed. "Now it makes sense...unless you remember me and everything, you wouldn't be caught dead sitting having a nice drink and chat with me. The car crash caused you to forget everything like they said...right?Let me guess, you don't even know me."
His gaze intently at the too much knowing man, Usami could feel his jaws working.
"As expected," the man chuckled. "You didn't give a damn about who I am. Well I'll introduce myself anyway. I'm Sumi."
"Who's Misaki? Was she with me in that car?"
"Huh?" Sumi raised a brow. Letting being ignored pass. "'Her'...'she' you say...?"
"What's her relation to me?"
Sumi gave a sad smile while scratching the side of his neck. "You really don't remember huh?" Sumi knitted his brows as if pondering whether to say it or not. In the end, he replied, "Misaki wasn't with you in that car crash..."
It annoyed and bothered Usami even greater. Ignoring the last comment, the man looking for answers slammed his fist on the small, white table. "Where can I find her then?
"Why don't you try asking your father, or brother about it?" Sumi paused and looked out the autumn trees outside the establishment. "After all, it's your fault for forgetting something so important..."
"My father? Brother?"
Sumi pushed his glasses on the bridge of his nose and sighed. Usami felt or somehow realized why he was feeling distant against this man. Perhaps, Usami thought, he was really serious with this Misaki. For his heart really just skipped a mile.
"All I can say is that, you and Misaki, both of you, were like in a fairytale. You're here so it's just a matter of time before you know it. I'm sure Misaki's been waiting for your return."
There were so many things Usami Akihiko wanted to ask Sumi. But watching the man's back as he walked to leave the shop, Usami felt like he didn't need to ask the man at all. This itching feeling of something coming was definitely there. And though Usami wanted to know how he used to be and this Misaki, part of him somehow was still indecisive.
Sumi on the other hand stopped in the middle of his walk and glanced back shortly, to where he left the silverhaired man alone. The man sighed as he remembered a fragment of the bitter event two years ago.
"On behalf of Akihiko-sama's father, we request that no one brings this up..." the voice of the old man rang softly yet strongly into all those few people around that table. The people who were 'close' or somehow connected to the man just kept silent, thinking about the one who shouldn't be brought up. Takahashi Misaki.
"He'll be going to America soon for recovery. Sadly, master's got an amnesia and his legs need rehabilitation as well. He has no intention of going back...we apologize to Takahashi-san's side. But this is all for the best..."
Sumi remembered looking at Misaki at the farthest side of the room alone with the white flowers and burning incense. It was a cruel sight.
Sumi frowned. "Why try hiding it when it would soon resurface...best my ass..."
Having walked endlessly that day, Usami could no longer carry on and decided to just take a cab back to his hotel. The chilly air, the shower or red leaves that would sometimes dance around before falling on the ground just made Usami depressed. The cold just seeps right into the bones, making him drained.
"Eh...Sir?" the driver exclaimed. "Weren't you the one last night? You know I dropped you in Teito Hotel!"
Usami squinted, ransaking his mind. "Ah...yeah. That's weird..."
"Haha...then I'll take the route I used yesterday okay?" the driver asked. "Today's Sunday and the final day of the event so we'd grow roots if we used the usual route..."
"Fine with me," Usami replied as he buckled his seatbelt. Truthfully he didn't care whatever route they use as long as he gets to Teito before his upcoming headache.
More turns, old houses that looked awefully the same, direction-challenged people would definitely get lost, they finally reached an intersection. From an eagle's point of view, it could either be a cross, or a huge 'X'. Somehow, that time unlike yesterday, the place was quiet and deserted save for one.
"Huh?" Usami this time was sitting on the passenger seat. Having the cab on a halt right after the red traffic light took over, Usami and the driver watched the only pedestrian that time. The same boy in stark black Gakuran from yesterday.
The boy walked until the middle of the pedestrian lane and then halted. He looked so hesitant one would think he was lost.
"What is that kid doing?" Usami asked himself.
Blue traffic light taking over, the cab driver pressed on the 'horn' button once, surprising the brunette.
"He's always doing that...so troublesome..." the driver mumbled.
The kid looked at the traffic lights then sprinted back to where he came from, in the end not crossing the street.
Usami didn't comment on anything. He just listened to the driver mumble something, something he couldn't understand. And then watched the brunette make a face of depression.
Walking around with no direction, buying things he really didn't need, going back at the hotel at the same time for a whole week was proving so futile. He could feel a little familiar with the surroundings but unlike in the novels he wrote, unlike in the movies he had seen, there wasn't any angel singing or trumpet booming in all directions for the dramatic realization. If one would describe what he was feeling as he tried to feel for anything, it would be emptiness.
Yet Usami still didn't want to ask for any help from his father, nor his female editor who must be going crazy by the missing author she was incharged with.
At the end of the day, when using that route had become a habit, he would always find the brunette in that same spot as if waiting for someone. That dejected look on the boy's face seemed to have gotten worse. And before Usami knew it, curiosity ruling over, for once the man decided to ditch cab and walk and cross that pedestrian lane himself.
Usami tugged at his scarf around his neck. The fabric was almost hiding half of his face, he started walking in slow strides. The afternoon sun was soft, the cars few, the subtle leaves rustling made everything look like a sad painting. Finishing the scenario on the pedestrian lane less taken was the brunette looking at the other side of the street.
Seeing the boy from behind, Usami thought the kid could be labelled as malnourished.
Watching the boy's back a few more seconds, Usami then stood beside the kid, looking at the traffic lights himself. When the song played at the same time the traffic light changed to blue, Usami waited for the boy to move. But the kid just stood there.
"It's blue now," Usami muttered, staring at the street with not a single car in sight. "Aren't you going to cross?"
From where Usami was standing, he could see the brunette's profile. Still, it gave the man the clearest view of the boy's smiling lips before the kid did look at him in return. Inside Usami's chest was a rush of an unfathomable feeling, like there was someone manipulating time, it felt as though everything went fast forward, leaving them behind.
"I'm waiting for someone..." said the brunette before looking straight ahead once more. "I always thought he's like 'superman' or 'supermario' it's funny...He always supported me when I'm waivering so this time, I'm looking after and out for him...I'm afraid he might do a reckless thing."
Usami couldn't help but crease his brows.
"He's already so close..." the boy added confidently looking back at Usami. "So he shouldn't give up..."
Usami cleared his throat, not understanding a thing but didn't have the want to make fun of what the boy said. To him it sounded almost like a love confession. "I see."
And then checking if it was already fine to cross the street, Usami started walking alone. Glancing back once reaching the other end, the boy was still looking at him. It was so straight it ran right through his chest.
Exhaling loudly, sending his breath brush his own face warmly before it disappeared, Usami's calm walking increased in pace. Running he did until he reached the train station. Running he did until he was out of breath.
"Misaki?" Usami whispered the name resounding in his mind that just couldn't be shaken off no matter how fast he ran. The sweet sounding name escaping his lips made Usami all the more confused.
A glass of wine with one hand, Usami changed the channels with the other. He pressed at the 'up' button of the remote, passively seeing the indistinc scenes before him.
Reaching a commercial for a mountain bike as it ruthlessly went down a steep slope then changed into scene at the beautiful beach, Usami knitted his brows. His lavender eyes reflecting the sun set as the biker's backdrop.
He placed his glass of wine down with a scowl. "What in the world are they trying to make people buy..."
The remote fell from Usami's grasp, making a dull sound against the rich carpet.
"From now on, you're not allowed to ride this bike alone."
"Huh? Are you kidding me?!"
It wasn't the beach. It wasn't even the park. It was inside a small garage. It was hot and humid. The tall man was sweating furiously while the smaller figure has gotten a tan.
The smaller figure's face who had the prettiest eyes resembling the dewy trees of Spring in the morning scowled. "You sound like a freaking mother Usagi-san!"
"You can still ride this bike, with me that is...I'll have you ride behind me."
"Huh? You? Biking?"
"Before being able to ride a car, one needs to know how to ride a bike...expertly."
The tanned skin teen somehow glistened of sweat. A smug face replaced that scowl.
After so much discussion, in the end, the brunette in that hazy world raised the white flag. Both on one bike, with the taller man pedalling regally, and the other younger one standing behind the man, they speeded off to a steep hill. Going so fast they were, like the thunder striking in a flash.
"Usagi-san! We're going to crash! You idiot!" the kid behind screamed angrily.
"If you're that scared, stop digging your fingers on my shoulders and hug me from behind instead."
"Are you crazy!?" the kid spat. "Who would do that!?"
They grew silent. Only the sound of the chains of the bike, the hot air on their face, people who saw them biking under the peak of Summer at midnoon thought they were crazy.
"If you get old Usagi-san, you wouldn't be able to ride a bike anymore."
"Are you stupid? That's far in the future."
The kid squeezed the man's shoulders for a short moment. "If that happens, I'll do the pedal. You ride behind me."
Curious why the other didn't have any annoying comeback, the boy called. "Oi...?"
"Stop saying things like that...sweat gets in my eyes. We'll definitely crash..."
Usami Akihiko stared dumbfounded at the flat screen TV. The sound of his phone ringing loudly from the table in front of him had just snapped him back from that hazy world. Bending to pick up the remote, the man closed his eyes and took deep breaths.
And then out of nowhere slammed the remote on the table causing it to crack.
"Damn it!" Usami hissed, running a hand on his face. "Really fucking damn it all..."
For the past two years, Usami would see these things. Like some remnants of something and he knew they were real. Or that they did happen.
The problem was after seeing them, just like waking in a dream too vague to understand, he'd wake up knowing he saw something. But after waking up, he couldn't even distinguish what just happened. Leaving him back to square one.
He was in an inner turmoil trying to remember what he just saw but the phone just wouldn't stop ringing.
"Tsk..." the man reached for his phone which was just a few inches away from the now broken TV remote. "What?"
"Good morn-ah...evening right? How are you doing?"
"Fine. Until you called."
The man on the other line chuckled. "You're so cold to your doctor Usami-san. It took me so much time before figuring out how to use these calling cards you know?"
"That's your problem," Usami replied, sitting on the huge bed nearby and then plopped down. His eyes fixed at the sprinklers on the ceiling. "Why are you calling Nowaki?"
The lively voice changed drastically. From a happy one, it turned into a serious one. "Just...going back...does it make you remember anything?"
Closing his eyes, Usami sarcastically replied, "I wish."
"I told you..."
"'I told you' what?"
"That you're unconsciously afraid of knowing...it hinders you from getting your memories back Usami-san."
The man of the topic sat back, somewhat annoyed. "I'll hang this up if you just called about the embracing-my-inner-fears shit."
The doctor clicked his tongue and his tapping of something somewhere was loud enough for the novelist to hear. "I have told you a million times since two years ago...your head injuries weren't that serious to cause such severe memory loss...it's you who wanted to erase everything and the car crash triggered it..."
Usami was ready dropping the phone on his couch, however, he froze at the next thing his friend and doctor said.
"This kind of case such as yours...usually the cause was a traumatic experience and I'm sure, no one wanted reminiscing the same things that's why this happens in the first place...but..." Nowaki exhaled and calmly continued. "...As long as you're hesitant to learn what was in your past...you'd be stuck where you are forever."
"I'm going to sleep now."
"I'm saying this not as a specialist but a friend...before you can move forward, wholeheartedly embrace everything from your past, good and bad...not just for you...but for the people waiting for you..."
Usami was getting annoyed by the minute, hearing something from a scene he remembered writing himself.
"I'm sure...even if you're the worst man on Earth with that personality of yours...there is definitely one at least...waiting for you. I'm sure."
The call ended after some more lectures and reminders of the doctor. Everything didn't sink in though. Usami just remained on his back, glaring at the cream colored ceiling without blemish.
"Easy to say 'embrace this embrace that'...how do you even do it...damn it..."
He didn't know what has gotten into him. But deciding to go for a walk the chilly morning the next day, Usami found himself at the intersection where he used to see the brunette. It seemed like the boy changed his time or changed route for he wasn't there anymore at his usual times. Usami cursed that it looked like his feet just moved all on its accord while his head was occupied with another stranger.
The man looked up. The weather seeemed to be awfully gloomy. The sky was dark, the trees starting to lose its color as winter months were fast approaching. Despite the many changes, there still was the traffic lights, and the already fading pedestrian lines.
Usami just stood there. Hands inside his coat, his hair softly touching the side of his face, he suddenly thought where the curve after the intersection would bring him. It was not like he had any plans for the day anyway. Lately he just walked around, pretending to connect himself with the rest just so he could say that he tried to 'remember'.
But honestly he was getting tired. If his memories would never come back then so be it. Why make a big deal of something that just wouldn't come back?
Gritting his teeth, he continued his walk. "If she is really something so important. If me and that Misaki are like what that Sumi is saying...where was she when I woke up?"
He halted and kicked a rock on the sidewalk lightly. "All these two years...if we're really that deep...she should have helped me go through this fucking...fucking...amnesia."
Running his hand through his hair, Usami watched the small rock roll away slowly. It rolled until it bumped into the foot of a stranger who was standing outside, getting the morning news paper stuck into the mailbox shaped like a birdhouse.
They met eye to eye. Usami's cold gaze, the man's vague stare.
Usami bowed his head slightly. He didn't even know why he did that. Him who never bowed to anyone. And like nothing happened, resumed his walk nonchalantly.
"If you're looking for my brother...he's not here."
The man called turned to look rather stunned. For the voice had a tinge of coldness and familiarity in it. "Excuse me?"
The man who obviously wasn't expecting to be out longer took a step closer after he stuck the newspaper forcefully back into the slot of the mailbox. His bluish eyes surprised but then grew a hint of animosity.
"It's really convenient to forget, isn't it?"
The selection of words of the stranger was making Usami angry. He took a step closer too, eyeing the man sharply.
"I'd appreciate it if you don't talk to me that way."
"What, so you still don't remember anything? And here I was thinking that you finally came to show your face to my brother. You were so crazy about him but turns out you just got lost."
Usami scowled. Both men seemed to have hot tempers despite the low morning temperature.
"I'm sorry," Usami said with a humorless smile. "...But you make it sound like I'm some gay."
chapter end notes:
thanks for reading. please share your thoughts!
busy busy busy busy...but the second and final chapter is already under construction. hahaha
Trivia: if you go to Japan, you guys might know it already but for those who don't...most people call the 'green' (midori) traffic light for go as 'blue' (aoi). It's because in the early days, blue and green weren't distinguished yet. so despite the green (midori) taking a name of its own, sometimes green is still blue.
also some green traffic lights are into the 'bluish' hue anyway.
besides..i think color is just an illusion that differs from place to place. it's fascinating.