A quiet neighbourhood in the heart of the city. Windows opened. A fresh breeze. A deep breath and a relaxed sigh. Music played soft in the small room. It was cramped but that was enough for now. He hasn’t been back in this area for a few years now. He had left without the intention of returning. But no matter where he went, he has always been found.
If only it was the right people who found him.
He then figured out that it wasn’t the distance that mattered. It turns out that getting buried under masses of people in a city where new faces was the norm is easier than hiding in unnoticed towns with long-time residents.
If only he realised that earlier.
Another sigh as he retreated from the window. He should return those books he got from the library. Switch them out for new ones. But maybe later.
A thump. He lay back down on the worn tatami mats, limbs splayed out, long hair all over the place, eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. A thought came to mind. He quickly rolled over, getting up. Pulling himself to the small, short-legged table that came with this rented room, he swept away inked papers, looking for a fresh blank sheet. He’d have to buy more supplies again.
A triumphant huff at the sight of a clean sheet of paper. Groping around, his slender fingers found a pen. He started writing, losing himself to the words
Night fell. His mind finally fell silent. He got out of the apartment. The books were in a worn cloth bag, slung over his shoulder. His hair was bunned up, held in place by a similarly worn chopstick, in a similar fashion as another man he once knew.
Walking along the street, he recalled how jarring it was when he first came back. Change was the norm in a city as big as this. The layout of the streets were still the same, but new structures sprung up over the old. Almost all of his familiar haunts were gone, or had transformed beyond recognition. Even the patrons and the staff were unfamiliar to him.
He deposited the books, returning them. The library was, unfortunately, closed now. Without much of a plan, he walked on, deciding to wander around instead.
Spotting a bar, his feet instinctively veered in its direction. Without a moment’s hesitation, he went in, walked to the bar counter and ordered a whisky. He felt a stare.
He turned sharply, tense. It was Yoshida. There were a few more lines on his face now, but he’d know that face anywhere. He didn’t know how to react. His lips twitched, an unsure smile, and he began to laugh. This was unexpected but he did bump into his ex-landlord last night, after all.
“I should’ve expected this…” he muttered. “Coming back here, I should’ve expected this.”
“You’re alive!” Yoshida swept him up in a brash hug. “You’re fucking alive!” he roared, overjoyed.
He laughed, louder. He doesn’t remember the last time he did, but it felt good. “Sorry for worrying you,” he said, apologetic.
“I wanted to visit you after I heard that they dismissed you but there was no one there! And your home, it was in such a mess!” Yoshida said.
He laughed nervously.
“I thought you got kidnapped again! That being out of the force left you without protection!” continued Yoshida, gripping his shoulders.
“Mm, you’re partly right about that but I wasn’t home when the intruders came, thankfully,” he recalled. “I came back to the same sight you did and decided to leave. I’m sorry couldn’t say anything.”
“No one could find you!” Yoshida said, exasperated. The grip on his shoulders tightened.
“Well,” he chuckled nervously, looking away. “I wouldn’t say nobody but…”
“What happened? Who’s after you?” Yoshida questioned, worried.
“It’s… complicated. There’s no need to get you involved,” he smiled. It did not reach his eyes.
“Fujisaki… There has to be something…”
“I call it an unfortunate circumstance of my birth,” he said vaguely, taking a drink from the glass of whisky. “I’ll deal with it. Just… don’t tell anyone you saw me.”
Yoshida sat back down, watching him intently for a moment before finally nodding. “If that’s what you want… Just so you know, he’s never stopped asking about you.”
A sudden ache emerged in his heart, choking his words. That’s another someone he hasn’t seen in awhile, not since that day. He barely remembered the days he spent in the hospital. Apparently he was trapped in delirium, frenzied and hysterical every time he woke. He honestly didn’t recall much of it. The only thing he did remember was a sudden clarity of mind when he heard that Atsushi was alive. He wanted to get out and find Atsushi, but recovery took weeks, if not months. And when he finally got back to work…
“Every week or two he asks about you,” Yoshida added, interrupting the memories replaying in his mind.
“Oh, really?” He kept his tone measured, drinking from his glass.
“I might see him tomorrow…”
“Good to know,” he muttered, not trusting himself to comment more about that. “But don’t tell him about me.”
“It's easier.” He felt Yoshida’s distressed stare on him. “I move around a lot. I can’t guarantee that I’ll still be here tomorrow.”
“Fujisaki, tell me what’s going on. Let us help you,” Yoshida implored.
He shook his head. “It’s something I have to deal with on my own,” he said quietly. “But if you want to help me, then give me something else to think about. Tell me what’s happened to everyone since I was last here.”
To that, Yoshida gladly obliged. Listening to stories of his ex-colleagues’ antics, he drank with Yoshida through the night. Before they knew it, time flew by all too quickly and the bar was due to close.
Making his way home alone in the predawn hours, he found an emptiness in the silence that he thought he had grown used to. His time with Yoshida reminded him how much he missed the company of close friends. But based on how things typically went, he probably needs to move out again, either in this week or the next.
Stumbling back into his miserable excuse of an apartment, his heart began to ache again, missing the times when he would return to Atsushi waiting for him. Leaning his back against a wall, he slumped to the floor. He sobbed. He has been numb for so long but now…
Maybe it was the drinks, he hasn’t had this much in awhile. Maybe it was being back in this city. Maybe it was hearing Atsushi’s name being said aloud. Maybe it was a mix of everything.
Whatever it was, it brought back everything he felt for the younger man. It brought back how much he missed his time with Atsushi, how much he missed looking at him, his dark eyes, his shy smiles, his voice, his low chuckles, his nuzzles, his warmth, his smell, the feeling of his skin against his own, his touches, his kisses, the way he said his name.
“Atsushi…” he muttered, needy, desperate, as if saying his name aloud would bring the man to him.
He felt his hands move, touching himself in a weak imitation of their passionate nights. Closing his eyes, he let his imagination fill the gaps, reliving the sensations through memory.
But it wasn’t enough.
Even as he came, he felt even more alone than before. His body was sated but his heart yearned for more. He leaned his head against the wall with a thud.
“Atsushi… My love…”
He needed to leave.