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廃墟 (haikyo. lit. ‘useless hill’)

  1. ruins; remains
  2. urban exploration


There’s a certain level of sacrality to the ruined places urban explorers venture into. Pachinko parlors and love hotels, seedy hovels in life become cathedrals in death. When the doors are shuttered and windows boarded, their only customers are leaves, dust, moss, dirt. Shattered glass choked by ivy, old photos crinkled by humidity, wooden bookshelves reclaimed by nesting birds.


There’s a rule among urban explorers: take only pictures, leave only footprints. 


Osamu exhaled in his sleep, warm air caressing Suna’s arm. Storm grey eyes fluttered open, lips mumbling exhausted nothingness. Then closed again as he nestled closer to Suna’s midsection.


What did Miya Osamu dream about?


Onigiri that danced like sugar plums on Christmas Eve? Zombies that chased him through the streets, clawing at his skin? Lying prone on the floor while a squadron of puppies nipped at his fingers and licked his face?


He twined his fingers into Osamu’s hair, now a two-toned nightmare. ‘M growin’ the silver out, He’d said after Spring Nationals ended. Said he wanted to cultivate a more ‘grown up’ look for culinary school. Suna didn’t mind, the natural dark hair was soft and easier to glide his fingers through. Osamu mumbled again, a tiny smile growing on his face.


Did he dream about Suna?


Take only pictures, leave only footprints.


When he first invaded Osamu’s heart, he broke the first rule. Sure, he took pictures. He left footprints. But he also smashed in all the windows, stole stained polaroids and dusty trinkets, spray painted vulgar graffiti on the walls. He got too caught up in the illicit thrill of adventuring somewhere he didn’t belong to recognize the cost.


Back in the eighties, there’d been an economic bubble. They learned about it in history class, but, admittedly, Suna never really understood what exactly that meant. Just that there was a lot of money and a lot of people spending that money. Extravagant hotels and water parks and theme parks sprung up around the country with every developer wanting a piece of the pie.


Then, the bubble popped in the early nineties. Projects under construction were abandoned, top-of-the-line resorts sat empty with no guests who could afford it, and the only visitors sliding down rusting water slides were mosquitoes eager to lay their eggs in stagnant, duckweed-choked pools. 


Properties were too expensive to maintain, but they were also too expensive to demolish. So instead they just sat there for decades, rotting and slowly being reclaimed by the earth. 


The box on Suna’s desk had been burning a hole in his vision for three months now. He opened it when it first arrived. Welcome to the EJP family! The letter on top boldly proclaimed. Beneath was a brand-new blue and white track jacket, still folded in its plastic bag. He spread all the merch inside on his bedspread. A branded water bottle, a big pair of over the ear headphones, a scarf from EJP’s J1 soccer team, pens, all sorts of nonsense.


He stared down at it all for longer than he would like to admit, before unceremoniously shoving everything back into the box and sealing it back up.


Somewhere in the deepest depths of his heart he felt that bubble burst. 


In four months, Suna would take the bullet train to Shibuya and join EJP Raijin for the 2014 V.League season. Osamu was leaving for France in three.


Would the two of them have a kiss goodbye at the airport? Please stay, move to Tokyo with me. Tears staining shoulders as Suna’s hands desperately grip into Osamu’s shirt? I’ll be home before ya know it, darlin’. Would they make promises to skype and text and send stupid selfies? When? Listen to Osamu fall asleep on the phone while Suna wakes up? As soon as I can. Would they just let their relationship sit there, rotting until nothing but two aching, broken hearts remain?


No, Suna knew they needed to end this soon. Before any more damage could be done.


They both knew.


Osamu’s nose scrunched in his sleep, the way it always did when thinking a little too hard. He shared nearly everything with Atsumu, his bedroom, his friends, his face. Suna loved those tiny creases because they were Osamu’s and Osamu’s alone.


I loved him. I love him. I will always love him.


The crown jewel ruin of the country, or at very least of Kansai, was Nara Dreamland. An amusement park from the 60s that was a little bit too inspired by Disneyland. It wasn’t killed by the bubble bursting, but it might as well have been.


Suna always wanted to go explore it. To climb the wooden hills of the magnificent Aska and stare out over the Dreamland as the sun rose. Over the knockoff Sleeping Beauty castle that loomed over the rest of the park. Over the faux Matterhorn mountain, another idea nabbed from other amusement parks. Over the rusting water slides, the corkscrew coaster, the sunken cruise boats, the vandalized main street, the weeds poking through the tarmac. 


Suna never ended up going. He was always held back. By fear. By distance.


He smiled, softly, sadly, as he brushed Osamu’s bangs away. How ironic it is that so many of his dreams are halted by fear? By distance? He pressed a gentle kiss to his boyfriend’s forehead.


One of these days Nara Dreamland will be razed to the ground. Years of history reduced to rubble. A dying beast finally put out of its misery. 


The property may sit there empty. For months. For years. For decades.


Suna caressed his thumb over Osamu’s cheekbone, finally waking him up. Grey eyes met his own, a tender smile blooming across familiar lips. 


Perhaps one day apartments will take its place. Or a shopping center. A baseball stadium. A neighborhood.


Or perhaps a brand new Nara Dreamland. One that stands strong, unbothered by rot, by ruin, by fear or distance.


For an empty lot isn’t the end.


But, rather, an opportunity for a new beginning.