For Beat, life used to be about taking risks. Growing up changed him and he played it safe... and lost a good thing in the process. (Beat/Yoyo, Beat/Gum)
As always, I don't own the characters of Jet Set Radio and don't get anything other than jollies by posting it.
From Real Love
Beat slides into the taxi, his wet clothes squeaking across the faux leather upholstery. He barks his destination over the rain and slams the door shut with a force that shakes the whole vehicle. There's a romantic balad playing through the stereo and Beat tries not to grate his teeth.
It's all so pathetically cliche at this point.
He stares out the window as the car starts up and onward. The window is so fucking cold on his cheek, and it causes goosebumps to freckle his flesh. He exhales a heavy puff of warm air, fogging the window.
And he draws a heart, because it's so pathetically cliche at this point.
There's a brown package on the seat beside him and Beat gives it a disdainful glare. The contents held within had the potential to destroy all he'd built up in the absence of real love.
It'd been three years.
Three pathetically cliche years of never knowing exactly what would come next, if anything ever would. Three years of saying "fuck it" and moving on.
And then on a rainy Monday, three years from that day, Beat finds a package on his doorstep.
A package with the potential to smash all of the walls he'd put between himself and real love.
A package with the return address: "From Real Love."
The cab comes to a stop at a red light and Beat reaches out to touch the box at his side. The brown paper is weathered and dirty, and looks to be quite old. It's torn in some places, and Beat sees half of an old Nike logo from a particularly large slit in the side.
For a long time, the light doesn't change and the cab-driver becomes irritated. Some punks in rollerblades weave between the stopped vehicles, laughing obnoxiously, and Beat is taken back to a time when "Real Love" had another name and a face and the sweet smell of watermelon in the summer.
Back to a time when "Real Love" had a stupid teal pullover and silly green hair... when "Real Love" was just the new kid with a pair of gold rollerblades. When "Real Love" was a dumb punk named Yoyo.
But that was three years ago. Beat had long since gotten over "Real Love." He'd moved on and beyond "Real Love" and now lived in a dingy apartment with his blonde bombshell girlfriend and bills he couldn't pay on time. "Real Love" was a nuisance now, and there was no need for him. It. There was no need for it.
"Are you going to see him?"
"You two were close."
"Not really, no."
"I wouldn't mind... if you did."
"I don't want to."
"You're lying to yourself."
"And you're a bitch."
"You think you're so strong and tough... but Beat..."
"I'm afraid, Gum."
"I am too. I could lose you."
The light finally turns green and Beat turns his eyes to the windshield as the car starts moving again. The wipers are moving at a fast pace and he can't take his eyes off of them. No matter how many times they wiped at the glass, more rain would fall, and it was a little depressing to watch.
The brown package at his side shifts a little on the seat as the car turns a corner and Beat reaches a hand out to keep it in place. He stares at it for a few moments before pulling it into his lap.
To open it would be to risk everything he'd built up in the absence of "Real Love."
...And yet his fingers are still slipping into the slits in the paper, pulling and ripping until an old Nike shoebox is fully exposed to him.
There's a cynical smile on his face as he drums his fingers over the lid. To open it... to open it... to open it... would be pathetically cliche, wouldn't it?
When there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.
Beat steels his resolve and lifts the lid, completely aware of all the memories that will assault him once he does. Memories that he had buried within his mind would be alive again, and he feared for his sanity should it be too much for him to handle.
The lid falls to the floor of the musty old taxi cab and Beat stares into the box, his eyes wide with disbelief.
A bag of cherry-flavored hard candies and a postcard with a picture of 99th Street printed on it.
At first, none of these items register. At first, they're just useless things sitting in an old Nike shoebox. But all at once, the purpose of these things becomes painfully clear to him.
There was nothing special about that evening. Just two boys sitting on the roof of one of the highest buildings on 99th Street, looking out over a sea of neon billboards and laughing people at the shopping arcade.
But regardless of how miniscule they both were, to each other, they were what the world was made for. The universe was their playground and the faceless, nameless people all around them would worship them one day for their glory. They'd become fucking kings someday.
Beat took a hit from his blunt and hooked his arm around Yoyo's shoulder, grinning from ear-to-ear. Yoyo followed suit and blew a creamy cloud of smoke into Beat's face. The two laughed together at a joke that didn't make sense and passed a brown paper bag of hard candies back and forth.
Yoyo peeks into the bag and whines, lightly punching Beat in the arm. "You're just eating all the red ones, yo! Save some for me, you bastard!"
Beat laughs and gives Yoyo's shoulders a little squeeze. "I'm not pickin' 'em out on purpose, Newbie." He waves a black-gloved hand dismissively. "Like there's any light for me to figure out which is which anyway, yanno?" He blows another cloud of smoke into Yoyo's face and the younger boy wrinkles his nose in irritation. "It's just luck."
The share a cherry-flavored kiss and it's so pathetically cliche, but at the time, Beat lived for "Real Love," no matter how cliche "Real Love" was.
"There. You got a red one. Happy? The rest of 'em are mine."
Yoyo rolls the candy on his tongue and gives him a tiny grin. There's irritation in Beat's voice, but his face is full of mirth.
"Did you pick me on purpose?"
"...There wasn't any light for me to figure out who was who... it was just luck."
"...You fail at being romantic."
Beat drops the bag back into the box and leans back against the seat. For a long time he just stares at the ceiling of the cab, listening to the rain pelting the roof and windows. The driver tries to make conversation but Beat isn't paying any attention.
He picks up the postcard and stares at the picture for a few moments, smiling when he pinpoints the exact building they had been sitting on that night. He wonders if that building is still around after a lot of 99th Street was remodeled.
"Birthday Cake" by Cibo Matto starts playing loudly from inside his coat pocket and he immediately fishes out his cellphone. "GUM" flashes across the screen repeatedly.
His girlfriend is calling.
It takes a strong man to answer.
Beat puts the phone on silent and slips it back into his pocket.
Too bad he's not a strong man anymore.
He turns the postcard in his hands a few times before realizing that there is something written on it. He's not a strong man, and he starts to roll down his window. He presses his lips firmly together and prepares to let go of the postcard when the picture of that same building catches his eye again.
There's a hard pounding in his chest as he withdraws his hand and rolls the window back up. The postcard is in his lap again and he stares at it long and hard, debating with himself.
He was a weak person. To throw it out the window would be the same as not choosing. He'd be oblivious to what he could have had... and that was much safer than knowing what he could have had and losing it. Because at least that way, he wouldn't feel empty or sad...
And that was what made him weak.
He couldn't choose. He was afraid of the risk. He had become so used to playing it safe.
It could have been hours or it could have been minutes, but finally Beat holds up the postcard and begins to read. And as his eyes trace the familiar scrawl, his heart clenches painfully in his chest and his eyes begin to water.
You were everything I wanted. Despite all the risks...
We could have wasted the time only to find out it wouldn't last...
But I still chose to feel it anyway, knowing that.
And you couldn't choose.
Was playing it safe really that worth it?
Sometimes playing it safe was decent. Sometimes playing it safe could get you an attractive girlfriend, an apartment, a decent enough job... but at what cost? He had moved beyond "Real Love," because he was growing up. Sometimes it wasn't about risks in the name of "Real Love". Sometimes it was about being smart and safe and making the right choices for a secure future and...
...Beat yells for the cab-driver to pull over.
Without waiting for the car to come to a complete stop, Beat throws open the door and runs out into the rain. He leaves the fare, the box, the candies, and the postcard on the seat.
He knows where he's going now and he can't afford to play it safe anymore.
He stops at a nearby sporting goods store and purchases a cheap set of rollerblades with the last of his rent money.
It still takes him nearly an hour in the rain to reach his destination.
...And Yoyo isn't there.
Beat stands atop the roof of that very same building on 99th Street, his heart racing in his chest. He falls to his knees and sobs openly because his whole body burns despite the freezing rain.
But at least he finally chose... he took the risk... and he lost.
And perhaps it was because he had finally made his choice that made losing a little bit more bearable. Now he could go back to his dingy old apartment and pack up his things, kiss his hot girlfriend "goodbye" and... finally move on without wondering what could have been.
Live through this and you won't look back.