Hisashi looks back at the would'ves and should'ves just as a turning point in Jiro's life comes.
I have something to tell you
Something happened you know nothing of
This is a secret I've kept for so long
I almost did love you
I couldn't let you know back then
What my heart was feeling
And up to now, I still remember
I almost did love you
Now I do admit that I wish it were us
I evaded each of your questions
Thinking your love wasn't true
I didn't know what happened
I wasn't able to tell you my feelings
Until your heart grew tired waiting for forever
Only then did I realize
I almost did love you
You start your answer off with a smile. "Open it."
I stare at you suspiciously for a few seconds, half-expecting a trick. This is, after all, from you. Either you have become good at hiding pranks or there really is none to begin with, I cannot tell, but I shift my eyes to the envelope in my hands. 'Tonomura Hisashi' is elegantly inked on the center in fine cursive.
I unseal the scented paper as my furtive eyes once again focus on you. You have been this giddy since the start of the rehearsals and though your aura of energy and euphoria pissed me off again enough to scream at you to get the surprise out once and for all, your obviously high spirits never ceased to exist.
"We'll all wait until rehearsals are through," you had said earlier, "and then you'll find out what's gotten me this happy."
I cannot tell you, cannot tell anyone, how your sense of mystery makes me nervous. My fingers are quivering as I take out the content and you probably think the guitars made them. When I open the card, my breath gets trapped in my throat. And as I read the two names, my heart totally shatters. I invite Death as I peruse the rest.
This can't be true. It has only been less than two years since...
"I'm sorry, Jiro. I really am."
You stared at the hands clasped over the knees where your arms rested. You couldn't even face me and in a way I was glad for it. "Why, Hisashi?" It seemed like it took you a lot of effort just to ask that, your voice barely making it out of your throat.
I bit my lip, wanting to get a hold of myself. Whether it was intended or not, you've always managed to extract any form of pity when you look like a lost boy just as you did at that moment. But I cannot use sympathy at this point. It wasn't what you needed, and what you needed is something I cannot give you. "It just doesn't work this way, Jiro."
You finally looked up from studying the patterns on my carpet and faced me. Your eyes were all scarlet and you certainly as hell were making me feel guilty. Your words stabbed right into me. "Am I not enough?"
"You're never 'not enough' Jiro. Not to me."
"Then tell me why you're doing this."
It occurred to me that you always get smarter when mad or hurt or upset, giving me a hard time thinking of a sensible return...or a satisfactory fib. "Look, Jiro...you're a very lovable guy. Lots of people would die right at your feet if you ask them to. And though we bicker often and don't agree on lots of things, you're a very dear friend to me. And I love you because you're my friend...but I'm just not in love with you. I'm sorry."
You bit your plump lip and looked away, eyes gazing the floor once again. I wanted to pat your back, to touch you, to assure you that everything was going to be alright, but I vetoed it, fearing it might bring you more pain. After what appeared like an eternity to me, you finally lifted your face up again and flashed me a painfully forced smile. "I guess I'd have to get going now."
"You don't have to," I said, not really sure why I did. Perhaps I wanted to be certain you wouldn't kill yourself because of what happened.
You pulled yourself up in a stand. "No, I really have to go."
I followed you as you headed for the door. I wished there were a way I could make you feel better, guarantee myself that you won't hate me or yourself, but I didn't want to give you false hopes either. Torn, I obeyed the urgings of my so-called conscience and caught up with you just as you had opened the door, my fingers closing around your arm. "Jiro...stay." Mournful almond eyes looked back at me, regarding me in caution. "Please," I implored.
"I need you."
"I just do."
"Because I need to hear from you that you don't hate yourself. Hate me all you want, I can accept that, but don't hate yourself just because of this."
For the second time since I hurt you with my honesty, you smiled. It was equally as sorrowful and pained as the first, but I'd take any curve on your lips resembling a smile. "I don't hate you, Hisashi. I can never hate you. I might hate myself but that's only because it's what I feel now and no one can make me feel otherwise. I brought this upon myself because I wanted you to be honest. And I'm happy that you told me the truth. But I have to go now because human as I am, I do hurt inside. I'm not a hypocrite. Rejection isn't exactly the best feeling in the world."
"I'm not going to jump off the first bridge I find, Hisashi. But at this situation, all I want is to be alone. I'll be back when I'm ready. You cannot give me your love no matter how much I try. But I suppose you could give me some space." Not a word from me but I let go of you and I hoped that was enough response. "Thank you, Hisashi. It's all I need right now, really."
"I'll...I'll miss you." I didn't know why I said it, really, but I did. And I meant it. Every word of it.
"Like hell, you would," you rebutted with an attempted grin. It easily faded away as you bid, "Sayonara." And then you were off running, disappearing into the dusk even before I could say anything. I could curse at you for your goodbye. You know how much I hated the word and you said it anyway. If there were one hope left in me, it was that you didn't mean it as I feared you did.
Apparently, you didn't. It took gradual time but your face started to be the sunny one I've missed. And I might say even got to be closer then. You were there for me when the one that I thought was the ultimate love of my life didn't live up to my hopes.
It was hell, demanding myself to live every day like I still had something to live for. But somehow, in your own little way, you made the ordeal much bearable, simply because you were there. I'd forever be grateful you came back as the person I've known ages ago. And for a while, it seemed that everything in my life was falling into the right places.
Or so I thought...
I blink as I pull myself out of my reverie. I realize I am not alone, that three pairs of eyes are focused expectantly on me, that in my hand is the scented paper I nearly crumpled and shredded to pieces. "Yeah?"
You peer closely at me face. "Are you sick or something? You look sorta...pale."
"No," I reply, trying to gain my composure. "It's the cold air, I guess."
You seem to take my pathetic excuse for a reason as you brush a stray lock of hair away from your eyes. "So you're coming?"
My forehead creases in pure confusion. "Where?"
"Hisashi..." It sounds off a gentle warning. You nod your head towards the envelope in my hand.
"Oh. Well..." I smooth the side of my neck. "I dunno..."
You don't seem affected and instead, you throw your signature cheeky smile at me. "Aw, c'mon, Hisashi!" You hunker down the couch beside me. Too close. "This is the most important day in any bachelor's life."
"Not when I was the bachelor."
"Hisashi..." There you go again, reproaching me like a child. I used to resent it, but now I'm more than sure it would be one of the things I'd dearly miss about you.
"I've been there, Jiro," I remind you, still trying to weasel my way out of the situation you put me in. "It was no party, I tell you."
"Just because things didn't work out between you two doesn't mean-"
"And if I could have things my way," I say, cutting you off, knowing perfectly well where you're driving at, "I wouldn't have jumped into it in the first place." But behind my smile, I mean every word. If I have to do it all over again, I would not take the other road.
"Me, too," Teru chimes in.
You look back at him from above your shoulder. "You have Ami."
Our vocalist scratches his head and smiles sheepishly. "Oh, yeah."
"That's why I never decided to jump into that unfathomable abyss right from the start," Takuro puts in.
A crinkle between your brows shows as you glare at the two elders of Glay. "Quit giving me cold feet, you jerks!" You always look so cute, pouting the way you do now.
The two accused flash you peace signs. "You know we're only joking," our leader explains. "We're behind you all the way."
You grin. That delectable grin of yours. "Thank you." I feel you avert your attention back at me. "And you?"
"And me what?" I ask not-so-innocently, merely trying to be as stubborn as I can.
Your face suddenly grows serious, your cat-like eyes drilling their way into my soul. One of your hands finds its way to rest on my arm as you scoot closer. I discreetly cross my fingers you won't hear the way my breath catches in my throat. When your voice comes out, I find myself reeling. It is as soothing as ever, resonating deeply of masculinity but with an intoxicating sensitivity to it. "Hisashi..."
All I could do is gulp down, feeling my Adam's apple ripple along my neck. My brow arches in invitation for you to go on.
"You honestly don't hate me that much not to come to my wedding, do you?"
I shake my head. No, I don't hate you. In fact, I don't hate you at all...not now, not ever. And I absolutely do not detest the idea of you being happy, of you getting married.
But I do hate myself for not doing something when I had the chance, for not having the courage to do return your love, for not being brave enough to let you know what you're worth to me. I loathe myself because I'm not the one you'll be spending the rest of your life with, legal papers backing us or otherwise. And I have no one to blame but myself.
"You're happy," I tell you. It can easily be seen in your eyes. "That's all that matters to me, really."
You look at me sincerely again for a moment as though weighing if the words match the face of the one who just uttered them. "Thank you," you finally mouth, punctuating it with that hauntingly gorgeous smile of yours. And then I see something in your eyes I can't bear to think is still there. You can't possibly still cast me that unnerving look. It must be just my imagination.
"No problem," I try to let out without choking. Suddenly, the air around me seems to get heavy. I slowly feel like being suffocated. Or perhaps it's the heavy burden in my chest that's causing this. I push myself up from the couch, feeling your eyes follow me.
"Where are you going?"
"I gotta get back to Ayu. I forgot to feed the cat this morning in my rush to make it to practice on time." I zip open my backpack and put in my iBook, then shoving the wedding invitation next inside carelessly. It's already as crumpled enough as it is. Then I bend down to pick up my guitar case. "See you around," I announce and just as immediately, I make my exit, leaving you to discuss with Teru and Takuro the exciting details of your upcoming event.
I don't look back as I make my way out. Neither do I slow down my pace in case you decide to catch up with me, to say something you're not able to do because of the others' presence. Half of me hopes that you wouldn't run after me anyway, that you wouldn't think I'm mad at you for giving up on me, that you wouldn't explain to me why you are going to marry her. You love her. I know it and I don't need to hear it. And if you try to put up your defenses and clarify everything, I will only feel even sorrier for myself, more regretful that I ignored you, more stupid that I dismissed your love.
But the other, more subjective side of me I don't often show wants you to be here with me. I need to hear you tell me how your forthcoming wedding is all a lie to test me, how you couldn't bear to be apart from me, how you still love me. I can almost envision myself should that happen...the shock, the bliss, the confession, the love. Heaven knows how I want your love back at the price of anything...anything but your own happiness.
I sigh in defeat. You deserve to be happy. She can give you something I didn't know then I was capable of sharing with you. She makes you feel happy, appreciated, loved. Who am I to deny you of it?
I fish for the keys from my pocket and quickly slide inside my car, wanting to leave the place as soon as I can. I can feel tears threatening to cascade down my cheeks if I can't help it. Crying while I cruise down the road isn't something I can afford to do.
My thoughts are interrupted when my mobile phone sets off with an upbeat tone I composed myself. My hand gropes for the unit in the outside pocket of my bag, but I feel something alien, something that isn't there when I last checked on it. But the phone is becoming more demanding that I attend to it first, not glancing at the caller ID because my eyes are busy...straining, desperately wanting to find out what they silvery something is inside my bag. "Hello?"
It's my mother, reminding me, nagging at me, asking me things I could no longer quire comprehend. My mind is on my hand, at the small package settled there, wrapped up in silver trappings. How it got into my possession, I don't have a clue. But I'm sure as hell dying to find out what it holds.
"Yes, Mother," I reply as politely as I can to the woman who carried me for nine months. "Yes...I'll be flying back there next week, I promise...I'm bringing Ayu...No, she's not coming...It's just me and the cat...Yes, I understand...Mother, I'm driving right now. I'll call you when I get back home, okay?...Bye."
I feel bad for lying, but I can figure I can always call her up anytime. The package can wait as well...but I can't. Cautiously, I unwrap it to reveal a small blue velvet box. I bite my lip as I open it and I see a necklace with a silver guitar pick attached to it as a pendant. I wrap the chain around my fingers, my palm cradling the charm where my initials are engraved just below the strip of diamonds slashing diagonally, artistically across the whole thing. Unfolding the small card that came with it, I recognize your penmanship.
I had planned in giving you this a long time ago, right before I said my goodbye, but I figured you would reject even this. Then you married Izumi and I figured this-or I-would not matter even more. Not that I ever did, but that's beside the point. But I've had this for years now and I'm about to embark on a whole new life with Reiko. I thought I might as well give you this since I had just you in mind when I had this made. It's yours. Always. And I'll never look back at my past without thinking how, at one point in my life, I loved you. You were the most important person in my life.
Your greatest fan,
P.S. I'm just curious. Did you, by any sheer, inane chance, love me, too? Because at some point, I felt you did. I'm not really expecting an answer. I just want to be able to say I had managed nerve to ask you.
I swallow the lump in my throat at reading 'you were the most important person in my life'...as though it's a thing of the past, never to return. It hurt more because it's true.
I brush away bitter tears stinging my eyes as I catch sight of you striding out the building to head for a dark blue car that has just made its way into the lot. Reiko steps out to meet you with a 'hi' and a kiss. You probably don't have any idea I'm still here. My black vehicle blends well into the deepening night, as my emotions do, too. I wait until you hop in, getting behind the wheel of Reiko's Honda and speed off.
In a twisted sort of way, I'm happy...only because I know you are getting what you deserve. The same goes for me, albeit in a more punishing way.
I put the gift back inside and close the box, tenderly settling it down on the seat beside me. And I try to console myself with it. At least I have something of you, something intended just for me, something to remind me that for a moment in my existence, I was the most precious person in your life.
My mind has earlier debated whether or not I should let you know about my feelings, be honest with you for once, but I now choose to do what's right. I will keep quiet, letting you think I never once cared. What you don't know won't kill you. I don't want complications. And you already seem so happy...
Yes, I'll be there at your wedding, to stand tall and proud as one of your best men. I will not miss it for the world. I only wish there were a way to keep me from crying on your big day...or a plan to defer my apparent death. I may have realized my feelings for you too late but I still considered the possibility of you and me together. And now I'm suffering from the repercussions. God has to give me credit for the penance.
It takes me five minutes to regain my composure, run the engine and drive away.
Did you, by any sheer inane chance, love me, too?
Yes, Jiro. I feel for you. I did love you.
But I came in too late.
27 February 2002