summary: au. when i first saw shibutani subaru – in the three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood world –, he was sitting in a café, reading a murakami haruki novel and chain-smoking with a half-empty cup of coffee sitting next to his ashtray.
word count: 8,938 dsgklgfsklgsfdSAGFHDGKMGS
comments: written o8.14.o9 - o8.18.o9 while i was camping. i just-- i have NO IDEA how my brain could shit so many words in so little time. and it took forever to type from the good ol' sheet of paper to the computer, like....five months hahahaaaa. i have read this so many times i have absolutely NO MORE CONFIDENCE in this fic. i'm posting in hopes of being told it isn't pure crap so don't be shy to say what you think ♥
When I first saw Shibutani Subaru – in the three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood world –, he was sitting in a café, reading a Murakami Haruki novel and chain-smoking with a half-empty cup of coffee sitting next to his ashtray. However, this was months before I actually met him for the first time. He was still pretty unknown back then, sort of drowning in a sea of uprising idol stars, but the minute I saw him flicking off ashes in his coffee absently, I knew it was him. Just from the passionate look in his eyes; despite his frail shoulders and generally insecure aura, he looked incredibly strong.
Some people might wonder how someone could look passionate reading a book, but I knew. I knew this was the gaze of a man who was positively being eaten up by something he loves. Although maybe I just knew because this was Subaru, Subaru who had the face of someone who knew more than anyone else, someone who had grown older before his time, who’d lived too much too soon.
That day, I was coming back from a hiking trip with a senpai of mine that involved more alcohol than it should have, skin reddened with sunburn and covered with mosquito bites all the way through my boxers. I came there mostly to throw up, and it’s only when I settled down with a latte (to nurse my headache) afterwards that I noticed Subaru sitting there reading his book, not exactly standing out but not exactly blending in, either. He was wearing a dark grey (or was it navy blue? Or black? I couldn’t remember for the life of me) beanie over stick-straight, jet black hair that fell at the nape of his neck, a loose sweater that made him look even smaller than he already was – though I’m really not one to talk – and torn jeans. Probably light-coloured Converse, too, and a string bracelet. I sipped on my latte, watched him flip a page, and thought about how he was the perfect type of person to wear string bracelets. For some reason, I was struck with the idea that Shibutani Subaru and string bracelets fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Or maybe – maybe I just thought it looked good on his skinny wrist. Subaru wasn’t a fleshy person at all; just skin and bones and a soul. Sometimes I wonder if he had any fats at all.
In between two paragraphs, Subaru put down his cigarette to lift the cup of soiled coffee to his lips, and I almost opened my mouth to warn him in fear that he wouldn’t notice the ashes, but he stopped mid-motion. He frowned at nothing in particular, set the cup back down, and ordered another. Then he glanced at me, eyes looking at me blankly as if he hadn’t reconnected with the real world yet. I probably looked like no Sheep Man.
He got his new cup and finished his cigarette, completely ignoring me. He didn’t waste any time lighting up again then plunged back into his book. That day, the thought of reaching him seemed so far-fetched to me it might have sounded simpler to try and walk across the country naked. I looked away from Subaru and down at my drink, smiling as I pictured myself crossing streets in my birthday suit.
I’d already forgotten about real-world Subaru when I met him for the first time.
Coincidentally, I was sitting in the same coffee shop where I’d first seen him, but despite coming there regularly (not in the hopes of seeing him, no), I hadn’t seen him turning up with his books and seemingly endless pack of cigarettes. I kept telling myself that, maybe, he’d run out of Murakami books to read – there are only so much stories a writer’s brain can crap out in thirty years, after all. I went on with my life, and he went on with his, probably twice as lively as mine. But he popped up again.
I was struggling with a song from a small-budget movie score my senpai had asked me to work on with him “as partners”. At first, I was delighted to take up on the offer since I dreamed to work with him since the day I’d joined the firm we worked at, but the more I dragged my eraser over the music sheet, the less appealing it seemed. I had nothing to say, no feelings to pour into the notes – at least not for this – and I felt as if I was stuck back in the woods where I’d gone hiking with my senpai, stuck in the dry well that was my inspiration. I could’ve composed about that, but not being inspired wasn’t exactly the greatest inspiration. Hands stuck in my hair on the verge of pulling it out and eyes glued to the notes (or lack thereof) in front of me, I hadn’t even noticed Subaru standing behind me, peering over my shoulder at the music sheet.
“How about a staccato of C minor and A in crescendo?” he said, and I jumped in my chair.
He looked a bit sheepish then, and spoke in a quieter voice, looking anywhere but at me. I felt as if he was trying to make himself as small as possible, and he felt weaker than the last time I’d seen him. The fire in his eyes was gone. “I mean, I’m not the greatest composer and—and I prefer to write lyrics, but if I can help...”
I stared at the music sheet for a moment, taking in Subaru’s suggestion, and it all started coming together suddenly, hitting me like a tsunami wave. I scribbled a whole line of notes quickly, and when I looked up to thank Subaru, he was walking away from me to another table.
Then, impulsively, I crossed the country naked. “Come sit here,” I called out to him, surprising the both of us.
He looked back at me with a shocked expression on his face, and I felt as if he were frightened, like a small animal that looks at your extended hand before sniffing your fingers, judging how menacing you can be. Subaru seemed to wonder: What does he want? Does he know me – should I trust him?
Silence stretched between us, I probably was as surprised with myself as he, so much that my mind barely registered how he moved around me to sit on the chair in front of me. His shoulders were a little slumped, and he was looking away. It had been early spring the first time I saw him and it was much warmer out now, so he was wearing a bright blue T-shirt, again sporting torn jeans, only darker this time. On one wrist, he had a string bracelet – red instead of pale orange that day –, and on the other, a watch that wasn’t working. His hair had gotten the slightest bit longer, and it had more volume this time, curling at the ends. He tucked a strand behind his ear; there was a beauty mark on the lobe. I chewed on the end of my pencil.
“Do you always do this?” He asked suddenly, and I blinked. “I mean...compose music into thin air like this. Just you, your head, and empty musical sheets.”
I shook my head. “I usually stay at home and fool around with my guitar until I come up with something, but I was going crazy and I needed to get out and try to be inspired otherwise – somehow.”
He smiled, looking from the tabletop to me, eyes flicking up and then back down shyly. “You talk really fast; if I had to write down what you said, I don’t think I’d use spaces or punctuation.”
Now that he mentioned it, I did have the nervous habit of talking incredibly fast around people I was interested in. I can’t say I fell in love, or even in like, with Subaru before I’d even started knowing him, because this is real life we’re talking about, but I know there was definitely something between us. There was something about the way Subaru, usually hermetically closed to other people, would lower his guard toward me, a stranger, and in the way I reached out to him. I felt so nervous being around him, but I’m sure being too far away would’ve made me tremendously empty.
I smiled at him, and we didn’t say anything to each other, still strangers sitting face to face but not knowing what to do. For Subaru, meeting new people had probably always been this awkward until he was done testing the waters, which must always take a long time.
“Do you still read Murakami?” I asked finally, taking him by surprise once again. His face said clearly that he wondered how I knew. “I saw you here, back in spring. You were reading – what was it again? A Wild Sheep Chase? –, smoking one cigarette after the other and drinking coffee. Actually, that’s when you flicked off your ashes into your coffee and almost drank it. I’m pretty sure you saw me, too, but you probably don’t recognize me now because I had darker hair at the time.”
I pulled on a strand of my strawberry blonde hair, then pinned my bangs on top of my head with a bobby pin. “And you looked pretty dazed when you looked up from your book.”
He blinked a few times, probably trying to remember. “That was you? You’ve...changed.”
“No, just my hair,” I said, and gave a small smile. Subaru stared, his big black eyes seeming to engulf me. When I looked into his eyes, I felt as if everything around me had become much more beautiful – time seemed to stop, every single sound muted. Even my heart had stopped, and Subaru was reading into me.
“You said this really simply, but it just sounded sad,” he said. His voice had grown quiet, trailing off close to a whisper. “You sound like a really sad person.”
Was I? I’d never thought of myself as a sad person, even considering my life a happy one. But maybe Subaru saw into the empty places in my being. For a second, I thought that if psychics existed, he probably would be one of them. But that was just a silly thought.
Subaru pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pants pocket, put one between his lips, and took out his lighter.
“Mind if I light up?” He asked, and when I didn’t answer, he shrugged and did anyway. I watched him take a few puffs, watched him exhale clouds of smoke and kill himself. The smell drifted to my nostrils, strong and almost asphyxiating.
“Why do you smoke? You’ll ruin your voice. Is that really what you want? To screw up the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard?” Subaru was immediately taken aback. I don’t know which, but it could’ve been from a number of things: it could’ve been the blunt compliment, the sudden harshness, the outburst, or the fact that I actually knew him as a singer. It was probably a bit of everything.
He sat up straight in his chair, looking curiously interested, and then leaned forward to crush his barely smoked cigarette in the ashtray sitting at the center of the table.
“I don’t really know what to say,” he admitted. I wasn’t expecting him to say anything.
We left the café at the same time a bit later, both going in opposite directions. We were already a few meters apart when he called after me – he looked like a rock star with his black boots and huge sunglasses, and I felt like a few years down the road, that’s what he would be. “What’s your name?” He asked, voice raised so that I would hear over the traffic.
“People call me Yasu,” I grinned, and he smiled back. It was the biggest smile he’d given me since the moment he’d sat at my table.
“See you around here later,” Subaru said, and it sounded like a promise to me.
I’ve never been one for fast nor slow relationships. I’m the kind of person who just goes along with the flow, never jumping too fast into things but never putting anything off either – just so that I wouldn’t get bored too fast, or let the tension build up too much. But with Subaru...everything was different, so much that when I was with him, even my breathing didn’t seem the same. It took two weeks after he’d helped me finish the composition for us to have sex with each other. To some of my friends, it almost seemed like a long time, but it wasn’t, in terms of frequency of meetings. We’d seen each other such few times, and we barely talked when we did meet, so it was like a one-night stand, or sleeping with someone two days after you’ve met them. In the end, though, it was probably as if we’d known each other forever. We had a connection, Subaru and I, something we’d never experienced with anyone else before. I clung to that idea selfishly, knowing that I held a special place in his life already.
It was late afternoon in mid-August when we slept together for the first time. I can’t seem to remember the date, like it just slipped out of my head – I could remember from the exact temperature to the colour of his boxers, anything but the exact date. Only that it was incredibly warm for a day in mid-August. It was too warm for coffee and the air conditioning in our usual café was stuffy, so Subaru took me to his place and said we could watch a movie. If it had been in my apartment, we would’ve had to close the windows and shut the drapes everywhere to keep the room moderately cool and block out the sun (conveniently, the air conditioning was broken in my building). But Subaru needed the sunlight, so we went to his. I didn’t mind.
We decided to watch Sukiyaki Western Django, because I’d never seen it and Subaru claimed that Miike Takashi was one of the best directors of the country. It seemed to take ages for the movie to catch my attention, and the whole thing being in English – even though no one in the cast could speak it better than me (and that wasn’t much to start with) – didn’t help; I hated movies with subtitles. It only became interesting when Oguri Shun came into the picture and his storyline with Kimura Yoshino (who was so, so pretty and played the role of a prostitute) was introduced, but that arc ended pretty quickly. I dozed off on Subaru’s shoulder soon after, and I’m pretty sure he took a small nap too. I slept until after the credits had finished rolling and the screen was blank when I woke up. When I asked him why he even owned that movie, wasn’t Crows Zero a thousand times better?, Subaru only shrugged and said that it got a bit better whenever he watched it. He promised that, next time, we could watch Crows Zero if I wanted to.
After the movie, we had a glass of water, and then we had sex. It wasn’t anything passionate or entirely spontaneous; Subaru just looked at me and we drifted to the bedroom without saying or doing anything else. It was so simple, as if it already had been decided, on the day we met, that two weeks from then, on a warm day in mid-August with no date, Subaru and I would be sleeping together. And even though it was nothing worth a love scene out of an Oscar-winning movie and almost seemed ordinary at first, the more Subaru touched me, the more I needed to be with him. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced – I just had to look into his eyes and every sensation was heightened. I became insatiable; I couldn’t get enough of him.
After we came, Subaru got up, fetched a wet towel from the bathroom, a beer for me, and his cigarettes. I cleaned myself quickly and sat upright, the both of us leaning on the wall against which his bed was pushed up. I drank my beer, and he smoked. “You know,” I spoke up randomly, “when I was a kid and my sister started dating, I kept hearing her and my mom say that kissing a guy who smoked was like rolling your tongue around in an ashtray. Everyone in my family hated the smell of cigarettes, so I did as well, but I don’t mind it when it’s you. It’s your smell, your taste. It’s you. And I can’t get enough of you.”
“Really,” Subaru deadpanned. “Cause I’d started quitting. One less cigarette a day. For you – because it seemed so important to you – and for my voice.” He turned his head and smiled at me, eyes crinkling at the corners. I absolutely adored his smile.
We went on for a few other rounds, and after the fourth one, he was the first to speak. The afternoon was coming to its end, the sun a bit less bright as it shone through the window and lapped at Subaru’s skin for its last hours of the day. I kissed a line from his throat to his navel, and then licked from his piercing to his stomach. He squeaked when I bit his nipple.
“Yasu,” he said, tone heavy. “I don’t...I don’t think we’re gonna be able to see each other outside the café very often. Let’s face it, people are getting interested in me and they’re gonna want dirt – they all do. It could ruin both of our careers if someone found out about us and made it public.”
I stayed silent for a moment, thinking about it. No matter how I looked at it, I couldn’t imagine giving up on this now that I’d had it. To hell with my career, I could’ve chosen Subaru over fifteen job offers. But I couldn’t ask him to give up his for me; music was his life, and he wouldn’t have enough if he had to lock himself up and play for no one else but himself. I couldn’t bear the thought, so I ignored it.
I propped myself upon an elbow, looking at Subaru. “In that case, what if—what if we ran away? We could go live up north in the mountains, like the house the Sheep Professor built in A Wild Sheep Chase. We’d stay locked up there with tons of food stored away, just the two of us, and we’d have sex all year long. And if we ran out of food in the winter, we’d get by for a while on giving each other blowjobs so we wouldn’t starve.”
Subaru laughed. “What? Blowjobs?”
“I saw that once – I can’t remember if it was a porn flick or if I read it somewhere, but those two guys were stranded on a deserted island and they didn’t know what to do to survive, so they gave each other head for proteins, or something. Fun and practical.”
“Okay,” he chuckled again. “We’ll do that. If worse came to worst, we could elope in Hokkaido to have sex until we’re all dried up. We could bring our guitars, too, and write songs together in front of the fireplace. And we’d have sex again. We’d do it everywhere.”
We talked about our life in Hokkaido some more, Subaru kissing my shoulder from time to time, and then we went on for another round. It was our last that day.
Once we were satiated (or too tired to go again), Subaru changed the sheets, throwing the soiled ones in the washing machine before we went to shower together. Our clothing size was the same, so he lent me a pair of dark jogging pants he wore when staying in, and put on a shirt and loose boxers. We ordered in enough food to feed a fairly large third world village, which we ate with beer and while watching Crows Zero. Our favourite part was the same – when Serizawa is playing mah-jong with his friends and Genji kicks the table over, which promptly makes Serizawa flip a shit because he had Thirteen Orphans.
“Do you think Tokio and Serizawa are gay for each other?” I asked toward the end, at the part where Genji beats Serizawa, who’s covered in mud and weak, but still answers the call from the hospital saying that Tokio made it through his operation. Subaru stared at the screen thoughtfully for a moment.
“I think it’s one-sided. From which side, I don’t know, but it’s just the feeling I get. There’s something sad about them.”
“Like there’s something sad about me?”
Subaru nodded, looking at me with those deep, dark eyes, and lit up a cigarette.
That night, I dreamed of the house in Hokkaido. It was still early into the winter, but there was already so much snow we couldn’t get out – not that we wanted to. We had plenty of food and fuel to get through the winter and part of spring without having to go stock up. It was white all over when I looked out the window; I’d never seen so much snow in my entire life, having lived in Kansai from the day I was born to my late twenties. When it wasn’t snowing, everything was extremely still, like time had stopped. Sometimes I would wonder: had I just gotten lost in Subaru’s eyes again?
Every morning, I would get up before he did and make coffee. Then, cup warm between my hands, I’d sit by the window with a heavy quilt around my shoulders and look outside until he woke up. It was peaceful even when it snowed so much it could’ve been a storm, and I really could have written possibly a hundred songs just sitting there.
When Subaru woke up, I made breakfast, miso soup with rice and some fish. I was always the one who made food, because Subaru’s cooking skills stopped at making tamago kake gohan. How he’d lived by himself for so long, I couldn’t tell. We ate quietly, not saying much. I felt like something was wrong with Subaru, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. He acted like he had on the day we met, eyes escaping mine, shoulders slightly slumped (most people wouldn’t notice, but I did), and even though our bond was strong, if he cut off most contact with me, it was impossible to tell what was going on. It was like...something had broken inside him. And it broke my heart.
I helped him clear away the dishes once we finished eating, and lingered behind as he washed everything by hand; up north in the mountains of Hokkaido, we had no dishwasher. So Subaru took care of the dishes, while I did the cooking. We were established like a normal couple, now. The novelty had washed away, and I longed to bring the early stages of our relationship back.
“What happened?” I asked as he wiped a bowl dry. He turned around to face me, looking at me like I’d grown a second head. “What happened to the fire in your eyes, Subaru? You’ve changed. You weren’t like this before. Did I kill something inside you? It’s like you just faded without a word. You’ve changed since the day you’ve met me. It’s me, isn’t it? You had something in your eyes the first time I saw you, but then it was gone. Tell me what happened,” I pleaded.
Suddenly, I wanted to cry. I was grabbing him by the shoulders, trying to read him like he read me. But I couldn’t do it – I didn’t have his eyes. Passionate or not, he could always see right through me. The only thing that was on my mind was Subaru, Subaru, Subaru.
“You’re a really sad person, Yasu,” he said quietly. “That’s the only thing I really know about you. You’ve never given me your full name, if Yasu is even part of it. I’ve tried to reach you so many times, but I just can’t. It’s like there’s a wall between the two of us.” Outside, the wind raged.
“No, that’s not true! Aren’t I just a mirror of your feelings? You’re the sad one! You’re so lonely. You’ve lost the passionate look in your eyes, and I don’t know why.”
“It’s been there all along. You just don’t know how to look for it because you closed yourself to me.”
I couldn’t believe his words. Weren’t we connected by some invisible bond?
“You’re wrong,” I whispered, eyes wide. My voice felt raspy, my mouth dry. I didn’t know if I was angry or in pain, but I knew it felt like I was barely holding myself together. My body was the only thing that kept me from shattering. “I love you so much. So selfishly, so naively. I need you more than anything else, I—I need more than I’ve ever needed music. It’s driving me crazy when I’m not around you, so much that my skin tingles. There’s no way I can close myself to you, can’t you see? I’m all yours, Subaru, all yours! You could do whatever you wanted with me.”
He wiped away a tear I didn’t realize I’d been crying, then pulled me against him. I felt ashamed with myself for being so miserable in front of another guy, in front of Subaru of all people.
“That’s the most beautiful confession I’ve ever gotten. But that’s what I mean when I say you’re such a sad person,” he said.
I could only cry some more with my face pressed against his shoulder, hands gripping the back of his shirt tightly. What was happening to me? I was so scared of losing him, and I wanted – no, needed – him to know. He took my shoulders and pulled me away, cupping my face gently. I must have looked so ugly; crying is nowhere near a beautiful thing. But he didn’t seem to mind. He kissed me, just a soft press of lips on lips, and he seemed to say he understood. “I love you, too. Since the very day I saw you.”
He took my hand then, leading me to the living room, and to the fireplace in front of which we laid down my quilt. We undressed slowly, taking time to kiss and touch in between every article of clothing, skin heated by the fire. When Subaru was inside me, everything had fallen into place, my blunt, painted nails dragging rivers across his back, legs wrapped around his waist tightly. I wanted us to take in every single inch of each other.
“I’m going to leave in some time,” Subaru said afterwards as we lay snuggled up against each other. He traced patterns along my spine absent-mindedly, his string bracelet brushing against my skin. The fire cracked beside us, and the snow fell. “I’m going to ask you to move in with me, but you’re going to say no. For good reasons. A few seasons will pass, and then I’ll disappear.”
My heart sank. I held him tighter. “Is that some weird metaphor that means you’re going to kill yourself?” I asked, and he laughed.
“No, I’m not going to die. I’ll just be away for a while. And you’re going to wait for me.”
I didn’t really know what he meant, or how long I still had before he left me, so I pressed my head against his chest and listened to the sound of his heartbeat. Subaru’s heart was beating along to mine, along to the wind that hit the outside walls of the house, along to the music that flowed inside his veins. I closed my eyes and hoped that if I was going to lose him to something, it had to be music. It was the only thing I could bear, only because I had music as well.
I woke up to the sound of Subaru singing. His voice was even more beautiful like this than when he was performing, clear as water but strong and passionate. But then, everything about Subaru was passionate, so it was only natural. I got up and joined him in the living room – he was sitting on the couch, hunched over a sheet and tapping his foot to the beat of the song he was singing. When he noticed me, though, he stopped and smiled. “Good morning,” said he.
“It’s two in the afternoon,” said I.
“You slept a whole thirteen hours, it was such a deep sleep I could’ve thought you were dead if you hadn’t been breathing. It was really nice watching.” I thought of dream-Subaru, and wondered if waking world-Subaru loved me as much as he did. Waking world-Subaru frowned, a worried look upon his face. “Are you okay? You look...pale.”
For some reason, I felt like I had to get away. I had to get out of Subaru’s air-conditioned apartment and go back to my own, with its suffocating humid air. I gave a noncommittal answer, trudging back into the bedroom to get dressed in my clothes from the day before. I left the jogging pants folded on Subaru’s bed, then headed straight for the front door. “I’m sorry, but I’m gonna be late to work if I don’t leave now and I can’t afford that,” I lied – I didn’t have work before the next day.
I think he noticed, but he didn’t let it show. Just before closing the door, I looked back at Subaru and said: “It’s Yasuda Shota, by the way. My full name.”
I didn’t wait for an answer, and walked home even though I could’ve taken the train. I felt horrible: if there was one of us who didn’t love the other like his dream-self did, it was probably me. I didn’t even know what love was and the thought scared me. I didn’t see Subaru for a week after that; I avoided him like the plague, and he didn’t try to contact me. Dream-Subaru had probably been right when he said there was a wall between the two of us, I thought bitterly. I had to fix that.
On my next day off, I went to the café, hoping to find Subaru there. And I did – but he wasn’t alone. He was sitting with a man around his age, maybe a year older at most. He was taller and had a strong build, the kind of guy girls called handsome. I knew he was from Subaru’s record label and part of a popular duet, but I couldn’t remember his name at all. They were both smoking, though Subaru was only at his first cigarette; I could tell from the way he was holding it. The first one was just...different for him.
I didn’t really know what to do. On the one hand, I wanted to apologize to Subaru right there and then, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to bother them and make both myself and Subaru look like idiots. Almost as if he sensed it, he looked at me, said something to the other man (who nodded), stood up and walked over. “You look like a little lost boy,” he smiled, running a hand through his hair. There was a reasonable distance between us.
“I wanted to apologize for the other day and for avoiding you. I was an ass. I’m sorry.” I bowed, and he laughed nervously, nudging me back up.
“Don’t do that, it’s embarrassing for the both of us.”
I apologized again, though Subaru assured me there was no need to. I threw a glance at his companion, who was looking at us with an unreadable expression on his face. When I looked back at Subaru, I noticed that the passionate look that had seemingly disappeared from his eyes was back and alive, and I wanted to embrace him, hold him tight against me and never let go. I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, suppressing that desire.
“I think it’s time for me to go back,” he said, with a regretful tinge to his voice. Then he clapped me on the shoulder, like an old friend would. “I’ll call you.”
I nodded, smiling, and left the café as he went back to his seat. The minute I crossed the door, I realized that I was in love with him. It didn’t matter whether I knew nothing of love or not – I just knew. I was in love with Shibutani Subaru.
A week later, Subaru asked me to move in with him. We were lying down on his couch, my back against his chest, wondering if we should take a nap or have sex; both seemed equally as appealing. He was running his thumb along my hipbone when he asked.
“I was thinking about it the other day, and it would be much simpler to pass as roommates. If you lived here and the apartment was in both of our names, it wouldn’t be suspicious to anyone when you came in and out of here. We’d split the rent and you could have air conditioning in the summer, and we could have sex all day whenever we don’t have work. It’d be even better than the house in Hokkaido.”
I almost said yes on impulse, but then thought of my dream again. I didn’t want us to end up like our dream selves had, like some old, boring couple. I didn’t want to end up in a relationship out of a Murakami novel, where all the protagonists’ relationships seem ordinary and dull. I didn’t want to break our habit of meeting at the café and have our relationship turn into a routine. So, just as dream-Subaru had predicted, I declined the offer. I only wondered if I was saying no for good reasons when I could almost feel Subaru’s disappointment without even looking at him.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly. “I’m just not ready for our relationship to go down that road. It’s not that I’m scared of commitment, because I’m entirely committed to you, it just...doesn’t feel right for me yet. And you know I wouldn’t mind risking my career to be with you.”
I’m an incredibly selfish person. I was expecting him to tell me that just as simply as he told me I was a sad person, but he didn’t.
I looked at the chipping paint on my nails and wondered what colour I should do next. It started raining heavily all of a sudden, as if the sky had gotten mad at me. I felt so terrible to Subaru. I turned around in his arms to face him, pushing his hair back from his face to kiss him. I loved him so, so much, and I just needed him to know. But for some reason—I couldn’t say it.
It had been a year since I’d first seen Subaru when he disappeared, in early spring. He was there one night, and then he wasn’t. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why he chose to leave that day in particular, because the event on that night probably would’ve been his big break in the music industry. It was the last day we spent together, and the fact that he disappeared right after made me feel incredibly distressed. If we hadn’t seen each other in, say, four days and he’d chosen to leave then, maybe it would’ve been easier for me. It wouldn’t have been less of a shock just like it wouldn’t have made me miss him less, but it was definitely hard to be with him one day and then wonder when I was going to see him the next. How long would I have to wait? Months? Years? I wished dream-Subaru had said.
The last day I saw him was the day of his guest appearance at his senpai’s – the one I’d seen at the café – solo concert, since the guy’s partner was having some solo activities as well.
“Come with me,” Subaru told me that morning, clasping my hand in his. “I want you to be there. We’ll go to the venue together with my manager and you can watch with her in the dressing room; they’re filming the concert for a DVD and they’ll broadcast it live in every dressing room for the managers and personal staff. You won’t be a bother, I promise.”
Who was I to say no? Subaru looked so excited and restless. I only brushed it off as him already being full of adrenaline, but it was probably more important to him because it was his last performance before he left. He went into his room, then came back with two pieces of string he used as bracelets: one blue and the other red. He tied the latter around my wrist, and the other around his.
“We were both wearing blue when we met each other,” he explained, laughing when I held up my wrist with a questioning look on my face. “And red is my favourite colour. Red is passion, like me, and blue is healing, like you. Doesn’t it fit us?”
I mumbled that it felt like we were preteen girls wearing matching “best friends” jewellery, and he only laughed louder, kissing me with a smile still lingering at the corner of his lips. He’d officially quit smoking two months before, crushing his last cigarette proudly, so he tasted like lemon drops and smelled like Hugo Boss perfume.
“I love you so much, Shota,” he whispered in my ear as he held me tightly against him. It was the first time we were saying it openly.
“I love you too, Subaru.”
We had sex most of the day, then Subaru made dinner (a habit he took up while he was quitting smoking, and his cooking had improved considerably) and we showered after that. Around seven thirty, when the doorbell rang, I was fooling around with his guitar while he was brushing his teeth and doing some vocal exercises.
“Could you go get it?” Subaru called from the bathroom. “It’s my manager; she’ll know who you are.”
My hand was still around the neck of the guitar when I flung the door open, and I almost dropped it in surprise, my breath caught in my throat – I’d never seen such a beautiful woman. Her body wasn’t anything spectacular, and her face wasn’t one in a million, but just from the way she held herself, back straight and head high, she could make any man fall in love with her. There was an air of severity about her, of womanly confidence that emanated from her whole being. Her hair was long and lush, like a waterfall down her shoulders. She had deep, piercing eyes, almost as intense as Subaru’s. I could tell she didn’t smile often – only when it mattered.
“Yasuda, I presume?”
I nodded, bowing a bit, and let her in. She also gave a nod of acknowledgement, introduced herself briefly, and made her way to the bathroom as if she’d been doing it for decades. She and Subaru spoke quietly, so much that I only managed to hear a few words from the conversation as I put the guitar back in its place. Subaru was all smiles when he exited the bathroom with his manager following suit, grabbing my hands. We were so happy right there, right then.
We got to the venue in twenty minutes, a whole ten minutes before the show started to greet Subaru’s senpai and the staff. I’d been to numerous concerts before, being a music fan, but it was my first time backstage and I felt as if I were discovering a whole new world. Subaru seemed to notice my amazement, taking my hand in his once we were alone with his manager in his dressing room. She was stoic.
I found myself alone five minutes before Subaru’s cue at nine thirty, having agreed that he needed a moment to focus on the side of the stage with his manager. She came back right as his senpai introduced him, and he walked onto the stage with and ear-to-ear smile, sharing a casual high-five with the other man. The music started, and he fell right into it, moving along to the beat after a small bow to the audience. As the two of them started singing, Subaru’s manager turned around, and smiled at me. I was surprised, but didn’t let it show, smiling back before turning my attention to the monitor on the wall. Just looking at them, it was easy to tell how different they were; Subaru was all about the music, about the words he sang and how he sang them, while his senpai was more about show, in all his leather-pants-and-unbuttoned-shirt-with-s
He came back after the song to the sound of cheering fans, still driven by adrenaline and wearing one of the biggest grins I’d ever seen on him. We went to say goodbye to his senpai once the concert was over, and since I had work early the next morning, Subaru’s manager drove me straight home. I said good night to Subaru not knowing it was our last goodbyes for an indefinite time.
When I was leaving my apartment for work and checked my mail the next day, there was an envelope with a key and a note inside that said: Please take care of it for me. There was no signature, and I didn’t recognize the handwriting. I turned the envelope over in my hands a few times before shoving it in my bag, pushing it to the back of my mind, and headed to work. It didn’t occur to me until I called Subaru’s phone – the number you are trying to reach is unavailable, please try again later – in the train, at the end of the day, that the key and message were from him. A few seasons will pass, and then I’ll disappear. I ran all the way to his apartment and the key fit right in his door when I tried, the whole place feeling incredibly empty and lifeless as soon as I set foot inside. His phone lay turned off on the coffee table in the living room, and his guitar was gone, along with most of his clothes, glasses, a few pairs of contact lenses – everything he needed. I felt emptier than the apartment was. Subaru was really gone.
I sat on the living room floor for two hours, knees brought up to my chest and his phone clutched in my hand, without moving. I didn’t cry. I just sat there, staring off into space, my mind floating somewhere outside my body. There’s no way I could ever remember how I felt back on that day; it’s like I wasn’t even there. Time passed, but it was like someone had gotten bored and hit the pause button on me. Everyone kept on living, but I didn’t. I was just a big whole void; I couldn’t even feel sorry for myself.
It had gotten dark when I came back to my senses. I felt heavy and lethargic, so I went to take a shower in hopes of feeling a bit refreshed afterwards (but only ended up crying under the water) and put on the jogging pants he’d lent me on the day we first had sex. I felt like he’d almost left them there on purpose, and the thought almost set me off again. I sat on the living room floor, hand on my knee with the palm turned upward, staring at the red string around my wrist. I wondered if he was still wearing the blue one as I turned on his phone, but it wasn’t anywhere in the apartment, so he probably was.
The first person I called was his manager.
“Hello?” came her calm, steady voice from the other end.
“Hello, this is Yasuda,” said I. She didn’t say anything, so I went on. “Subaru’s gone.”
“I know,” she said calmly.
I was startled. “Does anyone else know?”
“No. Only you, I, and Shibutani-kun himself know.”
“Oh. So—someone’s gonna have to tell his support band.”
“I figured you would call them, with the mindset that they are his friends. I’ll call them – as musicians – tomorrow. It’s my job.”
“I’ll do that, then. Thank you,” I said, and was going to hang up when she said my name.
“You should move into his apartment until he comes back. It’s in both of your names. I’ll take care of the rest; as I said, it’s my job. Goodbye, Yasuda Shota.”
I didn’t have anything else to say, since she hung up first. I looked around the apartment, and decided to start moving out of mine first thing the next day – I had no reason to stay there anymore, anyway. I only had to call his support band next.
What he affectionately called SubaruBAND consisted of three other guys. I’d never met them before, so I was a little nervous, calling them like this for the first time, but Subaru had told me so much about them I felt we all knew each other already. I decided to call the guitarist first out of the three, since I wanted to get rid of the hardest first. He was a short guy no taller than us who made up for his height with a sharp tongue (and by stuffing his pants, Subaru would always laugh), but was “really sweet once you got to know him, or his weaknesses”. I, unlike Subaru, didn’t know him, so I braced myself when I called.
The first thing he said when I introduced myself was “Oh, the girl—I mean, boyfriend.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” I sighed. “Listen, I’m calling to say that Subaru’s gone.”
A pause. I could only hear his breathing. Then, “You’re really straightforward, aren’t you?”
“I guess I am.”
“When’s he coming back?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where did he go?”
“I don’t know about that either.”
“Do you know anything?” He snapped. “You’re his boyfriend, aren’t you? It seems kind of weird to me that you’re fucking and yet he wouldn’t tell you where he’s going or how long until he comes back.”
“Well, what can I say? He didn’t even tell me he was leaving. He just packed his things and left overnight. All I got was a key to his apartment in my mailbox when I got up. If you want to know more, wait until his manager calls, she seems to know a lot more than I do,” I said, and we hung up moments later. I probably sounded like I was jealous of her. But I wasn’t.
The next one I called was the bassist. According to Subaru, he was spontaneous and special, sometimes maybe even a little weird, but he was his closest friend and one of the nicest people he’d ever met. There might have been something between them, too, some time ago, but Subaru had only hinted at it, so I couldn’t be sure. The call was short and straight to the point, no questions asked. From the tone of his voice, though, I could tell that I was bearing really bad news to him. But I selfishly thought that it couldn’t be worse for him than it was for me. I missed Subaru so much.
The last one was the drummer, the youngest one. As a musician, he was the one who resembled Subaru the most – the kind of guy who lived through music, who would lose himself into playing, so much that he became another person then, just like him. Subaru said he was tall and handsome, liked food and laughed a lot, slept almost as much, and looked lazy and vain.
He didn’t react exactly the same way as the guitarist had when I introduced myself. “Yasuda who?”
“Shota. Yasuda Shota. I’m Subaru’s—friend.” For some reason, I couldn’t say I was his boyfriend, even though the guy probably knew already. There was something that made me feel like it would sound wrong out of my mouth instead of Subaru’s.
“The cute blonde, right?”
“Yeah. Uh, yeah.”
I frowned. “....Hi. I’m calling to let you know Subaru’s gone.”
“Gone? What do you mean, he’s gone?”
“I mean that he packed his clothes and left without a word. Vanished into thin air.”
Like the two others before him, he stayed silent for a moment. “Wow, that’s...sudden.”
I wanted to say he’d warned me in a dream, but even I barely understood, so I figured a guy like this one wouldn’t either. “Yeah.”
“Must be hard on you. Want to go for a drink?”
I met up with the drummer in a bar that was at a walking distance from Subaru’s apartment, and wasn’t surprised when I saw him – he was exactly as Subaru had described him. There’s nothing else to add, he was simply tall and handsome. One hell of a pretty boy, that’s for sure. Even in the dim light, I noticed that he had a mole above his upper lip. We sat side by side on the stools, and both ordered beers. I drank half of mine in one shot, while he took slow sips, looking at me in the corner of his eye.
“You’re even cuter than I thought,” he said, and I forced a half-assed smile and thanked him. I wasn’t in the mood to get hit on by Subaru’s band mate, and I think I made it obvious enough. I just wanted to get drunk and pass out until Subaru came back, but pretty boy didn’t seem to get the message. “Don’t make that face, he’s not dead!” he said petulantly. I shot him a look.
“Shut up, I’m not in the mood. I’m going to look however I want. There’s no way a guy like you could understand, anyway, you’ve probably never been in a serious relationship before,” I snapped. I didn’t want to stay there, but unexpectedly, he wrapped an arm around my shoulders and held me against him.
That night, after I went home, I dreamed of the drummer. I slept with him, only to feel miserable afterwards, because I hadn’t waited for Subaru like his dream-self had told me I would. When I told him, the drummer told me that it didn’t matter as he kissed my shoulder – that Subaru most likely wouldn’t keep his legs crossed until he came back. I woke up angry and frustrated at two in the morning.
But the pieces all came together. I went into the living room and sat with my guitar in my lap and paper and a pen in front of me. By the time the sun rose, I had a whole song, composed and written, laid out in front of my eyes, all my feelings poured into the words and notes, every single beat for Subaru.
A week later, I was bowing to his manager and holding out a demo CD. “Please help me get this out. I want Subaru to hear it and you’re the only person I could think of. I beg of you.”
She took the CD, and looked at me with a cryptic expression. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll try. I know you’re a good composer and musician; Shibutani-kun told me you work in the field.”
I know I’m not the best singer. I know my voice is nasal and that I don’t have half the talent Subaru does, but it doesn’t matter. All that does matter is that my imperfect voice might reach him, that he’ll hear my words and realize how much I miss him. He might not even be in Japan anymore, but if he is, there’s a chance he’ll hear me. And to me—that’s more than enough.
I step onto the stage with my guitar and SubaruBAND behind me, and then I sit down in front of the microphone. I’m nervous. My fingers settle on the first chords and I look at the red string bracelet on my wrist. I hit the first chords of the song and everything blends together. I sing about a red thread, I sing about love and happiness and missing him, I sing about hoping my words will reach him, and it’s a little sad and overwhelming. Tears sting my eyes, but I blink them back before my voice can waver. Will you wait for me? This might be selfish, but I want to see you soon.
The lights die down, the last sounds fade out. The performance is over. The guys clap me on the back as we head backstage behind a nervous-looking staff from the TV station, and Subaru’s manager – my manager – is holding my vibrating phone out to me.
“Is that song for me?” a voice laughs. I could recognize that voice among a million.