This is Not My Life
Chapter 25 Part I
1. This chapter exceeded the word limit for LJ entries, so I had to divide it into 2 parts. They are linked.
2. This is the chapter that warrants the 'M' rating. Adult content to follow.
3. All sorts of bad manners are represented in this chapter. I do not actually endorse emulating any of the onsen behavior described within (staring, splashing, wearing headphones, you get the drift.)
“The lies I told you kept them through
Nobody knows me like you do
All I was looking for was you”
I’m used to hangovers. Although I have to say for all my experience with them, I’m also pretty good at avoiding them. I know all the tricks.
I guess I didn’t use them this time.
My attempt at sitting up as I wake rewards me with a cleaving jolt of pain through my forehead. It’s so sharp that for a moment my vision swims a little, as if I were still drunk.
I lie back down again. The less I have to move the happier I know I’ll be. It might just be necessary to never move again. I don’t know, the jury’s still out on that one.
For some reason it feels like I haven’t had a hangover in a while, though. Which just makes the pain feel all the more excruciating. It can be pretty nasty when you haven’t built up a tolerance.
Why is that?
Ah, right. I haven’t had a hangover in a while because I haven’t been going out. I’ve toned down the drinking because I’ve been with Aya.
The name instantly causes a jolt of tension to sear through me. There is some sort of problem with Aya. I get the nagging sensation that he’s very intimately connected to the source of my hangover.
…Which is completely absent from my memory.
Along with about 85% of whatever else happened in the past 24 hours. Shit. How much did I drink?
I sit up again, more abruptly this time, indifferent to the pain now. My head screams at me as I swing it around, searching for some sort of clue to whatever might be wrong.
The anxiousness comes without a need for memories to fuel it. I seem to just innately suspect him to be gone.
If I’m honest, I’ve expected him to disappear nearly every time he’s left my sight. It really is pretty unfathomable he’s stuck around as long as he has so far.
Has that finally been rectified?
My question is answered by the cold sweat of a water glass shoved into my hand.
“From what I can recall, you’re going to want to drink several of those,” Aya dryly comments.
When I look up to meet his face, it’s closed of any telling emotion. But he has a bottle of painkillers in his other hand and is watching me very intently. As if I was the mysterious unreadable one and not him.
I take the bottle and shake out a few tablets without even checking to see what kind they are. Draining the whole glass of water makes little impact on the uncomfortable flannelly feel of my mouth and throat. I thrust it back at him, hoping he’ll oblige to refill it for me, which he graciously does.
Ugh, I feel awful.
I draw myself up and take closer stock of my situation. I’m still in the clothes that (I think) I was wearing yesterday. I obviously got myself blitzed and have no memory at all of coming back to the room. The last thing I can remember is some lady I tried without success to cultivate an interest in. Did she help me back here?
When I shoot Aya an inquisitive glance he suddenly seems very interested in refolding our clothes into the duffle bag.
“You think you’ll feel well enough to get back on the road?” He asks gruffly, scrutinizing a shirt.
The throbbing in my head suddenly seems to pick up its pace. Is he suggesting a need to accelerate our trek home?
I nod tentatively, and quickly regret the superfluous motion.
“Good,” he says, still paying more attention to just about every object in the room than to me, “we have a lot of driving to do.”
“Oh?” I say, trying not to give away how damn curious he’s made me. Up until this point, Aya’s been largely acting like a hostage. He’s made a big show of trying to make the most out of the places I’ve dragged him, but he certainly hasn’t taken any initiative to actually plan ahead. All of the sudden he has an agenda?
“Yes,” he replies unhelpfully.
“Where’re we going?” I concede to asking.
Kyushu, huh? That’s pretty vague. I stare at him expectantly hoping he’ll elaborate without forcing me to beg for details.
Aya makes the mistake of glancing at me and our eyes briefly connect. He looks uncomfortable.
It finally occurs to me to worry about what I might have said (or done,) in the hours missing from my memory of last night.
Knowing myself, it was probably bad.
…Couldn’t have been too awful though, or I’d currently be missing body parts….
My disquiet is interrupted by a dramatic sigh. “You wanted to go there, right?” He asks, “You said you did.”
I nod. Very, very carefully.
It still feels like my brain has been liquefied and is sloshing around with the movement.
“Onsens, right?” he persists. “I thought you wanted to go there for the hot springs.”
Maybe I’m still drunk, because I think I’m audibly hallucinating.
…Cause it sounded to me like Aya just suggested we go somewhere with hot springs. Together. As in, quality time. Sans clothing.
Not fucking likely!
I stare at him uncomprehendingly.
“You’ve changed your mind?” Exasperation is written all over his face.
“No,” I say, cautiously waiting for him to reveal the catch. “It’s just…that doesn’t sound like something you’d want to do.” I tactfully leave off the ‘with me’ part.
He just shrugs and goes back to obsessively packing. “They’re supposed to be good for your health, aren’t they?” he mutters, more to himself than to me. “I’ve been told mine could use improving.”
The drive is very long and on top of that, once there it takes us significantly longer to settle on a place to stay than I’d anticipated. Like so many other aspects of this trip, my idea to go to an Onsen wasn’t extensively thought out. My foresight for problems got stuck on the idea that there was simply no way in hell Aya would be up for spending what I’ve started thinking of as ‘quality naked time’ with anyone, let alone me. It therefore never occurred to me that there might be other complications.
My past comes back to haunt me with the entirely unanticipated dilemma that my tattoo apparently gets me banned from most respectable hot spring establishments. Any place that might cultivate a ‘family atmosphere’ has a big sign at the front desk, warning me that I’m not welcome. That someone who looks like me might get mistaken for Yakuza seems almost laughable.
Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m probably more dangerous than your average Yakuza. That in my case the discrimination’s almost legit. Irony. Or…something.
I have to say, I’m pretty used to feeling like an infiltrator who doesn’t belong. Trying to maintain a double life does that, not even getting into the whole mess of just what I do in the less conventional half of my existence. But I’m not used to the perceived alienation actually being a reality. It’s a bit of a shock, and definitely puts a downer on the happiness I was feeling over Aya’s capitulation.
When we finally lower our standards and stop trying to pick a resort out of the guidebook, we finally settle on a ryokan a little off the beaten path. It’s a bit seedier than the other places we’ve been staying, but on the upside a lot quieter too. Definitely no screaming kids here.
It’s already late by the time we settle in. I immediately roll out my futon thinking we might want to call it an early night. Aya drove all day (if there was ever any doubt in the sincerity of my proclaimed affection for Aya, one need only observe the fact that I let him drive my car,) and although I’m feeling marginally better, my hangover still has a few tendrils embedded into my skull. Another night’s sleep ought to fix that. I sit down on the thin bedding and scope out our room. It’s…well, I guess ‘quaint’ might be an appropriate word choice.
Aya ignores his futon in favor of taking advantage of the complimentary tea that’s been left out. He sits on the floor and quietly stares at his cup for a while before taking a tentative sip.
“It’s still daylight,” he observes, sparing the futon a glance, but not looking at me.
“It was a long drive,” I shrug.
“Hm,” he non-answers.
I watch him, as there’s really nothing else in the room worth looking at. Well, that’s a good excuse anyway. I’d be watching him regardless.
He becomes very focused on his tea and empties the cup at a record pace. When his hands no longer have anything to occupy themselves with he gets back on his feet and retrieves a yukata from the closet. He stands, it draped over one arm, and finally returns my eye contact.
I stare back, more obviously than before.
“Do you mind?” he asks, shifting slightly.
Do I mind what? That you’re holding a yukata?
His stare turns peeved.
Oh. He wants to change.
Without me watching.
I drop backwards onto the futon and dramatically drape an arm over my eyes. “Your dignity remains unsullied,” I announce with deliberate drama.
The room is silent for a long spell. I suspect he’s checking to make sure I really can’t see him.
Sheesh, it’s not like I haven’t seen him before. We’ve lived in close quarters for a very long time now. I’ve cut his clothes off to dig bullets out of him. What’s the big freaking deal?
The deal is that you said things that fucked everything up. You’re lucky he’s even willing to be alone in a room with you.
I can feel my lips shift against my skin as I frown into the crook of my arm. The sound of shifting cloth indicates that Aya’s gotten over his fear of changing.
“But for the record, I’d like to watch,” I add.
What the hell, I’ve already breached the danger threshold, might as well be honest.
The rustling clothes noises suddenly pick up a more hurried pace. There’s then another stretch of silence and Aya coughs, which I take to imply that he’s done and I can abandon my ridiculous stance for preserving his modesty. I open my eyes and partially sit up.
Aya’s standing near the door, attired in the hotel issued blue and white yukata. His chest shielded by defensively crossed arms.
Okay, it’s already clear that my opinion is biased. I think that Aya looks awesome about 80% of the time. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be plagued by this whole inconvenient staring problem. And for the record, that 20% where I don’t think he looks awesome, it’s only because his features are usually unflatteringly marred by some expression stating that he wants to kick my ass. Which might still be awesome, were my interpretation to take a kinkier slant, but, alas, I know Aya too well to make such liberal assumptions.
Anyway, as I was saying though, standing there (grumpily) yukata-clad, Aya seems to look extra awesome. Maybe the indigo just compliments his coloring.
…Or maybe it’s the underlying knowledge that yukatas are easy access, and if he’s bound for the onsen then it’s a good guess that he isn’t wearing anything underneath it….
…Jesus Christ, I’ll be lucky to last an hour here before he kills me.
“I’m going to see the onsen,” he declares predictably.
…Or maybe not so predictably, as it’s an obvious assumption that that’s where he would be going. That he bothered to voice his destination might almost be interpreted as an invitation to join him.
Phsaw, yeah right.
I nod to acknowledge that I heard him, but remain in place. Truth be told, the second it became clear that Aya intended to leave the room I abandoned my tentative plan for an early turn-in. I don’t want to give that away though. I’ll give him a ten- to- fifteen minute start to try and minimize coming off like some kind of stalker.
As if he can’t see through me….
He hovers for a moment, watching me with a completely unreadable expression on his face before giving me a hurried nod and silently slipping out of the room.
Huh. This is all…very weird. I’m surprised that Aya was apparently paying close enough attention to even remember that I wanted to come here. In all fairness that particular bit of information was disclosed immediately after I first hijacked him. It was buried in quite a bit of nervous rambling and he had every right to have been too alarmed-and-or-mad to have actually been listening to me. But I guess he was anyway.
What’s more surprising is that, possessing the knowledge that I wanted to come here, Aya actually took the initiative to come here. Honestly, if you’d have asked me to guess, I would have predicted that he would have avoided Kyushu at all costs, and found some place that he knew I would have hated, and dragged me there just for the hell of it. I don’t think that would have surprised anybody.
That he apparently trusts me enough to hang around an onsen together is almost too unfathomable to even contemplate. I’ve given him every reason to want to avoid a situation like this. I can’t think of any rationale at all for him being okay with this…other than that he’s probably testing me.
In which case I’m probably going to fail.
On an epically tragic, fiery crash kind of level.
Might as well get it over with. I push myself up with a sigh and retrieve a matching yukata from the closet.