This is Not My Life
“Can you tell the difference,
Or is it the same?”
I dream that I’m being strangled by a giant mutant cephalopod.
When I wake up not a whole lot has changed.
I experience a brief moment of déjà vu, at first not fully remembering the events that led up to finding myself naked in bed with Yohji’s elbow thoroughly embedded into my ribcage. He’s somehow managed to completely entwine himself around me in the very most predictably invasive way possible.
I suppose to be fair this futon wasn’t designed to accommodate two grown adults. Space is rather lacking.
I lie still and wait for the panic and/or regret to settle in.
It seems to be taking it’s time.
I feel surprisingly calm and…not all that different.
Shouldn’t I feel…different?
I feel kind of like I’ve just been to the gym. Except I’m sore in all the wrong places. Nothing major though.
No perception shattering epiphanies. No divine enlightenment.
…No regret either.
I can feel Yohji starting to wake. My space deficiency amplifies.
“Mornin’ Ayan,” he drawls, placing an unusual amount of emphasis on my name. His face is scratchy against my shoulder. His hand is wandering beneath the blanket. An invisible knot deep within my abdomen tightens.
A familiar nagging voice in the back of my head is urging me to push him off. Extract myself from his banyan stranglehold before I get any more inescapably sucked in. It’s not too late to back out…although the window is rapidly sliding shut.
I ignore it.
What have I gotten myself into? For all of the thought I recently put into it, I’m still not so sure I actually thought this out very well. Letting myself get involved with Yohji is going to have more repercussions than simply sleeping with somebody. It occurred to me to worry about the possible effect on our mission performance. This could distract us. Cloud our judgment. Obvious things. But there’s even more than just that! Yohji is going to be clingy.
Have I ever seen him act clingy with anyone else? No. In fact he’s usually quite the opposite, I’ve always seen him as one of those ‘there’s enough of me to go around for everyone, take a ticket and hop in line’ kind of people. A clingy Yohji shouldn’t even make sense.
But it’s written just in the way he’s possessively clamped around me while sleeping. In the unfathomable amount of hesitation in his actions last night. In the way he’s still hanging on to his partner and that for some reason he seems to want me to know about her. I could keep going. That I can anticipate Yohji to adhere himself to me like ivy is scrawled quite clearly across nearly every facet of him. Cautionary graffiti that I used to not notice because I let myself be blinded by his distracting presentation. I noticed way too late.
He’s already in this way deeper than I am. And I can feel him trying to drag me down to the bottom of the ocean. I’m in danger of losing my ability to breathe.
I think all this, and yet I still don’t shove him off.
I expect that most people, finding themselves where I am now, would probably start worrying about when Yohji’s attention span will run out and they’ll find themselves being cheated on. I don’t even spare that concept a second thought, because it’s ridiculous. I don’t have to worry about Yohji cheating on me. Were I to care, of course. I haven’t yet allowed myself to decide if I’m even willing to let things get so serious that exclusivity is an issue. Except I know that in Yohji’s mind, that has already been settled. He will be exclusive, whether I care or not. And as I’m not exactly in the habit of running around sleeping with people, the exclusivity will be mutual, whether I make the effort or not. And entirely by his call, I’ll find myself in a serious relationship, whether I’m ready or not.
Normal people probably don’t find that terrifying.
No, I don’t need to waste my time worrying that Yohji might cheat on me. What I actually need to worry about is that I see the danger of finding myself trapped on a pedestal next to a dead girl. It’s somehow a whole lot scarier.
“Good morning,” I finally acknowledge Yohji’s greeting, not without some degree of awkwardness. It feels strange to say those words while still in bed, and not across the kitchen table or in the flower shop.
“Sleep well?” he asks, grinning lopsidedly as he traces invisible circles on my chest with his finger. If he’s drawing something, I can’t tell what it is. I feel like it ought to be annoying me, but it actually feels kind of nice. Not that I’d reward him with an admittance of that.
“Not really,” I answer honestly.
His face falters slightly. I guess he’s not used to anything less than glowing reviews from his bedmates.
I cut that train of thought off before it can get any farther.
“We need a bigger bed,” I explain, and then stop, realizing that that sounded like some sort of invitation to move in together or something.
I’m going to need to learn to choose my words a little more carefully from now on.
“Oh,” he says, lighting back up again, “that’s not a problem. When we get back. I have an excellent bed.”
“I assumed,” I answer briefly.
My lack of chattiness doesn’t seem to bother him though, he seems content at the fact that I haven’t insisted on getting up yet, which I must admit goes against my nature. Unlike Yohji, I consider myself a morning person. Lying in bed after waking usually makes me feel twitchy and restless. To add the constricting hindrance of another person doing a convincing imitation of a starfish ought to be enough to drive me clawing out of the sheets. I’m really not sure what’s still keeping me from moving….
His hand is getting a bit more adventurous in its wandering and I almost jump as I suddenly feel something wet on my ear.
He really doesn’t waste any time at all does he?
I shut my eyes and take in the somewhat weird sensation. I don’t like it. I wait for my reflexes to kick in enough to make him stop. I change my mind before they do.
“You really don’t ever take that off, do you?” he suddenly asks.
I don’t have to look to know that he’s staring at Aya’s earring.
“No.” I say, not offering an explanation. “Never.”
I turn to meet his eyes and he looks thoughtful but doesn’t say anything. He takes advantage of the accessibility of my mouth to lean in and kiss me. The voice telling me not to allow all these things has now been almost completely stifled. I don’t even hesitate to open my mouth and kiss him back.
Another thing I’ve changed my mind about is the quality of Yohji’s kissing. Apparently whether I’m expecting it or not really does make a substantial difference in the experience. It feels surprising good when he’s not blitz attacking me with his tongue.
Actually, all of Yohji feels surprisingly good. It shouldn’t be possible for all of his gangly angularity. Is it just that I’m not used to being close to people? Does everyone actually feel this good?
It would sure explain Yohji’s relentless need to go out at night.
I can’t really picture myself enjoying such close contact with someone random. The thought is still rather repellent, in fact.
Speaking of which, does Yohji always look this happy after sleeping with someone?
I try to remember having seen him like this before. I’ve frequently run into him crawling back late at night and early in the mornings. My mental inventory draws a total blank. At the most he usually looks smug. Right now he looks more…hm, I guess content. I’ve never seen him looking this content.
I don’t let myself dwell on the implications.
“You need to get off me,” I announce. Rather nicely, if you ask me. My first instinct was to remove him by force.
“That’d be a much more tempting proposition if you rearranged your wording,” he grins, predictably failing to move. In fact I think he actually manages to somehow plaster himself closer. Which has to be some sort of physics defying feat, considering.
I actually have to think about that for a moment.
Hey, my mind just doesn’t work like Yohji’s. Not in that department, anyway.
I then have to think about it another minute.
Never thought I’d see a day when Yohji’s obnoxious comments like that were anything other than…well, obnoxious. I’m tempted, in spite of myself. But no. I shouldn’t encourage him. Not when I still feel so conflicted.
“I want to take a shower,” I say, making a point of ignoring his innuendo.
“Not mutually exclusive,” his grin widens.
…He’s kidding, right?
“I’m just going to assume you’re joking.” I say, mildly appalled.
“…Our room doesn’t have a private bathroom,” I remind him.
“Sure doesn’t,” he shrugs.
“…You want to fuck me in a public shower,” I affirm. With Yohji there’s really no point in beating around the bush.
“Well, you could always do me instead,” he announces cheerfully. “I’m open to suggestions.”
“Aw,” he responds in a voice laced with painfully fake disappointment, “you don’t want to do me? I was looking forward to trying new things….”
“That’s not what I said.” I glare at him. If only to distract him from noticing the way I’m pretty sure I’m turning slightly red right now. My mind is finding his suggestion a lot more interesting than I want it to.
What the hell is wrong with me?
The way he’s rubbing against me is really not helping my train of thought.
Nor is the fact that he just said ‘new things.’ I had rather assumed that when he outed his interest in me it meant he already had experience with men. I wouldn’t have expected his repertoire to have room for any more firsts. Huh.
“Have you ever heard the term ‘pressing your luck’?” I add.
“It’s an interesting concept,” he says, not without a hint of smugness in his voice. Our close proximity makes it pretty much impossible for any amount of verbal disapproval to hide what my body thinks of his suggestion. This is somewhat distressing.
“I’m taking a shower,” I say, finally mustering the willpower to disentangle myself. “Alone.”
Yohji just lays there, completely unruffled, in spite of the fact that I just threw most of the blanket off of him in my attempt to escape. He’s totally shameless. And still looks rather self-satisfied, for that matter.
That may be due to the way I’m struggling to rip my eyes off of him.
It’s weird that I’m allowed to look.
No, I was always allowed to look. The way he dressed was practically begging for me (make that anyone,) to look. It’s weird that I can allow myself to. It’s weird that I want to.
He’s definitely not harsh on the eyes. I can finally admit that.
“Rain check, then,” he says with a wink.
“We’ll see,” I mumble, hastily throwing on a yukata. I don’t know whose it is. They got kind of mixed up last night in the rush to….
I can feel my cheeks heating up again.
I grab a towel and practically bolt out of the room.
I hope that no one else comes along to use the facilities. I really don’t feel up to dealing with being interrupted. I briefly wish that this were a regular hotel instead of a ryokan. I then think about what would almost be undoubtedly happening right now if the bathroom had the ability to lock.
Maybe this is better after all.
I just sit down on the bathroom stool for a moment and run my hands through my hair.
Things are going to be different.
I can’t tell yet whether it’ll be better…or just a mess.
There are a lot of ways this could turn into a mess. A really bad one. Common sense would have dictated I avoid this entirely. It would have been the logical choice…right?
Why didn’t I listen to that?
Because I’m selfish.
Last night was the best I’ve felt since before the accident. Maybe even longer than that.
I feel like a traitor for even considering that anything post accident could ever compare to my idyllic notion of before. They’re two separate worlds. One was good. One isn’t. It was black and white.
Key word; was.
Last night was good. All of it. Even the awkward weird bits were pretty good. I was totally in the moment. I didn’t feel alone.
It was a different sort of ‘not alone’ than before. It was....
…I don’t know how to explain it.
But I don’t think I can give it up. Not after seeing how much better I can feel.
God, I’m selfish. I don’t deserve to feel better. I kill people. I deserve to feel worse. I have no right to care about anything except for Aya-chan.
Yohji kills people too though. I don’t think that he deserves to feel worse.
If I walked away from this he would.
I’m still having a hard time comprehending that. I really don’t see what he sees in me. I always imagined that if Yohji ever settled on just one person it would be…oh, I don’t know. Someone more like Manx. Some lady who was smart and sophisticated and always dressed sharply. Someone who would look in place on his arm at a classy soiree.
I sure wouldn’t. I look in place lurking in alleyways.
I guess Yohji’s good at lurking too.
He should have found someone who complimented the bright side of his personality. I can’t be healthy for him. Maybe his interest in me is just his self-destructive streak surfacing. He’s got a big one.
I turn on just the cold water and hose myself off. It’s fairly effective at interrupting my negative thought spiral. I close my eyes and clear my head further by just focusing on the smell of soap and damp cypress.
I already made up my mind. I’m not going to talk myself out of this. Yohji deserves the chance, even if I don’t. Even if it’s not actually what’s good for him. It’s what he apparently wants. And I….
…Fuck. I want Yohji.
There. It’s officially on the table.
I hurry back to our room and find him sprawled in exactly the same place as I’d left him. In exactly the same state of dress.
“Hey there,” he says, grinning lazily at me, just like before.
“Get up,” I say, more brusquely than I mean to. I’m stalled, a little distracted. I need to get dressed. I feel weird getting dressed in front of Yohji. I have no right to be shy in front of him now.
I try to be nonchalant in discarding my yukata. My movements are stiff and clinical as I pull on my clothes though.
“We don’t have to get up,” he says, stretching out invitingly. “You didn’t have to get up. We could just stay in bed all day. When’s the last time you did that?”
I know the last time he did that. About a week and a half ago. He was scheduled to work.
“When I was sick,” I say, hanging the yukata back in the closet. “I don’t like to stay in bed all day. We need to get breakfast.”
“That’s what I love about ya Ayan,” he says, slowly pulling himself up and reaching for his rumpled pile of clothes, “your incomprehensible practicality.”
I just sort of stand there and blink as the meaning of his words slowly sink in.
“Excuse me?” I say, hoping that the note of panic his words inspired isn’t detectable in my voice.
“Hm?” he looks up from pulling on a sock. Apparently it’s important that his feet regain their modesty before anything else.
“What. Did you just say.” I stammer.
“That you’re incomprehensibly practical.” He pulls on his other sock. “It sort of blows my mind sometimes. That someone can make so much effort to avoid relaxing. Ever. Ya know?” He lets out a short laugh. “No, you wouldn’t know would you? It apparently comes naturally.”
I ignore his attempt at banter. He’s trying to distract me. “That’s not all you said.”
“Wasn’t it?” He’s fumbling with his pants now, not looking at me. “I don’t know, I say lots of things. I’m always talking.”
Well, that’s true.
“What did you hear?” he continues, face totally cool as he looks at me.
I can’t repeat it. My mouth won’t form the words. I stare at him uncomfortably.
Maybe I did imagine it.
“Nothing,” I say, shoving my hands in my pockets. “Let’s get breakfast.”
“Sounds good,” he agrees. His voice is cheerful but I can’t read his face.
Yohji is even chattier than usual while we eat. I have a hard time following what he’s saying. I’m trying to listen, but my mind is skipping all over the place. It’s a scattered mess.
“…I think this place uses more paste in their miso,” he’s saying, poking around in his bowl with the spoon, “it tastes stronger than the stuff I had yesterday. Less seaweed though. Not sure the overall effect is better or not.”
He’s talking about the food? Oh my god. Last night I completely gave myself to him, this morning he may or may not have accidently announced that he loved me…and now he’s trying to have a conversation about soup.
A perfect streak of fucked-up-ness continues unbroken.
I frown into my tea.
“Something wrong?” he asks, eyeing me inquisitively. “Would you prefer a Western breakfast? We could go somewhere else. “
“No,” I say. “This is fine.”
He raises an eyebrow but doesn’t press me.
For about five minutes.
“We could stop at a convenience store and get some cereal,” he persists. “Or yogurt. You like yogurt, right? It’s healthy and all that.”
“That’s Ken,” I correct. “Ken eats yogurt because it’s healthy. I just eat whatever is around. Ken buys a lot of yogurt.”
“Oh,” he says blankly. “I thought you really liked it.”
“I guess I like it,” I say with a shrug. “I don’t not like it. Food is food. As long as I’m not hungry I don’t really care so much.”
“Huh,” he says, and I can practically see him mentally filing away a note on that. “You’re an easy date,” he breaks into a smile and slides a few inches closer to me.
“Don’t say that so loud!” I react in panic.
His face drops into an instant tableau of hurt. “What?” he says, totally unappreciative of the fact that I restrained myself from moving to reestablish the distance between us, “Date? That’s just a saying. It doesn’t even mean anything. It’s not like I said that you’re my—”
“Shut up,” I hiss.
“Oh don’t worry,” he sulks, staring into his half eaten soup. “I won’t say that. I wouldn’t even know if it were true.”
I have nothing to say to that. I stab at my fish despondently.
“So…are you?” He suddenly asks, looking up at me. I catch a flash of vulnerability in his eyes.
He was so cocky this morning. How is it possible to be more confident naked, than fully clothed and eating breakfast?
“I’m not having this conversation here.” It’ll be a miracle if he actually heard that. I could barely hear myself the mumbling was so bad.
“No one’s paying attention to us,” he won’t let it drop. “No one here knows us. No one cares what we’re saying.”
Doesn’t he realize that he’s just encouraging me to give him the answer he doesn’t want to hear? He should know better than to back me into a corner.
I look at him, expectantly looking back at me.
I can’t bring myself to shoot him down any more than I can say what he’s fishing for.
I glance around the room. It’s pretty late for breakfast; there’s hardly anyone else here. And Yohji’s right, the few people present are too absorbed in their own business to spare us even a second glance.
My mind was already pretty much made up. Why can’t I say it?
Allowing something to physically happen is a lot easier than verbally defining it.
“I’m still processing this,” I stall.
“Okay,” he says in a voice that doesn’t sound very okay at all.
I watch him go back to analyzing his soup.
“It’s a lot to process,” I add, feeling guilty. It annoys me that he’s made me feel guilty. I have nothing to feel guilty about here. I’ve given him a lot already. It’s unprecedented. The fact that I’m still here eating breakfast with him after what happened last night should already give him enough of an answer.
“You’re pushy and move fast,” I say moodily. As far as I’m concerned it’s just stating the obvious.
I expect him to either ignore me or throw back a defensive insult. He reacts more calmly than I anticipate.
“No,” he says seriously, “I’ve just learned that I can’t afford to take things for granted. You shouldn’t stall if you know what you want. You don’t know how much time you have.”
I wasn’t prepared for such a weighty retort. I’m not sure if I’m hit harder by the reaffirmation that he wants me, or the reminder that statistically, we both have pretty short projected life spans. My appetite evaporates.
Yohji’s appetite on the other hand, remains unscathed. When I fail to say anything he gestures to my untouched miso and asks if I want it. I shove it towards him.
What he just said only confirms my suspicions that this is headed towards a horrible mess. Why do I find myself staring at him and wishing I hadn’t insisted we get out of bed?
“Are you capable of keeping it low key?” I ask with a sigh.
“Low key isn’t really my style,” he says around a mouthful of soup.
“That’s painfully obvious,” I mutter.
“You already knew it,” he adds, back in annoying mode.
“And you already knew I wouldn’t be comfortable publically flaunting a relationship,” I retort.
A grin breaks out across his face as I let a word drop I hadn’t really meant to say to him.
“So you admit that it’s a—”
Shit, how did he do that? He just talked me in a big circle that ended exactly where he wanted it to.
I glare at him, but find myself nodding. “I guess,” I say reluctantly. “For now. If you can keep it quiet.”
“I suppose I can learn to be low key if it gets me such a sexy boyfriend,” he announces. Loudly.
I kick him under the table. The word ‘boyfriend’ makes me wince. It doesn’t seem appropriate. Not for people like us. I can’t think of a more accurate substitute.
“That’s. Not. Low. Key.” I all but growl at him.
“Oops,” he grins, his cockiness fully reinstated. “I’ll have to make that up to you later.”
The hinted promise has exactly the impact that he intended it to. I’m suddenly very distracted imagining ways Yohji might compensate for bad behavior. Shit, what’s wrong with me? He’s being a total ass. And instead of being properly pissed off all I can think about is kissing him again. Among other things.
I see a lot of headaches in my future.
Among other things.
More subtly, he reaches for my hand under the table and slips his fingers between mine like he did at the onsen.
I don’t allow myself to check to see if anyone else noticed.
(Forward to Chapter 28)
(Back to Chapter 26)